Forces: January 4, 2005

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The Russian armed forces are undergoing yet another round of reforms. These include attempts to eliminate corruption. The Railway Troops and Special Construction Troops have been brought back into the armed forces, producing a total troop strength of 1.2 million, plus 876,000 civilians. The program to end conscription continues. This year there will be two divisions of all-volunteer troops (the 42nd Motor-Rifle Division and the 76th Airborne Division.) The volunteer troops are paid about $3,600 a year, and receive better training and living conditions than the conscripts. But a major reason for moving to an all-volunteer forces is the fact that so many young men are avoiding service (legally, or otherwise.) This is nothing new. At the end of the Cold War, only about a third of each years 18 year old males actually made it into military service. But today its 11 percent and falling. 

Theres also trouble with the morale of officers and NCOs. So pay for these career troops was recently increased. A major general now gets $541 a month, and a lieutenant $216. There are also changes to how career troops get supplied with family housing and other benefits. The relative lack of these benefits has produced a steady exodus of the best officers, and its uncertain if the latest reforms will solve the problem. 

Many Russians yearn for the good old days, when the mighty Red Army was a power to contend with. In fact, the Soviet armed forces were in steady decline for several decades before the Soviet Union disappeared in 1991. Its hard for many Russians to accept this, but many military officers know its true, and are determined to create new armed forces that are effective.

 


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