Monthly Archives: November 2011

Makarov Reports to Public Chamber

Makarov Briefs the Public Chamber

According to Mil.ru, General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov reported to the Public Chamber today as part of its hearings on “The New Profile of the Russian Army:  Results, Problems, Prospects.”  Here’s a sampling of what he discussed.

According to ITAR-TASS, Makarov said there are 186,400 contract servicemen today, and there will be 425,000 in 2016.  Recruiters will work throughout Russia starting next year.  Prospective contractees will train for three months before signing contracts.  Minimum pay will be 23,000 rubles.  Makarov said 2012 will be a test year, and from 2013, 50,000 contractees will be signed up each year.

RIA Novosti printed Makarov’s stark assessment of Russia’s conscript manpower.  The General Staff Chief said, of all men liable to conscription, only 11.7 percent can be called up, and 60 percent of them are excluded for health reasons.  So, he concludes:

“Therefore we are practically faced with the fact that there is almost no one to callup into the Armed Forces.”

He said Russia’s current mobilization reserve consists of 700,000 ex-conscripts. 

Makarov suggested increasing the prestige of military service through a veteran’s preference system.  Former soldiers and officers would enjoy a priority in hiring for government service, according to RIA Novosti.

ITAR-TASS quoted Makarov on cuts in military command and control organs.  He indicated they’ve been cut by a factor of four — from 51,000 to 13,435 personnel, and this process continues.  One-third of C2 organs were disbanded, and the rest reduced in size several times. 

He indicated that, when the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus numbered 51,000, it occupied more than 20 buildings in Moscow.  The apparat is now in a single building.  Other buildings were sold off.  But Makarov assured his audience the effectiveness of C2 hasn’t declined because of the reductions.

Regarding the new pay system for officers, RIA Novosti wrote that Makarov said higher pay basically implements the old Order No. 400 on premium pay, but officers will still have the chance to receive extra “stimulus” pay under the new system.

ITAR-TASS printed Makarov’s figures on efforts to get rid of old ammunition.  According to the General Staff Chief, at the start of the year, Russia had 119.5 million tons of old munitions to destroy, but now only 7 million.  Less than one percent could be dismantled; the vast majority had to be blown up.  Makarov indicated the number of ammunition storage sites will drop from 161 at present to about 30.

Makarov defended his past criticism of domestic weapons and equipment by giving more examples where foreign systems are superior to Russian ones (i.e. tanks, MLRS, satellites), according to ITAR-TASS.  The general argued for increasing the range and service life of systems as well as providing better protection for soldiers operating them.

RIA Novosti reported Makarov intends to continue pushing for lower prices on arms and equipment the military’s buying.  He intimated there will be a “specialized department” for negotiating with producers.  He claimed shipbuilding contracts with OSK were concluded on the Defense Ministry’s terms.  He added that the military has given Almaz-Antey two years to build two new factories to produce the S-500, according to RIA Novosti.

ITAR-TASS relayed Makarov’s remarks on Russia’s airfields.  Makarov indicated Russia has cut from 357 military airfields down to 26 that he describes as meeting world standards.  Russia has eight air bases. 

He said pilot flight hours are at 90 per year.  He said it’s planned to increase them to 130 next year, and then to 220 at some point.

ITAR-TASS and RIA Novosti carried the General Staff Chief’s comments about threats on Russia’s borders: 

“Under certain conditions, local and regional conflicts can grow into mass ones with the employment of nuclear weapons.”

“The conflict which could occur in connection with the withdrawal of American troops [from Afghanistan] could lead to a local, regional and even large-scale one.  And we have to be ready for it.”

Guns and Money (Part I)

Ruslan Pukhov

What does Russia need to spend on defense?  Komsomolskaya pravda’s Viktor Baranets engaged Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Director Ruslan Pukhov on the issue recently.

It takes a bit, but the interview gets interesting, and it’s worth hearing, one thinks.

