Jobs offer defers military service

February 16, 1996

Russia. Five hundred Russian graduates a year will have their military service deferred indefinitely, under a new decree aimed at preserving Russia's "scientific potential".

They will be selected from the lists of university graduates by the Russian Academy of Sciences, and will be required to take up full-time jobs in the research establishments of the academy network. As long as they remain in these posts, they will not be liable for conscription.

President Yeltsin's decree is silent on the question of what will happen if there is no money for the graduates to carry out their jobs effectively. Over the past four years many scientists in Russia (including those working for the academy) have spent most of their "working" day simply sitting around, unable to proceed with their experiments, for lack of equipment, reagents - and in some cases electricity.

The question of on what criteria will the 500 be selected, and which fields of research will benefit was answered, at least in part and implicitly, by Yeltsin in an address to Russia's Security Council.

After warning that Russia's "technological security" is being put at risk by the efforts of foreign secret services to obtain Russia's "dual-use" technologies (with both a military and a civil application) and the brain-drain of top specialists in this field, he stressed that "technological security" demanded an increased commitment to the development of "a wide range of technologies".

A country's technological advantage, Yeltsin said, lies not in possessing a lead at the research stage, but "by the pace and level" at which this technology is implemented in the economy.

The implementation of new technologies was a notorious problem in the Soviet Union; amounting, in some fields, to a lag of 11 years. But Russia's post-soviet economy has not managed to close the gap either.

Yeltsin is calling for "organisational and administrative" measures to spread "critical and key dual-use technologies", in such fields as information science, biotechnology, aerospace, power-engineering, transport and materials science.

He has instructed Russia's special services to prepare proposals for improving methods of implementing new knowledge "in the interests of technological rearmament". Russian science, he said, must be restructured and concentrated in priority fields.

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