Category Archives: Serdyukov’s Reforms

Zelin’s Update (Part III)

In the middle part of General-Colonel Zelin’s incredibly long NVO interview, he reacts to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s high command changes and other structural realignments over the last couple years.  He also shares thoughts on the state of VVS training.

Zelin speaks to interviewer Viktor Litovkin like a 58-year-old three-star who’s surprised to have stayed at his post as long as he has.  He speaks like he isn’t concerned about being retired.

Asked what he and his Main Staff do now that the VVS operate under the four MD / OSK commanders, Zelin responds that plans to create an automated C2 system (ASU) haven’t quite gotten there.  He talks and is online with the district commanders often.  But, he says:

“The main thing is combat training remains with the VVS Main Command. Organizational development (stroitelstvo or строительство) of the service and combat training.  And without combat training what kind of employment can there be?”

There were, he continues, arguments and unresolved issues:

“But during the decisionmaking I proved my point of view, my vision of present problems, sometimes they had to agree, sometimes they had to listen on several issues, but, since now decisions have been made, we have to fulfill them.  To get to work.”

But he grouses a bit more.  He sounds like a man with responsibility who lacks authority.

The ASU isn’t working, but service central command posts (TsKP or ЦКП) were eliminated.  Regardless, Zelin says he has to organize and control training.  Every day 70-80 units have aircraft flying, and they have to be tracked.  They can’t just be given a mission and forgotten.

Asked about the newly-established Aerospace Defense (VKO) Troops, Zelin claims interestingly, that only PVO brigades in Russia’s central industrial region — the old Moscow AD District, KSpN, or OSK VKO — went over to them.  He says MD / OSK commanders got the rest, and he equips and trains them for regional commands to operate.  His view seems to be VKO is limited to strategic and theater MD.  You can’t, he opines, have PVO without air defense aviation integrated into it.  According to Zelin, a single national system of air defense, including Troop Air Defense, is needed, but a decision’s been made and it’s left but to fulfill it.

Before talking more about training, Zelin reiterates that a single system of net-centric strategic C2 and decisionmaking is the goal, but they aren’t quite there.

He seems envious of the large-scale, largely automated airspace control systems he’s seen in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.

On training and flight hours, Zelin says he’s got no problems with material support (i.e. POL), but problems addressing aircraft service life support [ресурсное обеспечение].  He states frankly he worries about maintenance provided (or not) by civilianized, outsourced Oboronservis affiliate Aviaremont.  There is plenty of money for maintenance, but those responsible aren’t getting it done.  While the Glavkomat has heartache about aircraft serviceability:

“Our other structures for some reason are responsible only for financial flows.”

Zelin was asked earlier if 130 flight hours was the VVS goal.  He says last year pilots got 340,000 hours, or 90 per pilot.  That makes roughly 3,800 pilots, if they’re shared evenly (they’re not).  Eighty percent of young pilots got not less than 100. In some cases, it was harder and they got a little more than 50.  Zelin adds this is still better than the 1990s.

Ivashov on the Army and Putin

Leonid Ivashov

Leonid Ivashov recently talked to Narodnyy politolog on a variety of army topics including reforms, the possibility of a big war, rearmament, president-elect Vladimir Putin, and his military program.  Segodnia.ru also printed the interview.

Once Russia’s top military diplomat, now avowed geopolitician, the former three-star thinks Putin fears externally-driven regime change and is improving the army to forestall such an eventuality.  Ivashov sees a U.S.-led West depriving Russia of allies before focusing on Russia itself.

Asked about army reforms, Ivashov says they have succeeded in cutting forces, but not in rearming them or improving their social conditions.  Reforms have degraded and weakened the army.  Military men mock the New Profile reforms saying, “There’s a profile, but not armed forces.”  Ivashov calls reforms craziness, and says it’s like servicemen have lived in a house under continuous repair for 25 years.

Following up his comment on mobilization reserves cut to the bare minimum, NP asked the retired general-colonel if a big war is possible today.

Ivashov says yes.  Citing how “they” are beating up Russia’s strategic allies (Syria and Iran), he says “What is this if not war?”

