Military commentator Anatoliy Tsyganok gives some of his familiar answers to this question in Polit.ru.
He lists three important factors that will determine the state of Russia’s defenses over the next 10-15 years (without necessarily fully exploring each): information security, demographics, and weapons development.
He’d like to see “information troops” as a branch of the armed forces. Not sure he could write his columns if they existed the way he describes them. More interestingly, he asserts, by 2011-2012, the number of 18-year-old Russian males will be less than the number of conscript billets in the armed forces. So something has to give.
Then Tsyganok spins off into a variety of interesting and familiar directions.
Regarding the shift to 3 levels of command, Tsyganok maintains it doesn’t improve the control over forces and it actually reduces combat readiness. He questions whether the MD can transform itself from an administrative command into a warfighting front under modern conditions when it will have little time and may already be under attack. Later he gives officer manning figures for the old regiments vs. the new brigades. The former had 252 officers and more than 100 warrants against 900-1,800 soldiers and sergeants. The latter has 135 officers against as many as 3,800 troops, so control is worse.
On the issue of tanks, Tsyganok says the reduced reliance on tanks might be right for a small war in the Caucasus, but a larger tank force remains useful elsewhere since not every war will be of the local variety. With only 2,000 tanks, Russia would have only 285 for each MD and the KSDR, or 2 brigades and an independent battalion’s worth for each.
Tsyganok says the U.S. Army’s ratio of combat to combat support brigades is 1:3 and Russia’s is 1:0.88, leaving the latter deficient in combat support. Without adequate combat support, the Russian brigade can’t cover the same kind of territory as its American counterpart, according to him.
Nor is the Russian brigade terribly mobile. Tsyganok says, in Zapad-2009, one brigade rail marched 450 km in 7 days, while he claims a Chinese regiment exercising at the same time covered 2,400 km in 5 days.
Tsyganok is not impressed by Russia’s armaments program. He asks why Russia should build new ships when it can’t maintain what it’s got. He claims Russia’s ‘new’ corvettes will be outfitted with 20-year-old weapons. Tsyganok complains that updating the electronics on 30-year-old Su-24, Su-25, and Su-27 aircraft doesn’t produce sufficiently combat capable platforms for today.
Turning to training and education, he runs through the familiar and modest results for 2009 (60 percent of the ‘new profile’ brigades got satisfactory evaluations) and reductions in the number of officers studying at the Combined Arms and General Staff Academies.
Tsyganok then tackles the formation of OAO Oboronservis to replace most of the army’s rear services. According to him, it is quite a behemoth valued at perhaps more than a trillion rubles or 2-3 percent of Russia’s GDP. He cites VVS CINC Zelin’s criticism of the high cost of capital aircraft repairs by its Aviaremont holding.
On military housing, Tsyganok says, the Defense Ministry’s claims notwithstanding, servicemen received less than 30,000 apartments in 2009.
He ends by discussing military corruption, which he describes as theft which knows no limits. Officially, losses from economic crimes in the armed forces amounted to 2.5 billion rubles in 2009, adding to the 2.2 billion in 2008.
“The prosecutor and other law enforcement mainly fight against low-level corruption, but they don’t touch its ‘apex.’ To increase the number of cases uncovered, they seize on rank and file corruption, but they don’t conduct a systematic fight against corruption in the ranks of the highest leadership. Attempts to create special control organs still haven’t brought success: in a thoroughly corrupt system, uncorrupted structures either don’t work or else quickly become corrupted themselves. To ‘purge’ the main corrupt people, political will is needed, and we still don’t have it.”
It will be interesting to see if there is some kind of move against corruption in the Defense Ministry and other high places in the armed forces, as rumored during last week’s command changes. The rumor probably shouldn’t be believed until some solid evidence appears.