Baranets asks, do military expenditures depend first and foremost on the economy?  On government policy?  On the treasury?  On the military power of one’s enemies?  Pukhov replies:

“In the first place, on the requirements for guaranteeing national security, and secondly on economic possibilities.  But if the country faces serious threats, then maintaining adequate military power becomes an absolute priority.  And then the resources for these purposes are allocated without looking at the economy.”

OK, that’s standard, but the big question is if . . . if it faces threats and if those threats are really serious.  And one might quibble, you can’t allocate what you don’t have (at least most countries can’t).

Baranets probes further.  People want to understand the 30% jump in military spending.  Have external threats grown?  Pukhov answers: 

“We have to maintain large Armed Forces because of the country’s huge size and its borders with military giants, like NATO and China.  Here the correlation of our military potentials has significance first and foremost.  That’s one.”

“And two.  The most important mission for Russia will remain the preservation of powerful, but expensive strategic nuclear forces and advisably — nuclear parity with the U.S.  It’s clear nuclear arms are the main guarantee of our security.  They make a big war between contemporary world powers impossible.  I’m convinced that, if not for the nuclear shield, the fate of Yugoslavia would have awaited Russia in the 1990s.  That is forcible dismemberment with the support of a NATO intervention.”

“Yet another factor:  Russia is faced with real threats to its security in the form of terrorism in the North Caucasus where an ethnic separatist rebellion has transformed into a general Caucasus Salafist underground, but also in the post-Soviet space — in the first place, in view of Georgia’s aggressive actions.”

“Going further:  our Armed Forces are extremely obsolete technically, they lag the current level of military technology development and need renewal.  For almost two decades after 1991 our Armed Forces were totally and chronically underfinanced, didn’t receive new armaments.  After this almost 20-year ‘buying holiday’ it’s necessary now to pay up, trying in the most compressed time to overcome the accumulated lag.”

“And, finally, everything enumerated above has to be overcome in conditions of the fact, unpleasant for the national self-consciousness, but, alas, indisputable, that Russia is a poor country.”

Baranets asks, how can Russia be poor?  Pukhov’s answer:

“We actually have many natural resources.  And this, incidentally, is yet another argument for having effective Armed Forces.  Natural riches have to be protected.  But by the size of the economy we aren’t even in the top five countries in the world, and the main thing is we seriously lag behind developed states.”

“So we have to conduct military organizational development under conditions of a shortage of resources and significantly bowing before many other countries of the world according to our level of economic development and national wealth.”

“All types of resources enumerated by you [Baranets] are in short supply for us.  Industry requires serious modernization, the scientific-technical base, established in the USSR, is practically used up, the quality of human resources is also not at a high point — the technical training school system has collapsed, so finding qualified workers is an integral problem.  Now we can already talk even about the collapse of secondary education — more often illiterate conscripts are coming into the army, and how can you trust them with complex equipment?”

Baranets says some experts think 1.5 or 2 trillion rubles as foreseen for defense in 2012 is too much when compared with what will be spent on science, education, and health.  One can even hear pronouncements like “the army is stripping the people.”  Pukhov reacts:

“I repeat:  Russia’s in a situation where it’s forced to hurry to catch up and reestablish that which dissipated, was squandered and left adrift in the area of national defense in the 1990s.  Essentially, we didn’t develop, but, to the contrary, we collapsed the army.  Now we need to reestablish the army, buy new equipment and armaments.  This isn’t the army ‘stripping the people.’  This is them ‘stripping’ the army for long years.  But there is generally an old true formula — people who don’t want to feed their own army will feed a foreign one.  Education, medicine and other sectors can be self-financed to a significant degree.  The Armed Forces can’t be self-financed in principle.”

Pukhov covers a lot of ground.  And he makes sense of some stuff.  But some points are debatable.  He’s one who wants to blame the 1990s for everything when then-President Putin was also guilty of neglecting the army in the 2000s.  Yugoslavia did a good job of “dismembering” itself before NATO and Russia intervened.  Instruments other than force exist for managing Russia’s problems in the North Caucasus and Georgia.  Is there a realistic threat of having to feed someone else’s army?  Wouldn’t a slower paced military build-up be more sustainable?   

