Monthly Archives: November 2010

Short Stories

There aren’t enough hours in the day . . . quick takes on some stories of interest.

Rossiyskaya gazeta . . . Minregion again sternly warns of problems in heating military towns due to Defense Ministry debts . . . the Far East is the most serious case.

Nezavisimaya gazeta . . . Ukrainian Defense Ministry may not be able to cooperate on An-70 transport for financial reasons.

Argumenty nedeli . . . long expose on the death of Russian military medicine, and the consequences, as a result of Serdyukov’s cuts and reforms.

ITAR-TASS . . . the interdepartmental commission met at Sevmash today with Vladimir Popovkin leading a review of Yuriy Dolgorukiy’s readiness to test fire the Bulava.

ITAR-TASS . . . on Tuesday, Chelyabinsk’s governor called on Serdyukov to stop explosions at Chebarkul.  This mini-scandal’s been evolving since they started in early October.  Expired munitions are being destroyed, but locals are complaining of damage from tremors.  Serdyukov was supposed to go to Chelyabinsk, but sent logistics deputy Bulgakov in his place.  Bulgakov supervised an elaborate demonstration to show that the explosions aren’t powerful enough to shake Chelyabinsk.  Residents say they can feel them in the city’s high-rise buildings.  The military doesn’t get much credit for trying to get rid of old bombs like those that nearly leveled one of Ulyanovsk’s rayons last November.  See Novyy region or Moskovskiy komsomolets.

There is growing media attention to the military housing problem — will Medvedev, Putin, and the Defense Ministry keep their promise to solve the permanent housing problem by the end of 2010, or are they just changing the rules and extending their own deadline?  See IA Rosbalt, Svpressa.ru, or Nezavisimaya gazeta.

Dollar’s Inevitable Collapse Threatens Russia

Segodnia.ru recently publicized a report entitled Armed Forces:  Year 2010, prepared by the Center for Strategic Assessments and Forecasts (TsSOiP or ЦСОиП).  It interviewed one of the report’s authors – retired Colonel and Doctor of Technical Sciences, Aleksandr Fomin – about the state of Russia’s military and threats to Russia.

How does one characterize Colonel Fomin?  In this interview, his thoughts range from a little far right to far left / neo-Marxist.  Yet he sounds like President Medvedev in 2009 calling for a new world financial order to break the dollar’s hold on the international economy.  But that resemblance disappears once he starts excoriating Russia’s elite — co-conspirator in U.S. domination of Russia.

He generally argues the dollar’s inevitable collapse will lead to conflict or war, for which Russia is poorly prepared.  His arguments will appeal to some, but they represent a somewhat simplistic view of international economics and finance.  The rest is a short geopolitical treatise we’ve heard many times about how Russia arrived in its current condition.

Take heart, however, the analytical report is more interesting and original, but it’s 40-odd pages, so some patience on your part will be required.

By way of foretaste, on with Fomin’s interview . . .

Asked simply what’s going on in the Russian Army, Fomin answers:

“There’s a myth that the incredible militarization of the country and rebirth of its military might almost to the level of the Soviet Union has happened in recent years.  This doesn’t correspond to reality – in reality, as the analysis shows, the Russian Armed Forces have degraded.”  

“If we look at the trend of general financing of the Armed Forces for the last 10 years , adjusted for inflation, then we get as a true expression of the financing volume are 4% increases per annum on average.  At such a growth rate, it’s possible only to offset depreciation, but not guarantee the development of the armaments system.  Now recall corruption, and you find that in reality the Armed Forces didn’t develop, but degraded.”

“Today, in the spirit of political correctness, it’s believed that Russia’s main military enemy is international terrorism. They’re ashamed to identify the U.S., NATO, and China as the real potential enemies.  But if we call things by their names, then today Russia is inferior to these probable enemies in the size of its Armed Forces by 20 times in the West and 35 times in the East.”

We’ll have to read his full report to figure out how he came up with these numbers. 

Fomin goes on to say that Russia’s nuclear weapons won’t save it either, since Moscow’s elite keep its money, and educates its children, in the West.  He concludes flatly:

“It is very probable that Russian nuclear weapons will never be employed.”