Ivashov foresees a large conflict between the U.S. and China and possible spinoff regional and local wars.  He cites a Chinese specialist who calls for a Russian-Chinese alliance to deter a big war and curb the appetite of the West and international oligarchs.

Is Russia ready for such an eventuality?  Ivashov answers:

“I think Putin understands perfectly how military weakness and the absence of strategic allies can be the end for Russia.  Clearly, the Libyan situation ‘helped’ him understand this, just like what is happening now in Syria, and what they are preparing for Iran.  If you can’t defend the country, you are subjecting yourself to a great risk personally.”

“Now Putin is making a sharp turn to the side of strengthening defense capability.  One can only welcome this.  Because today they don’t simply beat the weak, they destroy them.”

Ivashov calls Putin’s military program ambitious, if not systematic.  The regime’s been in a “light panic” since Libya.

He intimates that more than 20 percent of the state armaments program will be stolen since the amount of theft cited by the military prosecutor covers only cases under investigation, not all corruption.

Ivashov suggests lobbying has replaced forecasts of future military actions as the driver of arms procurement.

The case of Mistral, which one wonders where it will be built and how it will be used, Ivashov says well-connected lobbyist structures ensure what gets produced is exactly what their enterprises make.  He was somewhat encouraged that Putin, at Sarov, entertained turning to specialists and experts to examine the army’s requirements.

On GPV 2020, Ivashov concludes it’ll be a serious step forward if only half of what’s planned gets produced, but it can’t be equipment designed in the 1970s and 1980s.  He sees OPK production capacity problems too.  He questions whether Votkinsk can produce 400 solid-fueled ballistic missiles by 2020.

Returning to the big war, he questions a focus on defensive operations for Russian conventional forces, saying offensive capabilities are needed to deter potential enemies.  He claims reduced force structure and mobilization capability have become a joke in the General Staff:

“The main problem for the Chinese in a conflict with us is not defeating our brigade, but finding it.”

Ivashov’s just a little up in arms over the armor situation.  He all but accuses the General Staff Chief of being a paid (or bribed) lobbyist for foreign tank and armored vehicle makers.  He suggests that Army General Makarov should be placed in cuffs if he says the Leopard-2 is better than the T-90 [what about Postnikov then?], and the Main Military Prosecutor should investigate him.

So what is to be done first and foremost to strengthen the country’s defense capability today?

Ivashov replies get rid of Serdyukov and Makarov who have done great damage, and strengthen cadres in the OPK and military by replacing “managers” with those who can apply military science (as Ivashov was taught) to the problem of developing new weapons.

The always provocative Ivashov doesn’t venture whether he thinks  the current emphasis on defense capability will continue or have the intended results.  He seems sincerely to believe in a possible Western intervention in Russia’s internal affairs.  But it’d be more interesting to hear him talk about whether the army would fight for Putin’s regime in something less than that maximal contingency.  Ivashov, unlike some critics of Russia’s defense policy, shies away from blaming the once-and-future Supreme CINC for at least some of the current military state of affairs.

FOM’s Poll

On this election day 2012, let’s look at FOM’s survey on attitudes about the army.  Its questions are different from 2011But this year’s results show less enchantment with positive changes in the army.

Just prior to the army’s February 23 holiday, FOM asked its sample whether the Russian Army’s combat capability is high or low.  Only 15 percent said high, 33 percent said low, 37 percent said average (not high or low), and 15 percent found it hard to say.

Two years ago 24 percent said high and only 27 percent said low.

Then FOM asked whether the army’s combat capability is increasing or decreasing.  Twenty-eight percent said increasing, 17 percent said decreasing, 38 percent said not changing, and 16 percent found it hard to answer.

In 2010, 36 percent said increasing.

It’d be interesting if FOM asked respondents to say what combat capability means to them.

Then FOM asked about the military’s prestige.  Given the choice of high or low, 21 percent said high, 27 percent low, 40 percent not high or low, and 12 percent found it hard to answer.

But 38 percent said the military’s prestige is growing, 11 percent declining, 38 percent not changing, and 13 percent hard to answer.

If Russia’s budget had extra resources that could go only to military needs, or only to civilian needs, just 18 percent said they would direct that money to the military, 61 percent said to civilian uses, and 21 percent said hard to answer.

Army Polls

Happy Defender’s Day!

