Staunton, April 16 – Declining numbers of Russian men of draft age and Vladimir Putin’s increasingly aggressive moves in Ukraine have prompted suggestions that Moscow should allow immigrants to serve in the Russian military and be given a fast track to Russian citizenship if they do.
But that idea has provoked a sharp reaction both among Russian military analysts who say such a move could threaten unit cohesion, Russian nationalists who oppose opening this additional door for immigrants to remain in Russia, and North Caucasians who fear that Moscow might as a result cut draft quotas again in their republics.
Yesterday, Izvestiya reported that Duma deputies are now ready to take up a proposal from Mukhammed Amin, head of the Federation of Migrants of Russia, to allow migrants to serve and thereby agree Russian Federation citizenship, an arrangement that exists in many countries, including the United States.
While some deputies have already expressed support, opposition beyond the walls of the Russian parliament was not slow in coming. Yesterday, Mikhail Remizov, president of the Moscow Institute of National Strategy, declared that allowing migrants to serve would undermine military discipline and order.
Indeed, he said, the loyalty of such people to Russia might be called into question in certain circumstances, and consequently, Moscow could not afford to take the risks that would arise from implanting “a time-bomb” in its most important institutions of national security.
Vladimir Mukhin, the military observer for Nezavisimaya gazeta, added that he didn’t think the idea would go anywhere because “practically no [immigrants] are seeking to serve in the army.” They have come to Russia only “to make money” and for no other reason, he said.
Another voice of opposition has come from Aslambek Paskachev, the head of the Russian Congress of Peoples of the Caucasus. He opposes the idea because Moscow should instead be using more men from the North Caucasus, where draft quotas have been keep artificially low for several years.
At the same time, qualified support for the idea of using migrants in the Russian military has been offered by Anatoly Tsyganok, a prominent military analyst in Moscow, who says Moscow should do so in the first instance at its bases in foreign countries like Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
According to Tsyganok, he would like to see revived a five-year-old suggestion by the defense ministry to form a “foreign legion.”
But perhaps the most intriguing backer of the new idea is Vladimir Tor, the extreme Russian nationalist who heads the National Democratic Party. He says he favors having migrants serve in the Russian military but believes they should be Slavs like Ukrainians and Belarusians rather than people from the South Caucasus or Central Asia, who should be used if at all only “for special tasks” near where they live.
Tor does not specify at least in the Nazaccent.ru article why he favors using Slavs in this way, but it is at least possible that he and others are doing so with an eye on Ukraine and also on the possibility that some in Moscow now back the establishment of a new and broader Russian Empire that would include those three nationalities in the first instance.