Daily Archives: March 4, 2010

18-Month Conscription or More Money for Contract Service

Vladimir Mukhin’s report on General Staff Chief Makarov denouncing  contract service has not received much attention.  See Monday’s Nezavisimaya gazeta

Mukhin concludes the military leadership has decided the longstanding effort to transfer some troops to a professional basis and reduce the length of conscript service has been a total fiasco.  And contractees will be reduced, and conscripts increased. 

Mukhin says, with this, Makarov touched the very painful issue of increasing conscript service back to 1.5 years.  He says such a plan is allegedly with the country’s leadership right now [this will really add to Medvedev’s popularity, won’t it?]. 

Duma Deputy Vladimir Komoyedov

Mukhin cites former Black Sea Fleet Commander, Admiral Komoyedov, now a KPRF Duma deputy and member of the Duma’s Defense Committee, who says the issue of raising the draft term is under discussion among generals as well as among legislators. 

Mukhin says all this is perfectly logical to military leaders.  A longer draft term will allow conscripts to be better trained and more knowledgeable and to compensate for the absence of professionals.  But this approach in no way  connects with the political statements of the country’s leadership which assures society there won’t be any increase in conscript service time. 

Komoyedov says: 

“The situation here is complicated.  The idea of increasing the military service term to 1.5 years is written into our, the KPRF, program.  We understand well that in current conditions it’s almost impossible to train a skilled and knowledgeable specialist in the troops in a year.  They’ve begun, apparently, to understand this in the Genshtab also.  It seems to me that military leaders know how to convince the president and prime minister to take unpopular steps on questions of changing to the side of increasing the military service term.  Otherwise the army expects significant undermanning–because of the demographic hole, losses on health grounds, and the like.”  

Mukhin turns next to the Chairman of the All-Russian Professional Servicemen’s Union (OPSV or ОПСВ) Oleg Shvedkov who says:   

“It seems to me that the idea of increasing the conscript military service term to a year and a half, even if it today it’s actively lobbied for by someone in military circles, neither the Kremlin nor Okhotnyy Ryad (the Duma) will support it.  Our leaders have already made so many mistakes including in questions of military reform.  Changes in the conscription and troop manning system will cause significant agitation in society.  The authorities of course won’t allow this.  More likely a decision on increasing military budget parameters for use in selecting and training contractees will be taken.” 

Valentina Melnikova, Secretary of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers (СКСМ) of Russia, told Mukhin she still thinks a complete transition to contract service could be made. 

She and Shvedkov are right of course.  Theoretically, Russia could shift to all professional enlisted, but it would take political will lacking heretofore.  After what Makarov and Postnikov said (and knowing the generalitet’s predilections anyway), an effort to reinforce a badly, badly sagging contract service effort seems very unlikely.  And it would seem Makarov and his protege would have to resign too.

NATO Exercise in Baltic Region

People apparently love this issue, almost as much as information and netcentric warfare . . . .  So, give the people want they want.

Today’s Kommersant says, “They’ve Decided to Have Maneuvers on Russia’s Doorstep.”

The NATO leadership has decided to exercise in the airspace over Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, with forces from those countries plus the U.S., France, and Poland.  Kommersant calls it a symbolic start to a large-scale program with the Baltic member-states that will continue through this year.

The staff of NATO’s joint air forces command is quoted as calling the exercises ‘routine’ and having a strictly ‘organizational character.’  But they will also be “a demonstration of alliance solidarity with the countries of the Baltic region that have joined it.”

Participants intend to give special attention to increased coordination between NATO air forces and to patrolling air space.  It will give NATO a great opportunity to use regional air forces and evaluate their readiness.

The Baltic Region Training Event scheduled for 17-20 March was developed at the end of 2008.  France will use its Mirage 2000C, Lithuania its L-39 Albatros, Poland F-16, and the U.S. tanker aircraft.  Latvia and Estonia will provide ground control.  Fighters will land at Tallinn airport for refueling and simulated maintenance.

Kommersant says the issue of serious exercises with the Baltic members came up after Russia’s short war with Georgia in August 2008.  Baltic concerns were reinforced after Moscow’s Zapad-2009 exercise with Belorussia.  According to the paper, Baltic leaders saw in this exercise work on various scenarios for seizing the Baltic countries.  It notes that Russia’s possible purchase of France’s Mistral has also caused a stir in the Baltics and Poland.  Leaders of the former Soviet republics have asked the U.S. to press Paris not to sell it, according to Kommersant.

Washington and Brussels have heard Baltic concerns and planned a series of political and military steps to calm them.  Kommersant names the agreement to place Patriot air defense missiles in Morong, Poland, 75 km from Kaliningrad’s border in April as one of the steps.  NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly will meet in Riga in May.  Also noted is the June amphibious exercise in Estonia in which 500 U.S. Marines will participate.  Kommersant says Estonian officers will command the exercise.

The steps will culminate this fall in a joint ground exercise involving 2,000 U.S., Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian troops as well as transport ships.

Newsru.com added a comment from Fedor Lukyanov, chief editor of the foreign affairs journal ‘Russia in Global Politics.’  He noted that the Baltics don’t trust NATO completely, and European members of the alliance most of all, and suspect that they won’t risk relations with Russia in a crisis.  The fact that these will be the first on-the-ground exercises in the Baltics since the countries joined the alliance 6 years ago just serves as extra confirmation of this.

Golts on Makarov, Postnikov, and Contract Service

In Yezhednevnyy zhural on 1 March, Aleksandr Golts says Makarov’s and Postnikov’s pronouncements on the failure of contract service were, of course, an open secret.  Analysts and journalists had been writing about its failure for two years [much longer actually].  He recalled being at a December roundtable including GOMU generals, who had implemented contract service, who railed against slanderers who dared describe things as they are, including the failure of the contract program.  And now Defense Ministry chiefs have also acknowledged the obvious.

Golts concludes that Makarov and company also finally recognized something known to ‘liberal experts’ seven years ago–it was senseless to try to go to volunteer service without first creating a professional NCO corps.

Then Golts describes a Defense Ministry propensity for lying–GOMU Chief Smirnov gives one figure on the number of draft evaders, his deputy gives a different figure; Deputy Defense Minister Pankov says the 85 permanent readiness brigades are ready for battle in one hour, Ground Troops CINC Postnikov says actually they are ready only to depart their garrisons in one hour; Armaments Chief Popovkin says 5-6,000 tanks are needed, Postnikov says 10,000, or maybe only 2,000 are needed.

This irresponsible and unpunished lying pervades the army, it’s an everyday automatic reflex, and it’s not harmless.  The country’s leadership takes decisions on it.  God forbid they should trust GOMU when it says it’s possible to provide for conscription just by stopping draft evasion.  This would indicate that the complete collapse of the military manning system is near.  And the generals would use this as an argument to overturn the current reforms.