Monthly Archives: October 2011

Suit, Countersuit Over GOZ

Kurganmashzavod (photo: Nakanune.ru)

This story should be of particular interest to those following the VDV, Ground Troops, and their combat vehicles.  The specific problems of KMZ illustrate general dilemmas of the GOZ.  The GOZ money trail is slippery.  And it explains why modern, or at least new, weapons and equipment aren’t produced or delivered, and the GOZ is only partially fulfilled. 

RIA Novosti (via Vedomosti) reports the Defense Ministry filed suits against Kurganmashzavod (KMZ), of “Tractor Plants” Concern, for breaking GOZ contracts.  KMZ, in turn, entered three countersuits seeking 1.5 billion rubles from the Defense Ministry for violating its contracts.

KMZ claims the Defense Ministry stopped accepting its products in fall 2010, causing the factory to fail to meet its obligations.  RIA Novosti reports First Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Sukhorukov said KMZ would be fined 3 billion rubles for breaking its 2010 contract to produce the BMP-3.  Two billion has also been cited.  The first hearing will be next week.

Nakanune.ru indicates KMZ had no GOZ contracts for 2011, during which the plant counted on 12 billion rubles worth of production.  Instead, it produced only 4.7 billion worth for the first eight months of the year.

In May, Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy pointed to KMZ as a prototypical failure of the GOZ.  The factory got an advance of 350 million rubles but, instead of sending money to its sub-contractors, it used it on internal needs.

Academy of Military Sciences Professor and PIR-Center Conventional Arms Program Director Vadim Kozyulin says:

“I understand that the enterprise’s leadership could have its own reasons.  The plant has many problems which could look more important and pressing from a local viewpoint.  But some way or other the resources to fill the order for the supply of armored equipment for the VDV came in, but went for something else.”

Kozyulin says they have the same problem in other enterprises, “but ‘Kurganmashzavod’ fell right under the chop.”  He says it won’t go well for KMZ, and the Defense Ministry may refuse to give the factory future orders. 

Nakanune also cites CAST analyst Dmitriy Vasiliyev who agrees this isn’t just KMZ’s problem, but a problem of the Gosoboronzakaz as a whole.  Igor Korotchenko suggests KMZ has little chance of winning its case, and needs to seek an out-of-court settlement.  But perhaps it’s too late already. 

It may be that KMZ is being made into a convenient example because others want to take it over.  It is an area of the OPK that could stand some consolidation.

Kozyulin suggests troubled KMZ should merge with Uralvagonzavod (UVZ).  UVZ and Russian Machines are apparently after KMZ parent “Tractor Plants” Concern.  They’ve approached Vnezhekonombank, which owns 100 percent of its shares, about managing “Tractor Plants” Concern, but the choice of a managing firm has been put off until 2012.

It certainly sounds like KMZ is headed downhill.  The dueling law suits, the untangling of KMZ’s management, and, at some point, the reorganization and restoration of its production capability will take time.  This means possibly years of delays in filling armored vehicle orders for the VDV and Ground Troops.

You may recall United Russia member Igor Barinov excoriated KMZ earlier this year for its poor handling of GOZ funds.  VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov also blamed KMZ for delays in getting the first BMD-4Ms for his troops. 

Pukhov’s Perspective

Thanks to VPK.name’s retransmission of Interfaks-AVN, we can look at Ruslan Pukhov’s latest comments on the State Program of Armaments, 2011-2020 (GPV-2020).  Recall he’s director of the Center of the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

In a nutshell, AVN concludes Pukhov believes the Russian Army’s rearmament requires much greater resources than provided in GPV-2020, but the country’s economic possibilities don’t allow for spending more:

“Twenty trillion rubles which were proposed to allocate for the purchase of armaments and military equipment by 2020 — this is the minimum amount essential for rearming the army, but at the same time it’s the maximum possible volume of resources which can be spent on armaments, proceeding from the possibilities of the country’s budget and economy as a whole.”

