Category Archives: Manpower

The Rest of Government Hour

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.

Shoygu in the FC

Shoygu

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.
Russian Peresvet laser for point defense of ICBM bases

Peresvet laser for point defense of ICBM bases

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.

Toy Soldiers

Cadets at the Tula Suvorov Military School

Tula Suvorov Military School Cadets

In NVO, historian Stanislav Ivanov asks how much “cadetization” of Russia’s youth is justified? Even a good thing like military education for the young, he says, shouldn’t be taken to extremes.

A 2012 Duma roundtable concluded that cadet, Suvorov, and Nakhimov schools weren’t well-regulated legally, and lacked unified teaching plans, programs, and content, according to Ivanov who works as a researcher at IMEMO. Standard uniforms, diplomas, and professional qualification documents were absent except in the case of MOD-run Suvorov and Nakhimov schools.

There are, Ivanov writes, 31 educational institutions for boys and girls operating under MOD auspices, more than 3,500 other cadet-type organizations (cadet corps or cadet schools under different ministries, departments, and RF territorial components), 150 specially-named educational institutions, and 51,000 “cadet classes.” The latter are a cadet-type program run in a civilian school. Junior ROTC on steroids.

Ivanov notes that the concept of cadet education is supposed to be a unified, targeted process of indoctrination and learning in the historical tradition of Russian cadet corps. He continues:

But the time has come to bring order to the chaotic and fragmented system of cadet education, to bring it into some kind of standard and legalization in the relevant law.

As a 1964 Suvorov graduate, Ivanov says he wants to analyze the pros and cons of the accelerating large-scale “cadetization” and militarization of Russia’s young generation.

The first nine Suvorov Military Schools opened in 1943 as part of the answer to thousands of pre-school and school-age children left without parents or relatives during the Great Patriotic War. Soon there were 22, and students included not just orphans, but sons of military officers and CPSU officials. In 1975, however, they were reduced to just eight Suvorov schools and one Nakhimov school.

The military schools fulfilled their purpose, according to Ivanov. Many students became generals, thousands became senior officers, and still others occupied important state posts. They served in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Chernobyl, Afghanistan, Chechnya, and Syria. Current General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov graduated from the Kazan Suvorov Military School. The end of the Cold War, however, took away many reasons for conflict with the West. So Ivanov writes:

In these conditions, the process of such large-scale militarization of the childhood and adolescence of Russia’s young generation does not seem entirely understandable. In fact, the number of children, boys and girls dressed in military uniform compared with wartime and post-war times has already grown not dozens or hundreds, but a thousand times. Some have to live in closed military-training institutions, practically in barracks conditions. From my own experience, I know how it is separating children from their families, from their homeland, friends, comrades, national customs and traditions. All early limits on freedom of movement and personal life, barracks life and drill don’t contribute to the harmonious development of an individual. And there are serious doubts about the possibility of picking up hundreds of thousands of decent officers, warrant officers, civilian teachers and educators for such a number of cadets. Local authorities and chiefs of cadet schools don’t always correctly understand the specifics of the child’s worldview. So at the cadet induction ceremony in Zlatoust they showed young students techniques for dispersing mass protests in a demonstration provided by FSIN [Federal Prison Service] Spetsnaz. Officials called the performance “vivid and spectacular,” noting that it was conducted in the framework of the program on “patriotic indoctrination of civilian youth.”

Ivanov is referring to the video below.

As Novaya gazeta described, the exhibition was primarily for the “benefit” of the fifth grade “cadet class” in uniform at right.

There are, Ivanov continues, many important and necessary professions besides military or government service. And in addition to normal school programs, those who dream of a military career can study military history, visit military museums and firing ranges, or participate in military games, without being isolated from their families. It’s not obligatory to go around constantly in military uniform or live in a barracks. So many prosecutors, investigators, police, baliffs, and customs officials are wearing military uniforms today that it has lowered the uniform’s significance in Russian society to some degree. Obviously, veterans of war and military service don’t altogether accept the sight of juveniles bedecked with medals and badges received for participating in parades or other ceremonial events.

Ivanov concludes:

. . . the mass “cadetization” or militarization of Russia’s children today is not justified by anything and is rather temporary, the state is simply trying to simplify the indoctrination process. It seems officials have found in cadets a replacement for the Young Pioneers and Komsomol and suggest to society through the media and education system that enemies once again surround Russia and are preparing to conquer it from without. So they’ve dressed millions of little Russians in military uniforms and are trying to indoctrinate them in the spirit of devotion to the authorities.

If a law on cadet educational institutions were adopted, Ivanov says it should strictly limit them in number, regulate their programs, uniforms, and rules for wearing them. A more limited number of schools could even improve the quality of the students. Meanwhile, other “military-applied” activities could be upgraded so youth can participate without having to leave their families for the dorm or barracks of a cadet school.

