Monthly Archives: February 2011

In Memory of Soldiers-Internationalists

Departing Afghanistan

OK, “internationalist-soldiers” is less awkward.  “Internationalist” was the CPSU’s way of describing Soviet advisors and troops abroad assisting or fighting on behalf of various regimes during the Cold War.

Tuesday’s Moskovskaya pravda had a very interesting news-essay by Natalya Pokrovskaya on the 22nd anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.  It’s entitled “The Newest History.  The Soldier Doesn’t Pick the War.” 

The completion of the Afghan withdrawal on February 15, 1989 has the same resonance for Russians as April 30, 1975 for Americans:  it represents the collapse of a crusade conducted in the context of a global ideological and military confrontation called the Cold War.  And as Pokrovskaya implies, whether sent by Leonid Brezhnev or Lyndon Johnson, Soviet and American soldiers didn’t choose the conflicts they fought in.

Pokrovskaya reports that, though long celebrated, Tuesday marked the first time Russia officially celebrated the Day of Memory of Internationalist-Soldiers:

“For too long, the Fatherland didn’t want to recognize those who defended its interests in far-away countries, fulfilling their internationalist duty.”

She notes, in 2002, the federal law on veterans was changed and participants in local wars and conflicts received the status of combat veterans.  And then late last year the law on military memorial dates was amended, and 15 February is now the Day of Memory of Russian Citizens Who Fulfilled Their Service Duty Beyond the Boundaries of the Fatherland.

Pokrovskaya says Russians typically associate “internationalist-soldier” only with those who fought in Afghanistan, but, in fact, after 1945, Soviet officers and soldiers shed their blood in the interests of their Homeland in 18 wars in 14 countries.  She includes:

  • Algeria (1962-1964).
  • Egypt (October 1962-March 1963, June 1967, 1968, March 1969-July 1972, October 1973-February 1975).
  • Yemen (October 1962-March 1963, November 1967-December 1969).
  • Vietnam (1961-1974).
  • Syria (June 1967, March-July 1970, September-November 1972, October 1973).
  • Angola (November 1975-November 1979).
  • Mozambique (1967-1969, November 1975-November 1979, March 1984-April 1987).
  • Ethiopia (December 1977-November 1979).
  • Afghanistan (April 1978-February 1989).
  • Cambodia (April-December 1970).
  • Bangladesh (1972-1973).
  • Laos (January 1960-December 1963, August 1964-November 1968, November 1969-December 1970).
  • Syria and Lebanon (June 1982). 

Soviet participation in these wars was generally a closely guarded secret, but the Afghan war was too burdensome to keep secret.  More than half a million Soviet troops passed through Afghanistan, and more than 14,000 died in nine years of fighting.

Pokrovskaya describes the end – the withdrawal of the 40th Army over the Friendship Bridge from Hairaton to Termez, five Border Guard groups providing security for the departing column, the weary-faced General-Lieutenant Boris Gromov.

She recalls bloodletting after the Soviet withdrawal [again, not unlike Vietnam], a soldier’s memories of his first time in battle, and the life of Soviet Army convoy drivers.

But Pokrovskaya saves her best for the end:

“But back Home there was sketchy news of voyenkomaty and burials which, with a few exceptions, all regions of a huge country got – a little less, others – more.  But the information vacuum didn’t allow a chance for drawing a conclusion, for citizens of a big country to realize the essence of what was happening with their sons beyond the bounds of the Fatherland.  The total ban on the truth worked impeccably during practically all ‘foreign’ campaigns.”

She thinks people began to learn about the war about four years after it began, mainly via veterans, from “Afgantsy.”  About them today, she says:

“Each of them who, in peacetime, endured the hardships and privations of war for the sake of their native state’s interests, also lives every day with the memories and pain of his combat past.  They say that the war ends on the day when the last soldier who returned from it dies.”

Pokrovskaya says the Soviet internationalists, who are now generally between 40 and 50 with families and kids, understand how thin the border between war and peace, between senseless cruelty and a peacekeeping mission is.