Next Fomin constructs his scenarios for future wars and threats to Russia:

“In the coming decades, and possibly, years the U.S. and EU’s problems with China will inevitably sharpen, the cause of them is the struggle for energy resources.  Iran, Pakistan and . . . Russia will be drawn into this confrontation.  They will start to use our country as a buffer in the military resolution of the China problem.”

The interviewer asks Fomin what threatens Russia externally, what geopolitical positions has it lost, which ones does it still hold?

“The main threat not just to Russia, but also the world as a whole comes from the virtual world financial system, based on the American dollar, which for a long time already hasn’t been supported by real assets and is held up only by U.S. military might, the potential of which allows them to oppose everyone else in the world.  But sooner or later this system will collapse, for internal reasons.  But however the collapse occurs, its agony (possibly the current financial crisis is the beginning of this agony) could plunge the world into the Third World War.”

“As already said above, today Russia is practically undefended.  Its political leadership, like the appanage princes of Rus in the 12th -13th centuries, are trying to hold off threats  by means of multibillion tribute payments allegedly into international reserves.  However, in Russia the easily accessible oil, could soon be gone:  according to expert evaluations, 30% of wells are already unprofitable.  Then Russia will simply be of no interest to the rest of the world . . . .”

“If we talk about Russia’s lost geopolitical positions, then of course – this is NATO’s expansion to the East, the reinforced U.S. role to Russia’s south (Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Georgia).  It’s possible to add the real threat of losing the Far East and Siberia to this.  They [NATO and U.S.] managed to spoil [Russia’s] relations with Ukraine, Belorussia, and Iran.”

Asked about the threat that Russia is becoming ensnared in U.S. “anti-Iran” policy, Fomin responds:

“. . . the U.S., economy of which is based on proliferating the dollar throughout the world and managing oil prices, has a very painful relationship to [Iran’s] nuclear energy development – to oil’s energy competitiveness.  Especially in the Near East.  In its relationship with Iran, Russia turns out to be hostage to its own financial system:  if the country holds its reserves in other countries’ hard currency, then it can’t oppose them on their main positions in the military-political sphere.  Some disagreements are possible, but there can’t be a lengthy tendency toward the complication of relations – in the case of a sharp worsening it would be easy to block hard currency accounts.”

“And, Russia for 20 years already has been unable to conduct an independent foreign policy, since it is tightly integrated into the world economic system dominated by the U.S.”

“Russia risks losing the remains of its authority among Muslim countries, after abrogating its earlier agreed supply of defensive weapons (in the first place, S-300 surface-to-air missile systems) to Iran.” 

Asked again about threats, Fomin says:

“External threats have been discussed above.  To this it’s possible to add that, as a result of the actions of the financial authorities of the G20 countries, the fundamental bases of the current crisis haven’t been eliminated.  Because of the fact that some paper (toxic assets) has been traded for others (newly printed dollars, euros, and pounds), the situation hasn’t changed principally.  The disease has been driven inside and its symptoms are still appearing to a lesser degree.  But it definitely will crawl outside again.  Therefore, the financial-economic crises will continue further.  Sooner or later the American dollar unsupported by real assets, as a world currency, must collapse.  Several types of dollar exist already now — for internal and external demand.  The Americans are trying to do everything possible meanwhile to ‘save face.’  Provoking situations to create the objective appearance of a reason for the collapse of the dollar are possible:  a terrorist attack on the U.S., war in the Near East, aggravation of the situation in the Far East.  A new world war which will be catastrophic for Russia as an extreme case.”

“Now about internal threats.  For clarity, in every case, we are distinguishing two understandings:  country and state.  It’s possible to love your country while being critical toward the state, which imagines itself as society’s management apparatus.”

“If we talk about the country as a whole, then the main internal threats are well-known:  complex demographic situation, a lopsided well-developed raw materials economy, low labor productivity, conditioned by the low wage level of labor, proliferation of narcotics, brain drain abroad, degradation of science, culture, education, health care, pensions, national defense, law and order, agricultural economy, neglected transportation and ecological problems, corruption.  In the coming decade, the aggravation of energy problems, connected with the exhaustion of easily accessible supplies of Russian oil.”

