Category Archives: Manpower

What Russian Army Doing?

Recall NAFO making fun of a Russian blogger who asked “What air defense doing” after Ukraine attacked Saky airfield in August?

In Topwar.ru this week, Roman Skomorokhov essentially asked “What Russian Army doing?”

He stridently criticizes the high-level decision-making and conduct of Russia’s war on Ukraine. He perpetuates the tripe about the Russian Army not actually being allowed to wage war. This, despite evidence of tens of thousands of war crimes.

Skomorokhov’s biggest question, however, is why Moscow isn’t using its entire million-man regular army in the war. Why aren’t mobilized reservists sent to the military districts instead of to the front in Ukraine. He predicts a slaughter. Perhaps he doesn’t realize Russia’s best combat units weren’t really that good and are now badly degraded. Maybe he doesn’t understand how little motivation Russian forces have. Or how much Ukrainian soldiers do.

Questioning of the Russian military has taken a sharp edge since the Russians were chased from Kharkiv, then suffered major losses in Donetsk (and most recently in the south toward Kherson). Rebukes like Skomorokhov’s are tolerated even though their vitriol exceeds that of independent Russian military journalists in the 1990s and 2000s.

Liberal media was shut down by Putin, but war hawks are unmuzzled, leading some to conclude their views are shared (and protected) by powerful folks in, or close to, the Putin elite.

Still, Skomorokhov’s editors make a post-script assertion that they aren’t “demeaning” the army or “sowing panic,” just highlighting the military’s mistakes so they can be corrected.

Here’s a translation.

Where generally is the Russian Army?

Since the Ministry of Defense still continues Operation “Silence of the Lambs,” one has to think up for oneself where Russia’s army is located generally and how it is fighting there. One could do a free essay on the theme “If I think it up myself, the worse for you,” but alas, statistics will have their place here.

What do we hear recently? Constant complaints about how the VSU1 is several times superior in manpower and equipment and as a result is developing its offensive success, seizing one populated point after another.

The Russian Army can’t offer proper resistance by virtue of these sad facts (mobilization of Ukrainian reserves and skillful leadership of the VSU by NATO officers) because it is constantly “regrouping,” which looks more like fleeing, supplying the VSU with the newest equipment in the framework of a “Russian lend-lease” program.

Here’s a just question: Why?

Why do we hear in the dispatches of military correspondents a strange litany of “Barsiki,”2 “Musicians,”3 NM LNR,4 NM DNR5 (but what the hell kind of policemen, Donbas tigers are there), Chechen “Akhmat-Force” subunits and only quite seldom slips “units of the 20th Army.” It’s clear we’re talking about the 3rd and 144th MRDs, there are also units of the 8th Army, but you really get the impression the Russian Army has been teleported and fights somewhere in another dimension. And there, yes, every day 200 VSU soldiers and officers are killed, another Su-25 is shot down and another “HIMARS” is destroyed.

If possible to say without sarcasm, then we really have some trash going on.

Everything happening reminds me of a duel between two boxers. For one side — the best of the Klichko brothers (good, let it be Vitaliy6, he speaks beautifully), for the other — Nikolay Valuyev.7 Everything’s in order with Klichko, but Valuyev will fight with shackles on his left leg and weights attached to him, with his right hand tied to his torso and his left eye blindfolded. And he won’t be allowed to hit Klichko in the head.

So how does the SVO8 look compared to the war Ukraine is conducting.

Generally, no matter how I tried, I couldn’t find a more or less sane definition of SVO. What the “special military operation” is in the view of the Russian command, it, the command, didn’t deign to explain. When the Americans conducted SVO “Desert Storm,” they didn’t hold back in any way and tore up Iraqis by all available means. In contrast to our army, which, to say it directly, has conducted a very strange war.

A very strange war, yes. Without destroying communications, wrecking bridges, power facilities, decision-making centers. That is, what all normal wars which end, begin with. And for some reason it was simply necessary to conduct this war with a military contingent of not more than 120 thousand men, not counting, it’s true, LDNR9 formations, volunteers, “musicians,” the Chechen contingent and “Barsiki.”

