Autumn conscription and the well-being of the military personnel
Belarusian army as a source of social promotion is interesting only for the low-income rural residents. Most young people are trying to avoid military service. Due to the deteriorating economic situation, in the medium term the Belarusian army could face a shortage of not only recruits, but also of regular officers.
Recent main trend is that the threshold for physical health for the recruits has been lowered. This policy, aimed at ensuring the mass appeal, is not for the Belarusian army’s benefit. In addition to health conditions that allow avoiding military service, the state provides more than two dozen other reasons to postpone military service: doing master’s degree, a small child, two children, parents with disabilities, to priests, village teachers, etc.
During the recent conscription campaign (autumn draft starting August 2nd), about 100 thousand male population received call-up papers. However only 11 thousand will start service, including service in reserve. It is anticipated to call about 9 thousand new conscripts for regular service and about two thousand to serve in reserve.
Despite the preponderance of the urban population over rural in some regions (Gomel, Mogilev region), mostly rural youth serves in the army. It is believed that their health is stronger compared with urban youth’s and they rarely use excuses to avoid army service. The state endeavours to narrow down the opportunities for service postponement on medical grounds. Now, hypertension and 2nd degree scoliosis are not sufficient grounds to avoid military service, as well as peptic ulcer and obesity. The new rules allow only the underweighted to postpone their service in the army.
According to the Defense Ministry, the number of those who escape the conscription is not more than 1%. According to our assessment, this number is underestimated by at least 10-15 times as the majority of young people buy medical deferment to avoid conscription.
Bullying (violence against younger conscripts in the army) is widespread in the Belarusian army, though not as prevalent as in the early 90’s. Much worse problem for the Belarusian army is its material base: providing enough clothing and equipment, the right size clothing, as well as timely financial and food supplies. Most conscripts lose their weight sharply soon after joining the service. Official explanation is ‘changes in the eating patterns’.
Conscript’s wages do not exceed BYR 90 000 per month. Officers’ salaries depend on the service type, rank, seniority, etc. The average salary of an officer in the Belarusian army’s elite troops is less than USD 500-550. Despite low pay, the outflow of Belarusian officers to the Russian armed forces is not mass-scale. However, due to the deteriorating economic situation, in the medium term the Belarusian army could face a shortage not only of recruits, but also of regular officers.