A thought-provoking article. One wonders if some parents resort to cadet schools because of underfunding and poor conditions in civilian schools. Education, like health care, isn’t exactly a regime priority. Interesting too that Ivanov doesn’t even mention Putin’s 600,000-strong Yunarmiya including both cadets and many students not enrolled in cadet schools.

Contractee Goal Quietly Pushed Way Right

A couple years ago Russia’s MOD aimed to have 499,000 professional enlisted soldiers — contract servicemen — manning its forces in 2020. That goal has, without notice, dropped to 475,600 by the end of 2025.

The MOD has been unable to get above 384,000 contractees for several years. Every year it claims to sign up its annual quota of 50,000, but separations are high enough to stop progress toward its ultimate contract manning target.

Pankov-240.jpg

Pankov

TASS recently reported Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov — who supervises execution of MOD manpower policies — said this about recruiting volunteers into the ranks during 2019:

More than 50,000 men were accepted into military service on contract which allowed for manning the armed forces with well-prepared specialists, and the main emphasis was on the quality of candidates being selected — 70 percent have professional education.

“Professional education” means some type of post-secondary schooling (community college, trade school, etc.) short of a university degree.

Recall Moscow has, since the early 2000s, tried to establish contract service — a program to attract and retain long-term enlisted personnel and build a strong non-commissioned officer corps.

The news agency continued:

The draft action plan for the RF Ministry of Defense in 2019-2025 calls for an increase in the quantity of contractees to 475,600 men by the end of 2025.

This “475,600 by 2025” is basically what General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov said last winter.

Cutting the number and shifting the date five years to the right is becoming official policy.

We haven’t seen a new MOD “action plan” yet. The last “action plan” covered the 2013-2020 period. That plan called for signing up 50,000 contractees every year to have 425,000 in the armed forces by the end of 2017.

Gerasimov said the Russian military had 384,000 contractees in late 2018. Defense Minister Shoygu reported the same number in 2016.

Russian Army recruiting is barely holding its ground even with new volunteers. This year’s 50,000 just compensate for those who don’t re-up at the end of their contracts.

In recognition of the MOD’s recruitment dilemma, the RF government in September increased base pay for contractees by 50 percent, raised compensation for family housing, and also supplemented specialist pay and performance bonuses. It remains to be seen if this will attract more men into the ranks.

Recruiting is difficult for any military. The U.S. Armed Forces invest great resources into the effort because human capital acquisition is the sine qua non of military power.

Of course, Russia intends to continue drafting men to serve. But maybe it’s reached some natural limit on its ability to attract volunteers.

Perhaps Moscow has signed up the easiest and most willing candidates and, in some HR corollary to the law of diminishing returns, MOD attempts to recruit the next one increasingly demand more effort, time, and expense.

It Was That Bad

General-Lieutenant Yevgeniy Burdinskiy

General-Lieutenant Yevgeniy Burdinskiy

Another lesson in the value of collecting and following data points over the long term.

On October 24, GOMU Chief General-Lieutenant Burdinskiy made a simple statement to the Russian media:

“The manning of the armed forces is 95 percent, since 2012 this indicator has risen by 35 percent.”

So Russian armed forces manning was only 60 percent of the nominal org-shtat in 2012. The forces were undermanned by 40 percent.

Wow.

On these pages, reports of Russian military commentators to the effect that undermanning was 20, 25, or even 30 percent have been repeated and highlighted many times. But no one would have written or believed 40 percent undermanning. Now the report has come from GOMU itself.

As recently as seven years ago, that’s how bad undermanning was, and that’s how hard the Russian MOD worked to conceal the state of affairs with its manpower.

Now the MOD can demonstrate how dramatically its personnel situation has changed, but only by admitting just how bad it was in the past.

Airborne Data Point

Collect data points wherever you can. You never know when they’ll become useful, especially if you gather them over the long term.

Parade at the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School named for Army General V. F. Magelov

Parade at the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School named for Army General V. F. Margelov

In early November, Interfaks-AVN reported on a Russian MOD press-release stating that more than 40,000 airborne troops had just gone through a final examination for the 2019 training year.

The MOD statement said:

More than 40,000 servicemen in all formations, military units and sub-units of the VDV deployed in the Western, Central, Southern and Eastern military districts participated in the final examination.

So that’s 40,000 personnel in four divisions, four brigades, units, and sub-units. If we count only those eight formations, that’s certainly no more — probably significantly less — than 5,000 per division or brigade.

If 40,000 is right, then there hasn’t been much expansion of the VDV despite a 2014 report that the elite Russian force could grow by 20,000 troops from a base level somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000.

He Simply Couldn’t Take It

Shamsutdinov detained in his barracks

Shamsutdinov detained in his barracks

Russian Army conscript Ramil Shamsutdinov may have killed his fellow servicemen because of the constant abuse he endured, according to a report in Gazeta.ru.