A question arises: if we don’t have enough manpower, why are 10% of the entire VS RF10 taking part in the SVO? What is the remaining 90% doing? And why instead of them is it necessary to send untrained (a couple firings is nothing) formations of mobilized reservists to the front? They aren’t even “Barsiki,” they are significantly weaker in terms of training!

What will this very same million men of the Russian Armed Forces be doing? Receiving their preferential mortgages?11 On maneuvers to show how our army is strong and powerful? That’s been shown already, as they say, in real time.

It’s forbidden to send conscripts to the SVO? So don’t.

Time to go through the figures

We expressly won’t take the Russian president’s order from August of this year12, but will take an earlier document as the baseline.

On 17 November 2017 Russian President V. V. Putin signed decree No. 555 “On establishing the manning of the Armed forces of the Russian Federation,” by which the size of the Russian Armed Forces was fixed at 1,902,758 personnel, including 1,013,628 [T.N. – uniformed] servicemen. The decree became effective on 1 January 2018.

Fact is, on 24.02.2022 the manning of the Russian Armed Forces was more than a million men. We’ll proceed from this.

Furthermore. Additionally our Defense Minister Shoygu in March of last year made an announcement from which it follows that “…in the Russian Army the number of servicemen on contract has more than doubled and exceeds 405 thousand, and the number of conscripts, on the other hand, has decreased.

Here’s a very important figure: in March 2021 there were 405 thousand contract servicemen. This, naturally, doesn’t include the officer contingent which is considered separately.

But on December 22, 2021, the defense minister made another announcement: “Officer manning had reached 96%, and manning with servicemen on contract in other ranks — up to 99.4%. Their number exceeds the quantity of conscripts by more than two times.” All these figures were presented by TV Zvezda.13

So at the very beginning of the SVO the Russian Army was fully manned with officers and contractees, the latter twice as numerous as draftees.

Question: Why is it impossible for almost half a million contractees to fight in the SVO?

It’s good now that in the fleet most serve on contract. But the number of servicemen in the Navy with all its structures, including admirals, captains and cooks ashore is nearly 150,000. Accordingly, without our not especially useful Navy, the General Staff still has at its disposition almost a million soldiers and officers.

Of course, the RVSN,14 repair bases, depots — they aren’t going anywhere. Border security is now on the FSB,15 and there everything is somehow in order. Broadly I direct attention to the fact that Kiev’s promise, “Russia will choke in a wave of terrorist attacks” didn’t happen, and this means the FSB is working as needed. But the RVSN is 60 thousand men, engineering brigades and the like — in short, insignificant.

And here’s where the issue gets ominous

Suddenly it happens that it’s forbidden to touch this million in any way. It’s simply as unreal as it is dangerous. The million has to sit in its PPDs16 and at most go out for exercises. But any other use of the troops is fraught somehow.

And so it’s necessary to call up another 300 thousand.17 And send them to Ukraine or however we’ll call the new territories which we are slowly beginning to surrender to the enemy. At least, the first formations have already gone there.

Why will mobilized 35-45 year old (and even older) men be more effective than contractees who serve in the VS RF today — I don’t have an answer. With the level of training the army can provide today, this is simply unprepared people sent to slaughter. It’s greatly unfortunate but this is exactly what it is.

As a result we have a picture that’s more than strange. The main combat missions in Novorossiya (let’s call it this still) are carried out by LDNR formations, “musicians,” Chechen and volunteer formations and “BARS” reservists on the one hand and units of the 8th and 20th Russian armies on the other.

How mobilized men whose military service was twenty years ago can be useful here, I can’t hazard to say. However they are sending them not to the Central or Eastern Military Districts to free up line units that are occupied for some unknown reason, but to the west.

The defense ministry’s conduct is as always: very strange and illogical actions against a backdrop of deathly silence. But evidently there they seriously believe that a 40-year-old mobilized man will be more effective than a contractee of 22-24. More uncanny stupidity doesn’t come to mind, but alas, they don’t explain anything to us, all information comes in the form of speculation, rumors and gossip.

