Monthly Archives: May 2010

Aerospace Defense in Disarray

Retired Army General Kornukov

While Russian air and aerospace defenders were meeting in Tver last week, former Air Forces (VVS) CINC, Army General Anatoliy Kornukov gave Interfaks his opinions in a Moscow news conference.  

Kornukov is a member of a group calling themselves the ‘Extradepartmental Expert Council on the Problems of RF Aerospace Defense.’  He also advises the General Director of Almaz-Antey. 

He called aerospace threats the greatest danger for Russia’s security.  He said: 

“An attack from space decides everything now, strikes from space can be delivered to any point on Earth.” 

Kornukov thinks Russia’s aerospace defense (VKO or ВКО) concept’s been thought over long enough, and: 

“Unfortunately, there are still few practical decisions and concrete results.  New air defense systems are being developed very slowly.” 

“We, unfortunately, created a time lag of 20-30 years behind our possible enemy.” 

The ex-CINC says, although the VKO concept was approved in 2006, little has changed: 

“Years pass, but everything stays the same.  And to say that we’re ready for something now would be an exaggeration.  We can now resist an air attack from the standpoint of remaining S-300 systems.  As well as with those residual Su-27 and MiG-29 aircraft, the majority of which lack engines and spare parts.  The picture is simply terrible.” 

He also noted that new systems are progressing slowly, and are entering the armed forces’ inventory even more slowly.  He believes the Operational-Strategic Command of Aerospace Defense (OSK VKO or ОСК ВКО–the old Moscow Air and Air Defense District) can only destroy 1 in 5 targets: 

“If the reliability earlier was 96 or 98 percent, then now the effectiveness [of systems in the inventory] is in the range of 15-20 percent.  What’s meant is how many aircraft of 100 could get through without being countered.  Now about 80.” 

Kornukov recommends establishing VKO under the VVS, and under PVO specifically.  For example, he’d like the Moscow-based OSK VKO to control its own missile-space defense (RKO or РКО) formations and units.  He says: 

“Once all missile-space defense was in one set of hands–the PVO CINC.  He answered for PVO and for RKO.  Now the thinking is inexplicable:  each is dying by itself.  There’s not a person defined as responsible even for air defense.” 

“I think the correct decision would be for everything  to be located in one set of hands, and one person answering for the condition, training, employment [of PVO means]. 

He reminded the audience that, once the province of PVO, control of anti-missile defense went first to the RVSN, and now resides with the Space Troops.  Olga Bozhyeva reported that Kornukov wants RKO, specifically the 3rd Missile Attack Warning System Army to come to the Air Forces, and the latter should change its name to reflect its aerospace orientation.  He doesn’t like the idea of creating a new armed service called aerospace troops that would control PVO.  

Asked about Russia’s ability to defend against potential missile attacks from North Korea or Iran, Kornukov called the country’s capability to counter these threats ‘limited.’  He said, although the S-400 can cope with air-breathing threats, Moscow has no means for countering ‘operational’ (i.e. intermediate-range) missiles. 

Other members of the ‘Extradepartmental Expert Council’ had their say as well.  Former chief of PVO’s equipment ordering directorate General-Major Kolganov said: 

“. . . the VKO concept developed several years ago is not supported today organizationally or financially.  There is no targeted program for its realization.” 

Former Armaments Chief General-Colonel Anatoliy Sitnov says: 

“. . . in Russia they remembered about VKO only after the U.S. began to test the X-37 orbital glider.   . . . everyone’s occupied with a general assimilation of budget resources, and not at all with the development of new strategic technologies for modern space systems, reconnaissance, [and] missile attack warning satellites . . . .  This can’t come from a private businessman.  He comes to grab some budget money and sell what’s been made for scrap.” 

“We lost 300 super-technologies, primarily in aviation and air defense.  In particular, in the production of supergraphite, which is used in nose cones for missiles . . . .” 

Sitnov also criticizes poor organization for VKO: 

“There is no one to be in command, no one to command and control forces and means, no one to commission new air defense systems.” 

“It is time to move from words to deeds, to take purposeful directions and targeted programs for developing new aerospace defense systems.” 

“But we are waiting for someone to come and help us.  No one will.” 

Kornukov is an old PVO guy–albeit an Air Defense Aviation pilot; he was the first CINC of the VVS after it subsumed PVO.  Maybe he, and the others, are just shilling for Almaz-Antey to get even more from the State Defense Order.  Or perhaps their assessments are sincere.