Pukhov goes on to say some experts have said 36 or even 50 trillion rubles would be required to rearm all Russia’s armed services and branches completely.  That, of course, is beyond the economy’s capabilities:

“Even the current plans are highly ambitious and entail very high macroeconomic risks.  In the event of the actual fulfillment of the plans for financing GPV-2020, the average annual expenditures on purchases of arms and military equipment will come to 2 trillion rubles a year, that is nearly €47 billion at the current rate.” 

For comparison, Pukhov told AVN Britain and France, with economic potential similar to Russia’s, each spend less than €20 billion annually on new weapons.

Pukhov sees military spending of 4 percent of GDP when the Armed Forces’ other needs are considered:

“Accounting for the need to realize not just the rearmament of the Russian Army, but also to increase significantly the number of contractees, to improve soldiers’ food, clothing, and pay, to resolve the housing problem for servicemen, it’s impossible to exclude that at some time military spending could reach four percent of GDP.” 

He sees it as a very high share of GDP for a country facing the modernization of health care and education, and also the renewal of all its infrastructure.  Still, he concludes:

“But considering the country’s defense was underfinanced for fifteen years and the high probability of the aggravation of the military-political situation in the post-Soviet space, especially in Central Asia, the military expenditures provided are not only acceptable, but even absolutely essential.”

In these sound bites, Ruslan Pukhov’s views sound reasonable, independent, and nuanced given that he tends to reflect defense sector interests.  He recognizes Moscow’s at the limit of what it can spend on new weapons, and he cites figures you read here or here early this year.  He could have noted that the goal is only to renew 70 percent of the Armed Forces’ inventory by 2020.  He acknowledged it’s a lot of money for a country, and a military, facing other expensive challenges, but he maintains it’s necessary by pointing to the neighborhood Russia lives in. 

It’d be interesting, however, to see an interview or article exploring the possibility that Russia can meet its most likely, most realistic military threats and requirements more efficiently and effectively than envisaged under GPV-2020.  Perhaps some services, branches, and unified strategic commands need more money and modernization than they will get, and maybe others need less.  One doesn’t read much about relative priorities within the Armed Forces beyond the fact that the Navy will be emphasized and the Ground Troops won’t.  The rest of the military apparently will move forward on a very broad front.  It’s probably not the best force modernization approach.

MER and SP Doubt GOZ Prospects

Andrey Klepach

Yesterday the Ministry of Economic Development (MER) and the Audit Chamber (SP) expressed serious doubt about the government’s ability to fulfill the state defense order in 2011 and 2012.  Speaking to a Duma hearing on the draft budget for 2012-2014 covered by RIA Novosti, Deputy Minister Andrey Klepach said:

“Our Gosoboronzakaz won’t be substantially fulfilled this year and it’s highly probable it won’t be fulfilled next year.”

Deputy SP Chairman Valeriy Goreglyad also told the parliamentarians that expenditures on the army and national defense are:

“. . . not only the least transparent, but also the least effective from the point of view of using state resources, particularly those connected with the Gosoboronzakaz.”

“Therefore, in the first place, a different system of contracting is needed in this area, like in no other [area], a transfer to a federal contracting system where the entire technological cycle [planning to contract fulfillment] is supported.”

Other media outlets largely repeated RIA Novosti while adding a little background.  They reviewed President Medvedev’s comments on the failure of GOZ-2010, and on GOZ problems this spring, as well as repeated government and industry failure to meet Prime Minister Putin’s deadlines for completing all GOZ-2011 contracts.

These outlets also mishandled Defense Minister Serdyukov’s statement from last week about having only 20 billion of 581 billion rubles in GOZ-2011 funds remaining to obligate.  Several news sources inaccurately called it GOZ-2012 money.  As ARMS-TASS reports, the government’s Military-Industrial Commission won’t start reviewing the draft GOZ-2012 until mid-November, and no contracts for next year have been negotiated or placed.

To make things just a bit worse for the government, ex-Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin repeated his budget priorities to a U.N. Millennium Development Goals conference yesterday in Moscow.  According to Utro.ru, Kudrin said:

“I already expressed my position that the increase in military expenditures in Russia is creating a threat to increasing and supporting programs in the area of health and education.  I would give less of an increase in money now for military needs than for health.”

