Category Archives: Officer Corps

Pchela’s Daughter

Order the flowers . . . Russia’s March 8 (and 9) celebration of International Women’s Day has started.

On February 27, KZ highlighted Yekaterina Olegovna Pchela who may become Russia’s first female LRA pilot.

She’s a cadet at the Krasnodar Higher Military Aviation Pilot School (KVVAUL) and the only woman currently studying to fly Russian strategic bombers.

Cadet Pchela’s the start of what Russians like to call a “military dynasty.” Her father — Oleg (promoted to one-star general-major rank on February 20) — has commanded the 22nd Guards Heavy Bomber Aviation Donbass Red Banner Division at Engels since 2017. It operates Tu-160 / Blackjack and Tu-95MS / Bear H bombers.

Cadet corps at KVVAUL

Cadet corps at KVVAUL

The Russian MOD first allowed women to attend KVVAUL in 2017, but restricted them to transport aircraft.

According to the school’s deputy chief, now there’s at least one woman studying each of four specialties: one in attack aviation, one in long-range aviation, seven in fighters, and the balance in transports.

On average the women get higher marks than the men. KZ’s editor adds there are 45 women enrolled in KVVAUL.

Female second- and third-year cadets will fly for the first time this spring.

The number of women in the armed forces hasn’t gone up much over the past decade. There were 50,000 in 2012. Perhaps only 40,000 now despite increased opportunities for them in the ranks. Polling indicates about two-thirds of Russians don’t want their daughters to serve.

The move to a Russian Army more reliant on volunteers than draftees, however, means Moscow can’t ignore a large pool of valuable human capital — young women.

A land where male chauvinism has long prevailed, Russia still trails Western countries significantly in this respect. U.S. service academies were open to women by the second half of the 1970s and the first female USAF B-52 pilot was flying in the early 1990s.

Yekaterina Olegovna

Then there’s nepotism. We don’t know anything about Ms. Pchela’s selection for KVVAUL. We have to assume she was a qualified applicant and is a promising future officer. She’s been getting a bit of media star treatment though. Not at random, she was picked to ask Putin questions during last June’s “direct line” with the president.

Russian mothers and fathers worry about hazing and violence against their sons in the army. So they certainly worry about sexual harassment and assault on their daughters. Oleg Pchela’s presence and position in LRA protects Yekaterina in this regard. But it’s likely more difficult for female cadets without fathers who are senior military officers.

Sleight of Hand

The Russian MOD is performing some financial sleight of hand on military pay. Having announced indexation of military pay and pensions over several years beginning in early 2018, the MOD has now adjusted the schedule so that any rational Russian officer or NCO has to question the MOD’s real intentions.

The MOD increased pay and pensions by 4 percent on January 1, 2018 and promised similar raises in 2019 and 2020. Russian military personnel likely anticipated 4 percent on January 1, 2019.

However, on October 22, Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova told Krasnaya zvezda the MOD will now raise pay and pensions on October 1, 2019, October 1, 2020, and October 1, 2021 by 4.3, 3.8, and 4.0 percent respectively.

Шевцова Татьяна Викторовна

Survivor Shevtsova will reach 9 years in the MOD next May

So instead of 12 months, it becomes 22 months between raises. Then presumably they will become annual (and the military even gets a bonus year in 2021). But likely no one is holding his breath for that.

Ms. Shevtsova didn’t have as much joy for the MOD’s roughly 900,000 civilian workers. She said certain categories of civilians in military-scientific institutions are making 95,000 or 84,000-86,000 rubles per month. The pay schedule for the lowest-earning MOD civilians has been increased four times during the past three years, she said. But it must be so insignificant that she didn’t deign to illustrate with examples of how pay for those workers has been raised.

Northern Fleet civilians ask for respectable wages

Recall, until January 1, no indexation for inflation had been provided since the Russian military salary structure was revamped and increased in 2012. Cumulative inflation in the interval has amounted to 50 percent. While tame right now, annual inflation for 2018 is still running at 2.5 percent which eats some of this year’s pay increase.

Kremlin Raising Military Pay

Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova told journalists on Friday that military pay and pensions will increase four percent per annum in 2018, 2019, and 2020. RIA Novosti reported that the defense budget will include 18, 22.6, and 41.2 billion rubles each year for that purpose.

Kremlin Raising Military Pay

Shevtsova said a lieutenant serving as a platoon commander will make 66,100 rubles on average this month. That’s roughly 2,500 rubles more than he earned each month in 2017. A lieutenant colonel battalion commander will add 3,400 rubles making his pay 88,700 per month.

It’s sounds like four percent is being applied to the entire pay package — to rank and duty pay and to supplements [надбавки] that not all serviceman get. If this is the case, four percent won’t have the same monthly impact for officers and contractees not receiving supplemental pay. Past pay increases have typically applied only to rank and duty pay.

Shevtsova’s 18 billion would provide an extra 30,000 rubles a year for 600,000 officers and contractees, but 41.2 billion in 2020 won’t cover that year’s bill. A lieutenant might get an extra 8,000 per month or 96,000 in 2020. Multiply that times 600,000 and the MOD will need 57.6 billion rubles.