“But there is still one more serious problem which is the source of all the rest.  This is the multibillion outflow of capital from Russia, including into so-called international reserves (it’s simpler to say into the financial systems of Western countries).  It bleeds the entire economy, and doesn’t allow for moving off a dead stop in solving the majority of urgent problems.  If there were no capital outflow, many internal Russian threats would be eliminated in some time.”

Fomin goes on to argue that current capital outflow (legal and otherwise) is more burdensome and damaging to Russia’s economy than tribute paid to the Mongols centuries ago.  He says international reserves accumulated in 2010 could have plugged the gap in Russia’s pension fund.

Fomin now turns to internal threats to the state.  Number one is the populace’s increased protest activity.  He says the average Russian understands clearly that the state exists not to improve his welfare, but only the quality of life of 1 percent of Russians, without, of course, provoking large-scale protests from the other 99 percent. 

Among other threats, he cites hypertrophic centralization and underdeveloped local government, inflation caused by capital outflow, low wages, and unemployment all leading back to protest activity.

Fomin notes that Russia dropped to 154th (from 146th) on TI’s international corruption index this year.

He observes that the Russian government failed the test of August’s forest fires, causing a mortality spike equal to the number of men lost by the USSR in Afghanistan.  He calls Prime Minister Putin’s web cameras for monitoring the rebuilding of housing a symptom of the level of Russia’s corruption and ungovernability.

Fomin goes on to label major internal problems — education, health care, agriculture, housing, national defense, culture, science, ecology — the first four he notes are ‘national projects.’  Agriculture he puts on the level of military security in importance.  But rather than develop it, the country’s elite chooses to buy food abroad with oil and gas profits.  Agricultural imports support the livelihood of many middlemen in the process.

Fomin has one last assessment of Russia’s current elite class:

“At present, Russian state authorities and the so-called ‘elite’ view the country as a private firm working solely to get profits and the sooner, the better.  Profit is the main goal of the private firm.  It’s not for the realization of long-term goals.  Its main mission:  collect capital, send money abroad, make itself comfortable, and invest the money in a profitable business.” 

Tsyganok on the GPV and the OPK

Anatoliy Tsyganok

Interviewed in yesterday’s Svpressa.ru, defense analyst Anatoliy Tsyganok expressed his doubts that trillions of rubles can save Russia’s OPK, its defense-industrial complex.

A quick summary.  Tsyganok seems to make the point that, while there’s an armaments plan, the OPK is still in a woeful state of neglect, i.e. the Bulava’s producers may actually be better off than many defense enterprises.  Much of what is leaving the factory gates still heads for foreign buyers or requires expensive repairs because quality is lacking.  Perhaps the OPK development (or maybe rescue) program needs attention before the GPV.  Tsyganok takes fewer Indian and Chinese purchases as a sign of quality problems.  Lastly, he says Moscow needs to rethink how it’s most likely to fight before picking what to make and who will make it.

But back to the article, Tsyganok gives his views on what might be bought with 20 trillion rubles in State Armaments Program (GPV) 2011-2020.  He mentions (sometimes without specific numbers or costs):

  • An-124 Ruslan — 20.
  • An-70.
  • Il-112.
  • Il-476.
  • Il-76MD.
  • Combat and transport helicopters — 1,000.
  • PAK FA — 70.
  • Yak-130 combat trainers.
  • Su-35 and Su-30 — 60 (80 billion rubles).
  • MiG-29K — 26 (25 billion rubles).
  • Su-34 — 32 (35 billion rubles).
  • Proyekt 885 Yasen SSNs.
  • Proyekt 955 Borey SSBNs.
  • Bulava SLBMs.
  • Proyekt 11356M frigates — 3.
  • Proyekt 636 diesel-electric submarines — 3.
  • T-90 tanks — 261.

There are, of course, lots of systems required that he doesn’t take time to mention.  New ICBMs, advanced conventional munitions, communications systems, satellites, etc.  He notes that the Navy’s needs alone come to several hundred billion rubles, and several ships and submarines he mentions are for the Black Sea Fleet.  The Ground Troops don’t get too much attention from Tsyganok.