One hero from the Afghan war tells Pokrovskaya a story about last Victory Day when he gathered with close buddies and sang some Afghan songs with them.  He said suddenly a bunch of skinheads jumped from the bushes.  They said, “Old men we respect you!  Let’s drink, you are heroes, you killed the ‘black ones’!”

The reader can substitute whatever racist term he or she chooses for чёрные –  n*****, wog, kaffir, etc.  Again not different from the unfortunate American experience in dehumanizing enemies as slopes or gooks.

Pokrovskaya’s war hero goes on to say he was knocked unconscious in battle in 1986:

“Guys, a Tajik and an Uzbek, dragged me more than ten kilometers to a chopper.  I owe them my life!  And these ones who’ve never seen a battle, but after hearing every idea about racial supremacy, try to cozy up to me?!  We weren’t restrained to put it mildly . . . .  We conked them on their heads and sent them home to mama and papa . . . to learn their lessons.  History, for example.  They don’t even know how many Heroes of the Soviet Union we have who aren’t Slavs.  Georgians, Chechens, Tatars, Uzbeks . . . .”

 Ms. Pokrovskaya sums it all up:

 “Can it be that the state was silent for nothing, didn’t remember for so long those who honorably fulfilled their duty to the Homeland for nothing?  And is today’s gift of memory which we are giving the present-day children of the internationalist-soldiers really to teach the most recent history of a country now split by the contradictions of inter-ethnic discord?”

Yes, a grunt’s a grunt.  And the grunts and their loved ones often ask what they’re fighting for.  Or did they die for nothing.

Afghan War Memorial in Chistopol

6 Boys from Chistopol

28 Guys from Petrozavodsk

27 More

How’s It Look for VDV?

On Monday, Voyennoye obozreniye took a look at the VDV and their rearmament needs.  It notes they’ve received virtually nothing new since the USSR collapsed, and what new equipment has arrived came in small amounts.

The composition of the VDV has shrunk from 65,000 personnel in seven divisions to about 35,000 in four divisions (Novorossiysk, Tula, Ivanovo, and Pskov) today.  Its airborne combat vehicles include BMD-1, BMD-2 Budka, BMD-3 Bakhcha, and BMD-4 Bakhcha-U, armored personnel carriers include BTR-RD Robot and BTR-3D Skrezhet.

Here’s a RenTV video about the Bakhcha and Bakhcha-U.

Artillery includes ASU-57, ASU-85, 2S9 Nona-S, 2S25 Sprut-SD, and howitzers 2A18 D-30 and 2A18M D-30A.

In January 2007, then VDV Commander, General-Colonel Aleksandr Kolmakov said the troops would soon be getting BMD-4, 2S25 Sprut, BTR-D3 Rakushka, KamAZ-43501, D-10 and Arbalet parachutes, and new infantry and special weapons.  In 2010, the Defense Ministry reportedly said it was buying Italian-made IVECO LMV combat vehicles for its “winged infantry.”

According to VO, the press says VDV has gotten more than 300 BMD-4 since they were accepted for service in 2004.  The BMD-4M, however, basically remains in testing, and only 10 of them are being used in the VDV.  Its future with the airborne troops might be in doubt.  Last December, VDV air defense sub-units got their first Strela-10M3 self-propelled anti-aircraft systems.  They will replace aged ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns.

VO concludes the VDV need to reestablish both their air and ground mobility.  VTA has degraded and can’t support airborne operations large enough to seize and hold strategic or tactical objectives in enemy rear areas, or to destroy enemy government and military command and control systems:

“As it was in the USSR, so it is in the RF, airborne troops are really used like the best trained motorized rifle units — for example in Chechnya, Ossetia.”

For off-road mobility, VO says VDV need Tigr, Vodnik, dune buggies, and ATVs.

It argues VDV divisions need their own fixed- and rotary-wing aviation, including multipurpose, transport, strike, and reconnaissance aircraft and UAVs.

The missions of the VDV need to be formulated like Spetsnaz, so they aren’t used like regular infantry.