Why is it forbidden to take from the Eastern Military District those units which shone so brightly in the recent “Vostok-2022” exercises? There they simply beautifully showed their level of training, what’s the problem? Apparently, there are some kind of problems because the million-man army continues to sit in its PDDs, but we read every day about how the VSU has superiority in everything.

This is completely incomprehensible. On paper we have more of everything than the VSU, we have the most. More aircraft, tanks, guns, MLRS, missiles. More trained soldiers and officers. Just more.

But under the conditions of this strange war, which our generals draw for themselves, we don’t have the possibility of using the million-man army. And into battle the mobilized will go, patriots equipped at their own expense, whom they’ll take from the lathe, or from the field. Because the biomass of systems administrators and marketing people have already left Russia’s territory.

Generally, our military department continues to demonstrate to everyone that its conceptions are of a higher plane of understanding than the common man. They are somewhere out there, in transcendental heights, incomprehensible to the mind of an ordinary man.

Evidently, the Ukrainians also don’t understand and act not so much brilliantly as effectively. And they occupy populated points which are now located on Russia’s territory. And they’re already beginning to shoot Russian citizens there.18

Generally there are very many questions, but we wish, of course, to get an answer to the most burning question: Where is our million-man army and why is it impossible to use it in the war in Ukraine?

P.S. The editors of “Military review” believe its our duty to say that we are now talking about problems and shortcomings not for the sake of demeaning the army and sowing panic, but so that the necessary conclusions will be made and mistakes corrected today and not allowed tomorrow. We express hope for understanding and regret for those who didn’t get it.

__________________

1 Ukrainian Armed Forces.

2 Barsiki means Russian reservists from the MOD RF’s Army Special Combat Reserve (BARS) system initiated about one year ago. Bars also means leopard, hence the subsequent reference to “Donbas tigers.”

3 Russians often refer to the Wagner mercenary group (named for composer Richard Wagner) as the “musicians.”

4 “People’s Militia of Luhansk People’s Republic.”

5 “People’s Militia of Donetsk People’s Republic.”

6 Mayor of Kyiv and former professional heavyweight boxer.

7 Russian State Duma deputy and former WBA heavyweight champion.

8 Специальная военная операция, special military operation.

9 Luhansk Donetsk People’s Republics.

10 RF Armed Forces.

11 Started in the mid-2000s, MOD RF program that puts money into a mortgage savings account each year for officers and soldiers who sign (and re-sign) service contracts.

12 Putin’s decree — not an order — from August 25 established that, from January 1, 2023, uniformed personnel of the RF Armed Forces will increase by 137,000 to 1,150,628. Total personnel will be 2,039,758.

13 MOD RF’s television channel.

14 Missile troops of strategic designation, often Strategic Rocket Forces in English.

15 Federal Security Service, inheritor of the KGB’s internal security mission.

16 Points of permanent basing, home garrisons.

17 300,000 is the lowest figure publicly mentioned for mobilized Russian reservists. The eventual number could be as high as one million.

18 The author is fully invested in the notion that Putin’s illegal “annexation” of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson makes these regions Russian territory. There’s no evidence the VSU has harmed any non-combatant there who claims to be a Russian citizen. It has, however, been shown clearly that the Russian Army intentionally killed civilians during its invasion of Ukraine.

For What It’s Worth

Read and consider a long thread posted yesterday by @igorsushko about the planning and conduct of Putin’s war on Ukraine.

It’s based reportedly on the insights of an FSB analyst who was involved at some level in preparing for the Russian Army’s invasion of Ukraine.

Obviously, many say this account isn’t genuine, it’s a fabrication, etc. Who can know? It’s the fog of war. Everyone has to decide whether they believe it’s authentic.

From this observer’s perspective, it rings true.

What follows are the best parts edited and consolidated.

Putin’s plan to invade Ukraine was kept secret from everyone.

The FSB’s analysis seemed to be a check-the-box exercise and it had to come out favorably for Russia. It contained no clue as to the depth and effect of Western sanctions.