Part II tomorrow.

New Poll on Conscription

FOM's Poll on Conscription

The Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) just published a major poll looking at Russian attitudes toward the callup and obligatory military service.  It’s 48 pages, but here are some highlights.

The poll was conducted in July, with 3,000 respondents in 204 populated places in 64 of Russia’s regions.

Fifty-two percent of respondents favor a mixed manning system combining conscription with contract service, and 23 percent favor the callup only.

Sixty-four percent support the announced plan to cut conscripts and increase contract soldiers, although only 22 percent would support taking money from education and health care to pay for them.  Survey participants on average thought 34,500 rubles was worthy pay for contractees.

Fifty-five percent liked reducing conscript service from two years to one while 37 percent did not.  In the 18-30 age group, 65% supported the shorter service term.

In the population as a whole, 29% believe one-year service has reduced dedovshchina and “nonregulation relations” against 46 percent who feel nothing’s changed by it.  There were fewer of the former and more of the latter among respondents claiming intimate knowledge of army life.

The FOM poll showed strong support for a number of Defense Ministry initiatives to “humanize” conscript service.

Fifty-four percent were critical of draft evaders, but 34% were sympathetic toward them.

Finally, buried deep in the results, participants were asked for their views on the state of affairs in the Russian Army in coming years:

  • 19% said it will improve.
  • 19% said it will worsen.
  • 35% said it will stay the same.
  • 26% said hard to answer.

However, when asked to compare military service conditions today against those 10-15 years ago, more respondents said they are easier (39%), and many fewer said they are harder (14%), by comparison with Russians asked the same question in 2002 (just 6% and a whopping 64% respectively).

A Rock and a Hard Place

Russians in Tajikistan (photo: RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko)

Conscripts or contractees?  It’s difficult for the Russian Army to get the right kind of conscripts, where it needs them.  But, over time, it hasn’t been any easier to obtain long-term contract enlisted either. 

Last week, Izvestiya wrote about army plans to replace conscripts currently serving in its 201st Military Base in Tajikistan with contractees. 

An officer in the formation told the paper it’s too costly to keep 3,000 conscripts in Tajikistan, and, by the end of 2012, the Russian Army will replace half with contractees.  A GOMU source tells the paper replacing all 3,000 at once is “unrealistic.”  Contractees will reportedly serve on three-year deals getting 30,000 rubles per month.

The situation for Russians in Tajikistan, the officer says, is strained, and Tajik authorities regularly detain conscripts for one reason or another.  As an example, he cites the case of a conscript driver who killed three Tajiks last January.  Thus, he concludes, it would be easier with “professionals” – contractees —  who “know what they’re doing, and can be responsible for their actions.”

But there’s no reason to think contractees will avoid trouble any better than conscripts.  The first contract experiment proved that.  Contractees are more costly and just as difficult to control, if not more than their conscripted brother-soldiers.

According to Izvestiya, the 201st now has 5,500 personnel, including the 3,000 conscripts.

An old Krasnaya zvezda report says, in early 2007 – at the height of the first, failed attempt at introducing contract service – the military base had 7,000 servicemen in all, about 60 or 65 percent contractees.  Its two maneuver units had 50 percent or fewer in their ranks.

Back then, the Defense Ministry daily said the military was all set to send conscripts in place of hired soldiers.  It was hard to convince older, experienced men to go to Tajikistan because of the difficult living conditions and prospects for serving on contract in Russia.

As Izvestiya’s interlocutor intimated, relations between Moscow and Dushanbe are a bit strained right now, prompting some to wonder out loud if manning the 201st won’t become a moot issue.

33,000 Unfinished or Unwanted Military Apartments

General-Major Chvarkov

Candor is a quirky thing.  It has a way of showing up in places you expect it least.  So it was yesterday when RIA Novosti covered General-Major Sergey Chvarkov’s meeting with members of the Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee.

