Georgia Announces End To Military Conscription
Georgia's military has abolished mandatory military service, becoming the first post-Soviet state (outside of the Baltics) to manage to do so.
Georgia has talked about getting rid of the draft for years, and Defense Minister Tinatin Khidasheli on Monday announced that it was finally happening. “The Georgian Armed Forces do not need a service member brought in on the compulsory basis,” Khidasheli said, according to Civil.ge.
Most states would like to get rid of conscription for obvious reasons -- people don't like it, and soldiers who are forced to be there are not the best soldiers. The trick is to have enough money to pay a high enough salary to soldiers to want to join of their own volition. Khidasheli did not mention any budget ramifications of the move, but she argued that service in the armed forces is “prestigious” and there is a “high demand” for joining the army voluntarily.
The move faced criticism even from many of Khidasheli's allies. The country's president, prime minister, and chair of the parliamentary committee on defense all said she should have consulted with them. “Such decisions – no matter right or wrong and whether we agree or disagree – should not be taken by a single official; instead it should be discussed by the government session and the National Security Council,” President Giorgi Margvelashvili told journalists on Monday. However, he stopped short of suggesting that he would contest the decision.
The young men of Georgia are not off the hook: the country is only abandoning the draft for the Ministry of Defense. Other security agencies that rely on conscription, like the police and prison service, will continue the practice. Civil.ge said that those agencies represent the "bulk" of draftees.
Georgia will become a regional outlier with the move. Armenia and Azerbaijan still have drafts and with tension between them threatening to escalate into full-scale war, that's not going to change. Armenia is in fact considering a draft law that would eliminate draft deferments for university students.
Ukraine in 2012 announced it was going to get rid of the draft, aiming to bring its military into line with the "leading countries of the world," but in 2014 reversed that decision as the war with Russia-backed separatists in the east broke out. Russia also has had to delay plans to eliminate conscription as its economy suffers as a result of low oil prices.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.