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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Leave Soviet-Era Training in Soviet Era

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Centrist and leftist factions in the State Duma seem to be determined to re-introduce so-called preliminary military training to Russian schools.

Last Friday, the Duma voted 338 to 42 in a first reading to revive this compulsory Soviet-era training for students in their final year of school. The bill was introduced by the Duma defense committee, which is chaired by General Andrei Nikolayev of People's Deputy, a pro-Kremlin faction.

Other pro-Kremlin centrists all but had to support the bill, especially after President Putin told teachers that such training "is not bad, it's necessary and useful'' -- comments that no doubt brought joy to the Defense Ministry, which continues to rely on teenage conscripts to fill the ranks of its armed forces.

It is also clear why the Communists and the Liberal Democratic Party voted for the bill: They long for the gigantic Soviet war machine. What is not clear, however, is if such training would enhance Russia's security.

Arguably, the Soviet armed forces benefited from the fact that every graduate knew or was supposed to know how to disassemble and assemble a Kalashnikov in less than a minute and duck for cover if stranded in open ground during a nuclear explosion.

After all, the Soviet military planners were preparing for an all-out war with NATO, envisioning both large-scale ground battles and nuclear strikes.

Post-Soviet Russia no longer faces the specter of a global war with the West, and its armed forces should be prepared to ward off different and more real threats, such as local conflicts and incursions by non-state actors.

Such warfare requires a lean but professional fighting force that can be deployed rapidly and, if necessary, reinforced by regularly trained reservists. It should be equipped with high-precision, all-weather weaponry and communications systems.

Only such a force and not a mass of Kalashnikov-toting teenage conscripts would allow Russia to deter and interdict the existing threats to its security with minimal loss of life and maximum efficiency.

Those teenagers who wish to become professional soldiers have plenty of military academies to choose from, whereas the others would be better off attending the survival course that replaced military training in schools.

Even if some commanders still see NATO as the gravest threat, teaching hundreds of thousands of teenagers to march and fire a Kalashnikov is not the answer. After all, virtually every male in Iraq knows how to handle a Kalashnikov, but neither the volunteers nor the Soviet-styled Iraqi armed forces proved able to stop the technologically superior and professional U.S.-led force.