Medvedev Can Wait for His BSF Basing Report

Medvedev and Serdyukov Meeting on 1 May

Whatever the complaints of some Ukrainians, the 21 April deal extending Russia’s basing privileges in Sevastopol is a good deal for Kyiv.  It’s now using the relatively meaningless Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) presence to secure a valuable 30 percent discount on Russian natural gas supplies.  

Moreover, in one suited for the ‘be careful what you wish for’ file, Moscow is also left holding the bag when it comes to the economy and infrastructure of Sevastopol, and much of Crimea as well, instead of Kyiv having to worry about assuming responsibility in a few short years. 

On 1 May, President Medvedev ordered Defense Minister Serdyukov to prepare a plan for developing the BSF’s naval base in Sevastopol, and to conclude an agreement with Ukraine on its social infrastructure.  According to Kremlin.ru, Medvedev said: 

“. . . today I want to touch on an issue with you which has taken on particular acuteness for our country in recent times.” 

“We need to think about the social arrangements for this base, that is very important to us, so that our sailors live in modern, full-fledged human conditions, have the chance for recreation and other opportunities a base is supposed to provide.” 

“So we’re agreed that our base will conclude a corresponding agreement with the Ukrainian side, with Sevastopol.  In accordance with this agreement, special support, social-economic support will be rendered to a series of Sevastopol city programs.” 

“This city is really not foreign to us and we need to think in what way to participate in these programs both along Defense Ministry lines and along the lines of other executive organs and business structures.  That’s the task.” 

Medvedev said Serdyukov should present his plan for approval in a month, and the latter responded that he would. 

Curiously, on 7 May, General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov told RIA Novosti

“A working group’s been created which will evaluate the real condition of the basing point in Sevastopol and make its proposals.  I think this will take not less than two months.” 

“Practically nothing’s been invested there in recent years.” 

One wonders, would Makarov have unilaterally announced that Putin, when he was president, would have to wait an extra month or longer for the plan he ordered? 

Makarov said the Genshtab has no plans to freeze development of other basing points:   

“The fleet has to be.  The more basing points, the better.  And Novorossiysk is one of the key basing points.  And we intend to develop it.” 

Without elaboration, he said the Defense Ministry has modernization plans for the fleet’s ships, submarines, and aircraft to 2020.  Makarov was with Prime Minister Putin visiting the construction work at Novorossiysk.  

Putin Briefed on Novorossiysk

On 24 April, Anatoliy Tsyganok told RIA Novosti conditions at Novorossiysk are not particularly well suited for major base.  He noted it’s only 25 percent complete, and its price tag is continuously rising. 

Nevertheless, Putin reaffirmed Moscow’s commitment to Novorossiysk.  He acknowledged only 13 billions rubles have been spent, and he’s looking at an ultimate cost of 92 billion.  The base is slated for completion by 2020. 

But Moscow, Medvedev, and Putin may need to worry more about new ships and submarines than about infrastructure when it comes to the BSF. 

On 2 May, Anatoliy Baranov in Forum.msk pointed out that there’s practically no fleet there; a minimum of 2 more first rank ships and a submarine are needed for an adequate order-of-battle.  He says the social infrastructure’s not so bad, but 40- and 50-year-old civilian engineers and technicians have to go out with fleet units to conduct training.  What will the Navy do when they retire?  

Rosbalt.ru described a wave of new officer and civilian dismissals in the BSF, which occurred simultaneously with the new agreement with Kyiv.  The fleet, it says, is nothing more than a mixed force division’s worth of units and personnel.   Viktor Yadukha concludes: 

“NATO’s gracious reaction to the BSF lease extension didn’t surprise politicians more.  But if Western special services knew about real plans for its reinforcement, the reaction would have been very severe.” 

Lastly, in today’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Aleksandr Khramchikhin says: 

“. . . renting empty piers for a great amount of money is not a mistake, but thoughtless, considering how many ships and how well-outfitted a base in Novorossiysk this money could build.” 

He calls today’s BSF a unique collection of floating antiques.  Even if the oldest units were dropped, most BSF ships would still be 20- to 25-years-old.  It will be impossible to avoid sending ships from the 1960s and 1970s off for scrap soon, as has been officially acknowledged.  Khramchikhin recommends placing what’s left at Novorossiysk as a ‘water area security’ (OVR or ОВР) brigade.