Asked whether the OPK can produce modern combat equipment of the necessary quality and quantity even with sufficient financing, Tsyganok responds:

“Unfortunately, it has to be recognized:  many OPK enterprises are already incapable of series production of high-technology weapons systems.  The woes of the unfortunate strategic missile ‘Bulava’ are proof of this.  The picture is generally nightmarish.  A fourth of Russia’s strategic enterprises are on the verge of bankruptcy.  The tax organs have already issued liens for the recovery of debts against 150 defense plants and organizations.  Baliffs have already been sent there.  Who can work on the state armaments program there?”

“And don’t let the fact that in the first half of 2010 fully respectable growth of 14.1% in production was registered in the defense-industrial complex deceive you.  Mainly, as before, everything put out went for export.  Let’s say, over six months, our country produced 54 helicopters.  Of them, 31 went abroad.”

Asked if the poor state of defense plants is affecting the quality of their products, Tsyganok says:

“It affects it in the most immediate way.  Expenditures on eliminating defects in the course of production, testing, and use of our military products today goes up to 50% of the general volume of expenditures on the corresponding defense budget article.  In economically developed countries, this indicator does not exceed 20%.  The main reason is monstrous equipment depreciation.  And there’s no ray of hope visible there.  The rate of renewing the production base in the Russian defense sector, despite growing financial inputs of recent years, is not more than one percent a year.  In order somehow to get out of this hole in which we find ourselves, we would need to increase this rate by 8-10 times.  Incidentally, the reduction in quality of arms and military equipment produced is already noticeably reflected even in Russia’s military-technical cooperation with our traditional partners in this area.  With India and China most of all.  They are already not so intently signing contracts with us as before.”

What about design bureaus and scientific-research institutes?

“Also nothing to brag about here.  The fact is what the Russian defense-industrial complex can offer the Armed Forces in the near future, with a few exceptions, is already no longer the world’s best models.  And all this is because in the USSR’s time our country allocated up to 4.7% of GDP to basic research.  In today’s Russia, in all 0.16% goes to this business.  At the same time, in China, for example, annually ten times more is spent on scientific-research and experimental-design work.  And, as expected, next year it will catch up with the U.S.  As a result, in many military technologies, Russia is currently at a 1970s-1980s level.”

Finally, Tsyganok’s interviewer asks if there’s any way out of these dilemmas:

“There’s always a way out.  First of all, it’s essential to promptly review the goals and missions of the weapons complex.  We really have to understand whom we intend to fight, and what types of armaments are necessary for this.  Then the state defense order [GOZ] will take on more accurate contours.  As long as we don’t have this understanding, the situation will only get worse.”

Mending Fences with the Church?

Serdyukov and the Patriarch

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov met Patriarch Kirill yesterday, and only Rossiyskaya gazeta alluded to the possibility it might be a fence-mending effort following the Seltsy incident several weeks ago.  Serdyukov had met Kirill previously, but the timing of this meeting sure looks like an effort to repair  army-church ties.

Patriarchia.ru, Krasnaya zvezda, and Komsomolskaya pravda reprinted portions of the Patriarch’s comments:

“The Armed Forces are now undergoing a very important phase of reform, and we are attentively following what is happening.” 

“The army in Russia was always a powerful patriotic force influencing the mood of society, and the well-being of people.  The army was always an elite of our society, including intellectual and cultural.  Therefore I am deeply convinced the Armed Forces reform, which assumes an entire series of very important organizational decisions, scientific-technical and simply technical, must include both spiritual and cultural dimensions.”

Defense Minister Serdyukov told the Patriarch: 

“It’s always pleasant for me when there’s a chance to meet with you, to discuss these or other issues connected with reform.”

“This reorganization now being conducted is a deliberate, calculated process and, as the initial results already show, quite effective.”

According to RG and KP, Serdyukov told Kirill about plans to open a center for regimental priest training on the base of one of the military academies, most likely in Moscow.  Alluding to the Seltsy problem, Serdyukov also noted the Defense Ministry now has a working group on the issue of constructing Orthodox Churches in military units.  And Serdyukov repeated yesterday he never gave anyone an order to take down the church on the VDV’s Seltsy training grounds.

Shurygin on the VDV’s Discontent

Writing in Zavtra, Vladislav Shurygin has added his take on Sunday’s VDV protest.  As usual, it’s a different cut with different details, but a unique one that shouldn’t be ignored.

