Today’s Vremya novostey previewed Thursday’s closed Duma Defense Committee session with Serdyukov at the Defense Ministry. A Just Russia motion to have Serdyukov appear at a Duma “government hour” on 23 December was defeated by United Russia deputies. Just Russia wanted him to answer questions on “nonregulation relations,” including the deaths of 273 soldiers this year. Committee Chairman Zavarzin has said Thursday’s closed session will cover hazing, discipline, and training issues. Zavarzin also conducted the end-of-year meeting with foreign military attaches, but he talked more about a new strategic arms agreement with the U.S., Afghanistan, NATO in the Baltic, and missile defense than about the Russian military.
On 10 December, Rossiyskaya gazeta reported on Zavarzin’s meeting with the attaches and his words about Russia’s military procurement efforts. Despite the financial crisis, Zavarzin asserted that money for arms purchases has not been cut. Echoing Putin, he claims Russian forces will receive 30 ICBMs and SLBMs and 3 nuclear submarines next year. Money will be concentrated on the 5th generation fighter, a new Long-Range Aviation aircraft, the S-500 air defense system, a new generation tank, an aircraft-carrying cruiser, and Project 955A nuclear submarines with the Bulava-30. The article noted comments from RVSN Commander Shvaychenko to the effect that he hopes for a new land-based missile in 7-8 years.
Also on 10 December, Moskovskaya pravda indicated that Just Russia’s Vera Lekareva wanted Serdyukov to discuss this year’s reported 273 hazing deaths in an open session. On 9 December, Lenta.ua quoted Just Russia faction deputy chairman Gudkov, “There’s no military secret here, the press has long ago written about everything.”
Lenta.ua picked up some of former Main Staff Chief Selivanov’s comments about the state of the Navy at a KPRF round table on Serdyukov’s reforms. He says 80-85 percent of the Navy’s platforms have been written off. In the fleets, he sees only about 30-35 ships and submarines. The Soviet Navy used to get 10 or 11 nuclear submarines per year. Now, in the Northern and Pacific Fleets, there are just a handful of nuclear submarines. The fleets have about 129 aircraft. The Navy can’t perform any of the operations required of it and the West long ago surpassed it technologically. Russia is looking at steam catapults and the U.S. is working on electromagnetic ones.
Pervyy kanal covered the beatings in the 138th MRB at Kamenka. A Defense Ministry spokesman commented on the dismissal of 8 of the brigade’s officers, saying that violations of military discipline led to serious consequences and those who failed to prevent the incidents had been punished. The report noted the formation is one of the district’s most combat capable and the incidents occurred right after its participation in the Ladoga-2009 exercise. The television coverage picked up earlier press reporting on how company commander Cpt. Tarasov came after one of the soldiers in St. Petersburg and assaulted the soldier’s father. The report notes this was far from the first incident in Kamenka. The formation had a suicide this summer and another soldier ended up in a coma under suspicious circumstances. The sergeants in this most recent case face up to 10 years in prison.
NTV covered the Kamenka case as well. It noted this is not the first time Kamenka has been the center of attention for human rights defenders. NTV called Serdyukov’s order to relieve much of the brigade’s command unprecedented. I think it probably is not. Ella Polyakova of Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg says she hopes commanders realize they’ll have to answer more for order in their units.
IA Rosbalt has conjectured that Black Sea Fleet (BSF) Commander, Vice-Admiral Kletskov, might be replaced. The outspoken Kletskov would take the hit for BSF officers’ anger over Serdyukov’s reforms. The article says the BSF’s fundamental problem — illustrated by the 21 November submarine breakdown — is its aging order-of-battle and lack of combat capability. Between Moscow and Kyiv, it doesn’t look like the BSF will get modernized either. Serdyukov’s personnel cuts are hitting the BSF hard. IA Rosbalt cites the 10,000 figure for personnel being cut loose there, and, although he’s not to blame, Kletskov could be the scapegoat for reductions.
Dissatisfaction with Serdyukov’s reforms flows from the particular circumstances of the BSF. Specifically, dismissed officers will not be able to privatize their service apartments, i.e. base housing. Many of these apartments were built through the largesse of Moscow Mayor Luzhkov and his patronage of the fleet, and Moscow won’t allow them to be privatized. But one also has to suspect the issue goes to whether ex-officers of the Russian BSF will be allowed to become permanent residents of Sevastopol.
IA Rosbalt thinks Vice-Admiral Menyaylo, who directed the amphibious assault of Abkhazia in August 2008, might succeed Kletskov, but no one in the BSF is commenting. The rumors could just remain rumors.
The article finishes with a note about the BSF’s weakness vis-a-vis the Turkish Navy. Can and whether Moscow wants to revive the BSF is the question.
On 10 December, ITAR-TASS said the Russian Navy Main Staff has asked the Moscow government to privatize nearly 300 service apartments for dismissed officers in the BSF. Vice-Admiral Smuglin says 940 BSF officers are being dismissed without housing, 287 of whom want to remain in Crimea. Smuglin notes that the BSF has 1,900 service apartments, 817 of which were built by the Moscow government. When dismissed, officers have to leave these apartments and the situation is causing ‘social tension.’ The Moscow and Sevastopol governments are looking at whether these apartments can be transferred from the former to the latter.
The 138th Motorized Rifle Brigade (MRB) at Kamenka (V/Ch 02511) in the LenVO has always had a pretty bad rep for hazing cases. A Defense Ministry source told Fontanka.ru that 8 Kamenka officers have been removed from duty over the latest incident. They include platoon, company, battalion, and brigade commanders, the battalion and brigade chiefs of staff, and deputy brigade commanders for armaments and socialization work. They have reportedly been dismissed from the service as well, although the Defense Ministry has not confirmed this. In early October, a conscript and contract serviceman were beaten by three drunken sergeants in the unit. They turned to the Soldiers’ Mothers of Petersburg for assistance. Initial press reports said 16 soldiers in all were beaten by the sergeants. See Forum.msk for more. This was probably just the last straw after a long line of incidents in this troubled brigade.
The failed Bulava test launch yesterday is today’s big story. See Myasnikov in Nezavisimaya gazeta or D. Litovkin in Izvestiya for coverage.
Myasnikov recounts delays this fall in conducting the missile’s 12th test firing. He recalls the story of how the project was given to MIT under the apparently ill-conceived thought of unifying naval and land-based strategic missiles. Meanwhile, the SS-N-20 follow-on missile Bark, and the TYPHOON SSBNs to carry it, basically went away. The Defense Ministry refuses to return to stand tests for Bulava. Myasnikov says test missiles alone may have already run $3 billion. The rest of the Navy is starved for resources, but Bulava has a strong lobby to keep it going.
D. Litovkin wonders whether it is Bulava’s control systems or poor manufacturing. He wants to believe the system will work, but notes that time is running out for the current DELTA IV SSBN force, even with overhaul and modernization.
ITAR-TASS says the Defense Ministry blames a defect in the third-stage engine.