Serdyukov and Baranets

Anatoliy Serdyukov (photo: Vladimir Belengurin)

Komsomolskaya pravda’s Viktor Baranets got to prompt Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov for a few statements on various topics in today’s paper.  It doesn’t seem like he really got to ask questions.

Serdyukov claims all but about 3% of GOZ-2011 has been placed, and 100% advances to the defense sector for 2012 will make for a smooth year of orders and production.  He “dodges the bullet” on not ordering Kalashnikovs.  He returns to the possibility of giving serving officers and contractees money to rent their own apartments, but this never worked well in the past.

Serdyukov says the first phase of military reform involved changing the Armed Forces’ org-shtat (TO&E) structure.  Now, he says, the second phase has begun, and it’s connected with rearming the troops.

On the state defense order (GOZ), Serdyukov says:

“During the formation of the Gosoboronzakaz, we had two issues with the defense sector — the price and quality of armaments.  We got them to open up their production “cost history.”  That is, they showed us everything transparently.  We needed to understand what they were getting and from where.  After long arguments, a compromise was found in the end.  We settled on quality criteria.  The Gosoboronzakaz is almost completely placed.  Of 580 billion rubles a little more than 20 billion was left ‘to settle.’  But we’ve also drawn conclusions from the lessons of this year.  Now the next Gosoboronzakaz will be formed in the Defense Ministry before December with such calculation that they will begin to fulfill it in January.  At the same time, we’re trying to make the Gosoboronzakaz 100% paid in advance to the defense sector.  Not another country in the world has such comfortable conditions for its VPK.”

Serdyukov says the Defense Ministry is still working on MPs, their regs, missions, training, structure, and size.  They’ll be responsible for discipline and order in garrisons and investigations.

The Defense Minister opines that Russia’s Israeli UAVs aren’t bad, but they are looking at Italian ones while domestic development continues.

Serdyukov confirmed that two new factories for producing the S-400 system will be built.  They are designed, and, he hopes, will begin production by 2015.

On tanks, the Defense Minister says they’ve taken the position that they can modernize T-72s to the level of a T-90 or better for 38 million rubles.  He believes it’s cost effective.

On the AK-74, Serdyukov claims they aren’t rejecting it, but they have depots overflowing with 17 million automatic rifles.  He says they’ll be used or modernized, some will be sold, and others transferred to other power ministries.

Serdyukov believes the draft military pay law now in the Duma will raise pensions by 50 or 60 percent.  Active military pay will be as advertised:  a lieutenant is supposed to get 50,000 or more rubles a month.  Contract enlisted will start at 25,000 or more depending on their duties.

Serdyukov hopes the problem of housing for retired servicemen will be concluded in 2013.  Then he can focus on service housing for contractees.  He proposes paying contractees to rent apartments while the Defense Ministry acquires or builds service housing.  “Apartment money” is a possibility but it has to be thought out.

Difficult Course to a Grand Fleet

Konstantin Bogdanov sees reason for pessimism when looking at the course ahead for rebuilding Russia’s fleet.  Writing in Friday’s Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, he says, despite an intention to spend 4.7 trillion rubles of the ten-year GPV on the Navy, there are technical challenges, clearly impractical schemes, and failures in what he calls the “organization-financial plan” ahead. 

Bogdanov provides us a handy review of the state of Russian shipbuilding.

He points first to OSK’s insistence on seeing new aircraft carriers (with nuclear-powered destroyers in their battle groups) on the Russian Navy’s horizon.  But Defense Minister Serdyukov has only a cold rebuff for the idea.  Early R&D into what a new carrier might look like is as far as he’s being willing to go.  It was made pretty clear that a carrier isn’t part of this GPV.

Bogdanov says OSK may be looking for work for the New-Admiralty Wharves it sees on Kotlin Island in the future.  The 30- to 60-billion-ruble shipyard could be ready in 2016.  An aircraft carrier project would help launch this idea.

Then Bogdanov turns to the Navy’s more immediate needs — frigates and corvettes.  