Here’s the gist.  Shurygin says it’s not just the VDV’s discontent, but the military’s.  He enumerates the VDV’s specific grievances.  He claims the airborne has lost its status as the Supreme CINC’s strategic reserve and been placed operationally under OSKs West, South, Central, and East. 

Much of Shurygin’s article comes down to the VDV’s alleged loss of elite status.  Others, however, would say Serdyukov’s handled the airborne with kid gloves compared to how other services have suffered.  They might also say it’s high time the VDV got knocked down a notch or two.  

Shurygin seems to want to say that vlasti are more worried, or should be more worried, about discontent in the army than they appear.  He says Serdyukov can’t be dislodged from the Defense Ministry by his opponents, only the internal imperatives of vlasti will move him to another job; then he’ll be replaced by someone who’ll begin his own reform.

Shurygin quotes one Russian Airborne Union (SDR or СДР) official on how servicemen are left socially unprotected:

“In the framework of this reform which is destructive for the country, the overwhelming majority of servicemen have been dismissed without serving the term enabling them to get a pension.  Half of them don’t have housing.  Our country already has a sad experience of dismantling troops.  In the distant 1950s, the Defense Ministry decided to eliminate Naval Infantry under the pretext of missile-nuclear weapons development, saying that, if necessary, conventional infantry could fully replace it.  Nearly 50 years later history’s repeating itself.  Only now the VDV and Spetsnaz ended up in the role of unneeded forces.”

Shurygin continues:

“Meanwhile, the attitude of high state officials toward the VDV has been drawing criticism for a long time already.  In July, when the VDV observed its 80th anniversary, neither the Supreme CINC, nor the Prime Minister appeared at a ceremonial concert in the Kremlin palace and they didn’t even send the nominal greeting customary in such instances.  Then a directive according to which the VDV command would become subordinate to the Main Command of the Ground Troops was prepared, and VDV formations and units are in fact being transferred into operational subordination to the commands of strategic axes ‘North,’ [sic] ‘West,’ ‘South,’ and ‘East.’  That is, they’re being taken from the reserve of and immediate subordination to the Supreme CINC of the RF Armed Forces.  Add to this the estrangement of the VDV from work with premilitary youth in DOSAAF and the elimination of the Ryazan Airborne Higher Military Command School, which has been dropped into the Ground Troops training center (Combined Arms Academy), and the elimination of the VDV Personnel Directorate, which will put a final end to the elite status of the VDV, traditionally proud of its own unique personnel school.  In fact, a quiet destruction of the troops is going on.”

Shurygin says VDV Commander Shamanov’s doctors say confidentially that, in intensive care, he was in no condition for paperwork, and his right hand was immobilized when he supposedly authored his message urging VDV on Poklonnaya Gora to avoid confronting the Defense Ministry.   

So Shurygin doubts Shamanov wrote this, but he doesn’t allow for the possibility that the general dictated words to be issued in his name.

Shurygin adds that sources close to the Defense Ministry say the Shamanov document turned up in the hands of Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov, was edited by his people, and sent to the hospital for Shamanov’s signature as he was being wheeled into surgery. 

Shurygin shifts gears reprinting part of an interview he gave Baltinform prior to the Poklonnaya Gora demonstration.  Asked about Serdyukov, he says:

“The reform Serdyukov is conducting causes confusion in specialists.  The opposition to the pogrom he’s conducted in the army is very great.  Tens of thousands of people are opposed — they really see what is happening in the troops, and are trying to get this information to the public.”

“The fact that this [Seltsy] scandal received publicity is not evidence of conspiracy, but evidence of the crudest error in Serdyukov’s judgment, who left himself open, conducting himself rudely and offending an honored officer, a Hero of Russia.  And this outrageous incident only became the latest reason again to raise the theme of reform.  If the main reformer conducts himself in such an unworthy manner, then this automatically calls forth questions about the entire reform he’s conducted.  I think that opposition to Serdyukov is located not at the Kremlin level or any mysterious officials, but at the level of those whom military reform has literally ‘run over like a tank.'”

 I relate to [Serdyukov] as an absolutely incompetent person who occupies a job that is not his.  And for three years already he’s been learning the completely new business of managing the army at the cost of huge damage to the latter.  First they constantly destroy army structures like a house of cards, then they try to ‘sculpt’ and create something out of them.”

