Attrition: Russian Soldiers Fade Away


February 24, 2008: 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.


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