Proyekt 22350 frigates are needed by tens, if not 30, or even 40, of them.  But Northern Wharf is having trouble building them.  Lead unit Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Gorshkov was five years in construction, and its underway testing isn’t complete.  Fleet Admiral Kasatonov was laid down just about two years ago.  Its SAM system, Poliment-Redut with 9M96 missiles isn’t ready, and will have to be fitted right to finished frigates.  But Bogdanov sees the frigates’ VLS — the Multipurpose Ship Fire System (UKSK or УКСК) as a positive step.  It could fire antiship, antisubmarine, land-attack cruise missiles, torpedoes, and possibly SAMs.

When proyekt 22350 didn’t come along quickly, Bogdanov says, the Navy went for its own proyekt 11356M frigates like those being built for India.  But, he notes, Baltic Shipbuilding Plant “Yantar” in Kaliningrad isn’t having an easy time constructing them for its Indian and Russian customers.  There are delays in the Indian units, but Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen have been laid down for Russia, and Admiral Makarov should join them soon.  The contract for a second batch of three was just signed.  They’re supposed to be “localized,” but may actually be more like the Indian versions.  They’re slightly cheaper than the proyekt 22350 at 10 billion vs. 16 billion rubles per ship.

Northern Wharf has the order for nine proyekt 20380 Steregushchiy-class corvettes (with the proyekt 22350 frigates this comes to more than 220 billion rubles).  Soobrazitelnyy (proyekt 20381) began sea trials this year, Boykiy was launched, Stoykiy is under construction, and Provornyy (proyekt 20385) was laid down.  Sovershennyy (proyekt 20380) remains under construction at Komsomolsk-na-Amure.  Bogdanov says the proyekt 20385 ships will have an eight-cell UKSK.

Bogdanov notes, however, that Northern Wharf’s production won’t be steady until its ownership issue is finally resolved.  If OSK takes over, this could have a good or bad effect on fulfilling defense orders, but the current financial questions around Northern Wharf are even worse.

Turning to submarines, Bogdanov believes the situation is more transparent, but there are still questions.

The SSBN picture is pretty clear.  Proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBNs finally have a missile that looks like it works.  Yuriy Dolgorukiy has fired it, and Aleksandr Nevskiy might this year.  Vladimir Monomakh is under construction, and they’re preparing production materials for Saint Nikolay.

The problem, he notes, is units 1 and 2 used sections and components of proyekt 971 and 949A submarines never built.  Units 3 and 4 will be built from scratch, and it’s too early to say how this will be reflected in their cost.  Bogdanov concludes another battle over inflated prices awaits, and there is, of course, still no 2011 contract with Sevmash.

It’s less clear with the multipurpose proyekt 885, Yasen-class, of which the Navy wants ten by 2020.  But these boats have been the focus of the Defense Ministry’s familiar complaint about unjustified price increases.  Unit 1 Severodvinsk was built from materials and resources on hand, and its rising price was frozen at 47 billion rubles in 2005.  The Defense Ministry says Sevmash wants 112 billion for unit 2 Kazan

Bogdanov thinks it’s hard to tell who’s justified here.  There is structural industrial inflation, and a higher costs could be the result of the frozen handover price on Severodvinsk.

Bogdanov mentions the thought given to cheaper attack boats like the Victor III or Akula, or proyekt 957 Kedr which never left the design phase.  The Yasen is intended to replace Soviet-era SSNs and SSGNs, but Bogdanov thinks it’s too complex and expensive to be built in the numbers Russia may need.  Twenty years ago the Russian Navy was planning for not less than 30 [sized of course against the U.S. fleet], and currently it has not more than 30 SSNs and SSGNs, and this is considered insufficient. 

Despite the uncertainty above, Bogdanov says one still hears talk about the need to develop a fifth generation submarine, but it’s unknown if there will be any development work on one.
 

Cadre Changes

This is President Medvedev’s decree from Monday which has the swap of General-Lieutenant Zarudnitskiy for Tretyak as Chief of the GOU.

Relieve:

  • General-Major Valeriy Leonidovich Shemyakin, Deputy Commander, Military-Transport Aviation.

Relieve and dismiss from military service:

  • General-Major Yevgeniy Anatolyevich Derbin, Deputy Chief, State Administration and National Security Faculty, RF Armed Forces Military Academy of the General Staff.
  • General-Lieutenant Andrey Vitalyevich Tretyak, Chief, Main Operations Directorate, RF Armed Forces General Staff — Deputy Chief, RF Armed Forces General Staff.