Finally, VO says the VDV need to be fully professional, with career personnel, and pay twice the country’s median wage.  It can’t be done with today’s contractees who are mostly lazy and drunk, but this is the fault of the army’s reformers, according to VO.

Then, VO concludes, the VDV would be a real elite of the Russian Army.

The Foggy Goal of the GPV (Part II)

Sovershenno sekretno’s Vladimir Spasibo describes the early post-Cold War process of mergers and consolidations in the Western defense industries, and then asks:

“And how are our integration processes going?  By altogether different schemes.  Mainly by creating industrial ‘kolkhozy.’”

His example is the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC or OAK) which conglomerated most Russian aircraft designers and producers.

Spasibo says this consolidation should have eliminated problems with skilled personnel shortages, technology losses, obsolete production lines, low labor productivity, product quality, duplicative development, and excess capacity.  But it didn’t.

Spasibo examines the labor force in the OPK’s aircraft industry.  He claims with VVS purchases of 380 billion rubles per year, and productivity of 6 million rubles per worker (three times less than Boeing’s rate), there should be 66,000 workers in Russia’s industry, but its 6 lead plants have more than 100,000 workers, and the aviation industry overall has more than half a million.

He looks then at the labor force for the entire OPK.  With purchases totaling 19 trillion rubles, with modest productivity of 3 million rubles per worker over ten years, the OPK should have 630,000 workers, but Rostekhnologii General Director Sergey Chemezov says there are now 1.2 million.  And Spasibo concludes good specialists won’t work for what companies are able to pay as a result.

Chemezov has pointed out that only 36 percent of Russia’s “strategic enterprises” are financially stable; at the same time, 30 percent show all the signs of bankruptcy.  The situation is particularly bad in the munitions and special chemicals sector, where nearly 50 percent of companies look like potential bankruptcies.

Spasibo adds that only 15 percent of the OPK’s technologies meet world standards, 70 percent of basic production assets are outdated, and the equipment renewal rate is only 3-4 percent.  He says:

“To count on these companies being able to produce the weapons required is laughable.  But they will absorb the money they receive.  Naturally, without any particular result for the reforming Armed Forces.”

Spasibo concludes:

“The ‘estimated expenditures’ of the Defense Ministry obviously demonstrate that we’re again being dragged into a senseless and dangerous arms race which in no way increases our military security.  On the contrary, it increases the risk of creeping into military conflicts.”

“NATO and the U.S. absolutely don’t need a war with Russia.  China doesn’t either.  Even despite periodic rumors that it has territorial claims on us.”

“But it’s impossible to make these claims by military means.  Especially if Russia will have a modern high-tech army.  But once again no one is building it.  And doing this is impossible, scattering resources on strategic arms, VKO, an ocean-going fleet, whose role in the hypothetical case of war is completely incomprehensible.  The situation’s exacerbated by the lack of an entire series of experimental models fit for production and supply to the Armed Forces, an obsolete technological and organizational structure of OPK enterprises which, most likely, will turn the money into dead metal.”

“During perestroyka, we learned that the USSR lost the ‘Cold War’ to the U.S. and that the arms race killed the Soviet economy.  Scholars and commentators talked about this with figures and facts.  In those days, there were many suggestions about what to do with the Armed Forces and VPK.  But all this ended in empty talk.  In fact, they simply killed the VPK.  They practically didn’t invest money in the Armed Forces.  There was neither an army, nor a defense industry to arm the army.”

“And here a time has come when the Kremlin and the White House have decided to modernize the army and, using the financial possibilities that have appeared, to pour 20 trillion rubles into it before 2020.  But won’t we now be stepping on the very same rake as in the eighties, won’t the president and premier be repeating the mistakes of the Politburo, initiating a thoughtless and dangerous arms race?  The key word here is thoughtless.”

“Of course, the draft State Program of Armaments, 2011-2020 is a document under the top secret seal.  Does this mean the public shouldn’t discuss and understand what trillions will be spent for.  Or is it the prerogative of a narrow circle of interested officials — lobbyists for the VPK and the military?”

