Attrition: Russia Speeds Elimination of Conscription


March 1, 2006: Russia is borrowing another popular idea from the United States, in an effort to retain more of its volunteer soldiers. Thus the government will now provide free tuition, and a guaranteed place in universities, for enlisted "contract soldiers." Soldiers will study while on active duty, with universities being obligated to reschedule exams for the troops if they are called away for foreign duty.

Russia has accelerated its plans to eliminate conscription. By 2008, it wants 70 percent of its troops to be volunteers. In the past, cost has been the main reason for not dumping conscription. But high oil prices (oil is a major export) and a booming economy have sent a lot more money to the military. Moreover, democracy and a higher standard of living has made conscription more unpopular than ever. There has been a major jump in draft dodging, and few Russians see this as wrong. The Russians have also noted the continued success of Western all-volunteer forces. But the Russians have also noted that, while you can attract volunteers with higher pay and better living conditions, you need other benefits to keep those volunteers. So they are adding educational benefits.

Before conscription ends, in the next decade or so, the term of service will be reduced to 12 months. This will produce soldiers who are better prepared for reserve duty. Russia also plans to develop "trained reserves", as exist in many Western nations. Russia has noticed the effectiveness of American reservists in Iraq.


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