Supreme CINC Meets Troops at Alabino

President Medvedev at Alabino

On 5 May, President Medvedev visited Alabino’s 5th Guards Taman Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (formerly division), a traditional showcase and test bed formation for new equipment and concepts.  

Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov followed up the latter’s late April meeting with the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers and other public representatives about ‘humanizing’ the armed forces.  At that time, Serdyukov presented ideas for driving the ‘spirit of the prison camp from the army.’  They included freeing soldiers from additional duties to focus completely on training, allowing them more free time, pushing reveille and lights-out back an hour, mandating a rest hour after lunch, instituting a 5-day conscript working week, allowing the possibility of draftees serving close to home, and obtaining weekend passes to leave the garrison. 

Alabino is a place where things like these are typically tried out. 

As Rossiyskaya gazeta put it, Medvedev went to Alabino to see how conscripts live in ‘new profile’ conditions.  He inspected the training grounds, classrooms, and barracks, and answered questions from the new soldiers themselves.  

Medvedev and Serdyukov addressed physical training, one-year conscription, contract service, weekend passes, mobile phones, and hiring civilians to perform nonmilitary support services. 

Taman Brigade Commander Andrey Ivanayev told the Supreme CINC about the experiment with intensive physical training (PT) in his formation.  Ivanayev indicated the troops formerly had 53 hours of PT  per year, but now get 4-5 hours per day, or about 25 per week.  He and Medvedev discussed how soldiers are separated into groups by the physical load they can handle. 

In the Kremlin.ru transcript, Ivanayev said in April testing there were only 88 negative PT evaluations.  According to RIA Novosti’s reporting, Ivanayev thinks the formation’s fitness level has already increased 50 percent.   

Medvedev remarked on the Taman brigade’s outfitting with special PT gear.  He asked Defense Minister Serdyukov about introducing new athletic uniforms in other units.  Serdyukov said:  

“Yes, we are literally this spring buying 50,000 sets and toward fall, apparently, on the order of 100,000 more, the fact is in the course of two years we’re trying to outfit the entire army fully with sports gear for training in summer as well as winter.” 

Most important to the vast majority of Russians, Medvedev told Taman brigade soldiers he doesn’t intend to raise the current 1-year conscription term:  

“That decision on the transition to one-year service which was made, it was painful for us, it isn’t easy, but we won’t change it.  Service in other countries comparable to our country in combat potential is organized in exactly such as way.  And this year still allows us to train a quality specialist, soldier, sergeant.  And despite the fact that there are now certain problems with manning—it’s true, we don’t intend to change the service term.” 

When one soldier asked about enlisted contract service, Medvedev turned to Serdyukov to explain what’s new on this front.  Serdyukov answered: 

“We are now preparing a concept precisely on contract service for soldier and sergeant personnel.  There will be an entire complex of proposals, including on pay, service conduct.  We will equate the entire social package (sergeant like officer) on support, pay and all parameters . . . .” 

“I think in the course of this summer we will prepare and then send you concrete proposals about how this will look, what quantity of contractees we intend to accept, in which specialties particularly and with what kind of pay.” 

Medvedev responded that current pay is not very high, but those who are serving well on it should be retained: 

“However, at the same time, it’s completely obvious according to the well-known principle, better less, but better.  Let there be higher pay and those remaining will really want to serve, instead of us spreading this [pay] among a large quantity of contractees, who won’t have the stimulus, particular desire, or any kind of motive to continue serving and to serve well.” 

When Medvedev pressed him for what he thinks about contractee pay, Moscow MD Commander Valeriy Gerasimov finally said he thinks contractees should get 50-60 percent of lieutenant pay.  Serdyukov said it would be more on the order of 80-85 percent, depending on the duty position.  The more technically complex, the closer to officer pay.  He continues: 

“We are proceeding from the fact that, on the whole, in all the armed forces—a lieutenant from 55, and a sergeant from 35 [thousand rubles per month] . . . .” 

But a little math says that is closer to Gerasimov’s figure, or 64 percent of officer pay . . . 

Medvedev asked his Defense Minister about devising a policy to give conscripts weekend passes to visit home if they live nearby.  Serdyukov said: 

“We are planning over two-three months to proceed on this regime.  Well, naturally, after taking the oath, after he becomes a soldier, after this we’ll introduce it.  We have this really experimental brigade, we are just beginning to work all these approaches out.” 

