Staunton, October 2 – Yesterday, Russia’s fall draft began, and as in the past, polls appeared showing that Russians have an upbeat attitude about their military (ng.ru/politics/2017-10-02/3_7085_opros.html). But two other developments suggest that neither the Kremlin nor many Russians may share that view, despite all the money the military is now being given.
On the one hand, the defense ministry announced as it has each fall in recent years that it would be conducting official checks of more than 300 units throughout the army and fleet to determine the readiness not only of those but all units across the entire force to carry out any orders that they may receive (regnum.ru/news/polit/2329021.html
This year, officials stressed they would also be examining “the moral-psychological state” of the officers and men, an indication the Kremlin may be concerned that the attitudes of its uniformed personnel are not all they might be, especially in the wake of a US study suggesting Russian draftees are anything but enthusiastic (znak.com/2017-09-24/v_obchem_dostupe_poyavilos_posobie_dlya_armii_ssha_po_vozmozhnoy_voyne_s_rossiey).
And on the other, there has been an unusual spate of articles suggesting that all is not well within the Russian military and that Russians however positive they may be about the military in the abstract are anything but happy with the situation. Among the articles which have appeared in the last several days, five are especially striking:
- The new draft has called attention not only to the fact that Putin’s promise to move quickly toward an all-volunteer force has not been realized but also that many of the problems of the large draft army -- such as dedovshchina and inadequate treatment of soldiers -- very much remain (ru.krymr.com/a/28768578.html).
- Analyses have been published showing that the Zapad-2017 exercise that the Kremlin has portrayed as a great success failed in many respects and claimed victims not only among the soldiers who took part but among the residents of places where the maneuvers occurred (versia.ru/ucheniya-zapad-2017-proshli-s-riskom-dlya-zhizni-voennyx-i-grazhdanskix).
- New reports have surfaced about massive corruption in the defense ministry and high command, reports that have triggered questions as to whether the regime is capable or willing to address this problem at a time when the defense budget and its burden on the population is growing (fedpress.ru/article/1866363).
- Ever more Russians are complaining to each other and to the media that the military has failed in its responsibilities to provide details about deaths and other losses in Russian units now involved in combat in Syria (vz.ru/columns/2017/9/28/888892.html).
- And adding insult to injury, there have been reports that Moscow takes money from the population across the country to make war but is now forcing regional governments to come up with funds to pay for bomb shelters protect the population in the event of attack (afterempire.info/2017/10/01/spb-bomb/).