The Collapse of the Neo-Soviet Army
We cannot afford to create a fully professional army. If we save funds elsewhere, we will certainly go back to this idea, but well prepared.
— Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, October 2010
As shown in the chart at left, between 2006 and 2010 the number of young Russian men drafted into the army has nearly tripled, from just over 200,000 per year to nearly 600,000 per year.
There are two simple reasons for this shocking increase in conscription: First, the number of young men newly eligible to serve in the Russian army is plummeting along with the general population (from about 900,000 in 2004 to 500,000 in 2011); second, the horrors of dedovschina and other barbaric practices and hardships of the army have led many young men to reject the option of volunteering. The result is that nearly 100% of all newly-eligible Russians were drafted into the army in 2010. If things go on as they are, even drafting every single eligible man won’t be enough to fill out Russia’s ranks — and the Russian army will start collapsing.
A recent story in the Wall Street Journal details the appalling extent to which Russia’s societal corruption has penetrated the military. Russia attempts to bring in a better class of soldier by offering contract wages to volunteers, yet corrupt officers still end up stealing a huge portion of the monthly pay of each young recruit, and subject them to humiliating, backbreaking labor rather than real military preparation. The result is that, to quote one former volunteer who thought it was better to enter a contract than to labor as a conscript: “Now everybody knows you just put up with a year of hell, and then you’re free.” His mother offers: “The army ran out of fools.”
As quoted at the top of this editorial, Russia’s own defense minister openly admits that the attempt to create a volunteer army in Russia has been a humiliating failure. One might ask, of course, why such elaborate programs or conscription should be necessary if Russians love their country as much as their rulers claim. But such a question is unnecessary because the answer is more than obvious: The leaders are lying. Nobody loves Russia enough to enter its military services, which are a black hole of violence, degradation and corruption. “Fool” is the only word that can be used to describe a person who would subject himself to such abuse.
The response of the Russian Kremlin is predictable:
The 99th Artillery, for example, had 600 volunteers on three-year contracts, including Sergei Fetisov, and 300 draftees. Officers were under instruction to recruit as many new volunteers as possible.
Mr. Fetisov says they resorted to an unusual recruiting technique: Nearly every night at 11 that first winter, conscripts were mustered on the parade ground and made to stand in formation for hours, facing superiors who sometimes were drunk.
“Finally an officer would say, ‘Those willing to sign contracts, you’re dismissed. The rest of you, stay at attention,'” Mr. Fetisov recalls. “A personnel officer would tell stories about the great treatment contract soldiers get.”
In other words, brute force. As in Soviet times, Russia’s apelike rulers cannot be made to understand that it is not possible to force a person to love or serve his country. Attempting to do so only leads to failure and collapse. As it happened to the USSR, so it will happen to Russia.