“The trouble is old and familiar.  Recently deceased  Academician Georgiy Arbatov wrote about it in 1990:  ‘An affair most important for the country and the people — defense, security, fantastically large military spending — was monopolized by a narrow group of generals and general designers from military industry.’  And further:  ‘I think the military shouldn’t be given a monopoly on assessing the threat of war.  Just the same it’s reasonable not to make this assessment without accounting for its opinion.’  It just shouldn’t dominate this.”

Thank you Mr. Spasibo.  A good article.  He has a clear point of view on the issue of the GPV and where the Russian military might or might not be headed.  But where does it leave us?

Just a little commentary . . . Spasibo says Russia aims to match NATO, the U.S., and maybe China too.  This raises the issue of whether it should aim for this and whether it can achieve this.  The answer to both is no.

That is, however, not the same thing as saying the Russian Armed Forces don’t need to modernize.  If they were smart, they’d aim for capabilities to offset the advantages of their stronger potential enemies.

That means difficult picking and choosing, something we haven’t seen much of in the GPV, where it looks like every service is at the table awaiting a full meal.

Russia is definitely not France, but this doesn’t mean Moscow has to defend everywhere.  Perhaps it should prioritize and worry more about Vladivostok and China than about Iturup and Japan.

Spasibo does a good job of pointing out that there are at least as many problems in the VPK, the OPK as in the military itself.  And yet there’s no real effort yet to remedy them.  All of this goes to whether Russia can reach whatever aim it sets for military modernization.  As Spasibo says, they might just be sending good money after bad.  They may be risking a repetition of past mistakes by overspending on arms, but, of course, they may not even get a chance to repeat these mistakes if money isn’t allocated.  Remember that previous GPVs died of financial starvation in their infancy.

One’s not sure about Spasibo’s argument on Moscow’s promotion of an arms race.  Right now, only the Russians need to ‘race’ — and the race is to catch up after years of falling behind.  And it doesn’t necessarily need to catch up to the extent that it duplicates U.S. capabilities.

And yes Spasibo’s right in saying these defense expenditures should be debated and decided more widely and publicly, but unfortunately Russian citizens have even more basic and important political and social issues that need that kind of scrutiny first before they get down the list to military procurement.

The Foggy Goal of the GPV (Part I)

In its February issue, Sovershenno sekretno’s Vladimir Spasibo examines the State Program of Armaments, 2011-2020, and tries to say if Russia can afford it.  Or more importantly, whether the new GPV makes sense given that Russia is unlikely to go to war with NATO, the U.S. or China.  Spasibo also casts a critical eye at whether the OPK is up to the task of fulfilling the GPV.  This author doesn’t vouch for Mr. Spasibo’s numbers and math; they are relayed as in the original.  But his arguments are interesting and useful.

Spasibo says, after 2013, the GPV’s 22 trillion rubles [19 trillion for the Armed Forces] will amount to almost 4 trillion annually for the military, or 8 percent of Russia’s GDP as compared with 5 percent in the U.S. and 2-3 percent in other NATO countries.  Buried a little down in the text, he cites Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov on the 1.2 trillion ruble State Defense Order for 2010, and Prime Minister Putin’s assertion that this amount will triple in 2013.

And the military actually wanted more — 36 trillion, which Spasibo claims would be 15 percent of GDP, an amount equal to the Soviet defense burden before the USSR’s collapse.  He asks if this isn’t too much for a country just emerged from an economic crisis.  And what threat is this colossal military budget directed against?

He turns to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s explanation to Der Spiegel:  terrorism, proliferation, and NATO expansion.

Spasibo suggests the thrifty French defense reform which, for less than Russia’s 22 trillion rubles, “Created a small, balanced grouping with modern equipment.  Capable of instant reaction and an adequate response to any threat to France’s interests.”  He continues:

“The approach of the current Russian military, more precisely civil-military, leadership toward reform of the Armed Forces is somewhat similar.  The preconditions, it’s true, are different, and the goals are foggier.”