Chvarkov is the relatively new head of the relatively new Main Directorate for Personnel Work.  The new name replaced an old one — Main Directorate for Socialization Work, GUVR for short.  Chvarkov and his charges are inheritors of the long tradition of zampolits and the Main Political Directorate.

According to Chvarkov, over the past year, military investigators have initiated 20 criminal cases involving the construction of thousands of unfinished and unwanted apartments intended for Defense Ministry servicemen.  But he declined to give specific details about the cases.

Deputy Committee Chairman Nikolay Sidoryak, however, said at present there are 33,000 apartments in various regions which are unwanted by servicemen.  He called this a “nightmarish figure.”  He wants those who ordered these apartments and financed their construction brought to account.  It’ll be interesting to see when or if this happens.

Early this year, a figure of only 20,000 was cited.

RIA Novosti gives a couple clipped Chvarkov phrases — the housing “isn’t fully ready,” and “a great number of refusals are happening.”  Then:

“I’ve personally seen buildings which stand in an empty field with absolutely no infrastructure.  Servicemen getting notifications that they’ve been granted housing go there, say the housing’s magnificent, good, but we don’t want to live there — we’re tired of garrisons.”

Committee Chairman Viktor Ozerov, for his part, says it’s all just a misunderstanding, and the Defense Ministry’s requirements for builders are just too tough.

RIA Novosti notes former Deputy Defense Minister Grigoriy Naginskiy claimed nearly two years ago that apartment construction was following detailed information on where servicemen want to live.

It would be easy to see the military housing issue as all but over and done with if one listened only to official political or military pronouncements, but reality just keeps coming back.  It smacks of a Soviet approach – fulfilling the plan and meeting the quota is what matters, how [i.e. quality] is secondary.  It makes one ask if this is more broadly indicative of how other decisions and policies are implemented.

Now permanent military apartments are supposed to be provided in 2013 (three years later than Putin’s original deadline).  And Putin himself said not long ago that there are only 77,000 apartments remaining to be built.

These unwanted apartments are exactly why some veterans have gone out for public demonstrations lately.  

It’s been clear for some time that the Defense Ministry builds apartments where it wants to, not where former servicemen want to live.  And it wants to build where it’s less expensive.  Paperwork problems have kept half of new military apartments empty each year.  And the problem of incomplete construction has also been around.  Not much about this situation’s changed in recent years.  But here’s one more recent article detailing the problems of permanent apartments built for the military.

It’s 60-40 for Serdyukov

Serdyukov and Ivanov (photo: Komsomolskaya pravda)

After a couple months and 50 votes, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov got past his predecessor Sergey Ivanov by a margin of 30 votes to 20 for the title of better defense minister.

It was interesting.  Serdyukov (your author’s choice) jumped out to a big lead, and Ivanov spent the rest of the time trying hard to catch up, but never quite making it.  Every time Ivanov started to, Serdyukov supporters came out and boosted his numbers.

It was surprising though.  Your author thought Serdyukov would crush Ivanov.

Of course, none of this was scientific.  And it was a fallacious comparison.  The men arrived in different circumstances and experienced different situations.

For this author’s money, though, Serdyukov has done a much better job with the hand he was dealt.  Primarily because he’s actually done some things.  And he broke the uniformed military’s grip on defense policymaking.  Granted, the results haven’t been exactly perfect.  And, over time, views of Serdyukov will be influenced by what comes after him.  But 60 percent in this little poll isn’t a bad showing for a guy who encountered and tamed a lot of resistance along the way.

Ivanov, by contrast, was timid, tentative, and generally ineffective, in this writer’s view.  To be fair, he held less favorable cards by comparison, especially early on.

It may possible, of course, that the 20 votes for Ivanov are anti-Serdyukov votes rather than pro-Ivanov.

If you voted and would like to comment about your thinking either way, others would be interested to read it.

