Russian Duma Expands Conscription as Cold War II Begins

The Moscow Times reports that the Russian Duma has just voted to abolish various exemption categories from the draft. More proof of how serious President Putin is about creating a volunteer army!

The State Duma gave preliminary approval Friday to four bills aimed at boosting conscription by, among other things, canceling nine of the existing 25 draft exemptions and requiring university students to serve in the military after graduation.

The legislation would also cut the length of compulsory service from two years to one year, starting in 2008.

Presenting the legislation, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov told deputies that the exemptions his ministry would like to see abolished were adopted in the mid-1990s and were now obsolete. “These are different times now,” he was quoted by Interfax as saying before the bills were put up for a vote.

Each bill was passed in a first reading with more than 350 out of a possible 450 votes. The bills must still be passed in a second and third reading.

The people pictured are protesting the draft. The big sign reads: “SOLDIER: It’s a profession, not a punishment.” Yet how many of them are there, compared to the number that would protest a draft in the U.S.? And why does Russia need conscription? To subdue tiny Chechnya? Or does Russia think it has bigger fish to fry. Ukraine maybe?

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