Russian Defence Minister on the task of switching over to a contract army

Success of the switchover to a contract army depends on how well the branches of power and state and public bodies coordinate their efforts to achieve this, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov announced during a conference with the 76th Division of the Airborne Troops on Wednesday.

"This is one of the most sophisticated and responsible tasks facing state and society," he said.

The division in question is in the middle of switching over to a contract recruitment basis, an experiment it launched in September 2002.

Introduction of a new recruitment principle is part of the country's effort to create an efficient modern army, said Ivanov.

The purpose of the experiment with the 76th Division was to test out and perfect the new recruitment principle, explained the minister. By now, it is already possible to make conclusions concerning the positive and negative results of the experiment, which must be over by this fall.

"We have tested out the model of transferring soldiers and sergeants from a whole unit to a contractual basis," Ivanov stressed. "And we have come to realize that the switchover to the voluntary recruitment principle does not boil down to bare replacement of a conscript with a contract soldier." According to the Defence minister, since the new recruitment principle is aimed to increase military efficiency it is also necessary to increase levels of combat training, to improve training of officers and to create full-fledged corps of contract sergeants.

It became clear in the course of the experiment that "the social and economic aspect" is of very big importance indeed, he went on. "We need a system of stimuli like good housing conditions, an ensuing right to free higher education and, naturally, a large enough money allowance." With that in mind, the Defence Ministry began introducing the stimuli by throwing in an additional pay of 1,200 rubles /$1 is approximately 30 rubles/ for each of the division's servicemen. It turned out however that that was not enough, so the next step was to raise the additional pay to 2,500 rubles. "The Federal Target Program specifying the details of the switchover to a contract army fixes the average additional pay at 3,300 rubles, with the possibility of differentiated payment," Ivanov reported.

"We still have a lot to do to create a Russian army of the 21st century," he emphasized. Thanking the State Duma deputies who attended the conference for constant attention to the ongoing army reform, he remarked: "The work we did today will help expand collaboration between the Defence Ministry and the State Duma."

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