In the near future, demographics and mass migration of young people will create staffing problems for Belarusian law enforcement agencies and the military. There is no simple solution to this long-term problem.
On January 20th, the Belarusian Ministries of Defence and Health announced plans to change health requirements for persons volunteering or conscripted for military service. The stated rationale is.
- to equalise health requirements for different groups of military personnel.
- lower barriers for those who wish to pursue a military career but have minor health problems.
- the progress of medical technology reduces the practical significance of some health conditions.
- modern military equipment and weapons do not require the same levels of physical fitness.
Steps will also be taken to reduce the number of medical referrals of conscripts.
The Ministry of Defence previously admitted that it faces a conscription problem due to the changing demographic situation and the departure of young people abroad.
These changes are in addition to the reductions in Belarusian military health adopted in 2017 and 2019.
The 2019 reforms also tightened the rules for obtaining military service deferment. In October 2022, the authorities proposed to end the deferment of conscription for persons receiving education abroad (except for those sent by state bodies). If such a rule is enacted, it will accelerate the emigration of young people.
The shortage of potential recruits is nothing new, and all neighbouring counties are in a similar situation. The military-political position in the region requires a quantitative military build-up, but demography does not allow this. There is no simple and cheap solution to this long-term challenge.
In future, Belarus will inevitably have to face the prospect of increasing the duration of military service both for professionals and conscripts. In addition, we can expect greater involvement of women in military service and, in the longer term, the potential recruitment of foreign citizens.