Appoint:

  • Colonel Dmitriy Anatolyevich Voloshin, Chief, Combat Training, Long-Range, Military-Transport and Special Aviation, Chief Inspector-Pilot.
  • General-Lieutenant Vladimir Borisovich Zarudnitskiy, Chief, Main Operations Directorate, RF Armed Forces General Staff, Deputy Chief, RF Armed Forces General Staff, relieved as Deputy Commander, Southern MD.

The GRU and Other Siloviki

Yesterday a couple articles proved too interesting to pass up.  The first continued the theme of reorganization and reform in the GRU.  The second discussed generational change in the siloviki, and the GRU’s and the army’s place within the state security elite.

Stoletie.ru published an item on the “sad” reform of the GRU.  The article relays a couple lesser known stories of GRU history.  It covers most of the familiar story on General-Colonel Shlyakhturov [some lifted verbatim from elsewhere], but it includes a couple new details.

The author, Sergey Serov (ironically, same surname as the Beria henchman who headed the KGB, then the GRU before losing his post in the wake of the Penkovskiy case), claims with some merit:

“By the end of the 1980s, the GRU objectively had become the largest intelligence service in the world and one of the best informed.”

“But surprisingly, at the same time, it didn’t formally and doesn’t appear as a special service.  The Main Intelligence Directorate was and remains a purely army element, to which laws on special services don’t apply.  And the most outstanding GRU officer is less protected on a legal and social plane than a conscript serving in the FSB or SVR.”

“According to the current TO&E, the duty of director of the world’s largest intelligence service is a general-colonel.  And the Foreign Intelligence Service Director’s first deputies are also general-colonels.  Don’t even talk about pay, it’s not equivalent.  Also, agents like Anna Chapman in military intelligence, in contrast to foreign intelligence, have never been and could never be detected.  The GRU grew and got stronger in the years of global confrontation when large military actions by the USSR Armed Forces could have happened, and sometimes did, any place on Earth.”

“Why does a country which doesn’t have global interests requiring a military defense have the world’s largest military intelligence?  The question, sadly, sounds rhetorical today.”

“The reduction of the GRU’s intelligence and combat potential began even before General-Colonel Aleksandr Shlyakhturov.  As veterans of this intelligence service say, practically all foreign residencies were mothballed or completely eliminated, except those working in countries adjacent to Russia.  Really, why have an intelligence network in Latin America, Africa or Southeast Asia, if our country isn’t planning any kind of military action there even in the distant future?  For lack of need and with economizing in mind, they eliminated the largest intelligence center at Vietnam’s Cam Ranh.”

“But if you sort it out calmly, then it’s clear that Spetsnaz objectively became “a fifth wheel on the wagon” of the Main Intelligence Directorate.  And sending it under a foreign directorate had become unavoidable.  The problem is the fact that the Ground Troops, themselves being cut and reformed absolutely thoughtlessly, turned out unready to accept the Spetsnaz brigades, and now don’t know what to do with them.  So the future fate of Spetsnaz still has not been determined.”

“Today many assess the GRU reforms as the very destruction of an intelligence service.  I can’t believe the changes occurring fully correspond to Russia’s new foreign policy priorities.  If there are only friends around us now, how is it possible to suspect them of plots?”

Andrey Soldatov published the second article in Yezhednevnyy zhurnal

Soldatov contends a serious rift between the FSB’s generals and its rank-and-file officers developed over the rewards of service in the 2000s.  The former ensured riches for themselves, leaving the latter and those not serving in Moscow out in the cold.

More significantly for our purposes, Soldatov talks about serious divisions between Russia’s special services:

“In its turn, relations between the army and the FSB were decisively spoiled when the FSB was ordered to reinforce control over the army situation (the new Kvachkov affair, apparently, became one of the results).  In response, people close to Serdyukov started to become openly indignant at the special service’s interference in the affairs of the Armed Forces, and the idea of establishing a military internal investigations service which could replace osobisty in the units was given voice.”

