Murphy's Law: February 14, 2002


The Russian Army reports that 88% of all men eligible for conscription obtain deferments, are found medically unfit (about 33%), are rejected for other reasons (e.g., criminal records), or simply do not show up. This is one of the issues compelling the Russians to drop peacetime conscription and use only volunteers. This would also solve the problem of hazing between men who have been in a year and the new recruits. This hazing developed after World War II, when Russia deliberately avoided developing a professional NCO corps. They preferred to have officers take care of nearly all troop supervision. The NCOs that did exist were treated as slightly more reliable enlisted men, but given little real authority. Since officers did not live with the men, slack discipline in the barracks gave rise to the vicious hazing and exploitation of junior conscripts by the senior ones. This led to very low morale, and a lot of suicides, theft, sabotage and desertions. Long recognized as a problem, no solution ever worked. But getting rid of conscripts probably will. Volunteers will be in for more than two years, and Russia is developing professional NCOs to keep things under control in the barracks. The only problem with all of this is finding the money to pay for it. Volunteers will cost a lot more than conscripts. Russia already use volunteers, especially for combat duty in places like Chechnya. These troops get $115 a month, plus $27 a day for combat duty. Conscripts get about $1.20 a month. The volunteer force will also require better living conditions. Despite a lack of funds for a volunteer force, Russia is moving in that direction by reducing the size of it's armed forces (which are already smaller than those of the United States) and increasing the number of higher paid volunteers.Stephen V Cole


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