Medvedev added: 

“Here again we have to proceed from modern approaches.  If a guy serves close by and manning goes according to the territorial principle, then why not let him go home?  Another thing, of course, everyone has to understand what responsibility the soldier carries for any type of infraction in this case, but this is just a question of self-discipline.  You want to go home for the weekend, this means, simply do everything as it’s supposed to be done.” 

Serdyukov chimed in: 

“In the course of five days [of the working week] you need to show the highest indicators, then this will be a particular stimulus for one who wants to pay a visit home on Saturday and Sunday.” 

This policy is especially interesting . . . the possibility of the weekend pass is predicated on several things not really discussed during the Alabino visit.  Working backward, the pass depends on successfully implementing a five-day working week for conscripts.  Then on having conscripts serving relatively close to home in the first place.  At least one voyenkom has already said conscripts from his republic don’t have this chance because they all serve outside their home borders.  A prized weekend pass could also become one more thing to be bought and sold to the highest bidder, or briber.  If implemented, this policy will be difficult to maintain in the face of soldiers who don’t return to the garrison or get into serious trouble while away from it. 

A new conscript asked Medvedev if mobile phones are permitted in the army.  The President asked him if he had one in his pocket, and the soldier replied yes.  Medvedev responded, “Then why did you ask?”  He continued: 

“In fact these rules, as I understand, essentially are established at the unit level, at the level of the corresponding troop formation, but there are no bans on this issue.” 

Gerasimov added that in the Moscow MD anyone may have a cell phone, but they may not be used during training or duty time. 

Discussing training and physical conditioning, Serdyukov turned to one of his earliest initiatives at the Defense Ministry—relieving soldiers from essential nonmilitary duties like kitchen patrol, cleaning, groundskeeping, and utilities maintenance. 

He mentioned the goal of moving to civilian service and support within 12-18 months in all Defense Ministry units, but “everything will depend on our financial condition.  According to preliminary calculations, we have to make do in the bounds of our existing budget.” 

Medvedev said: 

“I think here it’s obvious to everyone that soldiers and officers need to serve the Motherland, be occupied with troop training, improve their physical conditioning, but questions of maintaining the sub-unit, generally, this is an issue which civilian organizations could do successfully for money, as this is done, incidentally, around the world.  Then there won’t be problems with tiresome details and it’ll be possible to concentrate on fundamental service.” 

Civilians already take care of the Taman brigade’s food service, and soon they will maintain its engineering networks, and provide cleaning services.  Serdyukov indicated the FSB is working on licensing firms to work in closed facilities, and Oboronservis will work in remote garrisons where contractors can’t be found.

Navy CINC on Bulava Findings and Typhoon SSBNs

Speaking Friday in Novorossiysk while accompanying Prime Minister Putin, Navy CINC Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy said the Bulava SLBM commission will report 20 May on its findings regarding the last unsuccessful test launch.  He also promised:

“We are working continuously and checking the entire process of the missile’s development.”

“Continuous work of voyenpredy [military factory representatives] is being implemented.  Right down to a screw, with the submission of corresponding certificates.”

“. . . all enterprises active in Bulava production are working under control of military acceptance.  We are checking the entire process from beginning to end.”

RIA Novosti reminded readers that, despite a string of unsuccessful tests (only 5 of 12 have been considered successful), the Defense Ministry still considers it ‘unrealistic’ to put another type of ballistic missile in new proyekt 955 SSBNs.

In February, Defense Minister Serdyukov expressed his certainty that Bulava problems would not affect the laydown of the next proyekt 955 submarine, the fourth in the series.  Officially, Moscow says Bulava will be carried through until the necessary result is obtained, and the missile will be the basis of sea-based strategic nuclear forces until 2040-2045.

One has to wonder, what happens if, after all the emphasis on eliminating production defects, Bulava still doesn’t fly?  Where does Moscow turn next for answers.

Vysotskiy also told journalists two proyekt 941 Akula (Typhoon-class SSBNs Arkhangelsk TK-17 and Severstal TK-20) will remain in the Russian Navy’s order-of-battle until 2019.  He said:

“They will be in a combat condition until 2019.  They have very great modernization possibilities.” 

This isn’t the first time he’s said this, but he hasn’t said how the 1980s-era SSBNs might be used or altered:

“There are several options, but the decision has yet to be made.” 

Of course, TK-208 Dmitriy Donskoy was modified to be the Bulava test platform.