The Russian Army’s KIA might be 2,000 but it’s probably closer to 10,000. It’s lost contact with two entire divisions. Of 20 paratroop “groups” deployed, only one had even provisional success.

Russia has proven utterly incapable of supporting its invasion force with supplies. Its roads can’t accommodate logistical convoys. With the Turkish straits closed to Russia, it can’t supply its force in Syria. For Russia, airlifts are akin to “heating up the oven with cash.”

It cannot possibly occupy Ukraine; it would need a force of 500,000. Moscow can’t find a Quisling to run the country on its behalf. And Putin can’t declare a general mobilization. It would cause an economic, political, and social explosion in Russia. There could be a political battle along anti-war and pro-war lines. The only way for Putin to keep control is to “tighten the screws” on his own people.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian resistance grows stronger. Ukrainians now hate Russians as much as the Chechens did in two wars. Though Putin is wantonly destroying major Ukrainian cities, they will be kept alive by humanitarian convoys arriving from the West.

Putin thought war against Ukraine would be a 100-meter dash; it turned out to be a marathon.

Putin doesn’t have an “off ramp” and has no options for victory. He faces the prospect of more losses. It’s like the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 when Tsarist Russia thought it would easily defeat the Japanese. But the Russian Army found itself in a state of calamity.

In economic terms, Putin’s deadline is June, by then there will nothing left of Russia’s economy. Finance Ministry efforts are like plugging holes in a ship with your fingers.

If Putin threatens war unless sanctions are lifted or rattles his nuclear weapons, it’s just a tactic to scare the West.

The SVR is sowing the media with false allegations that Ukraine is building its own nuclear weapons.

Somewhere in the chain of command, someone will refuse Putin’s order to go nuclear. Putin might not even give the order because self-preservation is his main goal.

Russian Military Pay Still Lags

Despite Defense Minister Shoygu’s announcement of “higher than planned” pay increases for Russian servicemen in 2022 and 2023, military salaries will still lag woefully behind cumulative consumer inflation amounting to more than 90 percent since 2012.

At the December 22 MOD Collegium, Sergey Shoygu said RF servicemen will get higher than planned pay increases in 2022 and 2023.

Conveniently for him, he didn’t say what the original plan was, so Russian officers and soldiers will simply take what the MOD gives and be grateful.

No one (outside the MOD or RF government) will know if it’s more or not. But on Runet, there are rumors (perhaps hopes) of 4, 5, or even 9 percent. Four one year and 5 the next, who knows?

At the Collegium, Shoygu also reported that a 3.7 percent indexation of military wages occurred in 2021. It was part of the first series of pay raises since 2012.

Announced at the start of 2018, the salary increases were supposed to be delivered in the amounts of 4.3 percent in 2019, 3.8 percent in 2020, and 4 percent in 2021.

So the actual indexation in 2021 turned out to be less than planned.

Recall that those raises didn’t compensate for the military’s eroded purchasing power. The RF’s CPI went up 50 percent between 2012 and 2018. The three indexations covered only about 12 percent of the rise in consumer prices over that period.

With RF inflation at roughly 8 percent this year, overall prices for essentials paid by Russian servicemen are now 90 percent greater than what they were in 2012.

A nice graph of Russian inflation over the past decade by Trading Economics based on Rosstat data. 

Speaking to same Collegium, the Supreme CINC of the RF Armed Forces Vladimir Putin stated:

One of the unconditional priorities is increasing the level of social guarantees to servicemen. Defenders of the Motherland are fulfilling special missions, often very complex, responsible, and risky ones and we will aim for them to receive worthy compensation for their service.

As in recent years, the base pay of servicemen should not simply correspond to the level of pay for labor in the leading sectors of the economy, but exceed it — we agreed on this with the government already several years ago.

For reference: this correlation is still preserved. The forecast average level of wages in the economy this year is 55 thousand rubles [per month], the average pay in leading economic sectors, that is oil, finance, transport is 62.2 thousand. According to my data, the Finance Ministry says a little more, in the Defense Ministry the average level of base pay of a serviceman at the rank of “lieutenant” in 2021 is 81.2 thousand rubles. It happens differently, various lieutenants serve differently, but the average level is 81.2 thousand, and, as I said, in leading sectors of the economy 63.2 [thousand].

