Monthly Archives: July 2010

No One, Except Us!

VDV Day Revelry

No service (or branch), except the VDV, generates this kind of media attention for its anniversary.

On 2 August, the VDV will celebrate its 80th birthday, and to mark this nice round number, the holiday will actually be a three-day fiesta running from 31 July.

Also marking the occasion, a new documentary film entitled ‘Landmarks of History, 80 Years of the VDV’ has been released, but, surprisingly, it wasn’t picked up by theaters or television. 

According to Rossiyskaya gazeta, the Moscow city government paid for its production.

VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov stars in the documentary, providing lots of the commentary, noting that the VDV are already ‘new profile’ since they are permanently ready, mobile, and physically fit.  Including its generals.  Shamanov told press conference he just recently made two jumps.

A VDV press-service representative told Nezavisimaya gazeta:

“Unfortunately, the VDV anniversary film will hardly be shown to a broad central TV audience at present.  For some reason, the central television channels have no particular desire to reflect this day comprehensively, but of course they will show people in striped tee shirts swimming in fountains.”

Ah, yes, the fountains . . . General-Lieutenant Shamanov told the press mobile groups of VDV and Moscow OMON troops would work together to keep airborne guys from bathing in the capital’s fountains on the branch’s birthday.  Interestingly, he had to admit to ITAR-TASS that he was perplexed by an announcement that the police have permitted dips in fountains for several years, having found that trying to prevent them only led to conflicts.  Police also said they would be on-hand to make sure nothing happens to bathers, according to

While sounding reasonable and accommodating, the Moscow OMON Commander also noted that OMON, the GUVD’s 2nd Operational Regiment, and VV troops were ready to “respond to events.”  He expects 5,000 VDV revelers.  About 1,700 police, including 350 OMON (of whom 109 are former VDV themselves), will be on duty, according to  It claimed former and current VDV officers would also help in keeping order.  The OMON Commander told, “In recent years we’ve come to mutual understanding largely thanks to VDV veterans who now serve in the Moscow police.”

Of course, it doesn’t do for the regime to have two elite silovik forces square off in the capital.

Beyond announcing that the VDV is already fully subscribed when it comes to the ‘new profile,’ Shamanov also made his obligatory statement / promise that the VDV preserves its independence and  role as the reserve of the VGK to reinforce strategic directions.

He commented to ITAR-TASS on the VDV’s capacity for air drops:

“In realizing the measures in the State Program of Armaments – 2020, the VDV will be capable of landing by parachute an airborne or air assault division.  Now the question hinges on the degree of readiness of the existing fleet of Il-76 military-transport aircraft, but also on how these possibilities will be after the realization of the State Program of Armaments, calculated out to 2020.  A month ago we agreed on the draft GPV.  The modernization of the existing fleet of Il-76 aircraft and an increase in their number is in there.  It also provides for the purchase of Russian-Ukrainian An-70 aircraft, refurbishment of existing An-124 aircraft and the construction of 20 new aircraft of this type.”

He continued:

“. . . we also need to use the American experience in using civil aviation aircraft in the interests of the military.  All this would allow us by 2017 to establish the possibility of landing a full airborne or air assault division.”

“. . . it’s possible to solve it even more quickly by a combination, when the first echelon is approximately 30 percent airborne – landing by parachute, the rest by runway.  We could accomplish this task in three months after receiving the order.”

Answering a question about helicopters and air mobility for the VDV, Shamanov said:

“With the General Staff, we’ve defined a concept for establishing an army aviation brigade in the VDV in the future.”

And on army aviation’s transfer to the Air Forces in 2002:

“It would be the right decision to return army aviation to the Ground Troops, as it’s done throughout the world.”

Shamanov also told RIA Novosti 120 men from 104th Parachute Regiment of the 76th Airborne Division will stay in Kyrgyzstan until parliamentary elections are held.

Will the Genshtab and OSKs Replace the Glavkomaty?