Shevtsova says a retired battalion commander will receive an extra 947, 1,932, and 2,956 rubles in his pension every month in 2018, 2019, and 2020. That means the pension for that lieutenant colonel is 23,675 rubles at present. The increase reportedly will go to 2.6 million military pensioners, according to RIA Novosti.

As NVO noted, in June 2017, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin addressed military pay publicly for the first time since 2012. It hasn’t been indexed for inflation once during the interval according to NVO.

But Putin said he wants to improve the “material stimulus” for the MOD, MVD, FSB, and SVR. With another presidential election looming, he wanted to show he’s still concerned about men in uniform.

This isn’t easy when the federal budgets scarcely have money for it and economic recovery is weak.

Still four percent raises will be welcome. But they won’t make up for the eroded purchasing power of military pay. The CPI in Russia has increased more than 50 percent since May 2012. 

Military men are doing reasonably well in the Russian economic context now.

Shevtsova claimed the average monthly military salary in 2014 was 62,000 rubles, roughly the same as in 2017. She said that was 10 percent more than average pay in Russia’s oil and gas sector, according to RIA Novosti. It also appears to exceed what’s paid to the average worker in defense industries.

As long as that pay arrives on time, their housing needs are met, and their work is the focus of national resources and attention, servicemen should be satisfied with their lot. So it’s interesting that Putin still felt a military pay increase was needed in an election year. But, as some say, campaign promises are made to be broken.

Another Angle on Apartments

Apartment Owners Say No to Putin (Photo: Novyy region -- Yekaterinburg)

Here’s a different angle on why finished military apartments are unoccupied.  Last week Novyy region told the story of how apartments for military men in Yekaterinburg got tangled up with apartments for private buyers, leaving the latter standing in front of a huge sign saying “No to Putin!” and vowing not to vote for him on March 4.

The tale goes like this.  In 2005, the Defense Ministry engaged the Megapolis construction-investment company to build a 254-unit apartment building for military unit 61207, which looks to be a nearby Railroad Troops brigade. 

The building was supposed to be ready in 2008, but construction dragged out, reportedly as a result of rising costs.  To complete its work, Megapolis said it needed to sell some of the apartments which it did.  These civilian owners, however, have keys to apartments they can’t occupy.

As a result of the dispute with the company, the Defense Ministry has refused to sign commissioning papers for the building, or turn on the electricity and gas.  The private owners have appealed for help at every possible level, and are now demanding that Defense Minister Serdyukov and Prime Minister Putin intervene.  In a statement to the media, the frustrated owners said:

“We shareholders, as consumers, legally paid for our apartments several years ago.  We don’t have any relationship to the Defense Ministry or the Megapolis company, but because of their dispute we can’t get into our own homes.”

“It seems the building was fully constructed in December 2011, live it up, rejoice.  But the bureaucratic procrastination arises.  That is the system developed, among others, by Vladimir Putin simply doesn’t want to work for the good of the people.  So the question arises — why should we vote for Putin?”

This scenario of Defense Ministry contractors selling some apartments on the open market has produced similar confrontations in several cities.

No word on how the servicemen are faring in the wait for their apartments.  Presumably they’ve remained in whatever service housing they had, and can’t be dismissed until they take delivery of their apartments.

Revenge of the Fallen

Ivan Safronov

Well, more like Return of the Retired, or Dawn of the Dismissed, or whatever.  Your attention’s been grabbed (hopefully).

Last Thursday, Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov reported the Defense Ministry will bring 4,011 ex-general officers back as civilian advisers and consultants, primarily in military districts (unified strategic commands — OSKs) and large operational-tactical formations (armies).  The idea, apparently, is for today’s top commanders to benefit from the experience of their predecessors.

Safronov’s report is based on claims from a source in Defense Minister Serdyukov’s apparat, his immediate staff.  The plan to deploy retired generals as advisers got Serdyukov’s approval on January 20.

The former higher officers will also work as scientific associates in VVUZy and in military commissariats.

Kommersant’s source said these men generally have advanced education and a wealth of combat troop and administrative experience to share with today’s commanders.

Safronov turns to Vitaliy Tsymbal to describe how deploying a huge number of ex-generals contradicts earlier Defense Ministry policy:

“There’s no particular logic evident in this, many now retired generals are already remote from military affairs.  This is a sufficiently magnanimous gesture on the part of the minister, but it doesn’t have some kind of deeper sense in it.  Earlier nothing stopped him from dismissing the very same generals for various reasons.”

According to Safronov’s source, it remains only to determine what to pay the returning generals. 

Who knows if any of this will actually happen?  But if it does, it’s another walk back on a key plank of military reform.  Remember the walk back on keeping 220,000 rather than only 150,000 officers?

In late 2009, General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov said the Defense Ministry had cut 420 of 1,200 generals in the Armed Forces.  With current manning, the remaining 780 generals are enough for a relatively high 1-to-1,000 ratio to other personnel.  So they’ll be digging deep for 4,011 former generals.  Who and what will they find?  