Who, asks Spasibo, are Russia’s enemies, and against whom is it supposed to fight?  The Military Doctrine and other pronouncements make it sound like the answer is the U.S. and NATO, as well as nonstate irregular armed forces inside and outside Russian Federation borders . . . leaving Moscow to prepare both VKO against a high-tech enemy with highly accurate long-range weapons, and low-tech enemies conducting guerrilla warfare and sabotage-terrorist actions.

Spasibo then turns to thinking about which services and defense enterprises will get GPV money:

  • According to its commander, the RVSN will replace 80 percent of its ICBM inventory (roughly 300 missiles) by the end of 2016 for a price that Spasibo puts at 1.9 trillion rubles.
  • Spasibo thinks VKO and PRO might cost 3 trillion by 2020.
  • The Air Forces are looking to renew 70 percent of their aircraft, 1,500 aircraft in all including 350 new combat aircraft for 3.8 trillion.
  • Spasibo believes the Ground Troops will get 7.6 trillion to replace combat vehicles including 60 percent of their tanks and BMPs, and 40 percent of their BTRs, that are over 10 years old.
  • And the Navy, as reported elsewhere, will get 4.7 trillion.

That all adds to 21 trillion rubles.

Golts on the Sudden Increase in Officers

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.

More on the Military Personnel Zigzag

Wednesday’s Argumenty nedeli looked briefly at the reversal of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s cuts in the Russian officer corps, as well as plans to increase officer pay.

AN said Serdyukov said 70 thousand officers were needed to establish Air-Space (Aerospace) Defense (VKO), but noted he didn’t say where he would find so many officers for such a complex and specialized military field.

Those thrown out of the service in the course of implementing the “new profile” can’t be brought back, and training new officers will take 10-12 years following the reform of the military education system and the liquidation of the Mozhayskiy Military-Space Academy.

And, says AN, radically increasing pay won’t be so simple.  The budgets for 2011 and 2012 have been approved, so pay raises will have to wait until 2013 and 2014, after a new Duma and president have been elected.  And increasing the number of contractees [also with higher pay] will be another factor in army financing problems.

A General Staff source told AN:

“The approximate manning of VKO in all duty positions, including conscripts, contractees, and officers, will be 20-22 thousand.  This means the majority of duty positions will transfer there from Space Troops (KV), air defense troops and missile defense.  But after the mass cuts there aren’t enough commanders on the level of company, regiment and even brigade commanders.  And in all services and branches of the Armed Forces at that.  Therefore, it’s incorrect to think that all 70 thousand are going into VKO.”

According to him, the establishment of any new service [if it is a service rather than a branch], especially one as high-tech as VKO, requires “decades of work by all staffs.”

AN also cites Aleksandr Khramchikhin:

“It seems to me that constant casting about on the size of the officer corps just says that military reform issues haven’t been worked out in a strategic plan.”

A short item that says a lot . . . just a couple comments:

  • This piece is saying that VKO officers and specialists will be taken from the ranks of those currently serving in KV, PVO, and PRO.
  • The 70,000 additional officers will plug holes in command positions throughout the Armed Forces.
  • It would be difficult to bring back dismissed officers.  But there are lots of serving officers living in limbo outside the shtat (штат), outside the TO&E at the disposition (распоряжение) of their commanders, who could be called back to their units.
  • Military education’s been hammered, but it looks like Mozhayskiy’s still operating.
  • Delivering the promised new higher pay system in 2012 will be difficult under current and projected budgetary constraints.  So it’s another opportunity for the regime to fail.  But the Kremlin and White House don’t really need to worry about military votes anyway.
  • Kramchikhin’s right on.  Serdyukov’s idea to cut the officer corps in half – from more than 30 to 15 percent of Armed Forces personnel – was right.  But he failed to plan properly for it, and he tried to do it too fast.  Without accounting, or compensating, for the myriad historical, economic, and cultural reasons Russia had so many officers in the first place – reliance on conscripts and the lack of a strong NCO corps being first and foremost.  So another correct step is discredited by hubris, lack of foresight, and poor execution.  Serdyukov didn’t need to measure seven times before cutting, but twice would have been nice.
  • Taking “decades” to put VKO in place would certainly be the old-fashioned speed of Russian military reform.  But if it’s to be done quickly and successfully, it has to be done with more care than Serdyukov’s demonstrated over the last four years.

