Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Sons of Russia's elite evading the draft

The above article was written by Paul Goble. It is entitled “Draft Evasion by Russia’s rich and Powerful Angers the Less Well-Placed.” I’ll quote a few passages and then comment below.

“. . . In an article in this week’s “Argumenty nedeli,” Nadezhda Popova not only provides examples of the current trend in which “the children of well-known parents do not want to serve in the army” but also offers some comments which suggest both rising popular anger concerning that pattern ( ).

“The journalist . . . ‘decided to clarify which of the sons of “big” parents have served or are serving in the army’ and ‘which of them has run away from serving.’ Because this is not something the authorities have any interest in calling attention to at least at the present time, her article consists of a series of telling anecdotes and lists.”

“. . . She recounts that the son of Bryansk Governor Nikolay Denin was called up n 2007 but got local officials to give him a deferment so that he could … get involved in private business. As a result, Popova notes, “instead of the junior Denin someone else went into the army, someone whose father (or mother) was not a governor.

“Worse in some respects, at least in terms of hypocrisy, has been the case of movie star Aleksey Chadov. Although he had a lead role in the war movie, “The 9th Company,” he did not respond to his draft notice. Military officials promised to put him in jail. But apparently his powerful friends have protected him and he is still acting in public.

“Many other actors and performers also have evaded service over the last decade, the “Argumenty nedeli” journalist says. Among them was pianist Yevgeny Kisin, whose open evasion of military service prompted Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov in 2005 to denounce “balalaika players and dancers” who “do not want to serve” their country.”

“. . . But if the sons of many in the current Russian elite are avoiding service through one expedient or another, not all are. Two of the seven current presidential plenipotentiaries served in the military. Moreover, both sons of Army General Anatoly Kvashnin served, and among those who died in Chechnya, “more than 30” were sons of military commanders.

“For the children of workers and peasants, on the other hand, military service remains nearly universal except for those who have serious health problems, are deferred as students, or are willing to pay bribes to officers who work in the draft offices, bribes that as Popova notes are all too often solicited.

“ . . . the fact that some are able to avoid service while others cannot is especially sensitive in large measure because of the frequently reported horrors of Russian military life and because of a growing sense among many Russians that the entire system is tilted against them. . . .”


What Nadezhda Popova takes offense at is probably typical of any equivalent fighting force. That is, if there is a draft, and there is someway to keep one’s sons out of the army, then some people will pull political strings in order to do that. This is human nature and not at all remarkable – except that there are some in Russia who will think it remarkable. They think the “100% White Russian” is a cut above other ethnicities and when he is in the army, he is more dedicated and more committed. One implication of the article is that some 100% White Russians are not like that.

Of course there are periods and circumstances when a fighting-force can achieve an esprit de corps that is remarkable, but this isn’t something that can be manufactured on a routine basis – at least not in a draft.

I enlisted in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. There was a draft at that time, but no one could be forced to go into the marine Corps. We had one “draftee” in our boot-camp platoon. After being drafted he was given the choice of going into the Marine Corps. He said he opted for the Marine Corps because he had more confidence in us. So even though we did accept draftees, they had to want to be in the Marine Corps.

We Americans conducting military operations today, but we have no draft, and I prefer it that way. I don’t believe everyone is suited to the military. Humans are not created equal. They should have equal opportunity, but they aren’t equal. So it shouldn’t really surprise Nadezhda Popova that some Russians don’t want to be in the army. It won’t be entirely the fault of the parents, though that is what she suggests. I’m sure that if a son wanted to be in the military, a parent probably wouldn’t stand in his way. But a parent who has taken the measure of his son and knows he won’t do well in the army, can be excused for not wanting him to serve.

Of course if the situation were extreme – if every male needed to fight as was the case with the Spartans then there could be no choice, but is that the present situation in Russia? Is their existence at stake? Are there still Barbarians at their Gates? I don’t think so.

No comments: