TsOPI Critiques Serdyukov’s Reforms

In last week’s Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, IMEMO’s Vladimir Yevseyev presented the results of a recent round table on reform in the RF Armed Forces. The Center for Social-Political Initiatives (TsOPI or ЦОПИ), with support from Germany’s Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, sponsored the event.

Yevseyev described early reform as cutting personnel without changing the army’s structures during a time of political paralysis in the 1990s.  In the Putin era, he says there were still failures and the army’s equipment levels dropped, but the army began to believe it could still fight.

At this time, former Defense Minister Ivanov more than once declared the end of army reform, the troops started to get limited quantities of new weapons, and there was an unsuccessful attempt to move to professional enlisted force.  Yevseyev tries unconvincingly to point out successes in the Putin-Ivanov period.  His leading examples are especially dubious:

“— the elimination of cadre units and formations and forming of permanent readiness units numbering nearly 200 thousand servicemen on a contract basis.”

“— partial fulfillment of the federal targeted program of transition to manning with servicemen conducting military service on contract in a number of formations and military units in 2004-2007 that as a whole with a corresponding change in legislation in 2008 allowed a reduction in the conscripted service term to one year.”

The hollow unit problem wasn’t tackled until late in 2008, and Yevseyev has already labeled contract service a failure.  Moreover, the contract service program probably didn’t attract more than 80,000 soldiers.

And contract service didn’t have anything to do with one-year conscript service.  That change was made to try to encourage more young Russian men to serve rather than avoid serving.  Professional enlisted service, had it worked, would have allowed Moscow to continue drafting only 260,000 men per year for two years, rather than 540,000 per year to serve for a year as it is now.

But Yevseyev comes to the right conclusion:

“. . . radical change in the reform of the Armed Forces did not happen.  The main reason for this was that the Russian leadership could not take the fundamentally important decision on bringing the size of the Armed Forces into correspondence with the economic possibilities we have and with observable (future) external threats.”

Yevseyev writes that the most acute phase of military reform came with Defense Minister Serdyukov, and the war with Georgia, which revealed the army’s shortcomings.
But, says Yevseyev, Serdyukov’s initiatives like reducing officers and cutting warrants ran into difficulties.  Forty thousand officers placed outside the TO&E couldn’t be retired because they still lack permanent housing.  And many would-be officer graduates in 2009 and 2010 were forced into sergeant’s duties.

Yevseyev says Serdyukov’s reform is bringing an increased flow of negative consequences as shown in the results of TsOPI’s polling. It surveyed more than 2,500 people, including nearly 1,700 servicemen, in nine major cities.  According to 61 percent of respondents, reform has degraded the entire military command and control system.  Sixty-four percent said the army’s ‘new profile’ has seriously reduced their social status.  Thirty-two percent are not sure their housing, pension, and pay rights will be observed during Serdyukov’s reform.  Twenty-three percent are worried about their outplacement rights, and 8 percent about their medical benefits.

Yevseyev and his colleagues discussed three major problems for the Armed Forces:  rearmament, infrastructure, and manning.

They say 40 percent of Soviet arms and equipment were modern at the end of the 1980s, with the percentage declining to only 10-12 percent by 2005, and 5 percent at present.  They give a useful rundown of what’s been produced over recent years.

In 2004-2008:

  • 36 ‘Topol-M’ ICBMs;
  • 2 battalions of Iskander SSMs;
  • 2 battalions of S-400 SAMs;
  • 150 T-90 tanks;
  • 700 armored combat vehicles;
  • 20 self-propelled artillery systems;
  • 1 Tu-160 strategic bomber;
  • 3 Su-34 bombers;
  • 30 helicopters;
  • 1 diesel submarine;
  • 2 corvettes; and
  • 13 smaller ships and auxiliaries.

In 2009:

  • 49 new or modernized aircraft;
  • 31 helicopters;
  • 304 armored combat vehicles; and
  • 20 artillery systems.

Yevseyev and company conclude:

“It would seem that the situation with equipping the country’s Armed Forces is beginning to be corrected.  But in reality such rates of military equipment supply allow full rearmament across 30-50 years, which significantly exceeds the length of its service life.”

So this will make it difficult to increase the share of new weapons and equipment to 30 percent by 2015, even for permanent readiness units and formations.

They point next to the massive lingering Russian military structure.  Four years ago there were 26,000 military organizations of one type or another, and now only 6,000.  And that will be reduced to 2,500.  But they say, instead of consolidating and realizing cost savings, some of this process was fake, and some organizations were just named as subsidiaries [filialy] of larger ones.  As an example, they cite the shift from regiments to brigades and 1,000 reported TO&E changes, of which only 30 actually involved a physical unit relocation.

Finally, Yevseyev and the round table participants point to a potential unit leadership void when officers and professional enlisted are being cut (or not recruited) at the same time.  They say, given the training time they need, conscripts shouldn’t comprise more than 30 percent of a permanent readiness unit.

Yevseyev sums up:

“. . . the process of implementing military reform in the Russian Armed Forces now prompts the most serious misgivings.  In essence, the military personnel training system is being destroyed, the decline in the Armed Forces’ equipping continues, their system of manning and command and control is being broken.  All this leads to the weakening of the country’s defense capability and requires taking immediate measures to eliminate the negative consequences we are already experiencing.”

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