Shamanov Returns to Duty

VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov reported for duty today a little more than three months after his BMW was slammed by a truck on the highway between Tula and Moscow.

Shamanov was discharged from Burdenko Main Military Clinical Hospital in late December, and has been on rehabilitation leave in Sochi since then.

Also injured in the accident, then-acting commander of the Tula-based 106th Airborne Division, Colonel Aleksey Naumets remains in the hospital in satisfactory condition after more surgery.

The Tajik national who rammed into Shamanov’s service vehicle admitted his guilt in the accident.  He remains in custody while the investigation and court proceedings continue.

Hypersonic Cruise Missile for Navy?

Yesterday Lenta.ru relayed an Interfaks item in which NPO Mashinostroyeniye General Director Aleksandr Leonov said Russia is working on a naval hypersonic cruise missile.  But, he said:

“It’s difficult to say when all this will be turned into metal.  But technically today I don’t see obstacles to this direction being realized this decade.”

Leonov also claimed that development of this missile is included in GPV 2011-2020.  He didn’t talk about the characteristics of the missile, but said the general trend is to increase its speed to hypersonic, not to increase its range.  It’s designed for anti-ship and land attack missions, and will be fired from various launch platforms.  

Leonov noted that today up to 80 percent of Russian Navy cruise missiles were developed by NPO Mashinostroyeniye.  It produced both the Granit (SS-N-19) and Bazalt (SS-N-12) ASCMs.

He didn’t mention that the hypersonic missile development’s being done as part of Russia’s BrahMos joint venture with India.  Some sources claim the BrahMos II cruise missile has surpassed Mach 5 in stand testing.

Military Men Refuse Apartments

The military housing story is interesting, but, regrettably, also neglected of late.  And lots has happened on this front in recent weeks and months.  At every turn, the Kremlin, White House, and Defense Ministry have tried to convince Russians that they honored former President Putin’s pledge to provide permanent apartments not later than 2010 to all servicemen entitled to them. 

Putin and the government may say they delivered 50,000 apartments in 2010, but they didn’t necessarily reduce the line for military housing or satisfy the government’s obligation to retired, or retiring, servicemen.

Newsru.com provided a good story on this last Friday.  And it’s not the first time it’s been told.  

A Defense Ministry source told Interfaks more than 20,000 apartments acquired for servicemen are unoccupied.  They and their families have refused to move in because these apartments lack access to essential services and infrastructure.  He says:

“On 1 January 2011, according to preliminary data, 20 to 25 thousand apartments built for servicemen in various regions of Russia were unoccupied.  But officer families are refusing to receive such housing built, as it’s called, in an empty field, where there are no schools, no clinics, no stores.”

United Russia member, Deputy Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, and frequent critic of the government’s military policy, Mikhail Babich told Interfaks the “process of building and receiving housing, organized by the Defense Ministry’s State Order Directorate, generally contradicted common sense and the interests of servicemen, who weren’t even asked where they want to settle after dismissal into the reserve.”  Babich continued:

“It goes without saying now the Defense Ministry has a large quantity of unoccupied apartments which officers have refused because of their lack of social infrastructure, opportunities to find daycare for their children, schools, and also even to find work for themselves.”

The Audit Chamber told lawmakers last year that the “absence of necessary coordination in the activity of the Defense Ministry’s State Order Directorate and FGU ‘Rosvoyenzhile’ in a number of  the country’s regions led to buying apartments in volumes significantly exceeding real demand for them.”