On October 25, Ramil Shamsutdinov killed eight personnel (including two officers) and seriously wounded two more during guard duty shift change at military unit 54160 in the Gornyy ZATO not far from Chita in Zabaykalye.

According to a former worker at the unit, one of the victims was “famous” for abusing his subordinates. Sources also said Shamsutdinov may have been ridiculed or singled out as a non-Russian. But the investigation on that score continues.

The 20-year-old was called up in early July, assessed to be psychologically stable, and allowed to carry a weapon. The draft board had placed him in the second group for “nervous-psychological stability” meaning he would experience a nervous breakdown only after being in a difficult or dangerous situation for a prolonged period. The MOD routinely trusts conscripts in this group to carry out missions with weapons and ordnance.

The MOD officially stated that Shamsutdinov’s actions may have been the result of a breakdown brought on by personal difficulties unrelated to his military service.

But, according to Gazeta.ru, media sources with sources in Shamsutdinov’s unit claim he was a target of constant abuse from other servicemen.

Tyumen news outlet 72.ru published a report from a unit source saying that one of Shamsutdinov’s victims, Senior Lieutenant Danil Pyankov, was well-known for abusing conscripts and driving them to a “serious psychological state.” Shamsutdinov is from a village in Tyumen.

The source said Pyankov once kept him awake studying military regulations for four days straight and forced his troops to put on and take off protective gear for five consecutive hours. He concluded Shamsutdinov simply couldn’t take it.

Shamsutdinov’s father — a policeman — said his son never complained about abuse from officers or more senior soldiers, i.e. dedovshchina. Friends say he once asked relatives to put money on someone else’s bank card because his was supposedly frozen. But he also said he planned to stay in the army as a contractee.

Unit 54160 is inside a closed administrative-territorial entity. It was formerly known as Chita-46 and is operated by the MOD’s 12th GUMO — Russia’s nuclear weapons custodial force.

It served the RVSN’s 4th Missile Division equipped with UR-100 (SS-11 / Sego) ICBMs at Drovyanaya in the 1960s and 1970s. In the late 1970s and 1980s, it transitioned to RSD-10 (SS-20 / Saber) IRBMs, then to mobile RT-2PM (SS-25 / Sickle) ICBMs before disbanding in 2002.

The unit is still under GUMO command and RVSN prosecutors went to investigate. It likely serves the 200th Artillery Brigade and newly-established 3rd Missile Brigade (Iskander missiles) in Gornyy and Drovyanaya.

The Russian military has avoided similar incidents for some time. The MOD claims the climate inside units and barracks has improved drastically over the past decade, but this assessment is apparently exaggerated.

With the fall draft underway, the MOD has to question the quality, or lack of quality, in the screening of potential soldiers. 

Can’t Get Beyond 384,000

Capture

Last week Russian General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov addressed a variety of topics in his annual briefing for the Moscow foreign military attaché community. According to KZ’s coverage, he said Russia continues to work at manning Russia’s military forces at 95-100 percent of their authorized level.

On contract service — the Russian military’s longstanding attempt to recruit, train, and retain large numbers of enlisted soldiers to serve alongside one-year conscripts — Army General Gerasimov said:

“The number of servicemen serving on contract has reached 384 thousand. This has led to a noticeable qualitative growth in the combat capabilities of sub-units.”

“The transition to the new system of manning combined arms formations, and also naval infantry and VDV formations, with contract servicemen has enabled them to have in their composition the necessary quantity of battalion tactical groups ready immediately to fulfill their designated missions. A further increase in the number of contract servicemen is planned.”

Anyone studiously following the process of Russian military professionalization would notice that 384,000 is the very same number given by Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu almost exactly two years ago.

Just over a year ago, the head of the MOD’s NTsUO — charged with day-to-day monitoring of the status of Russia’s armed forces — said the number was 354,000.

The MOD’s announced goals were / are 425,000 contractees by the end of 2017, and 499,000 by 2020.

So we’re safe in concluding that Russia’s contract service program is treading water. It has stalled with just enough new recruits to replace those who don’t renew their contracts.

The lack of civilian employment for young men and the attraction of joining the military’s mortgage program are not enough to encourage the number of enlistees the MOD seeks.

It’s also clear (and not surprising) the MOD is emphasizing filling the ranks of its frontline combat forces — combined arms, naval infantry, and VDV units — with contractees.

Perhaps most interesting, virtually no Russian media outlet is calling the MOD out on contract service. Just this from Denis Mokrushin:

“If the media checked what was said, they would quickly find out that the officially declared number of contract servicemen has not changed since 2016, Shoygu and Gerasimov always give the same number. But every time they talk about it as if over the past year there has been an increase in the number . . . .”