Serdyukov Says He Accomplished Everything Planned for 2009

Defense Minister Serdyukov (photo: Liliya Zlakazova)

In part one of his Rossiyskaya gazeta interview, Serdyukov said all Russian formations and units are now in permanent readiness status, practically all are manned at 98 percent or better, and no longer depend on the mobilization of men and equipment.  This is why they are now prepared for war in 1 hour.  Serdyukov said 2009 exercises showed problems with officer and soldier training, so this year the armed forces will focus on individual and battalion and lower level training.  He wants to give Russia’s Military District commanders real experience as interbranch and interservice commanders.

Serdyukov discussed the effort to introduce more physical training for soldiers and officers into the military’s day.  He believes a greater physical load on soldiers will leave less time and energy for disturbing legal order (i.e. for hazing, violence, and other crime) in the army.

Regarding next steps, Serdyukov says, “Undoubtedly, the most costly over time will be completing tasks in the systematic rearming of the army and navy.  We calculate that by 2012 in percentage terms we’ll have up to one-third, by 2020 from 70 to 100 percent modern types of equipment and armaments.”

Asked about arms procurement for 2010, Serdyukov said an increase in the volume was not bad given the economic crisis’ impact on Russia’s budget.  He emphasized the sharp cut in repairs in favor of buying new equipment.  The OPK is not ready for the task of modernizing the armed forces, and itself needs a modernization program which he expects in the first quarter of 2010.  Serdyukov defended the possibility of some arms purchases abroad as a way of catching up in areas where Russia lags.  He said there’s no final decision on the Mistral amphibious landing ship, but discussions are ongoing with France, and other countries.

Asked about unhappiness over his reforms in the officer ranks, Serdyukov said he’s aware of this, and his General Staff representatives are often out among the troops to observe situations, and report on them and possible changes.  For example, when it comes to premium pay, all officers in the best units now receive it.  In 2010, every third officer will get premium pay.  He says the Defense Ministry will try to start premium pay among contract soldiers in 2011.

Serdyukov admitted that he has absolutely not solved the military’s housing problem, but he thinks the Defense Ministry is moving out on its goal of 45,000 apartments in 2009, although he did not say how close it is to this goal.  He said that dismissed officers living in official apartments cannot be settled somewhere else at present.

In part two of his Rossiyskaya gazeta interview, Serdyukov said this year’s premium pay initiative will be the basis for military pay reform.  A lieutenant will make 45-50,000 rubles per month, a colonel 180,000, a large ship or submarine commander even more.  A contract soldier will earn 30,000 per month.  Basic pay will increase, supplements will be reduced in number, and pay for specialties will increase.  But the new system won’t be introduced any earlier than 2012.

Turning to law and order in the military, Serdyukov said the struggle against dedovshchina is not a temporary campaign.  He blames officers who are unprepared to deal with it.  He calls discipline in the ranks a major unresolved problem.

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