Some of Today’s Victory Day Parade

More coverage from Rossiya 1 can be found at http://www.vesti.ru/videos?vid=271461.

More on OSKs, and ASU TZ

On Monday, Olga Bozhyeva reminded readers the proposed OSKs were former Genshtab Chief Baluyevskiy’s idea, and she called them part of a command reorganization along an American model.  She contends Baluyevskiy lost his job for pushing the change from military districts (MDs) to operational-strategic commands (OSKs).  And now the OSK will apparently win out, even though Baluyevskiy’s long gone. 

Bozhyeva says Baluyevskiy and the shift to OSKs were defeated in the past by MD commanders [and their powerful patrons] who stood to lose out in the process.  She claims Baluyevskiy’s opposition to the  Navy Main Staff transfer from Moscow to St. Petersburg was a pretext for his dismissal when the OSK was the real issue.  And his OSK experiment in the Far East was quietly dismantled after his departure. 

Actually, it’s more likely Baluyevskiy went down for opposing–rightly or wrongly–the whole range of ideas pushed by Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov.  By contrast, Baluyevskiy’s replacement has been a veritable extension of Serdyukov on policy issues.

With Baluyevskiy gone, according to Bozhyeva, the MD commanders bent the OSK idea to their way of thinking, proposing to make every MD an OSK, without cutting or consolidating MDs, and duplicating efforts in the process.  She says this reflected the MDs as ‘sacred cows’ upon which no one would encroach, and this tracked with new Genshtab Chief Makarov’s background as an MD commander.  Recall that Baluyevskiy was a career Genshtabist.

Bozhyeva continues, saying this year Makarov has begun to think about how to command the ‘new profile’ army.  And wars of the future will hardly accommodate a command structure like the MD.  But Bozhyeva reports a rumor that the name Military District could be retained to appease opponents of merging MDs in favor of modern OSKs.  She concludes, if the OSKs are realized, it’ll be possible to talk of a really ‘new profile’ army.

Dmitriy Litovkin also had his say on the OSK story last Friday.  He describes the possible move to OSKs in terms of more responsive command and control, reducing the transmission of orders from 16 to 3 steps.  But, he cautions, the OSKs are still just a proposal at this point.

Litovkin says the military hasn’t tried to hide the fact that the OSK is borrowed from the U.S. concept.  The main thing achieved in such an approach, he continues, is responsiveness in issuing and receiving combat orders.  The Defense Ministry says this new OSK structure will be tightly tied to the new automated battlefield command and control system ASU TZ (АСУ ТЗ).

Litovkin mentions how Prime Minister Putin saw ASU TZ at Voronezh, and how the system is supposed to centralize command and control down to the ‘electronic soldier’ on the battlefield.  This fall brigade exercises are supposed to employ ASU TZ with the aim of controlling several hundred ‘objects’ in battle simultaneously.  This summer the OSK model will be tried as part of the Vostok-2010 exercise in the Far East.

Litovkin’s source says:

“Developing ASU TZ without trying it in the new armed forces structure is impossible.  We need to understand in practice not just how this works, but also, possibly, that we are developing something unnecessary or, conversely, we aren’t making anything.”

Not a big vote of confidence for the new system.

Litovkin concludes by saying the possibility of unit and even garrison relocations might be a limitation on the OSK scheme.  Forces would need to be better balanced among the four strategic directions.  For example, the Western OSK would have too many motorized rifle units and the Eastern too few.

Defense Industry’s Last Warning

Popovkin in a Suit

Last Friday’s NVO printed an interesting editorial that discussed arms exporter irritation with Deputy Defense Minister, Armaments Chief [former Commander of Space Troops and ex-General-Colonel] Vladimir Popovkin for publicly admitting the Defense Ministry’s dissatisfaction with many of the OPK’s products.  The exporters are obviously upset that Popovkin’s comments have, and will, cost them sales abroad.  But NVO concludes a greater danger would be trying to silence anyone–high-ranking defense official or independent defense analyst–who dares point out the OPK’s problems in the hope of remedying them.

NVO’s sub-title for the article is “The OPK’s systemic crisis threatens a breakdown in the supply of combat equipment to the Russian Army and a lack of export contracts.”

The Greeks have apparently called off a purchase of 420 BMP-3s for $1.5 billion (let’s call it $3.6 million per vehicle).  The deal had been 2 years in the making, and it wasn’t the state of the Greek economy that caused the halt.  According to NVO, the money was already in the defense budget.  Rather it was Popovkin’s specific criticism of the BMP-3 that folded the deal.

