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Public Discussion: Professional army: motives, benefits, risks

Press Release
on the organization of the debate
“Professional army: motives, benefits, risks”. “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. Public debates series held by the news agency IPN in its conference room with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”

The 88th debate held on March 28, 2018 involved: Victor Gaiciuc, ex-minister of defense of the RM; Viorel Cibotaru, ex-minister of defense of the RM; Anatolie Prohnitski, chairman of the Green Ecologist Party of Moldova; Igor Botan, ADEPT executive director, standing expert of the project.

Why with such a theme and with such a format?

We wanted the format to be slightly wider, but Mister Radu Burduja, Secretary General of State at the Ministry of Defense, in the morning of the event informed us that he fell ill and cannot take part in the debate.

To be explicit and to save time in explaining why we considered this theme important and in the absence of a very official viewpoint on the issue, we will cite closely particular parts of a press release issued by the Democratic Party of Moldova on March 20: 

“The PDM took the political decision to launch the National Army reform by excluding the mandatory military service. Thus, as a result of a broad assessment of the situation in the National Army, the PDM, as the party responsible for governance in the Republic of Moldova, decided to exclude the mandatory military service. The president of the PDM Vlad Plahotniuc declared that the PDM, last year first, requested the Government to carry out an extensive study on the issue and to formulate a plan of action for transforming our army into a professional one. The conclusions of the given assessment that involved a number of ministries, agencies and experts in the field, under the guidance of the Prime Minister, confirmed the existing concerns, namely that the conditions that the National Army can offer at present to the young recruits are insufficient for solid training and decent living while doing the military service. At the same time, a very serious phenomenon continuous to expand – the paying by young men of large sums of money for avoiding military service. Therefore, only those who do not have money to pay are enrolled.

According to the leader of the PDM, the army reform will be done in stages in about two years. The first reductions in the conscription plan will be witnessed this autumn. The place of the recruits will be taken by military professionals employed on a contract basis, who will be equipped in accordance with the modern standards. In parallel, the Government will solve all the problems related to logistics and remuneration so that a modern, much better equipped and financially supported army with professional soldiers is created,” said the press release.

At least two significant motives for cardinally reforming the National Army can be deduced from this document: ONE: Now the Army cannot offer the young recruits conditions for solid training and decent living; and TWO: The phenomenon of corruption became deep-rooted in the recruitment system, causing serious problems of different natures. These two motives are mainly social in character, but we discuss the theme within the series of debates that refer to the development of political culture in Moldovan society. That’s why, taking into account the instructive particularities of the project in relation to the political culture of society, the participants were requested to treat the issue from this viewpoint as well.

ADEPT executive director Igor Botan, standing expert of IPN’s project, said the implementation of such a reform during two years is an interesting, but very difficult initiative and a series of instruments are needed for successfully implementing it, including the national security strategy that is an all-inclusive document, the national defense strategy and the military doctrine. As to the national security strategy, there are disagreements between the supreme commander of the national army, the President and the government. The President decided to renounce the strategy worked out under the aegis of his predecessors and this is worrisome.

Last year, the Government adopted the defense strategy of the Republic of Moldova, which was accompanied by a plan of action that covered a period of almost ten years. But this says nothing about the annulment of the mandatory military service. This generates concern. As to the military doctrine that was adopted in 1995, many things have changed since then. The Constitutional Court judgment of May 2, 2017 says that the Republic of Moldova has an occupied territory, but no new law that would take into account these realities was adopted since then. The principal documents weren’t adjusted and this is a problem. Also, the constitutional provisions say it clearly that the country’s defense is a duty and an obligation of every citizen and these provisions had to be taken into account. “So, there are many conflicting features, plus the article on the supreme commander that is somehow fully removed from this process,” noted Igor Botan.

Anatolie Prohnitski, chairman of the Green Ecologist Party, who is a career military man, said the Democratic Party’s initiative is late and half-populist, but is also slightly real. The political matters prevail over professionalism in defense. “We have no strategy and no concept – what we do, how we struggle and with who? It is an anachronism when we have to train an 18-year-old boy conscripted into the army and make a real defender of him during a year. This is impossible and I know it from experience. He only starts to get used and has to leave. He takes part in military exercises, but it is not known who will resist on the battlefield,” he said.

Anatolie Prohnitski also said that this initiative is half-populist because parliamentary elections are to take place towards the end of 2018. The initiative was launched, but it is not known who will win the elections and what the fate of this initiative will be. A party works out strategies, but there is no national strategy that would be obeyed and implemented by everyone. “As regards the professional army, this should have been created long ago and the actions in eastern Ukraine, the occupation by Russia of the Crimean peninsula and the presence of the Russian occupation army in the Republic of Moldova without any reason prove this,” he stated.

Ex-minister of defense Victor Gaiciuc said it is clear for everyone that the professional army implies larger costs than the mixed army or the army with mandatory military service. “On the one hand, they say there is not enough money for the current army. On the other hand, they intend to build a more expensive army. They either cheat or really want a modern, numerically optimal well-trained army that would cope with the requirements. This is now worrisome as the dangers increase. I would like to know how the reform will be financed and from what sources. Can the costs for the national army be increased from 03% of the GDP to 0.6% next year and to 1% in a year, as in all the European states?” asked the ex-minister of defense.

According to him, it is also not clear how the reserve will be formed. “As a military man, I know that the military actions imply losses. I ask myself how will these losses be filled? If it is about military actions, these require the army to be increased. There are also such aspects as financing, the reserve and that incompatibility of the legislation, the Constitution and all the laws that provide now that each citizen should defend the homeland,” stated Victor Gaiciuc, noting that the Republic of Moldova is a neutral state and Switzerland is a very good example where each citizen is obliged to do the military service.

Viorel Cibotaru, ex-minister of defense, said it is a classic example when a party that has the right to initiate political projects and reforms announces a political decision that wasn’t sufficiently discussed in society and over which no transparent feasibility study was made. “This is a populist proposal and it will not be implemented as it cannot be implemented in the way in which it was presented in an electoral year, before the election campaign. It has exactly two targets – the mothers of soldiers who are worried about the state of their sons who do the military service and those young men who do not want to serve in the National Army for various reasons and want to shirk responsibility,” he stated.

The former minister noted the pre-military training of boys who turn 16 is essential. As essential are the military registration of citizens and the formation of the reserves. It is a pre-established objective process and the attempt by some protagonists to present these aspects as reminiscences of the Soviet Union is simply hazardous as most of the countries preserved conscription. The states that faced social problems like those invoked by the PDM solved them by other ways. For example, they diversified the conscription methods.

The Agency published 5 news stories on the debate (see the English version of on 28.03.18, „Professional army: motives, benefits, risks, IPN debate” -; on 29.03.18, „Victor Gaiciuc: By initiative to renounce mandatory military service, they either cheat or really want a modern army” -; „Anatolie Prohnitski: Initiative to renounce mandatory military service is populist” -; „Viorel Cibotaru: PDM’s decision to renounce mandatory military service will not be implemented” -; „Initiative to renounce mandatory military service is unprepared, expert” -  

IPN promoted the debate before and after the event, in particular the ensuing news stories, using all the available channels, including social networks. Confirmatory materials of deliverables, as well as a media coverage dossier are attached.

Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN


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