Medvedev Signs Pay Law

Medvedev's Meeting on Pay Law

Monday President Medvedev met an unusual group — the Defense Minister, General Staff Chief, and MD / OSK commanders (but no service CINCs or branch commanders) — to announce he signed the long-discussed law on military pay that becomes effective on January 1, 2012.

The increased military pay in this law was a key goal for Anatoliy Serdyukov when he arrived at the Defense Ministry nearly five years ago.  Premium pay was just a stopgap.  So this is a success for his reform program.  His idea was to cut half (or more) of the officer corps and raise the pay of those remaining.  Of course, he had to back off somewhat on cutting down to 150,000 officers.

Why did it take so long to enact an increase in military pay?  Was it hard to find the money?  Maybe, given the global financial crisis of the late 2000s.  Was it hard to overcome former Finance Minister Kudrin’s resistance to higher defense outlays?  

Newsru.com, Svpressa.ru, and others see the pay increase as timed to coincide with Duma and presidential elections, and designed to engender the military’s goodwill toward the current leadership at the ballot box.  It’s worth noting the reduction in conscription from two years to one came in the context of the last national elections in 2008.

According to Kremlin.ru’s account, Medvedev indicated he wanted to congratulate those assembled on their long, hard effort to raise military pay to its new level, on average 2.5 or 3 times above today’s pay.  RIA Novosti provides the standard example of lieutenants rising from 19 to 50 thousand a month. 

In addition to higher base pay, the usual supplements will remain in effect, including additional pay for special duties, class qualifications, and difficult service conditions.  Premiums of up to three times base pay for outstanding performance will also continue.  Military pensions will increase at least 50 percent to 17,000 on average.  Read more about pay calculations here.

Addressing his small audience, Medvedev said:

“In such a way, servicemen have a very serious stimulus to carry out their service duties well and improve their professional training.”

He was careful to say those without duty posts (the so-called распоряженцы) won’t be left behind:

“It also includes important provisions, which, in principle, allow us to prevent worsening of the material situation of different categories of servicemen, citizens, dismissed from military service, their family members, if the amount of pay given them is reduced in connection with introducing the new system, then here there is an established mechanism of compensation and balancing out of these payments that is also an important guarantee of financial stability for our servicemen.”

Not reassuring.  But those guys won’t vote for United Russia and Putin anyway. 

The president continued:

“I won’t conceal that many drafts were ripped up around it, there were many discussions about whether we were prepared to raise pay to such a degree, whether the state had the resources for this, whether this wouldn’t drain our budget, wouldn’t create some kind of problems in the future?”

“I want to tell those present and, naturally, all servicemen of the Armed Force to hear me:  it won’t drain us, everything will be normal, and all required payments by the government will be made because this is the most important guarantee of raising the professional preparation of servicemen and improving the quality and effectiveness of the Armed Forces.  Therefore, the decisions, proposed several years ago, are being executed and put into action by this law.”

Thanking Medvedev, Serdyukov said:

“For us, in a complete sense, this resolves all earlier problems:  this is manning with both officers and contractees; this is serving; this is the attractiveness of military service, the fact is this is the entire complex of issues which weren’t practically resolved for us.”

Medvedev completed his remarks with this:

“But the main thing the state, by adopting this law, its signing and, accordingly, its entry into force, shows is that decisions once given voice are subject to unconditional fulfillment, whether someone likes them or not, if depending on them is the social condition of a huge number of people:  these are servicemen and their family members.”

“And further, we will do this so that our Armed Forces will be highly effective, and service in them will be prestigious and highly professional.”

So Medvedev declared it a test of governmental capability, and swiped at dear departed Kudrin who opposed the extent of defense budget increases in view of priorities like education and health (not to mention the pension fund).

It takes capability to implement a decision, yes, but it takes even more to stick with it over the long term.  Will the Russian government be able to continue the new level of military pay when the elections are over, economic conditions less favorable, oil prices and revenues lower, and budgets tighter?  That’ll be the true test of capability.