Popovkin is quoted:

“We very much need to protect our soldiers.  Today everyone rides on top of the BMP because no one wants to ride in this ‘coffin.’  We need to make a different vehicle.”

Greek journalists published his remarks, and opposition politicians turned them into a scandal:  how can you buy unsuitable equipment that even the country that makes it won’t buy?

Popovkin also complained about the T-90 that the Indians are buying, the tank support combat vehicle (BMPT) that Rosoboroneksport recently demonstrated at an arms show in Kuala Lumpur, and other equipment which the army won’t buy for one reason or another, but which is put forth for export and actively advertised there.

According to NVO, the arms exporters are terribly offended because the [ex-] general cost them several lucrative contracts.  But, in NVO’s estimation, his speech is very necessary.  It says:

“. . . the truth about the condition of the Russian defense-industrial complex, about those processes occurring there, about the systemic crisis in it and the inability of its various directors, including even the government’s Military-Industrial Commission [VPK], to correct the existing situation, is not a secret at all.  It’s been talked about more than once.  On the most varied levels.  Including even presidential.”

NVO says this truth is very important; it could help the powers-that-be uncover the problem areas, fix them, and produce the modern equipment needed for the defense of the country’s interests.  Without an honest discussion, the deficiencies can’t be fixed.  But the Kremlin, government, the legislature, executive organs, or the regions won’t undertake any serious measures against negligent managers.  Despite constant talk of state arms programs, federal programs of technical reequipping of defense enterprises, in reality, with the exception of aviation and air defense firms, nothing is really happening.  It’s moving at a snail’s pace.  Or is it?

Foreign buyers send in 33 warranty claims for every 100 Russian weapons systems exported.  And the scandal with the Algerian MiGs didn’t teach the OPK anything.

It would be possible to silence critics and protect military-technical cooperation with foreign countries and keep the profits coming to the budget and the manufacturers.  But won’t the low quality of these systems, their inability to meet the demands of modern war, really be a negative advertisement?  Does someone really think if they quiet the generals, together with the Moscow media, military analysts and experts then they can sell some kind of half-finished military goods to a serious buyer?  Naive views worked out for illiterate dilettantes.

NVO figures there are two ways out:  either give up, lose export orders, and accept the situation or sharply improve the quality and effectiveness of Russian weapons, reduce prices and defects, and strive to be on the leading edge of technology.  In other words, saving defense industry is in the hands of defense industry itself.  And no one else.  

When it comes to combat vehicles, sniper rifles, UAVs, assault ships, night sights, and armor, the international division of labor in defense industry isn’t such a bad thing after all.  It brings Russia closer to the ‘probable enemies’ of the recent past.  But when it comes to nuclear-powered submarines and strategic missiles we still don’t know how to do them ourselves and no one’s going to sell us those.  And [unless Russia remembers how and gets its OPK in order] it will remember national security the same way it remembers the long forgotten past. 

This is NVO’s way of telling the Putin-Medvedev regime it would be foolish to shut down this feedback channel that tells it what needs fixing in the OPK.

Phantom Apartments

Yesterday NTV aired an expose which helps explain how the Defense Ministry claims it  built 45,600 apartments for officers in a single year.

It’s a bit surprising that a national channel aired this piece.  It depicts quite a mess in military housing, although it doesn’t venture to say how widespread this problem might be.  Recall that the military prosecutor was investigating a case of 8 unfinished buildings in Chekhov back in January. 

It’s unclear how such messes could be cleaned up–how unfinished apartments could be completed, who would do it, and, most importantly, who would pay.  Previous reports made clear the turmoil in the Defense Ministry’s Housing and Construction Service when civilian Grigoriy Naginskiy replaced General-Colonel Filippov at the beginning of 2010.

NTV also hints at pervasive corruption in the military housing program, but doesn’t address this directly. 

Brewing military housing scandals could lead not just to questions about poor management in Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry, but also about Prime Minister Putin’s (and President Medvedev’s) ability to delivery on oft-repeated promises to servicemen.

The video shows poor quality work on an apartment building in a way text alone could never describe it.  The looks and expressions of the jilted officers would similarly be difficult to capture in words.

NTV says officers of the Ufa garrison are thinking not about the upcoming 9 May Victory Day holiday, but about resolution of their everyday problems.  Because of bureaucrats, they and their families could end up out in the street.  They were allocated apartments in a new building where they can’t live.  The multi-story building is incomplete, and several parts of it haven’t even been started.