Writing in Vremya novostey yesterday, Nikolay Khorunzhiy claims the recently-concluded, largest post-Soviet exercise – Vostok-2010 – was intended to test the establishment of four operational-strategic commands (OSK or ОСК) in place of Russia’s six military districts, as well as the establishment of structural sub-units of the General Staff in place of the Main Commands (Glavkomaty or Главкоматы) of the Ground Troops, Air Forces, and Navy.

Khorunzhiy continues:

“It’s proposed that the army’s new structure will allow a sharp cut in the steps in passing commands from 16 levels to three, and increase their precision and reliability.  On 6 July, President Dmitriy Medvedev signed a decree establishing OSKs.  Part of the authority of central command and control organs, but also that earlier entrusted to the Glavkomaty, are going to the OSKs.”

The 6 July decree still hasn’t appeared publicly. 

Khorunzhiy notes that then-General Staff Chief Yuriy Baluyevskiy tested the transition to regional commands during Baykal-2006:

“Then he didn’t manage to break the resistance of district commanders who didn’t want to share their authority with OSK commanders.”

Khorunzhiy digresses to the precursors of OSKs, without calling them High Commands of Forces.  Former General Staff Chief Nikolay Ogarkov set out to reform the army’s command and control:

“The instrument of such a reform he considered main commands on strategic directions (theaters of military operations, in modern terminology) which would improve coordination between services and troop branches and would strengthen the unity of command in combat units (permanent readiness units).”

Ogarkov viewed the Soviet North-Western, Western, and South-Western main commands of troops from World War II as prototypes, but these Glavkomaty were only intermediate links between the Headquarters,  Supreme High Command [Stavka VGK] and the fronts, but received no authority, troops, or communications.  Khorunzhiy contrasts this to Vasilevskiy being sent to fight the Japanese in 1945; he had authority and troops.

Then, in 1978, Army General Vasiliy Petrov was sent out to establish the Main Command of Troops of the Far East, and he had authority up to appoint regiment commanders and arrange cooperation with neighboring states.  The situation of troops in the Far East sharply improved.

Ogarkov set off then to establish main commands on strategic directions, and improve command and control and readiness in yearly exercises (West, East, Autumn).  But in 1984, Ogarkov himself was sent off to be CINC of the Western direction in Legnica.  He failed to get enough authority for these commanders from the CPSU or Defense Ministry, and these main commands were eliminated in 1991.

But Khorunzhiy goes on to describe today’s OSK as an ultimate victory for Ogarkov over the ‘parochial interests of the army elite.’  He doesn’t seem to wonder whether it might be too soon to declare victory.

He finishes by looking at the KPRF’s call for a parliamentary investigation and special Duma session on how Serdyukov’s reforms are ‘disarming Russia.’  In particular, Khorunzhiy quotes the KPRF press-service:

“The system of military districts which has existed for centuries has just been eliminated.  In place of them incomprehensible strategic commands have been established according to an American template.  It’s obvious that this endless modernization of military structures is leading unavoidably to the loss of troop controllability.”

What’s it all mean . . . ?

The possible elimination of the Main Commands — the service headquarters — would be a big deal (no one mentioned what might happen to VDV, Space Troops, or RVSN branch commands).   

This would obviously greatly strengthen General Staff Chief Makarov, and really make him lord and master of the uniformed military.  It would strengthen the General Staff (except Serdyukov’s been cutting its personnel, like the rest of the Central Apparatus).

Would it give Makarov too much power?  Maybe, or maybe not if Serdyukov thinks he can fire him and get another general whenever necessary.

The possibility of eliminating service headquarters makes Navy CINC Vysotskiy’s reticence to talk about moving to St. Petersburg in the midst of a command and control reorganization make more sense.  Maybe he was telling us there’s a much bigger issue at work than just OSKs.

Perhaps in the most objective sense, getting rid of the Glavkomaty would reduce personnel and some resistance to new ideas.  But wouldn’t it also throw away yet another place where the regime should seek good alternative ideas, counterarguments, and feedback on its plans?

