Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 96

One month before Russia’s presidential election, Boris Yeltsin yesterday ordered an end to military conscription by the year 2000. The decree, which would shift Russia over the next four years to a voluntary, professional army, will undoubtedly be applauded by young people and other Russians long scandalized by the continuing brutality and official callousness in barracks life. But unless the president is able to guarantee the funding increases that professionalization of the army will require, the move could also anger the military leadership, a group that has emerged as one of his quiet supporters. The decree is also likely to set Yeltsin at odds with the parliament, which has opposed shortening compulsory service. Indeed, the decree may be a bit of shrewd electioneering that will compel Yeltsin’s Communist opponents either to join with the president or to oppose him on a popular measure. In a separate decree, Yeltsin also ordered yesterday that conscripts not be forced to serve in Chechnya or other conflict areas. (Reuter, AP, May 16)

Yeltsin’s conscription decree comes as the army appeared to be retreating from an earlier effort to increase its component of volunteer professionals. That push, which began with Yeltsin’s strong support in early 1994, led quickly to accusations that the army had squandered substantial funding on recruits of poor quality who contributed little or nothing to the army’s combat worthiness. Earlier this year the military command reported that there were 270,000 volunteers in service, of which 100,000 were women. (Interfax, April 9)

…And the Phasing Out of the Death Penalty.