Wednesday Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov appeared before a closed session of the Federation Council’s ‘government hour,’ and answered 30 prepared questions.
ITAR-TASS reported the upper legislative chamber’s Speaker Sergey Mironov summarized Serdyukov’s presentation as follows:
“Objectively speaking, we received exhaustive explanations on several positions, some answers explained the situation which had called forth serious questions from the senators.”
Mironov added that Serdyukov’s answers:
“. . . did not completely satisfy FC members. Personally I and many of my colleagues remained with our own opinions about what is happening in the armed forces.”
Defense and Security Committee Chairman Viktor Ozerov delivered the gist of Serdyukov’s answers to the Russian media, although Serdyukov answered some direct press questions after his session with the legislators.
According to RIA Novosti, Serdyukov said:
“We talked about the transition to the new profile, the numerical composition of the armed forces, the new structure, military units which are being created, draft legislation on pay and proposals concerning the provision of housing to servicemen.”
The major news out of Serdyukov’s parliamentary appearance was the report that he denied Russia is abandoning professional contract service or returning to Soviet-style, all-conscript armed forces. This contrasted with the recent Newsru.com report saying contractees will soon be drastically cut everywhere except in permanent readiness units, as well as with General Staff Chief Makarov’s February admission that contract service has failed.
Several media sources reported that Serdyukov indicated contractees would increase 50 percent from a current level of 150,000 to between 200,000 and 250,000. ITAR-TASS reported his words as:
“In the future it [the number of contractees] will grow, there is potential for this. In the future the number of contractees will grow to 200-250 thousand, such conditions will be created for them so that they can fulfill their duties as real professionals.”
However, BFM.ru and Regions.ru heard it quite differently. They reported:
“The Russian Army has not abandoned contract service. Now in the Armed Forces of Russia there are 150 thousand contractees. At minimum, this number will be preserved. If the financial potential of the government allows, we will broaden this component. Ideally, according to our calculations, the quantity of contractees should be about 200-250 thousand. They should occupy duties demanding good training and knowledge, service experience.”
According to Ozerov and press sources, Serdyukov addressed other miscellany.
The Defense Minister said the LDPR’s recent draft law proposing to allow young men to buy their way out of the draft for 1 million rubles “raises a whole series of issues.” He claimed this would interfere with the country’s mobilization potential. He apparently didn’t say how many guys he thought could afford that much, but he must think a lot can, if it could affect Russia’s human mobilization resources.
Despite recent press indicating a strong presumption that Serdyukov is ready to euthanize premilitary Suvorov and Nakhimov schools (much as VVUZy have been paired back), he told the Federation Council that Suvorov schools will be preserved and strengthened.
Serdyukov demurred from the possibility of more Russian bases abroad, calling them an “expensive pleasure.”
He said the military’s 8,000 plus military towns will be reduced and consolidated into only 184, and those cut would be turned over to the oblasts and republics in which they are located. The Defense Ministry will discuss with RF subjects and local governments the transfer of housing and other social infrastructure in military towns to their jurisdiction.
This harks back to the late April announcement about constructing new, large ‘core military towns.’ The smaller number of garrisons sounds more appropriate for a million-man army than 8,000, but taking care of those left stranded without utilities and other services in former garrisons is much more troublesome than simply transferring them to the control of oblasts or local governments.
Serdyukov said the Defense Ministry will acquire 51,000, rather than 45,000 permament apartments for servicemen this year. He doesn’t see any problem with providing service apartments to every military man by the end of 2012.
He regrets that the Defense Ministry’s request for indexing military pay and pensions has not been approved, but he said this issue is not decided yet.
On the Black Sea Fleet, Ozerov said Serdyukov said the fleet’s personnel will be less than the 24,000 stationed there earlier. He said Serdyukov said he expects the new Ukrainian government to be much more amenable to discussing deliveries of new weapons and equipment of the Russian fleet.