Vysotskiy’s Navy Day Interview

Press coverage of Navy Day (25 July) was replete with interesting stories of plans to revivify Russia’s Kirov-class CGNs and even the Orlan-class wing-in-ground effect vehicle.  There was more talk about moving the Neustrashimyy and Yaroslav Mudryy to the BSF.  Navy CINC Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy’s interview with Ekho Moskvy, however, didn’t get a lot of attention beyond a couple RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS sound bytes.

Discussing development of Russia’s fleet of the future, Vysotskiy emphasized the long lead time required to get it:

“Today it takes 10-12 years to get some kind of definite design.  We understand that we have to go according to some operational-tactical requirements, perhaps even operational-strategic ones in this design, of course.  So, it means the development or construction of a series is approximately another 5-7 years, up to 10 years.  Perhaps more, the service life of the design is 20 to 25 years.  In other words, if today we make a decision on constructing some full-scale fleet, then we have to understand we’ll receive this fleet in about 50 years.  Well, at a minimum, beginning from the main component in 35 years.”

Vysotskiy’s comments on Bulava were also captured by the wire services:

“Well, the question which we, military men bearing certain responsibility for this, of course, well, honestly speaking, we are already tired of answering because there is one cause — a deep, I underscore, failure of primary production technology for such expensive missile systems.”  

“We all very simply understand well:  when we began to arrange the process of our work incorrectly from the beginning, and here everything was not done as it needed to be.  Here, of course, we’ll get big problems in the process of the work itself.  This means, in my view, in the last 2 years, a serious move in the direction of us receiving this system has been made nonetheless.  But we need to understand that getting this system in its current form is not the final step of the work.  But we have a fair chance all the same to complete this work successfully, well, so we’ll say, in the course of the coming year.”

“When a systemic mistake is found, it’s simpler,  In this instance, an entire systemic mistake was found precisely in the lack of a system.  That is, to put it properly, forgive such a tautology or, on the other hand, a paradox.  But, what we’ve got is what we’ve got.”

And Vysotskiy said lots of other interesting things that went unnoticed.

He naturally supported Vice-Admiral Sidenko as Far East OSK Commander, saying it made sense and reflected the country’s maritime interests in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. 

He connected the acquisition of the Mistral to drawing down mobilization resources in favor of permanent readiness.  He said PR units could be put on Mistral and the ship could be a mobile command point for an OSK’s inter-service grouping.  He defended turning abroad by saying it would take Russian yards 1.5 to 3 years to even prepare to make such a ship if they started today.

Vysotskiy wants the BSF to pick up the antipiracy load so the distant fleets don’t have to send their ships.

He discussed Russia’s long-term search and rescue support program, and he emphasized rapid information transfer and international cooperation and combined training, like NATO’s Bold Monarch exercise, as essential ingredients for success.

On the loss of the Kursk ten years ago, Vysotskiy said the accident started with a technical cause — errors in handling a peroxide-fueled torpedo — but there was an accumulation of mistakes, including organizational and command ones, that led to the tragedy.

Russia is working on its organizational and technical problems in SAR, both buying equipment and learning to use it abroad.  Vysotskiy cited an ‘absolute understanding’ on cooperation with foreign partners.

He was evasive on moving the Navy’s headquarters to St. Petersburg, saying a remote command and control point is there, and other steps in this direction are being taken.  But the overall military C2 reform has to be completed this year before he can really answer questions.

Lastly, on foreign bases for the Navy.  He’d like to have them, and there’s movement in this direction, at least compared with the recent past.  The Navy is working with a number of states to arrange for simplified port access for its ships in some strategic places, and it’s almost like having a base.

High-Level Corruption Up, Crime Down in Military

A little more news on the military crime and corruption front.  Corruption is up at least 26 percent year-on-year for the first half of 2010.  General military crime, however, is down more than 10 percent.  Officer crime is down 11 percent.  And draft evasion declined by a factor of two.  Without reciting his recent figures on a 50 percent increase in dedovshchina, GVP Sergey Fridinskiy noted that prosecutors need to ‘activate their work’ against ‘nonregulation events,’ now that there’s a much larger number of conscripts in the ranks.

