Yezhednevnyy zhurnal’s Aleksandr Golts says Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s explanation that 70,000 more officers are needed because of VKO doesn’t hold water since it will be created on the basis of existing formations and units.
Golts concludes that Russian military reform has reached its next turning point. He recalls that cutting officers to 150,000 and eliminating a large number of cadre formations and units represented the rejection of the old mass mobilization army concept.
But the reduction of so many officers could not but bring bitter opposition. Nevertheless, Serdyukov stubbornly implemented the cuts, ignoring cries about the destruction of the country’s glorious officer corps (which Golts says hasn’t existed in a very long time).
Then suddenly the chief of the military department reversed himself. Suddenly, it appears there are not too many officers, but a shortage. The Armed Forces agonizingly cut 200,000 officer positions just to reintroduce 70,000!
Golts thinks there are several possible reasons.
The most obvious is the state’s inability to meet its obligations (primarily permanent apartments) to dismissed officers. In mid-2010, there was information about 70,000 officers outside the shtat (штат or TO&E). Later in the year, the number given was 40,000. But says Golts:
“. . . to find out how many officers are really outside the shtat is impossible: whatever figure Defense Ministry officials want to name, they name. It’s possible to suppose that, having realized their inability to settle up with future retirees, the military department simply decided to put them back in the shtat.”
The second possible cause, according to Golts, is that the Defense Ministry failed to fill the officer posts it cut with well-trained sergeants and civilian personnel because the wages it offered were too low. On the issue of more sergeants, Golts concludes:
“Sergeant training programs are failing. Training centers simply can’t put out as many junior commanders as the Armed Forces need – they require not less than 100 thousand. There’s no where to get them from. And so they decided again to use officers to perform sergeant functions in combat sub-units, as rear service guys, service personnel. If so, then this is a serious blow to reform. Because the officer will cease being the elite of the Armed Forces, again turning into a low-level functionary.”
And Golts provides his third, worst case possibility:
“The generals convinced the president, but most of all, the premier [Putin] that it’s possible to achieve combat readiness by returning to the old mobilization model. This is an ultimate end to reforms. If so, then after presidential elections in 2012 the term of conscript service will inevitably be raised. And everything will be back to normal.”
Golts concludes this concession by Serdyukov – heretofore supported by President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin – will make those who hate him conclude he’s lost support, and they will triple their attacks on reforms. In the worst case, this will be the first step toward overturning them.