Russia's Military To Recruit More Foreigners

Worsening demographic situation and reluctance of Russian nationals to serve have apparently forced the country's armed forces to liberalize its rules on recruiting foreign citizens and to seek recruits from among the growing immigrant population, according to amendments posted on Russia's Defense Ministry website.

According to the amended law, a citizen of any foreign country aged 18-30 with a good command of Russian and a clean criminal record can now sign an initial five-year contract to join the Army. As an incentive to join, recruits are offered Russian citizenship after three years of service.

Experts believe that Russia is unlikely to succeed in attracting large numbers of foreign recruits given the reputation the Russian military has for harsh conditions, relatively low pay, corruption and brutality within the ranks, reports Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.

As of 2009, about 350 foreign nationals were serving in the Russian armed forces, most from CIS countries whose citizens make up the bulk of Russia's immigrant population. There was also a handful from Latvia, Germany and Israel.

Quoting official sources, the wire service reported that 699 foreigners applied to join the Russian military in the past year, but most were rejected because of poor knowledge of Russian, health problems, or low levels of education.

In line with an ongoing military reform, the Russian armed forces will be downsized to one million personnel by 2016, with 150,000 officers and about 745,000 soldiers.

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