How do these numbers track with the past?  Just a few days ago, the GVP said general crime was down by 12 percent in all military units and by 15 percent in the Armed Forces.  The decline in general crime follows a reported decline in 2009 as well.  Corruption has accelerated in 2010 apparently.  In January and February, it was only up by 10 percent.  The number of officers convicted in corruption cases looks to be about the same this year as last, but the GVP may be on a pace to convict more generals in 2010.

“More Than 250 Officers Convicted for Corruption Offenses Since Beginning of Year — GVP”

“MOSCOW, 27 July – RIA Novosti. More than 250 officers, including seven higher ranks [general or flag officers], have been convicted for crimes of a corruption nature in the first half of 2010, the RF Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy announced Tuesday at an expanded session of the department’s collegium.”

“‘The quantity of offenses in the given (corruption) area for the first six months of 2010 increased by almost 26 percent.  The quantity of misappropriations, embezzlement, and exceeding duty authority grew.  270 officers, including seven higher ranks [general or flag officers], were convicted for such crimes in the indicated period,’ – the press-service announcement quoted Fridinskiy.”

“According to him, military prosecutors uncovered more than 128 thousand legal violations, nearly 17 thousand officials were brought to account, more than 4.6 thousand people were convicted for various crimes, and the rights of more than 270 thousand servicemen were restored.  And 3.3 billion rubles were returned to the state as a result of prosecutorial investigations.”

“At the same time, the prosecutor noted a tendency toward a reduced number of crimes in the RF Armed Forces.”

“For the first half year in the RF Armed Forces, other troops, military formations and organs 10.5% fewer crimes were committed than in the same period of 2009.  The quantity of grave and particularly grave crimes, including those causing grave bodily harm, declined.  The quantity of  military service evaders declined almost two times.  In the current half year a decline – almost by 11% – was registered in the number of crimes committed by officers,” – Fridinskiy was quoted in the statement.”

“Taking note of the increased number of conscripts, the Main Military Prosecutor directed his subordinates to activate their work to uncover nonregulation events in military collectives, the announcement said.  Fridinskiy noted that ‘in connection with the continued growth of these legal violations we must, together with commands, come up with steps to more effectively implement systematic measures to prevent and interdict them.'”

Fridinskiy enumerated some predictable priorities for the GVP’s work during the balance of 2010 — struggle against corruption and misuse of budget resources, oversight of military reform, fulfilling legislation on the State Defense Order (GOZ), and ensuring housing and other social benefits for servicemen.

Interim OSK Commanders Named

Late Thursday Interfaks learned that Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov signed an order naming acting commanders of Russia’s four new military districts, or operational-strategic commands (OSKs).

Volga-Ural MD Commander, General-Colonel Arkadiy Bakhin will be the interim commander of the new Western MD.  Siberian MD Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Chirkin will temporarily head the new Central MD.  Pacific Fleet Commander, Admiral Konstantin Sidenko will command the new Far East MD for now.  And North Caucasus MD Commander, General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Galkin will head the the new Southern MD. 

General-Colonel Bakhin

General-Lieutenant Chirkin

Admiral Sidenko

General-Lieutenant Galkin

Serdyukov wants the new command and control scheme operating from the start of the new training year on 1 December.

Kommersant noted general surprise that a naval officer was picked to head the Far East MD.  Ground Troops generals have always commanded the army-dominated MDs.  But a Navy Main Staff source said Sidenko is not new to commanding army units; he once commanded the combined Navy-Ground Troops force on Kamchatka.

Kommersant also said extramural Defense Ministry collegiums will evaluate the effectiveness of these reorganizations before the end of the year.

Makarov’s Guys Take Key Posts

Bakhin, Chirkin, and Galkin prospered under General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov when he was Siberian MD Commander from 2002-2007.  Each of them served as an army commander, deputy MD commander, and chief of staff, first deputy MD commander under Makarov in Siberia (or immediately after his departure for Moscow).  Chirkin served as Bakhin’s chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Volga-Ural MD, before becoming Siberian MD Commander this year.

