Pravda.Ru held an open discussion on the issue of professional vs. draft army. A member of State Duma, State Councilor of the Russian Federation, Ph.D., a former soldier (Afghanistan, 1985-1988) Evgeny Fedorov shared his comments:
“The issues of a professional army and draft service obviously overlap. Yet, they are different. Draft service is meant to prepare men for a military situation, mobilization and work under war conditions, combat time. A professional army is a group of people, the military, who are able to professionally solve military conflicts, mitigate them, and participate in military operations to protect the country.
Relatively speaking, if we have a conflict like the one with Georgia, it requires a professional army. But if we have a conflict like the one in Syria, which is somewhat forced upon us, then we need every man in the country to be able to use a gun, defend themselves, participate in self-defense units, prevent an invasion of the terrorist enemy forces on the territory of the Russian Federation.
Here in addition to a professional army we will need people’s militia. Every man in the Russian Federation needs to be trained for militia.
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We see this in Israel, for example, where everyone knows how to fight. The world is moving towards a very serious conflict, and rearmament of the army, its strengthening conducted by the country’s president, is required. Over the next 5-7 years we should make the army modern and combat-ready.
But this seems to be insufficient, and the population needs military training. This problem is solved by draft service. We can argue about the number of years recruits must learn military affairs, and rightly so. But there is no question of the abolition of draft service now, under the current difficult conditions.
A retired colonel Petr Sokolov, Ph.D., a journalist who shared his opinion with a correspondent of Pravda.Ru, thinks differently:
“Russia will always need a regular army. In recent years I have heard a number of very “original” ideas about the military. People joke: we will declare war on some small European country, surrender, will get captured and have a great life.
In reality, we can have a conversation not about the existence of the army as such, but only of the forms of compulsory military training of the male population. A professional army that has been much talked about recently is undoubtedly needed. It must perform both tactical, and to some extent strategic objectives of protecting the country against any aggressor. This is the foundation.
The part of male population drafted to serve for a specific, even not a very long term, will be taught at least to hold weapons, not be afraid of difficulties, be able to carry out the orders of the officers, professionals and so on.
I will not deny that I am nostalgic for the pre-military training of young people in the USSR. Then every college, professional school and university had basic military training as a class. Male students had special trainings in military camps, they were taught to handle weapons, to march in formation (trust me, this is important), to use the simplest methods of protection against the effects of weapons of mass destruction.
Former soldiers and officers who had already served were drafted for military training for a short period of time to refresh the skills learned during their active service. Remember the so-called “guerrillas” – adult men were dressed in old overcoats and sent running around polygons with guns. This provided an opportunity to keep a significant part of the population combat ready.
It is this initial system of military training that needs to be revived. Then the soldiers who are serving only a year will not have to be taught military training from the very beginning. If military training is good, then we will be able to really talk about the abolition of compulsory military service.”
Captain of the second rank in reserve, veteran of the Armed Forces, a former officer and instructor in a training unit of the Navy, and now head of a respectable farm in Vologda region Nikolai Pilnyak talked to a correspondent of Pravda.Ru over the phone. He is generally skeptical of the Russian Army and believes that the country could well do without it:
“What is going on in the Army and Navy now is disappointing. Never-ending reforms, permutations, shifting – it is eternal restructuring. Do you remember what perestroika led to in the late 1980’s? That’s right, to the collapse of a huge power.
Our “sworn friends” won over us not with military means but with its majesty, the US dollar. Could you imagine even 30 years ago that a country that at the time, perhaps, had the strongest and most combat-ready army in the world was easily pinned to the ground without firing a shot?
Shots came later, from the tanks at the White House, in Karabakh, Chechnya and so on. No regular army is able to deal with it. Only, perhaps, a few specially trained special forces units can do something.
Not that long ago my military pension almost doubled. Thanks, of course, I am pleased! Active military pay and allowances for the military increased significantly. Recently I talked to my nephew who graduated from a military institution a couple of years ago, and I was horrified. According to him, somewhere in the depths of the military sphere there are rumors that not only will break down the army, they will destroy it!
Young lieutenants talk among themselves that soon there will be a tariff for additional bonuses. That is, if you participated in an attack you will be paid this much, were not afraid of the attack -this much, hit the target – even more.
This is horrible! It is better to have no army at all than this type of army. Now the main battles are conducted not with conventional weapons, but with the economy, distortions of history, philosophical foundations of destruction. I believe that the army in Russia should be reduced, it is useless. We must send young healthy people to the economy, science, teach them to be bankers. They should be paid no less than the military today. This will be a real army capable of defending the country.”
In conclusion, there is the opinion of a member of the Council of Soldiers ‘Mothers, an active social worker, a teacher Valentina Shtrommel:
“I have two sons and a daughter. My younger son is serving in the Far East, he is a signalman, and he is to get back home in the spring. I hope he will be fine. My older son has disability, he served in a conventional infantry unit and lost his left hand during service several years ago when throwing a grenade. He also has poor vision in his left eye. When I heard about the accident, I immediately went to see him in the hospital.
My son’s captain never told me how exactly the tragedy happened. There was an investigation, but as far as I know, none of his commanders were punished. My son did not speak about the tragedy for a long time. By the way, he joined the army willingly, after the army he was going to enter a military college, wanted to become an officer and work on a tank.
Only a couple of years ago he admitted that he was to blame for the tragedy in the first place. In the trenches, waiting for their turn to throw grenades, he and his friend began playing with grenades. Games in the army always lead to tragedies. I know that there are many wrong things in the army. As a member of the delegation of the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers I often had to travel to specific military units, had talks in confidence with soldiers, including young ones. This is what I think. We need an army (I am not talking about a contract army, I am less familiar with it). We need it at the very least to help Russian boys to become men. Yes, my older son was not lucky, but when the younger one said that he wanted to serve as a soldier and then go to a military school, I did not object. This was his decision, a decision of a man.
Hazing does exist in the army. But now it is not 1990’s. Soldiers repeatedly said that if a fighter tries hard, is not lazy, hazers respect and do not touch him. Another thing is that officers often turn a blind eye to hazing.
My personal conclusion is that now more than ever we need to revitalize public control over the service of our sons, and commanders of the armed forces should not interfere with parents’ visits to military units. Of course, there must be secrecy in the army, but all incidents should be made public and available to the media. Then we will stop being afraid of the army and begin to be proud of it. These are the views of our interviewees on this topic. We welcome our readers to join the discussion.