  “Some directives are suspended, others are given out and then are suspended.  The army leadership is feverishly searching as if trying to get a careening wagon down a hill in the necessary direction, but still just increasing the chaos and disintegration.  Massive break-ups were undertaken in place of approaching reforms from a scientific viewpoint and working out experiments on specially selected parts.”

“The Armed Forces have been ‘cut to the bone.’  They’ve broken everything in them, both the bad, and the good.  They broke it, then observed the mistakes, and are now trying to correct them.”

Asked if Serdyukov will finish his reforms or be replaced because of complaints from his opponents, Shurygin concludes:

“It seems to me he’ll go to that phase when it’ll be officially acknowledged that the reform has taken place.  Then a moment will come when it’s necessary to make a change in the official hierarchy, and Serdyukov will be transferred to another position.  The one who comes into his place, will begin his own reform anew, perhaps, a more ‘quiet’ one.  But he won’t avoid long work analyzing the mess of forest cut down by Serdyukov.”

Latest on Su-34 Deliveries

ITAR-TASS reports today that Sukhoy will transfer the next part of its serial order of Su-34 fighter-bombers from the Novosibirsk Aviation Production Association (APO) to the Air Forces before the end of this year.

A Sukhoy spokesman told ITAR-TASS the Su-34 is being produced under the 2008 state contract for 32 aircraft.  And the Air Forces have already received five, according to this report.  Completion of this contract will reportedly give them ‘nearly 40.’

One notes, however, there have been many plans for Su-34 deliveries over the years that were not realized.

The wire service item reminds readers the ‘4+ generation’ Su-34s participated in Vostok-2010, refueling in air as they flew non-stop to airfields in the east.  The Sukhoy spokesman stressed the Su-34’s combat radius ‘approaching the ranges of strategic bomber flights.’

Army Outsourcing

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov conducted another extramural collegium Wednesday, this time in Khabarovsk.  Serdyukov and company congratulated themselves for completing the ‘large-scale work’ of forming the Eastern Military District (VVO or ВВО), and the other three new districts, ahead of schedule.  This reshuffling was done in less than a year, so it probably really doesn’t count as ‘large-scale work.’

General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov reported the VVO has operated since 1 October.  For his part, Serdyukov noted:

“The Eastern Military District is the largest in combat composition, area, and length of ground and maritime borders.”

The VVO sports the Pacific Fleet, an air and air defense army, and four combined arms armies, leading the Defense Minister to conclude:

“Unifying all forces and means under a single commander allowed for a substantial increase in the combat possibilities and potential of the district.”

Possibly, yes, but it remains to be realized and proven . . . since the very same forces have just been aggregated in a new way.  Is this new whole more than the sum of its parts, or not?

Attendees discussed unified logistics as well as unified combat forces.  Reports said along with unified commands a unified system of material-technical support (MTO) is being established in the military districts.  As previously reported, it is supposed to unite arms supply and logistics in one function and organization.

At any rate, the collegium had new or semi-new business as well . . .

Serdyukov, Makarov, and other attendees also discussed Defense Ministry outsourcing.

Before the meeting, Makarov told wire services the issue of delimiting spheres of activity between the military department and outside organizations that will provide support functions for servicemen and military towns, including heating, electricity, and food service, would be discussed.  According to Rossiyskaya gazeta, Makarov said:

“We need to clearly determine the bounds within which structures should work to support the everyday life of military bodies.”

Speaking like an old-hand, Makarov said the outsourcing system will take care of noncore tasks like feeding the troops and providing utilities to military towns.  The Defense Ministry’s board of directors discussed transferring responsibilities and corresponding property to these contractors.  Are they going to operate or own these assets?

RG reminded readers 340,000 troops are supposed to be fed by civilian firms by year’s end.  They include students in cadet corps, Suvorov schools, military VUZy, and patients in Defense Ministry hospitals.  The paper said outsourced food service would be coming soon to permanent readiness units.  And laundry services, part of military transportation, and equipment supply, including aviation, POL, and support for all deployed Navy ships, will be outsourced.