Sidenko is a submariner, and most of his career has been in the Pacific Fleet.  His experience as ‘Commander of Troops and Forces in the North-East’ is, interestingly enough, a little similar to Makarov’s late 1990s time as ‘Commander of Ground and Coastal Troops, Deputy Commander of the Baltic Fleet for Ground and Coastal Troops.’

Defective Bulava Nozzle

That same highly-placed RIA Novosti source in the Navy Main Staff also said the next Bulava SLBM test will occur in August or September from Dmitriy Donskoy.  A favorable outcome would led to another test launch from Dmitriy Donskoy, then a third launch from the missile’s intended platform Yuriy Dolgorukiy.

RIA Novosti also reported a source — close to the state commission investigating the cause of the last failed Bulava launch — said yesterday that the cause of the unsuccessful December 2009 test was a malfunctioning rocket nozzle.  He said:

“The state commission established that the nondeployment of Bulava’s extendible nozzle between the missile’s first and second stages was the cause of the last unsuccessful launch.”

He added that the nozzle problem was not caused by a design flaw, but by a production defect, and the missile was simply made incorrectly.

RIA Novosti recalled that First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin, on 30 June, said only that the commission had recommended continuing Bulava testing.  He didn’t comment on any conclusions on the cause of the last Bulava failure.

Buy Two, Build Two

RIA Novosti reported yesterday that the purchase format for Mistral helicopter carriers hasn’t been determined, but a Russian Navy source says a ‘2+2’ variant is possible.

A highly-placed Navy Main Staff representative told the news agency that Russia could buy two and build two of the ships, and such a ‘2+2’ scheme is being discussed in negotiations in Paris.  

Initially, Moscow wanted to buy one and build three under license in Russian shipyards.  But French President Sarkozy mentioned a ‘2+2’ format earlier this year.

RIA Novosti’s source said the two Russian-made ships might be built at Sevmash, Baltic, Yantar, or Northern Wharf.

Medvedev Opens Discussion on Conscription Changes

Presidential Meeting on Conscription (photo:

Talk of military conscription changes has swirled in recent months.  Many potential changes have been attributed to General Staff Chief Makarov or his deputy, GOMU Chief Vasiliy Smirnov.  

While they talked about extending the draft age to 30, or tightening deferments, Defense Minister Serdyukov played ‘good cop,’ launching initiatives to ‘humanize’ military service, and make more men willing to serve.

In the last week, the press has published favorable reports on the just-concluded spring draft campaign.  But, meeting with PA officials and ministers in Gorki yesterday, President Medvedev sounded a different note, indicating that a deeper look at Russia’s military manpower resources and policies is needed. 

The meeting included relevant ministers, but not Prime Minister Putin.  Along with Makarov and Smirnov, Defense Minister Serdyukov and ROSTO / DOSAAF Chief Sergey Mayev attended.  Smirnov appears in uniform (bottom right of the picture), though it’s been thought he retired and put on civilian clothes.  He’s already 60, so he’s beyond the age limit for a general-colonel.  He’s served in the General Staff since 1982.  He was a GOMU directorate chief in the mid-1990s, then Deputy Chief, and Chief since August 2002.  Few Russian military officials should know their issues as well as Smirnov.

The key points in Medvedev’s meeting kickoff are that (a) Armed Forces’ manpower requirements are not being met; (b) no decisions on conscription changes have yet been taken; and (c) the public is supposed to get at least some kind of input on the issue.’s coverage of the beginning of the meeting follows.

“Dmitriy Medvedev spoke of the need to conduct a rigorous analysis of the situation with military conscription and draw up proposals for its improvement.”

* * *

“D. MEDVEDEV:  Good day, colleagues!”

“We have an important issue for the life of our state — the issue of military conscription.  It’s clear that the overall effectiveness of the state, and ensuring security in the country depends on how we man our Armed Forces, and our law enforcement organs.”

“It’s clear that now there are complications:  army and navy requirements for conscripts are not being fully met.  This is connected to the demographic component, to demographic problems; this is connected to the health problems of young people.  All these issues have been discussed more than once both in meetings, and in the mass media.  We have to talk conceptually about what to do next.”

