Russia is still
having problems attracting volunteers to its armed forces. Although the pay is
competitive, the reputation of the military is not good. The suicide rate
inside the armed forces is more than twice that of the civilian population (currently
about 30 per 100,000 people, and that's down nearly a third in the last six
years). Russia has reduced the term of duty for conscripts to one year, partly
because they need only about 300,000 conscripts a year, while about 1.5 million
males come of age each year.
Draft dodging is still a popular activity with
draft age men.
Most Russian military personnel are career troops, including most officers. These are often people who are unable to get a civilian job, or prefer the predictability of military life.
The volunteers, or "contract soldiers"
are paid about the same as policemen. But cops aren't on call all the time,
don't have strenuous training exercises, or risk getting sent to places like
the Caucasus to battle brutal criminal gangs and Islamic terrorists. This
despite the fact that serving in such "combat zones" comes with combat pay that
more than triples the contract soldiers income.
The army is reducing its head count
from 1.1 million to a million over the next two years, and wants to more than
triple the number of contract soldiers from the current 100,000. As in other
countries with a volunteer force, the biggest problem for Russian recruiters is
a booming civilian economy. With the high price of oil, and large oil exports,
Russia is awash with cash, and most of it is going into expanding the Russian
economy. Every new civilian job, is one more obstacle for the army recruiters.