Finally, Army General Makarov said the collegium discussed in detail the issue of replacing or scrapping worn out equipment.  According to RIA Novosti, Makarov indicated there’ll be a major inventory and weeding out of what’s usable and what isn’t:

“In the course of 2011, everything that’s inoperable, particularly, in the aviation and ship inventory, we will manage to restore and put back on the line.  That which has outlived its time according to its parameters should be withdrawn from service.  This is quite a solid sum which could be redirected to acquiring new types of equipment and armaments.”

Not sure how much they make on this scrap sale.  Not so long ago the Defense Ministry said it was cutting repairs (as well as RDT&E) to focus more money on buying new systems.

Aleksandr Nevskiy Launch Planned

According to ITAR-TASS, Sevmash shipbuilders have announced they’ll launch the second proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBN Aleksandr Nevskiy at the end of November.  Nevskiy was laid down on 19 March 2004.  Lead unit Yuriy Dolgorukiy is preparing for a test launch of the Bulava SLBM likely in December.

ITAR-TASS says Borey unit 3 Vladimir Monomakh (laid down in 2006) is on a buildingway at Sevmash.  Nevskiy and Monomakh were not identified as proyekt 955A boats.  The wire service also didn’t mention anything about an official lay down for hull 4 (Sv. Nikolay).  Plans are for not less than 8 of the Borey SSBNs.

More Money Needed for Admiral Nakhimov

According to ITAR-TASS, Sevmash Director Nikolay Kalistratov says his plant will begin modernizing Kirov-class CGN Admiral Nakhimov (ex-Kalinin) next year.  Kalistratov also indicated the state is allocating money for Nakhimov’s large-scale repair:

“But the given volume is insufficient, an increase in the state defense order is required, and on this issue I’ve gotten the support of the board of directors.”

So Sevmash can’t or won’t do it for what the state is paying.  It’s something of an annual rite for Kalistratov.  He said the same thing last year, and even put the price tag at 20 billion rubles.  And it’s been proposed that Nakhimov could return to the Navy in 2012.  Not likely.

ITAR-TASS adds that Nakhimov’s been in this condition since 1999, waiting at the pier for repairs that haven’t been done for want of financing.  

Your present author’s no naval engineer, but common sense raises some serious issues. 

Not only would the ship’s two nuclear power plants need serious attention, but its once-impressive host of weapons systems would require extensive updating — new cruise missiles, ASW systems, SAMs, just for a start.  All the ship’s support systems would need renovation or replacement.  This would be great work not just for Sevmash, but for Russian system suppliers.  

But the Russian government, Defense Ministry, and Navy have to decide if the cost is worth taking money from other new naval construction, not to mention from higher priority military procurement efforts.  The answer to this question lies in how Nakhimov would be employed and, particularly, for how long.  The U.S. experience with modernizing and recommissioning the USS Iowa and USS New Jersey comes to mind.

There are lots of articles on what to do with Russian CGNs, but your author hasn’t waded through them.  Speak up if you’re interested in them.

Officer Discontent on Poklonnaya Gora

Reviewing the press on Sunday’s VDV meeting on Poklonnaya Gora, one could say there’s an inclination to dismiss it as the howling of old cranks who don’t constitute an organized challenge to anything or anyone.  But behind that initial take, some media saw palpable discontent among officers, both retired and active duty.  Nezavisimaya gazeta suggested there might be more below the surface of this rather feeble demonstration – either more powerful interests or much larger numbers of affected individuals.  Ekspert concluded, at a minimum, the whole episode might lead Defense Minister Serdyukov to take the opinions of officers more seriously.      

The VDV demonstration goes back to the 30 September Seltsy incident, and the Russian Airborne Union’s (SDR) call for Serdyukov resign for insulting Hero of Russia, Colonel Krasov as well as for destroying the army.  Kommersant put the number of participants at about 1,500.  Retired General-Colonel Vyacheslav Achalov and other organizers threaten to resume protesting on 17 November if President Medvedev doesn’t fire Serdyukov.  They also want General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov, and Main Personnel Directorate Chief Viktor Goremykin to resign. 

The conspiracy-minded protesters maintain that Vladimir Shamanov’s crash was no accident; they think someone tried to kill him since he’s the only man standing in the way of the VDV’s ruin.

The Defense Ministry didn’t officially comment on yesterday’s protest, but Kommersant garnered an unofficial reaction.  An unnamed Defense Ministry representative said:

“Criticism should be constructive.  When memorial days like 7 November are used for political purposes, it’s unseemly.  Moreover, criticizing the minister for the reform is premature, since it’s not complete yet.”