“There’s a range of proposals.  I want to say right off that all these proposals are still just proposals.  They need careful analysis.  Not a single one has any kind of preliminary approval, and we need to discuss them.”

“At first we’ll discuss them with the participation of the leadership of the Government, Presidential Administration, Armed Forces leaders, law enforcement structures, and special services.  Subsequent to such a type of decision all the same it needs to be discussed with the broader circle of society.  It’s essential to take public opinion into account in any case  because this concerns a sufficiently significant number of people in our country.”

Factory Testing Update for Yuriy Dolgorukiy

Translation, no commentary . . .

“MOSCOW, 21 July.  ITAR-TASS.  The crew’s readiness to fulfill combat missions is being checked onboard the new generation project 955 ‘Borey’ ballistic missile submarine ‘Yuriy Dolgorukiy.'”

“As the press-service director Yekaterina Pilikina of Severodvinsk enterprise ‘Sevmash’ announced today, ‘the missile-carrier has returned from the latest phase of factory underway testing.  This was the nuclear submarine’s first at-sea period this year,’  she reminded.”

“‘The nuclear submarine was in testing more than two weeks.  Navigation equipment, the submarine’s buoyancy control system were checked, essential yearly checks of several of the submarine’s parameters were done,’ Pilikina announced. ”

“In the estimation of the chief builder for military equipment production at ‘Sevmash’ Vladimir Prokofyev, ‘the outlined plan was completely fulfilled.  There are issues which have to be worked out to prepare the boat for the next at-sea period which will happen in the near future,’ he noted.”

“‘While at sea, the boat’s crew’s readiness to fulfill combat missions was checked,’ Pilikina announced.  ‘The crew commanded by Captain First Rank Vladimir Shirin successfully completed all training tasks.'”  

“Earlier it was announced that before the end of this year the Russian Navy plans to conduct not less than three test launches of the ‘Bulava’ submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile, and from the ballistic missile submarine ‘Dmitriy Donskoy’ and from the permanent platform for this missile system — nuclear submarine ‘Yuriy Dolgorukiy.’  It is the first ‘Borey’ type submarine.

“At present in ‘Sevmash’ there are three more submarines of this type in various stages of construction.”

“The ‘Borey’ type submarines were designed in St. Petersburg TsKB [Central Design Bureau] of Naval Equipment ‘Rubin.’  According to open source data, several achievements in the creation of shipboard radioelectronic means and noise reduction are employed in the construction of the ‘Boreys.’  They will be armed with the new ‘Bulava’ missile system.  The nuclear submarine can carry 12 solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missiles with a MIRVed warhead.  The submarines are outfitted with a surfacing rescue chamber for the entire crew.  The hull of the ‘Borey’ type nuclear submarine is 170 m, the beam is 13.5 m, the submergence depth is 450 m, and the crew is 107 men.  According to the Defense Ministry’s plans, not less than eight nuclear submarines of this project  are to be built.  ‘Borey’ is supposed to be the main naval component of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces in the 21st century.”


Dedovshchina in RF Army Up 50 Percent — GVP

A translation, no commentary . . .

“MOSCOW, 21 Jul – RIA Novosti.  The level of dedovshchina [violent hazing usually perpetrated by senior soldiers] in the Russian Army grew 1.5 times for the first five months of this year compared with the same period in 2009, according to analytical information provided to the RF Federation Council by the Main Military Prosecutor (GVP).  1,167 servicemen have suffered from nonregulation manifestations in 2010, four have died, and more than 90% of offenses were committed by conscript servicemen.”

“As the GVP notes, the number of corruption-related crimes is also growing.  Material losses from them amount to almost a billion rubles this year.” 

“At the same time, the GVP notes that the general crime level in the state’s military organization has declined by more than 12% over five months this year compared with the same period of 2009, and by almost 15% in the armed forces.”

“In particular, the amount of evasion of military service declined by almost two-fold.”