The Audit Chamber said in the Central MD alone more than 50 percent of apartments in the cities of Kinel, Balakov, Almetyevsk, Salavat, Kopeysk, and others are unwanted.  A check showed that local authorities permitted 9 apartment blocks in Serpukhov, Chekhov, and Khimki, which lacked essential infrastructure (heating mains, water supply, sewer), to be accepted for use, and this led to improper expenditures in the amount of 1.6 billion rubles.

Makarov Interview

Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer published an interview with the Chief of the General Staff, Army General Nikolay Makarov last Tuesday.  It’s not exactly a hard-ball interview.  But it’s fairly consistent with his other statements.  Among the priorities, preserving mobilization appears again.  Inter-service C2 in the new OSKs is a big theme.  He can’t explain why the Air Forces aren’t getting more new aircraft, and PVO sounds like it’s destined for joining VKO under the Space Troops. 

VPK asked about the possibility of changes in Russia’s military doctrine following the NATO-Russia summit and more talk of a strategic partnership.  Makarov said the approach of NATO infrastructure to Russia’s borders and the alliance’s continued “open door” policy vis-a-vis Ukraine and Georgia are still factors in Russia’s military doctrine.  Therefore, there’s no need to adjust it.

Makarov expounded on the concept of force and force structure development [строительство] to 2020 adopted by President Medvedev last April 19.  Its main measures include:

  • Establishment of the air-space (aerospace) defense (VKO) system;
  • Formation of the optimal composition of inter-service troop (force) groupings on strategic axes;
  • Supporting mobilization of military formations and troop groupings;
  • Establishing modern command and control systems;
  • Deploying military towns of a new troop basing system;
  • Reequipping formations and units with new and future types of armaments and military equipment;
  • Resolving social protection issues of servicemen.

Asked about military science and operational training, Makarov said the main task of the military-scientific complex is to “support the training and employment of the Armed Forces in their new profile, especially inter-service training of the military command and control organs” of the new MDs / OSKs. 

Makarov admitted that Russia lags behind developed countries in reconnaissance and command and control, and is still using communications systems developed in the 1990s.  He continued:

“Another problem is the fact that every service and troop branch of the Armed Forces developed its own means of automation and communications without looking at the others.  The command and control systems of the Ground Troops, Navy, and Air Forces didn’t interface with each other, that lowered the possibilities for controlling troop groupings on the operational-strategic and operational level.”

He says the General Staff has given the OPK requirements for high-tech digital reconnaissance and communications systems.  Industry is already developing a fundamentally new, sixth generation radio system with digital signal processing to implement a net organization in radio communications.  He says it’s being built as a unitary, integrated net at all levels, from the General Staff to the individual soldier on the battlefield.  Command and control systems will get 300 billion rubles under GPV-2020, according to Makarov.

Sounding very much the net-centric warfare disciple, Makarov says the main task is to form a unitary information space uniting reconnaissance, navigation, command and control, and new generation weapons.

Makarov doesn’t have a good answer when asked why the Air Forces don’t have a single fully reequipped unit despite increased defense expenditures.  He maintains they are getting new aircraft and their units are now all permanently combat ready and fully equipped and manned.

On aerospace defense, Makarov says PVO, PRO, SPRN, and KKP (space monitoring) will be concentrated in the hands of one commander, but:

“I’d like to note this won’t be a simple, mechanistic merger of different military entities under the leadership of a new strategic command.  Their deep integration and echelonment by mission, information exchange, and interception fire is envisaged.  We’ve already started fulfilling the initial measures on this issue.”

Obviously speaking much prior to last week’s news about reversing cuts in the officer ranks, Makarov addressed the moratorium on inducting new cadets.  He said 78.5 percent of 2010 VVUZ graduates became officers.  Others, he says, who wanted to stay in the service were temporarily placed in lower-ranking [i.e. sergeant] posts, but will participate in command training and form a cadre reserve for filling officer positions.

Lastly, Makarov talked about the new military pay system coming next year.  Military retirees have been especially concerned about its effect on pensions.  Makarov didn’t say much to assuage them.  He said there will be no difference in pensions depending on when servicemen retired, and a commission under Finance Ministry leadership is working on the issue.  That will probably reassure army pensioners.