A high-ranking member of the Russian parliament recommended on Thursday that the standard term of service for Russian conscripts be doubled in order to promote professionalism and effectiveness in uniform. The proposal comes amid Russian setbacks during its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which has now entered its ninth month.
Viktor Bondarev, a member of the Russian Senate who chairs the body’s defense committee, claimed that new Russian conscripts should be made to serve two years in uniform before their demobilization. At present, Russians drafted into service only serve one year before returning to civilian life, although they are automatically added to the country’s list of reservists and are required to return to service if the reserves are mobilized. However, in an interview with Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news network, Bondarev claimed that one year was not long enough for Russian conscripts to undergo rigorous military training and develop effective combat skills.
“We absolutely need to introduce a two-year stint of military service,” Bondarev said, claiming that more time was necessary to acquaint Russian troops with complicated military equipment. The senator did not elaborate on a proposed time frame for the increase in service term lengths but added that “all of this will be supported” by the Kremlin. “It’s life itself that is telling us we must do it,” he added.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later claimed that the government had taken “no stance” on Bondarev’s proposal. He added that the issue of whether to extend the terms would be taken up by the Russian defense ministry, although he did not indicate whether the ministry was favorable to the idea or not.
Russia’s military has relied on conscripts since the Cold War when the Soviet Union drafted military-aged men for service terms of two years in the army or three years in the navy. Following the Soviet Union’s collapse, Russia kept this model in place until 2008, when the country under president Dmitry Medvedev sought to reform the Russian military and replaced the conscript army with a professional one. Although Medvedev’s government did not abolish the draft altogether, it shortened the service terms in both land and sea units to one year. However, questions have dogged the force regarding the effectiveness of rank-and-file troops, as well as other concerns including the widespread prevalence of corruption.
To stem the tide of Russia’s territorial losses in Ukraine and defend the four occupied territories in the provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia, Russian leader Vladimir Putin announced that 300,000 conscripted reservists would be mobilized, prompting chaos inside Russia and leading hundreds of thousands of military-aged Russian men to flee the country.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.