So, Soldatov seems to ask, what does once-and-future President Putin do in his third term and beyond now that the siloviki, the security service chiefs he’s relied on, are near or over 60 and ready for retirement:

“Nikolay Patrushev, head of the Security Council, was born in 1951, FSO Director Yevgeniy Murov in 1945, Mikhail Fradkov (SVR) in 1950, Aleksandr Shlyakhturov (GRU) a 1947 birth, Aleksandr Tsarenko (GUSP) born in 1948, Viktor Ivanov, head of the FSKN in 1950 and, finally, Aleksandr Bortnikov, FSB Director, in November of this year will be 60.”

Soldatov suggests soon-to-be former President Medvedev knew someone like Shlyakhturov, and possibly other siloviki chiefs, would be willing to make unpopular cuts and reforms in his own fiefdom in return for a guarantee of a few extra years of service.

Soldatov’s point is to remind readers (once again) that the siloviki are far from monolithic.  They are divided along agency lines and within agencies.  Their biggest fights are among themselves.  But Soldatov also finishes with a warning that the mid-level siloviki are so passive, so resigned to their fate, that this could be dangerous when the country faces a real crisis.

New GOU Chief

General-Lieutenant Zarudnitskiy

President Medvedev’s decree today formally dismissed General-Lieutenant Andrey Tretyak, Chief of the Main Operations Directorate (GOU) and Deputy Chief of the General Staff, from military service. 

Recall 52-year-old two-star Tretyak was one of the “general troyka” whose early departure from the army was debated in the media this summer.

Taking Tretyak’s place at the GOU is General-Lieutenant Vladimir Borisovich Zarudnitskiy.  Here are some of his particulars courtesy of RIA Novosti.

The 53-year-old general-lieutenant was born on February 6, 1958 in the Abinsk, Krasnodar Kray. 

  • In 1979, he graduated the Ordzhonikidze Higher Combined Arms Command School in Vladikavkaz. 
  • He commanded a platoon and a recce company in the GSFG until 1985. 
  • In 1985-1987, he was recce chief in a GSFG regiment.
  • He attended and completed the mid-career Frunze Military Academy in 1988-1989.
  • In 1991-1994, he picked up his career in the Far East MD as chief of staff, then commander of a regiment.
  • In 1997-1999, he was chief of staff, then commander of an independent motorized rifle brigade in the North Caucasus MD. 
  • He graduated from the General Staff Academy in 2003, and commanded the 27th Guards Motorized Rifle Division in the Volga-Ural MD until early 2005.
  • Until early 2007, Zarudnitskiy was chief of staff, first deputy commander of an army in the Siberian MD, and then commanded the Siberian MD’s 36th Army based at Ulan-Ude until April 2009.
  • From 2009-2011, he was chief of staff, first deputy commander of the Moscow MD.  

When the six existing MDs were reformed into four, and the Moscow MD disappeared, Zarudnitskiy was assigned as deputy commander of the Southern MD until his appointment as GOU Chief today.

Zarudnitskiy’s a troop general, not a staff officer.  Like several other generals who’re moved upward, he served some time directly under General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov in the Siberian MD.

Once larger in size and stature, the GOU must be a tough assignment these days.  Zarudnitskiy is the organization’s fourth chief in four years.

Exercise Casualties

Russia’s fall exercises took a toll on some conscripts participating in them.  Three were killed in Union Shield-2011 at Ashuluk, and two more may have died during Tsentr-2011.

Life.ru reports a conscript died on September 26 from injuries sustained in a fall from a railroad platform while loading equipment during Union Shield-2011.

According to IA Regnum, at Ashuluk on September 24, an automated command and control system operator, a draftee, was found dead in a KamAZ.  An officer and two conscripts had to wait for help overnight when their vehicle broke down.  One of the conscripts apparently died during the night. 

On September 20, a Russian attack aircraft fired an errant air-to-surface rocket that flew several kilometers from its intended target before exploding, killing one soldier and injuring a second.  IA Rosbalt also noted Ashuluk was the scene of an August 23 ordnance accident that killed eight soldiers.

News outlets and military spokesmen are publicly disputing whether two tank crewmen died of carbon monoxide poisoning while President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov reviewed the concluding phase of Tsentr-2011 at Chebarkul on September 27. 

