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One of the Moscow newspapers has published an article with a sounding headline - "Labour army to defend Turkmenistan's neutrality". This article gives, to put it mildly, a distorted interpretation of the new regulations on conscription into the army, approved by the People's Council of the country in the early August. The content of the article is not worth refuting because of certain reputation of its author, but it seems necessary to get to the point of the matter.
According to the new regulations there will be special military units in Turkmenistan formed of the young men subject to conscription who will be sent not to military units but to working places in the various sectors of the national economy. Roughly comparing this will be much alike former "military construction units" except that our conscripts will be engaged not only in construction but in other spheres as well starting from civil aviation to agriculture. The reason behind creation of the new special military units is of demography nature. The matter is that according to the law of Turkmenistan and its military doctrine the number of soldiers in combat units of the national army cannot exceed 1% of the total population of the country. At present time the population of Turkmenistan is about five and a half million people and about fifty thousand men including officers serve in the army. At the same time the average annual number of conscripts even excluding those who entered high education establishments, with poor health, with more than two children and so on is 20-25 thousands more than required to fully complete combat units. The military commissariats do not have powers to exempt them from service under Constitution and it is not less important to preserve the principal of social fairness: nobody is immune from serving two years in the army. In view of this situation it was decided to direct, and forgive me please for some impoliteness, that "surplus" not to serve but to work. It will be up to military commissariats to decide who is fit to drive a tank or jump by parachute and who is to build roads and repair combines depending on physical conditions of a conscript, his skills and level of education. After that the latter gets a place to work in accordance with demand in the given field of the economy. On completion of rather work than military service and trained in civilian profession the man can stay, if he wishes and there is a need, to continue working as a civilian. If he does not he is free to go home with a feeling of completed "sacred duty". That is it.
The problem of conscription is solved differently in various countries. In Russia the issue of alternative military service appears to have become a headache. In Armenia they have found quite original solution: you don't want to go to army you pay the state $15 000 or leave as a deposit an equivalent property. In the end isn't it quite modern method of earning money for the state budget. In Turkmenistan it was decided that those who come "in excess" of the required number would be utilized in economical front where they could get a civilian profession.
It could be of course called a "labour army". One could also find a proof of Niyazov's intentions to start a war against Australia because of disputable Cabo Verde islands. It is even possible to conclude that Bin Laden got a nuclear bomb made in Turkmenistan. It all depends on the sources of payment and the amount of sum. As for the paper it will bear it all. We live in a bad time - the time of "the news".

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Serdar Durdiyev

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