The government needs to index the base pay of servicemen in a timely manner and in that amount which supports this correspondence and, of course, increase military pensions.

So Putin says, on average, lieutenants are making one-third more than employees in the main sectors of Russia’s economy — roughly 80,000 rubles per month versus 60,000.

Most Russian sources still place the average lieutenant’s base (rank and duty) pay at between 35,000 and 45,000. To get to 80,000, a lot of nadbavki (supplemental pay) are required. There are a large number of them and it’s pretty much completely within a commanding officer’s purview to pay or not pay them. They include many things — work with state secrets, special conditions of service, special combat training, at-sea service, command duties, class qualifications, special achievements, good conduct, service outside the RF, etc.

There are many reported cases of commanders requiring kickbacks from subordinates before authorizing these supplements.

The average Russian lieutenant might be very surprised to find out he’s averaging 80,000 per month.

The apparatus supplying Putin information on the situation in the military must be very interesting. It must assume absolutely no one tracks this stuff over time or compares what’s said today to what was said in the past.

At the time of the 2018-2020 indexations (which actually happened in 2019-2021), MOD finance chief Shevtsova said the average platoon commander was making 66,000 and the average lieutenant colonel almost 89,000. Now we’re supposed to believe an O-3 makes what an O-5 made just a couple years ago. It seems a bit improbable. And, as far back as 2014, she said military pay already exceeded salaries in the oil industry — reported as averaging 62,000 — so oil workers haven’t gotten raises in eight years?!

Collegium on VDV

Sergey Shoygu had news on the Russian Airborne Troops at yesterday’s collegium.

The Defense Minister claimed the Pskov-based 76th DShD will get its third air-assault regiment this year.

The Kamyshin-based 56th Air-Assault Brigade will consolidate to a regiment by the end of 2021 and redeploy to Feodosia.

There (presumably) it’ll join up with the battalion based there to become the third regiment of Novorossiysk’s 7th DShD.

The 56th was a Ground Troops formation before its handover to the VDV in 2013.

The MOD and VDV have long talked of returning to the traditional three maneuver regiment structure in airborne (air assault) divisions. It’s taken quite a while.

In Pskov, finding manpower, equipment, and housing won’t be easy. In the south, fleshing out the 7th DShD costs a brigade but makes sense. Still its redeployment won’t be trivial.

What else from Shoygu?

  • VDV units now have 72 percent “modern” arms and equipment.
  • The Airborne got their tenth battalion set of BMD-4M combat vehicles in February, and are slated to get two more in 2021.
  • Contractees now comprise 72 percent of VDV personnel.
  • The VDV have made 40,000 jumps and air-dropped 44 pieces of large equipment this year. Sounds like they’ll drop a battalion and some BMD-4Ms using a new guided parachute system as part of preparation for Zapad-2021.

Besides raising their “combat potential,” the VDV are also upgrading their C2 system and infrastructure in Crimea, Pskov, and Omsk (242nd Training Center), Shoygu said.

Demobbing [Corrigenda]

Here’s a mulligan after fouling the current authorized strength of the Russian Armed Forces on the first cut….

On May 26, Mil.ru noted the Russian Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps is demobbing about 2,000 servicemen after a year of conscript service. It’s not often the MOD site gives figures on troops going into the reserves.

Troops living well in stylish Kaliningrad barracks

Troops living well in stylish Kaliningrad barracks

If 2,000 are demobbing, a roughly equal number should remain to finish the last six months of their draft terms. So the 11th Army Corps has about 4,000 conscripts. 

The 11th Army Corps is one of four large ground formations established in Russia’s four fleet areas in the mid- to late 2010s.

By way of maneuver elements, the 11th is composed of a motorized rifle brigade, MR regiment, and tank regiment. It was rumored the MR regiment would become another brigade but it hasn’t happened yet.