According to Novyy region, a Chelyabinsk rights activist says two conscripts died and the military is trying to cover up the accident.  Another source says the two men are hospitalized in critical and serious condition respectively.  The army says the men were poisoned by powder gases during training before Tsentr, and will soon be discharged from the hospital.  The Central MD’s press-service says the exercise was conducted without incidents, accidents, or equipment failures.

Military prosecutors are investigating at least some of these incidents.

Russian Military Power

Finland’s National Defense University has published a study entitled Russian Politico-Military Development and Finland.  If the media reporting is accurate, it may read a little like a latter-day Soviet Military Power.

Now few have read the document since there’s only a two-page English precis to go with press accounts of its contents.  Perhaps the entire thing will appear in English soon.

But here’s the gist. 

NATO and other Western countries believe war is an outdated idea, and U.S. power and interest in Europe are waning.  Russia, meanwhile, is seeking to revise the verdict of the Cold War, restore its great power status, and regain the Soviet sphere of influence.

It’s modernizing its crumbling armed forces with increasing investments [i.e. the 19-trillion-ruble State Program of Armaments or GPV 2011-2020].  The formation of the Unified Strategic Command (OSK) West (aka the new Western MD) has shifted the Russian Army’s center of gravity from Western Europe to the Northwest [at Finland].  And:

“The Russian armed forces are being improved by forming high-readiness forces with a capability of achieving operational results directly from peacetime employment.”

Finally, the study’s authors seem to see a Russian military resurgence that needs to be met by reinvigorating Finland’s territorial defense system:

“A large military reserve force is an indication of the will to defend the country, and has a major preventative value.”

It’s worth challenging three central propositions here.

Russia’s “increasing investments” in its military.  The Finnish report is reacting a priori to plans for large outlays for defense procurement that may or may not happen.  They authors are concerned about Russia’s intention to modernize, and what its forces might look like after modernization.  The current GPV could go the way of its predecessors; the first annual state defense order (GOZ) to fulfill the GPV isn’t exactly proceeding smoothly.  It’s important also to consider what’s being modernized.  In many cases, Moscow plans to replace arms and equipment from the 1980s and earlier, and not everything will be a world-class fourth- or fifth-generation weapons system.  Lots of the “new” models will be based on late Soviet-era designs.  

The shift to the Northwest.  To some extent, there may be an effort to get forces closer to their likely theater of operations.  But hysterical assertions of vastly increased Russian forces shouldn’t be taken seriously.  It’s largely the same forces organized differently, and certainly not all opposite Finland.  The creation of OSK West or the Western MD was also an attempt to cut redundant command and staff echelons and get the Ground Troops out of the expensive environs of Moscow and Moscow Oblast.  One could easily argue the Defense Ministry’s placed a higher priority on forces in the Southern or Eastern MDs. 

The formation of high readiness units.  The report’s authors are quoted as saying Russia’s high readiness forces will be ready to leave garrison, and begin offensive operations in an hour, according to Vzglyad’s interpretation of a Russian-language media outlet in Estonia.  In reality, the forces are now more highly ready to depart the garrison and get combat orders.  No one can say what those orders will say.  Any combat missions will have to be carried out by troops who generally have less than six months in the army, and they’ll be lucky to execute a successful defensive operation.  Also, let’s hope the Finnish study says that this high readiness was really more about getting rid of useless, hollow, low readiness cadre units.

But, as Newsru cites a former deputy commander of the OGV(s) in the North Caucasus, it’s hardly possible to talk about Russian efforts to encircle anyone “in the condition which we’re in, and with those obvious army problems which we have.”

No one should misunderstand.  The Finns are to be admired for their perspicacity when it comes to Moscow.  They’re keen observers of what’s happening in Russia.  They have to be. 

But there’s obviously a huge issue of perspective.  Things look very different from Helsinki, Washington, Paris, London, and Berlin.  Russia’s capabilities are somewhat hyped in a public debate about what level of forces and readiness Finland needs to deter Russia.

But, all in all, it doesn’t help anyone in the long-term to inflate [re-inflate?] a Soviet-style military threat.  A realistic assessment of Russian capabilities and intentions will lead to practical, affordable measures to counter them.