By Paul Goble
Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s call for raising the window during which young men will be subject to the draft from the current 18 to 27 to 21 to 30 will have a more profound impact on Russian society than it will on the military, according to Aleksey Shaburov says.
Shoygu’s plan, which enjoys the support of Vladimir Putin and is certain to become law, may help Moscow raise more troops, the editor of Yekaterinburg’s Politsovet portal, but only at the cost of unsettling long-established expectations and behaviors of young Russians (politsovet.ru/76096-teper-ty-v-armiyu-kak-predlozheniya-shoygu-izmenyat-rossiyskoe-obschestvo.html).
Russians know that service in the military is a constitutional requirement and both those who want to serve and those who want to avoid service have well-developed strategies based on the current age window. If as seems likely that changes, young Russians will have to make new calculations and their calculations will affect the entire society.
“If a young man wants to serve, then everything is simple” with the current draft age of 18, Shaburov says. He simply finishes school and then goes into the army, putting off for a year studying or creating a family. If he doesn’t want to serve, then he can enter a higher educational institution which will keep him protected from the draft for four to six years.
But if the draft window rises to 21 to 30, both groups have to recalculate. The young man who wants to serve will have three years after leaving school before he can, possibly getting a job or starting a family that will make it less likely that he will want to serve when he reaches the new draft age.
And those who don’t want to serve will also find their calculations changed, Shaburov continues. Entering a higher educational institution loses some of its attractiveness because the young man will finish at a time when there are still many more years when he can face the draft. Educational deferment won’t guarantee that he won’t end up in uniform.
That may keep some who shouldn’t be in higher schools out of them, but if it does, it will mean that these institutions will not get the income from tuition payments they now receive. Shoygu may assume that more draftees will have more years of schooling, but he may face a problem that more of those with schooling will want to begin jobs and start families.
The change in the age range will also affect when young people get married and start families, and it may further depress Russia’s already low birthrates. Consequently, Shaburov concludes, “if the minister does realize his idea, he will go into history as the man who changed society.”
“And this will be a much more serious change than even the construction of cities in Siberia, an idea which Shoygu proposed but had still not done much to realize.”