The Russian government has introduced draft legislation that would make it easier for Moscow to sign up professional soldiers and for commanders to force draftees to convert to the professional (contract) status and thus be available for dispatch to Ukraine, yet another indication Moscow is preparing for a massive invasion and facing difficulties finding men for it.
Under current law, the only place where young men can sign up to become professional soldiers is at their local military commissariat. Indeed, Russian officials over the past year have frequently reassured the Committees of Soldiers Mothers that commanders are not allowed to change the status of draftees, despite numerous reports that such actions have occurred.
Today’s “Novyye izvestiya” reports that the new measure will allow for accelerating the recruitment of professional soldiers not only by giving legal status to the recruiting centers which already exist but also by having them expand recruiting propaganda, something the commissariats don’t engage in.
Recruiting centers have existed since September 2012, although they have operated only on the basis of a defense ministry directive rather than any Russian law. The ministry says that they are currently processing 6500 people a month for professional service in the Russian armed forces.
These centers, even under the new legislation, will not be entirely separate from the commissariats which will still handle medical examinations and be involved in the final selection of those who have applied to become professional soldiers, the Moscow paper says.
According to Oleg Shvedkov, the head of the All-Russian Union of Military Personnel, the expansion of these centers will bring Russia into line with American practice, increase propaganda for military service, and thus bring the day closer when all those in the military will be professional soldiers rather than primarily draftees.
Leaders of the Russian Soldiers Mothers Committees, say they do not see this program as being directly linked to events in Ukraine or to the illegal but apparently widespread practice in which commanders force draftees under various pretexts to convert to professional status so that they can be sent to the fighting there.
But there are at least two reasons for thinking it is. On the one hand, Moscow clearly feels the need to step up its agitprop campaign to get more young people to sign up for military service, something it might not have to do were it not actively engaged in military aggression in Ukraine.
And on the other, the creation of more recruitment centers almost certainly will make it easier for commanders to engage in the illegal practice of having draftees agree to become professionals. No longer will there be a single place where such transfers can be legalized – the commissariat of the soldier’s home area – but rather far more places where it could occur.