But according to the documents everything is in order.  There are even acts of acceptance for the nonexistent apartments.  The chief of every organization involved in the project hurried to put check marks on reports about the completion of this state construction order.  For this reason, it will be hard to determine exactly who’s to blame.

The camera turns to one Lieutenant Colonel Valeyev, effectively out of the service for 7 years, but unable to retire (he hasn’t received permanent housing).  He had to surrender his service apartment, and lives in the kitchen of an officer’s dormitory while his daughter lives in his room.  Valeyev concludes simply, “It’s shameful to live in such a situation.”

The construction contract for 350 apartments on the outskirts of Ufa was signed a year ago, and the work was to be finished in just three months, understood to be unrealistic and impossible from the very beginning.  The builders didn’t finish for understandable reasons, but the acts of delivery-acceptance were signed on time.  It turns out this housing existed on paper, but not in reality.

They managed to build only one-third of the apartments promised, and even those remain incomplete after six months.  Nevertheless, the chief of the Ufa KECh (housing management unit or КЭЧ), who distributes housing to servicemen, signed for ceramic tile, linoleum, and wallpaper back in October (so where did these materials end up?).

Asked why the acceptance was signed if the apartments weren’t ready, the KECh chief says only, “It was signed, so to speak, in advance.”

Meanwhile, the other two apartment buildings are just holes in the ground, as shown in the video.  These unbuilt apartments have been distributed already, so 100 military families have housing on paper.

Ufa garrison officers can’t go back to their old service apartments that have been given to others already.  It’s also possible their assigned permanent apartments, when and if completed, could be sold to civilian buyers now that the original contract’s been voided.  The officers will claim they have documents for the apartments, but the builder will tell them to take it up with those that gave them the papers (i.e. the KECh and the Defense Ministry).

The contractor complains that the Defense Ministry contract was lower than market price by one-fourth (well, why did they agree?).  And he claims he went ahead with his own money and now the apartments are more expensive (he seems to be preparing to justify selling them on the private market).

The officers don’t even have anyone with whom they can argue.  The previous KECh chief is under investigation on bribery charges.  And dismissed officers from distant Ural garrisons are being sent back to their units to ask their old commanders for some living space.

VDV Rotation at Kant

Last Friday ITAR-TASS indicated that two companies from the VDV’s 45th Independent Reconnaissance Regiment of Special Designation (Spetsnaz), based at Kubinka near Moscow, were the units sent to reinforce Russian military facilities in Kyrgyzstan on 8 April.

Two companies from the VDV’s Ulyanovsk-based 31st Independent Air-Assault Brigade rotated in on Friday to relieve those from the 45th.  The VDV’s spokesman has said the contingent numbers 160 contract personnel.

Moscow has been low-key on the deployment of extra troops, denying plans to evacuate dependents, and downplaying threats posed by the political unrest there.

But the Russians must have taken the situation seriously, sending the ‘elite of the elite’ to Kant in the first days of unrest in Kyrgyzstan.

Another One for the ‘Northern Capital’

Argumenty.ru on Friday reported a Main Military-Medical Directorate (ГВМУ or GVMU) source says Russia’s military-medical headquarters will relocate from Moscow to St. Petersburg.  Although no timetable is specified, it has been decided that GVMU will end up sharing the complex of the Military-Medical Academy (ВМА or VMA) in Piter.

Military-Medical Academy

The GVMU source said:

“This issue was raised and decided  positively from the moment when General-Major of the Medical Service Aleksandr Belevitin transferred from the post of VMA chief to the post of GVMU chief.”

General-Major Aleksandr Belevitin

A VMA source says:

“The issue is being actively discussed in the academy, although the exact timing is unknown.  But part of the buildings, in particular, the physical training faculty building have already been set aside.”

Argumenty.ru reminds that the final decision on moving the Navy Main Staff to St. Petersburg was made not long ago, and ‘military experts’ put the cost of that move at 20-25 billion rubles.

This is kind of interesting.  That’s a lot of influence to attribute to the new guy in the job, particularly a job several ‘comrade doctor generals’ have not been able to hold onto for long in recent history.  Moreover, there are a lot of military hospitals and clinics in Moscow to serve the real capital’s large military and ex-military population.  If GVMU moves, they will be somewhat illogically separated from their headquarters element.