In late 2010, Makarov almost bragged about cutting useless, superannuated officers:

“During this time [before 2009], we grew an entire generation of officers and generals who ceased to understand the very essence of military service, they didn’t have experience in training and educating personnel.”

However, those officers and generals saw it differently, for example:

“Ill-conceived reform has left the Russian Army without a central combat training methodology – that is, now no one knows what and how we teach soldiers and officers on the battlefield.”

So either Serdyukov’s shift to a new, younger, and more junior generation of military leaders isn’t working out, or there’s some other reason for bringing the older dudes back.  One obvious possibility would be to keep them from being openly and publicly critical of Putin’s regime and Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry on the eve of the presidential election.  Maybe some can be bought for a small supplement to their pensions.  A couple things are more certain.  If the old generals arrive, their former subordinates — now in charge — probably won’t like having them around.  The old guys probably won’t enjoy it much either.  And the whole scheme may not even get off the ground, or last very long if it does.

Why They’re Empty

Well, mostly empty.  To its credit, Defense Ministry daily Krasnaya zvezda has tackled the issue of why Russian servicemen aren’t racing to take ownership and occupy permanent apartments offered to them.

KZ looked at two major military housing projects outside St. Petersburg — Slavyanka and Osinovaya Roshcha — which between them have over 100 buildings and almost 9,000 apartments.  The paper says only 40 percent of these apartments have been accepted, and only 20 percent occupied.

Slavyanka South and Osinovaya Roshcha North of St. Petersburg

Slavyanka’s construction was complete one year ago, but its streets are empty and one very rarely sees pedestrians.  Its school just opened, but residents are still waiting for day care and have to drive preschool children elsewhere.  The builders claim there are relatively few defects, and they are repaired quickly.

A Street in Slavyanka Last March

Osinovaya Roshcha was built on Defense Ministry land — a former military town, and its apartments were turned over about six months ago.  Like Slavyanka, the dwellings in this development don’t suffer from too many problems.
 
KZ says now on average about 150 apartments are being accepted every week in Slavyanka and Osinovaya Roshcha.  But this is still a slow pace.  Servicemen aren’t in a hurry to relocate because of the undeveloped infrastructure in both locations. 
 
There is no walking access to grocery stores, pharmacies, post offices, or bank branches.  The nonresidential first floors of buildings haven’t been sold or leased to businesses.  Neither the developer nor rayon administration can make arrangements for these commercial spaces because the property belongs to the Defense Ministry.
 
In Osinovaya Roshcha, it’s already clear there will be a major parking problem once the mikrorayon is fully settled.  Some parking was planned but hasn’t been built.  Also, the area depends on narrow two-lane Priozerskoye shosse as a main road.
 
KZ says the biggest headache in Osinovaya Roshcha, however, are nonworking elevators.  Some buildings are 17 stories, and current residents can count on having an operational elevator only one day per week.  The paper describes a Catch-22.  People don’t move in because elevators aren’t working, but there aren’t enough residents there to pay communal fees to cover the work of crews who fix the elevators.
 
The wait for day care centers keeps many families from moving.  They are supposed to open this month in Osinovaya Roshcha.  Older kids go to school in two shifts at an old building while they wait for a new one. 
 

KZ sums up:

“Judging by everything, people don’t intend to give up distant garrisons until life in the new mikrorayony is smoothed out and all essential infrastructure develops.” 

All in all, Internet photos seem to support KZ’s description of Slavyanka and Osinovaya Roshcha as generally well-constructed, livable communities.  
 

Medvedev Visits GRU Headquarters

General-Major Sergun Welcomes Medvedev and Serdyukov

President Dmitriy Medvedev, accompanied by Defense Minister Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Makarov, paid a visit on GRU headquarters yesterday.

Medvedev came to bestow state awards on GRU officers.  Presidential visits to the home of Russian military intelligence are rare, and usually come in connection with its anniversary (November 5).

So we have to suppose the lame-duck Supreme CINC and possible future prime minister went to the GRU to (a) bolster its newly-appointed chief, General-Major Igor Sergun, and (b) try to boost the morale of a service hard-hit by cuts and reorganizations under Serdyukov’s reforms.  Medvedev’s brief remarks seemed to confirm as much.

According to Kremlin.ru, after giving the GRU obligatory praise, Medvedev told its officers that the world situation is changing and “it requires adjustments not just in intelligence priorities, but also methods . . . .”

He continued:

“Consequently, a reorganization of the entire system of military intelligence has also occurred.  These changes have been introduced.  The results of the recent past show that the GRU is successfully coping with its established missions.  And on the whole military intelligence is performing professionally and effectively.”

“Of course, we need to increase the operational potential of the service, and its information potential, and its analytical potential.”  

Medvedev’s “on the whole” was a recognition of a state of affairs that is something less than fully optimal.  How much we don’t know.  He also seemed to be dealing with an audience more accustomed to, and happier with, operations than analysis.

The president went on to note the GRU’s traditional role in monitoring the global political-military situation, forecasting threats, tracking military-technical and defense industrial developments, and, especially, in counteracting international terrorism.

Kremlin.ru provided this video of Medvedev’s remarks.