Attrition: Russian Conscripts Disappearing Big Time

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August 29, 2006: Russia is having a hard time building a volunteer armed forces. Part of it is the increasing resistance to conscription. The government has responded by reducing time in uniform, for conscripts from 24 to 18 months. Even so, only 124,000 conscripts were inducted this past spring, down 38 percent from the Spring of 2005. Conscripts are inducted twice a year, in the Fall and in the Spring. The majority of Russian military and paramilitary troops are still conscripts. But not for long, because the conscripts are just not there any more.

The military is rushing to take up the slack by getting more volunteers. These guys are paid market level wages and serve on three year contracts. Thus the new Russian military slang term; 'contracty' (for contract troops). But only about 16 percent of these are staying in after their initial enlistment. The Russians had hoped to retain two or three times as many, in part to help build a professional NCO corps. A larger number of experienced sergeants are seen as essential to make military life more attractive in general.

But the contract troops are not staying around because the living standards are pretty bad, even by Russian standards. Working with conscripts is another complaint, because the draftees are really reluctant to do much of anything, and are a pain for the contract troops to work with. There's also a problem with the older officers and NCOs, who tend to treat the contract troops with the same contempt, disdain and cruelty, as they have long treated conscripts.

The generals are confronted with a situation where, even when they get the money to enlist more volunteers, they just find that there are a bunch of other problems to be solved if they are ever to get their all-volunteer force. Basically, the Russian armed forces needs more than an elimination of conscripts, it has to overhaul its entire culture. That is something the generals, and many politicians, are determined to do. They have seen how much more efficient the all-volunteer forces in the West are, and they want that capability.

 


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