It’s worth wading through the rest of Russian Defense Minister Shoygu’s “government hour” address to the Sovfed to compare this speech to previous data points. His future remarks can be put in some kind of context against this baseline.
First, Shoygu briefly illustrated the condition of the Russian Army in 2012.
He said “modern” equipment amounted to only 16 percent of the total. Serviceable equipment (i.e. operational, not needing repair or overhaul) 47 percent.
The Defense Minister said Serdyukov-era cuts in officer corps created 61,000 rasporyazhentsy (распоряженцы) on which the MOD had to spend 32 billion rubles annually. These semi-unemployed officers occupied 28,000 service apartments and others occupied housing rented by the MOD at commercial prices.
So the rasporyazhentsy problem was a bigger one than the MOD ever let on. It was hardly discussed after 2012 until the MOD reported it solved in late 2019.
But back to Shoygu. He indicated 107,000 Russian servicemen needed apartments in 2012. There were only 186,000 would-be professional contract soldiers in the ranks. The air forces were short some 2,300 pilots. The MOD had 1,300 unneeded military towns on its books costing five billion rules to maintain. Only 21 percent of Russians thought the army could defend the country and only 28 percent considered the army prestigious.
Then he described major points in the Supreme CINC’s (Putin’s) May 2012 decrees:
- The share of “modern” weapons would be 70 percent at the end of 2020.
- Not less than 50,000 contractees would be recruited each year for five years (436,000 by the end of 2017?).
- Social protection of servicemen in housing and pay would be raised.
- Military-patriotic indoctrination of young people would be organized.
- Prestige and attractiveness of military service would be increased.
In answer to those pointed, Shoygu claimed the share of “modern” MOD systems is now 68.2 percent and will be 70 percent by the end of this year.
Strategic nuclear forces are more than 87 percent “modern.” He must be counting just missiles and warheads because many delivery systems (i.e. bombers and SSBNs) can’t really be called modern.
Serviceable equipment is 94 percent. More than 1,400 aircraft and more than 190 ships, boats, and support vessels were procured. The “combat potential” of the RF Armed Forces has more than doubled since 2012, according to Shoygu.
However, some weapons and equipment Mr. Putin wanted by 2020 won’t be delivered. Putin’s list in 2012 looked like this:
- 400 ICBMs and SLBMs.
- 8 Borey SSBNs.
- About 20 multipurpose submarines.
- More than 50 surface ships.
- Nearly 100 military satellites.
- More than 600 aircraft.
- More than 1,000 helicopters.
- 28 regimental sets of S-400.
- 38 battalions of Vityaz SAMs.
- 10 brigades of Iskander-M.
- More than 2,300 tanks.
- About 2,000 SP artillery systems.
- 17,000 military vehicles.
The eight Borey SSBNs and 20 other subs obviously won’t happen. Vityaz SAMs are just starting to reach the force. The tanks were supposed to be new T-14s but became modernized T-72B3Ms at best.
Other items did arrive: ICBMs, airplanes, helos, S-400s, Iskanders, etc.
But back to the speech. Russia, Shoygu said, is countering U.S. missile defenses with:
- Experimental combat duty of the Kinzhal ALBM.
- Flight testing of the Tsirkon ASCM / LACM.
- First regiment of Avangard HGVs on SS-19 Mod 4 ICBMs.
- The Peresvet laser system.
Defense Minister Shoygu recounted the “great experience” gained from the Syrian civil war.
He said every military district commander, staff officer, army and air army commander, division, brigade, and regiment commander has received combat experience in Syria. Ninety percent of flight crews and 56 percent of air defense personnel participated in combat there. Russia now has some pilots with 200 combat flights, according to Shoygu.
It’s clearer than ever that Moscow intervened in Syria not simply to raise its international profile, but also to have a place to test its weapons and train its personnel under real-world conditions.
Shoygu said the military has 225,000 conscripts and 405,000 contractees. The army’s sergeant ranks are fully contract as are Spetsnaz, Naval Infantry units, battalion tactical groups, and operators of complex systems.
Interestingly, no figure on the Navy afloat which is supposed to be virtually all contractee. This raises the official contractee number from 384,000 to 405,000. The number’s been steady just shy of 400,000 for the past four years.
Since 2012, some 775,736 servicemen have been housed per Shoygu. This includes permanent housing for 244,107, service housing for 226,712, and “real market rate” compensation for 304,917 renting on the local economy. Since 2014, 37,312 have used subsidies to buy or build in “places of their choosing.”
Odd he didn’t mention the military mortgage program which, since 2009, has been a key plank of solving the army’s housing problem.
Congratulating himself for reviving the Young Pioneers in the form of Yunarmiya, Shoygu castigated 12 regions where local authorities aren’t supporting this organization. He said he knows some Senators aren’t sponsoring their own Yunarmiya detachments.
Beyond the 1,300 in 2012 mentioned at the outset, Shoygu said the MOD has transferred 1,800 military towns to the regions. But this is, of course, not always a boon for the recipients. Sometimes the former garrison towns are a big burden.
Shoygu said about 90 percent of Russians “trust” the army, while “negative evaluations” have declined by 4.5 times.
It’s not obvious what polling the Defense Minister is referencing. Polls usually ask, “Can the army defend Russia in the event of a real military threat from other countries?” If that’s not trust, what is? Even Levada’s poll from 2010 showed 63 percent of the nation believed it definitely or most likely could.