P.S.  We shouldn’t forget that the Defense Ministry has also semi-obligated itself to paying 425,000 professional enlisted contractees 25,000 rubles or more a month in the future.  That will probably equal the bill for paying officers.  Let’s estimate this total cost at 500 billion rubles a year.  The non-procurement defense budget in 2009 was only 670 billion.

VKO Cadre Changes

Didn’t have to wait long for this.  This morning President Medvedev signed out the ukaz with appointments to command positions in the VKO Troops (VVKO).

Kommersant’s source was mostly, but not completely, right.  Valeriy Ivanov will be chief of staff, and Sergey Popov, the chief of air defense for the Air Forces, will move to VVKO to command its Air and Missile Defense Command.

Appoint:

  • General-Lieutenant Valeriy Mikhaylovich Ivanov, Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander, Troops of Aerospace Defense, relieved as Commander, Operational-Strategic Command of Aerospace Defense.
  • General-Lieutenant Sergey Aleksandrovich Lobov, Deputy Commander, Troops of Aerospace Defense, relieved as Deputy Commander, Space Troops.
  • General-Major Oleg Vladimirovich Maydanovich, Commander, Space Command, relieved as Chief, 153rd Main Test Center for Testing and Control of Space Systems.
  • Colonel Konstantin Aleksandrovich Ogiyenko, Commander, 5th Air Defense Brigade.
  • General-Lieutenant Oleg Nikolayevich Ostapenko, Commander, Troops of Aerospace Defense, relieved as Commander, Space Troops.
  • General-Major Sergey Vladimirovich Popov, Commander, Air and Missile Defense Command, relieved as Chief, Air Defense, Deputy CINC of the Air Forces for Air Defense.

There you have it.  What looks like it will be a new service — VVKO — is born, and an old branch — KV — apparently will go away.  More presidential paperwork on that is likely forthcoming.  But today we’ve learned who’s in VVKO’s head shed, and that its two major components will be, not surprisingly, the Space Command and Air and Missile Defense Command.

Team VKO Taking Shape

Team VKO is taking shape according to Kommersant.  Last fall, President Medvedev, of course, ordered the establishment of a unified VKO.  Since then, it’s become clear that Space Troops (KV) Commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko would head it.

And KV will be the base for the new service [vid or вид].  According to the Genshtab plan, VKO will unite all PVO and PRO systems.  And it will control the current KV, Moscow-based OSK VKO, and PVO units from the Air Forces.

The paper’s Defense Ministry source says VKO’s top officers have been identified, and paperwork was sent for Medvedev’s signature last month.  So expect a decree soon.

General-Lieutenant Valeriy Ivanov will be in charge of PVO and PRO for VKO.  He’s a 50-year-old career SAM officer, who commanded PVO divisions or corps in the Far East, Volga, and Moscow MDs.  From 2007-10, he commanded the Far East’s 11th AVVSPVO.  He became commander of the OSK VKO about this time last year.

General-Major Oleg Maydanovich is a 47-year-old KV missile engineer who will head VKO’s space monitoring.  He has long service at Plesetsk and Baykonur, and has been chief of both.  He’s now chief of Russia’s space systems testing and control center.

Colonel Andrey Ilin will be chief of the VKO’s command and control post at Krasnoznamensk.  He served many years at the space tracking post in Shchelkovo.  He’s been chief of staff at Plesetsk since last year.

70 Years Ago

It was an event that sparked our interest in the USSR, in Russia.  Red Army troops marched heroically from the November 7, 1941 parade marking the 24th anniversary of the October Revolution straight into battle on Moscow’s outskirts.  Here’s how RT covered today’s reenactment.

Here’s the grainy film showing the actual event.

One can’t help imagining what these young men faced, and what must have happened to them.

Here’s Stalin’s speech.

Stalin, who was paralyzed for days after German invasion, tells the Soviet people that, although conditions are difficult, they aren’t as bad as what the country faced in 1918.  And he declares the German Army has not gained the quick victory it expected, and is not invincible.  But Stalin also promises an early defeat of the invaders that wasn’t in the cards either.