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Friday, October 26, 2007

Uncle Gramp Wants You for the Ukrainian Army!

Equity theory writ large: Junior conscripts, speaking in surzhyk, deplore the idea of discontinuing the draft for fear of being denied the opportunity to bully the next wave of juniors.

The draft should stay by all means, because we were pushed around. We should push around somebody, too, or else no way would it be fair.

Not fair at all! We need the next draft. How come we’ll be all by ourselves? Gramps [seniors] get along well with scoops [juniors], and we’ll get along well with them, too.

Rampant military bullying, known as didivshchyna in Ukrainian, or dedovshchina in Russian, leads to permanent disabilities, frequent fatalities, and mass draft-dodging. As a result, the army mostly calls up the least educated and the most disadvantaged young people unable to bribe their way out of the recruiting station.

Recently, President Yushchenko publicly nixed Tymoshenko’s campaign promise of abolishing the draft as early as next year.

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elmer said...

Why in hell would a government allow or encourage this kind of bullying in its army?

In Russia, it's even worse.

Taras said...

Russia has a far larger military and a far larger territory to defend. It is indeed worse there, at least as far as the media can tell us.

Yushchenko, as opposed to Tymoshenko, seems to be taking an all-too-gradual approach. Even a single draft-free day could save someone’s life.

Anonymous said...

Really like the posts by Jed Sunden. Now if only he could liberate his publication from forced subscriptions ...


Yulia Tymoshenko, Milton Friedman and the liberation of the peasants

by Jed Sunden, Publisher
Oct 31 2007, 21:31

Of all the different planks of Yulia Tymoshenko’s campaign platform, the issue of military reform, most notably getting rid of the draft, is the one that is most likely to have the biggest effect on Ukrainians’ lives.

Simply put, if she is successful in ending the forced conscription of young men into the Ukrainian army, Yulia will have liberated 50,000 men a year from a one-year term, sentenced for the simple crime of being Ukrainian.

Sadly, it seems that the proposal to end conscription is going to be bogged down in political infighting.

The Our Ukraine political bloc is claiming that it would be too costly to end the draft before 2011. Even worse, the Party of Regions has connected ending the draft to a conspiracy by those trying to force Ukraine to join NATO.

At a recent press conference, Party of Regions member Valeriy Konovaliuk stated: “The policy of the wholesale reduction of the armed forces has led to its complete degradation and absolutely total lack of combat readiness. To a large degree, these processes have taken their cue from the ideologies of those foreign strategists who have seen Ukraine as part of NATO at any cost, and who have understood that the less significant the [Ukrainian] armed forces, the more vigorously those policies will be pursued.”

All of them are overlooking the most important reason to end the draft in Ukraine. As Milton Friedman, the great economist and political thinker pointed out, there is simply no justification for a democratic government to force conscription on its young men during peacetime. As he wrote in “Capitalism and Freedom,” “the appropriate free market arrangement is volunteer military forces; which is to say, hiring men to serve. There is no justification for not paying whatever price is necessary to attract the required number of men. Present arrangements are inequitable and arbitrary, and seriously interfere with the freedom of young men.”

Everything that Milton Friedman wrote about the draft in reference to the United States in the 1960s and 70s resonates deeply in reference to the draft here in Ukraine. The present status of conscription in Ukraine is simply a substantial forced tax on the least educated citizens.

As is well-documented in Ukraine today, the only people serving in the army are the poorest Ukrainians with the fewest alternatives.

It is telling that neither Viktor Yanukovych Jr., nor Andriy Yushchenko, the son of President Viktor Yushchenko, served in the army. In fact, I would challenge you to find any politician’s child who did serve.

As for Yanukovych Jr., his ticket out of the service was a supposed spine injury that he suffered as a young boy. That near-crippling childhood spine injury, however, did not stop Yanukovych Jr. from listing wakeboarding and football as his favorite hobbies on his resume on

Bribing doctors for a note that will excuse a young man from the service is a widespread practice in Ukraine for those who have the money to do so, but it is not an option for the country’s poorest young men, who by-and-large fill the ranks of Ukraine’s armed forces.

Meanwhile, the example of Yushchenko’s son shows that anyone with enough money to attend a university or other institution of higher learning with a military faculty attached to it can walk out of that university with the rank of second lieutenant after being on its register of cadets for two years without ever marching a step in the rank-and-file armed forces.

Both methods of avoiding the service are a free pass out of forced labor.

Meanwhile, the poorest, least educated young men are denied freedom and forced to pay a tax on their meager earnings by working basically for free. To quote Friedman again, “When a young man is forced to serve at $45 a week, including the cost of his keep, of his uniforms, and his dependency allowances, and there are many civilian opportunities available to him at something like $100 a week, he is paying $55 a week in an implicit tax.”

Of course, this does not even include the tax that is paid by society. In addition to what is paid by a young conscript, Friedman pointed out, “if you were to add to those taxes in kind, the costs imposed on universities and colleges; of seating, housing, and entertaining young men who would otherwise be doing productive work; if you were to add to that the costs imposed on industry by the fact that they can only offer young men who are in danger of being drafted stopgap jobs, and cannot effectively invest money in training them; if you were to add to that the costs imposed on individuals of a financial kind by their marrying earlier or having children at an earlier stage, and so on; if you were to add all these up, there is no doubt at all in my mind that the cost of a volunteer force, correctly calculated, would be very much smaller than the amount we are now spending in manning our armed forces.”

Going even further, in the three decades since the United States got rid of its draft and switched to a professional army, the military has become one of the most important paths for career advancement for the poor in America. By forcing the military to compete for young men in a competitive environment, it has forced the military to offer training, career advancement and fair pay. So, instead of it being a short period of forced labor, it acts as a key step in the career ladder for thousands of individuals with lesser opportunities.

By ending conscription, Ukraine will open opportunity to its poorest citizens, save money in its military budget, improve its military capabilities, give its economy a boost by bringing more people to productive labor, and most importantly, free its citizens from forced labor.

This seems like one idea that everyone can support.

Jed Sunden is the publisher of the Kyiv Post.

Taras said...

A hand salute to Jed Sunden! He writes for money, but he writes it right!

Anonymous said...

18 Ukrainian servicemen died during fulfilling duties this year

In the year 2007, 18 Ukrainian military men died during fulfilling their duties.

According to an UNIAN correspondent, Commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Headquarters chief Serhiy Kyrychenko disclosed this to a press conference today.

“This year, unfortunately, we failed to save 18 servicemen, who died during fulfilling their duties”, S.Kyrylenko disclosed, adding that 4 officers, 6 military men who served on contract, and 8 draftees died this year.

He emphasized that this figure is much less than that in the previous year, but the Defense Ministry understands that every death is a tragedy for the family and commanders.

“Next year we will try to render maximally impossible deaths of military men while fulfilling their duties”, S.Kyrychenko.

At the same time, he pointed out that 62 military men died this year not at work – on vacation, as a result of traffic accidents, there were suicides, or deaths by accident.

S.Kyrychenko disclosed that during the year, 109 cases of violence against younger conscripts in the army were registered, out of which in 18 cases conscripts were injured.


Taras said...

Thank you, Luida. The statistics you supplied give us a much better look at the Ukrainian army than the one we get from some peculiar social ads, right?