The 11th is supported by tactical missile and artillery brigades, a SAM regiment, and recce battalion.

Here are a couple manning scenarios for the corps:

Possible 11th Army Corps Manning

The lower level is what Russian units looked like in the 2010s. The higher represents a more standard Soviet-era organization, similar to a division numerically.

What do 4,000 conscripts mean in the grander scheme of things?

If Russia’s Armed Forces are manned at 95 percent of the authorized number of 1,130,000 1,013,628, they have 1,075,000 962,950.¹ In last year’s conscription campaigns, 267,000 men were drafted. That’s 25 percent of 1,075,000 28 percent of 962,950.

Are conscripts 25 28 percent of the 11th Army Corps’ manpower?

At the lower postulated level — about 8,800 — 4,000 draftees would be 45 percent. At the higher — about 12,600 — they would be 32 percent.

If those 4,000 are 25 28 percent, how many personnel are in the 11th Army Corps? 16,000 Roughly 14,300. Certainly conceivable and this number sounds more like a corps even if the organization doesn’t look like one.

But if undermanning persists, perhaps 80-90 percent, conscripts are a more substantial share of 11th Army Corps manpower. In a corps of 12,600 on paper, manned at 85 percent of strength (10,700), 4,000 conscripts are over 40 percent of the force. In one of 16,000 manned at 80 percent (12,800), draftees are a third.

Full insight here is lacking, but if forced to make a judgement, it seems very possible the actual manpower of the Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps is lower and the percentage of conscripts in it higher than the Russian MOD would be willing to admit.


¹ President Putin’s ukaz of March 28, 2017 ticked the Russian MOD’s uniformed personnel upward from 1,000,000 to 1,013,628. Just nine months before, by ukaz, he dropped the number of MOD servicemen to 1,000,000 from 1,134,800 — where it had been since early 2008. 

Demobbing

On May 26, Mil.ru noted the Russian Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps is demobbing about 2,000 servicemen after a year of conscript service. It’s not often the MOD site gives figures on troops going into the reserves.

Troops living well in stylish Kaliningrad barracks

Troops living well in stylish Kaliningrad barracks

If 2,000 are demobbing, a roughly equal number should remain to finish the last six months of their draft terms. So the 11th Army Corps has about 4,000 conscripts. 

The 11th Army Corps is one of four large ground formations established in Russia’s four fleet areas in the mid- to late 2010s.

By way of maneuver elements, the 11th is composed of a motorized rifle brigade, MR regiment, and tank regiment. It was rumored the MR regiment would become another brigade but it hasn’t happened yet.

The 11th is supported by tactical missile and artillery brigades, a SAM regiment, and recce battalion.

Here are a couple manning scenarios for the corps:

Possible 11th Army Corps Manning

The lower level is what Russian units looked like in the 2010s. The higher represents a more standard Soviet-era organization, similar to a division numerically.

What do 4,000 conscripts mean in the grander scheme of things?

If Russia’s Armed Forces are manned at 95 percent of the authorized number of 1,130,000, they have 1,075,000. In last year’s conscription campaigns, 267,000 men were drafted. That’s 25 percent of 1,075,000.

Are conscripts 25 percent of the 11th Army Corps’ manpower?

At the lower postulated level — about 8,800 — 4,000 draftees would be 45 percent. At the higher — about 12,600 — they would be 32 percent.

If those 4,000 are 25 percent, how many personnel are in the 11th Army Corps? 16,000. Certainly conceivable and this number sounds more like a corps even if the organization doesn’t look like one.

But if undermanning persists, perhaps 80-90 percent, conscripts are a more substantial share of 11th Army Corps manpower. In a corps of 12,600 on paper, manned at 85 percent of strength (10,700), 4,000 conscripts are over 40 percent of the force. In one of 16,000 manned at 80 percent (12,800), draftees are a third.

Full insight here is lacking, but if forced to make a judgement, it seems very possible the actual manpower of the Baltic Fleet’s 11th Army Corps is lower and the percentage of conscripts in it higher than the Russian MOD would be willing to admit.

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.