Daily Archives: January 11, 2010

Moscow Makes Note of U.S. Exercise with Estonia

In Gazeta, Denis Telmanov covers plans for a U.S. amphibious landing exercise in Estonia on 11 July.  According to Tallinn, 500 U.S. Marines will land from the USS Whidbey Island (LSD-41) and conduct a 10-day exercise with an Estonian recce battalion.  Estonia’s Defense Minister says this exercise will show that NATO’s serious about defending the Baltic states.  He said it won’t have any aggressive character, and therefore won’t harm relations with Moscow.  Telmanov raises the issue of whether this exercise prepares a defense against Russia in a Georgian-style scenario.

Then Telmanov turns to Leonid Ivashov to comment and he’s at his vitriolic best.  Ivashov calls the exercise hidden aggression against Russia, “When exercises are conducted, a situation is played out, no one just simply conducts exercises.  In every instance, the U.S. wants to work out scenarios of military action in these countries, since they see a threat from Russia.” 

Ivashov thinks the U.S. has the strategic aim of gaining “maneuver room” in the Baltic.  He concludes, “Controlling this territory, it’s possible to organize everything there as it suits–color revolutions, crises.  But the Baltic–this is a sore point for Russia, right next to the second capital–St. Petersburg.  These exercises need to demonstrate how far these three countries have moved away from Russia.”

New Officers’ Honor Code and Ethics Needed

Over the weekend, a Defense Ministry source told Interfaks-AVN that, until 1 February, officers in units, brigades, and ships are discussing a new honor code.  Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov is leading this broad discussion on the “moral profile of the contemporary Russian officer.”

A new set of corporate ethics for officers will be adopted during the Defense Ministry’s 3rd All-Army Assembly of Officers this November in Moscow.  The Assembly will address raising the educational level and professionalism of officers, the “social-legal” defense of servicemen, and raising the status of officers in society.

Today Aleksandr Konovalov told Gzt.ru that military men need to choose their work as service to the people not just a profession, and officers need to have higher standards than average citizens.  He describes his idealized vision of an officer who has a high sense of justice and duty, values the lives of his subordinates, and won’t use the army for anyone’s private interests, including those in power.

Vitaliy Shlykov also gave Gzt.ru his view on military professionalism.  He says there are now way too few instructors who can impart the qualities officers need–competence, traditions and ethics, and corporateness.  The basic provisions of the new code need to be laid out first though, according to Shlykov.

Konovalov wants to start from scratch.  “New profile officers” have to be formed outside the existing army traditions, which have appeared spontaneously and not always honorably.

How does this square with the reality that officers commit most crimes in the Russian Armed Forces?  Not well.

In the midst of an optimistic army crime report on 26 November, Krasnaya zvezda admitted:

“One of the main problems is the growth of legal violations among officers, including stealing budget money allocated for defense needs, and other corruption crimes by military officials.  The scale of ‘officer’ crime has reached the highest level in the last decade.  Today every fourth registered crime among the troops is committed by this category of servicemen, a third of them are of the corruption type.  The losses caused to military units and organizations by these crimes have increased by one-third and exceed the half-billion level.  The structure of this type of crime has substantially transformed.  Today the theft of military property and financial means is almost half of all the legal violations of officers.  The quantity of cases of bribetaking, of forgery of duty positions, of appropriations, and expenditures has grown substantially.”

According to KZ, senior officers are more often the perpetrators.  In the last year, they committed more than half of all illegal acts.  In 2008, 20 generals and admirals were held criminally responsible, 1,611 officers, including 160 unit commanders, were found guilty.  Out of the 874 people held criminally responsible in 2009, 162 were commanders of units, 127 were colonels and captains 1st rank and 14 were general officers.  More than 270 people were convicted, including 3 generals.  In 2009, over 5,500 law violations were uncovered in this sphere over the course of prosecutor inspections.  The losses amount to 2 billion rubles.

The smaller officer corps–now 150,000 according to the Defense Ministry–and the possibility of dramatically higher pay for all officers by 2012 might reduce officer crime and make those officers who are still part of the ‘new profile’ more honorable and ethical.

More on ‘Steppe’ Garrison, How Not to Handle PR

According to RIA Novosti, the SibVO has declared ‘Steppe’ fully restored in  heating.  Recall that 2,000 were without heat since 22 December and 100 residents were evacuated in temperatures as low as -47 C (-53 F).  All apartment blocks and the school have heat now.  The restoration ultimately required joint efforts by repair crews from various locations in the SibVO, the Air Forces, and Zabaykalskiy Kray.

The apartment management unit chief, Lieutenant Colonel Konstantin Kondrashov, charged with negligence in maintaining the garrison’s communal services faces a maximum punishment of three months arrest.  The authorities say the repair work costs millions of rubles.

They plan to restore heat to the kindergarten by week’s end.  There are minor problems still in two buildings and one boiler needs another piece of equipment.

Today’s Rossiyskaya gazeta criticizes the SibVO for concealing the problems in ‘Steppe.’  At first the command said there was only a problem with one boiler, but in fact all three in the boiler house broke down, leaving all 2,000 inhabitants without heat.

One resident said, by 28 December, it was +2 C in her apartment with two electric heaters going.  The electric grid couldn’t handle the load.  At this point, people started calling the news agencies and the governor for help.  And the military denied that ‘Steppe’ had been without heat for a week and said there was a problem in only one building.  On 26 December, the SibVO claimed electricity was restored to all three buildings that lost it due to the extraordinary load on the grid.  On 30 December, Lieutenant Colonel Kondrashov said all buildings were getting heat.

One officer said:

“Everything they say about restoring heat is complete bull.  All buildings have ruptured pipes, one after another batteries in apartments give out.  But the garrison’s leadership gives the impression that everything’s normal here!  The SibVO leadership sits in warm offices, not knowing the real situation, I wish one of them had come here.  My name is Nikolay, I’m an officer, serving right now in Steppe.  Believe me, we’re dying out here.  The command hasn’t done anything in the course of a week and concealed the crisis.”

On 30 December, Kray officials intervened with help for the garrison and the situation had improved by 6 January.  On 8 January, 20 repair crews were working in Steppe.

But maybe the incident had something to do with the poor condition and obsolescence of the garrison in the first place.