So the Defense Ministry didn’t think the protest was helpful, but they also think 7 November is still a holiday.  The last is the best though.  Exactly when, where, and how are opponents supposed to raise their objections?  When everything’s over and done with?  Another insight into current regime thinking about the proper interaction of politics and policymaking . . . none.

Nezavisimaya gazeta was most interested that it wasn’t just the usual non-systemic outcasts at the VDV rally, but Just Russia (Справедливая Россия) flags showed that some of the official opposition was there too.  Federation Council Speaker and Just Russia leader Sergey Mironov was once a VDV senior sergeant himself.  NG sees SR trying to play an army card to its advantage while remaining part of the official opposition.

The paper says Mironov could be using the military, and showing support for officers against Serdyukov (and Medvedev by extension) for his own purposes.  And he’s politicizing the army – something not done in recent years and generally considered unacceptable.  NG indicates some think there’s more to all this than just a reaction to Serdyukov’s alleged rudeness to the VDV:

“There is, incidentally, an opinion that the [Seltsy] incident was only a pretext, and the interests of some military circles and retired officers connected to them, who feed off the army and are dissatisfied with the current military reform, are behind the protest.”

Novyye Izvestiya describes Poklonnaya Gora as quite the retrograde affair replete with Soviet flags, and the usual representatives of the radical opposition.

One participant bragged to its reporter after passing through one of many metal detectors:

“We don’t need weapons, we could take the Kremlin with a stool leg.”

But Novyye had more serious points too, like one ex-VDV who complained of Serdyukov’s cuts in military medicine, and his commercialization of military hospitals.  He asked:

“What military doctors will be on the battlefield?  There aren’t any remaining.  But there’s no one to fight, in a year’s army service what can you learn?  Only to sweep the parade ground.”

The paper concludes VDV veterans believe only military men can solve the army’s problems, the army needs to be mobile and highly capable, and it shouldn’t be shameful to serve in it.  At least everyone seems to agree on the last two.

Writing for Ekspert, Stanislav Kuvaldin describes Seltsy and Poklonnaya Gora as a breakdown in communications between the Defense Minister and the officer corps.  One SDR leader told Kuvaldin:

“Serving officers are silent, but they think the same things.  We grew them and indoctrinated them.”

He went on to say that even if they are silent about Serdyukov and reforms in exchange for today’s higher officer pay, it doesn’t mean they’ve been suppressed.

A key element of Serdyukov’s reform is basically tripling officer pay, and this higher pay is already a serious factor in calculations about serving, but it hasn’t happened yet (except for those getting special premium pay).  Nevertheless, potentially higher pay won’t automatically mean Serdyukov will be more popular, and it doesn’t mean the VDV will get over Serdyukov’s insult to one of its officers and a Hero of Russia, according to Kuvaldin.

Kuvaldin reports the Defense Ministry may compromise on some of the VDV’s more specific complaints, i.e. not moving the VDV Headquarters to Ryazan and preserving the VDV Museum, but not reversing the VDV Higher Military Command School’s subordination to the Combined Arms Academy.

In the end, Kuvaldin writes, this dissatisfaction is only creating tense moments for Serdyukov, not a serious threat:

“In the end, if after two years of reforms, vulgar insults to the head of one military school have become the cause for veterans to come out, it’s possible only to talk about an unpleasant emotional backdrop for the minister, but not about a hypothetical organized resistance.”

However, possibly, the situation will force the minister to deal with officers’ opinions more attentively and respectfully.

But this author wouldn’t bet on it.

In a not particularly surprising postscript, the GAI stopped SDR leader Pavel Popovskikh — former colonel, VDV Reconnaissance Chief, and defendant in the murder of journalist Dmitriy Kholodov — for driving drunk after the demonstration.  The story was widely reported, but an alternative version hasn’t gotten as much play.  Segodnya.ru reported that Popovskikh’s friends and others say he stopped drinking long ago.  The website also says Vladislav Shurygin wrote in his blog that traffic cops were ordered to stop Popovskikh and check him for alcohol, but they sheepishly released him with an apology when they found he was sober.