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‘You’re A Man! Be One!’: Russia’s Military Recruitment Video Is Strange

A Russian recruiting video, produced by the nation’s defense ministry, has been making the rounds on social media this week. It was shared by BBC reporter Francis Scarr (@francis_scarr) who quite accurately described it as “something else.”

Russian War Recruitment Video
Russian War Recruitment Video

A Russian recruiting video, produced by the nation’s defense ministry, has been making the rounds on social media this week. It was shared by BBC reporter Francis Scarr (@francis_scarr) who quite accurately described it as “something else.”

The 46-second-long clip, which was reportedly posted to Telegram, begins with a Russian soldier – fitted out with a modern camouflage uniform, ballistic helmet, and tactical equipment while he is armed with a PKM general-purpose machine gun – standing guard at the entrance of a grocery store. As a customer walks by, it is revealed he’s actually in a rather basic “rent-a-cop” blue jacket; instead of the machine gun, he is holding a portable metal detector.

A caption asks, “Did you really dream of being this kind of defender?”

The clip then switches to another soldier spotting a weight lifter in the gym – before he transforms into a gym trainer with the caption, “Is this really where your strength lies?”

A third individual – also fitted out for war – is seen driving a taxi, before he is shown in civilian clothing as the caption asks, “Did you really want to choose this path?”

All three men are then presented with a look of disgust on their faces as though they seemingly picked the wrong career path. Of course, the Russian Ministry of Defense offers a solution: “You’re a man! Be one!”

The Russian MoD then announces, “Serve under contract! Monthly payment from 204,000 roubles.”

Is Russia Trying to Recruit Losers?

The immediate question to ask is what kind of message was Russia trying to send with its recruiting video. Beginning with an opening scene of an armed guard with a PKM could suggest to the viewer that crime is such a problem that armed guards are needed – but even the presence of any security guard sends a similar message. At least the store looks reasonably well stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, which is maybe why it needs a security guard.

The jump to the gym – where the trainer is spotting a rather pathetic amount of weight – and then to the cab driver only further seems to insult the viewer rather than to inspire. The message in this video may try to resemble the U.S. Army’s old “Be all that you can be” campaign, but it really comes off more as, “You’re a loser already, so why not join the Russian Army!”

No Combat Pay?

Then there is the issue of what soldiers can expect to be paid.

The state rate of pay, 204,000 rubles equals just around $2,500. That would suggest that the Kremlin is offering payment of just $30,000 a year to recruits to go fight in a war.

That’s not as bad as the British Army offering would-be soldiers “forty shillings on the drum” – the enlistment enticement during the Napoleonic Wars – and it is more than U.S. Army recruits make. Still, this ad practically guarantees that combat is in their future.

What the Ad Doesn’t Say

The ad may have some other deceptive elements. It suggests that the soldiers will be prepared for war, even as reports have noted that Russia lacks modern equipment, including small arms.

Few soldiers will be lucky enough to receive a PKM, and could instead expect antique weapons, helmets, and tactical gear dating back to the Cold War. In fact, last year it was also reported that Russian recruits received fake body armor while Iran has stepped up to provide other infantry equipment.

Mockery Ensues!

The original video from the Russian MoD, which has been seen hundreds of thousands of times since it was posted earlier this week, has been steadily mocked, while a number of parodies have also circulated across social media. These have noted the Russian losses, the destroyed tanks, and the horrific injuries suffered by those in combat.

Simply put, this new campaign seems hardly any better thought out than the plan to invade Ukraine.

Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.