Taking a break from Putin’s defense manifesto, let’s look at this year’s opinion polls on the army’s big holiday.

Levada’s poll is not so interesting this year.  Responses to its questions generally fell within the 3.4 percent margin of error of last year’s survey

But the number of respondents who thought drafted family members should find a way to avoid serving fell from 41 to 36 percent this year. 

People also indicated a slightly greater belief that dedovshchina is more prevalent in the army.  This year 19 percent think it happens everywhere  against 13 percent in 2011.  Those believing it occurs in a small number of military units dipped from 27 to 23 percent this year.

VTsIOM’s results were actually a little more interesting.

The agency reported again this year that 55 percent of respondents felt the Russian Army is capable of defending the country against a military threat.  But on the current training of troops, 30 percent saw positive tendencies, 30 percent negative tendencies, and 29 percent said they don’t see any changes.

A surprising 68 percent, according to VTsIOM, believe the level of outfitting of Russian forces with modern arms and equipment is average or higher.  Still, 72 percent feel equipping the army with more modern weapons is needed to increase combat readiness (?!).

Some 68 percent of respondents were aware, to one degree or another, of Russia’s military reforms.  Sixty-seven percent consider them essential.

VTsIOM, unfortunately, didn’t publish its exact questions and responses to each; it just aggregates its results in a verbal description.

But it did show us one full question.  Are the transformations introduced into the Armed Forces essential or not essential for increasing the army’s combat capability?  The answers:

  • Essential but insufficient — 55 percent.
  • Essential and sufficient — 12 percent.
  • Not essential, better to end them — 8 percent.
  • Hard to answer — 24 percent.

Putin and the Army (Part II)

Putin Eating with Soldiers

Continuing with Prime Minister Putin’s latest pre-election article on the army . . . Russia Today published a translated version.

Describing the army’s “social dimension,” Putin says a modern army requires well-trained officers and soldiers on whom more demands can be placed.  And they, in turn, deserve pay commensurate with that of specialists and managers elsewhere in the economy.

Hence, the new pay system for officers this year which practically tripled their remuneration.

Putin mentions that military pensions were increased 1.6 times (60 percent), and he promises they will now increase annually by not less than 2 percent over inflation.

Retired or dismissed servicemen will get a “special certificate” good for further education or for retraining.

Then Putin tackles the painful military housing issue.  After recounting its history, he says, in 2008-2011, the army obtained or constructed 140,000 permanent and 46,000 service apartments.  But he admits:

“. . . despite the fact that the program turned out to be larger in scale than earlier planned, the problem still wasn’t resolved.”

He says the accounting of officers needing apartments was conducted poorly, org-shtat measures [dismissals] weren’t coordinated with the presentation of housing, and the situation has to be corrected.

Putin is, of course, alluding to the fact that maybe 30,000 or 80,000 of those 140,000 apartments the Defense Ministry acquired or built remain unoccupied.  But he’s not exactly tackling the problem head-on.

Putin says the “eternal” permanent and service apartment problems will finally be resolved in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

But in mid-December, in his “live broadcast,” Putin said his new deadlines were 2012 and 2013.  So, he’s just given himself an extra year on each.

Putin says the military’s mortgage savings program now has 180,000 participants, and 20,000 apartments have been acquired through it.

He also notes that regions and municipalities won’t have broken down military towns and infrastructure foisted upon them.

Next, manning. 

Putin gives the familiar figures–there are 220,000 officers and 186,000 sergeants and soldiers who now serve on contracts.  Over five years, the army will try to recruit 50,000 professional soldiers each year. 

Selection, Putin says, will be strict, and contractees will be trained in special centers and sergeant schools.

In the reported one-million-man Russian Armed Forces, 700,000 personnel will be professionals by 2017.  Conscripts will be reduced to 145,000 by 2020.

Putin says the mixed contract-conscript system of manning used for quite some time was just a compromise because Russia couldn’t afford an all-volunteer army.

However, politicians and generals always extolled the mixed system because it retained a universal obligation (at least theoretically) and kept the military from becoming “mercenaries.”

Putin endorses military police and priests in the ranks to keep order among remaining conscripts.  He also promises those who serve as draftees assistance with education and preferences in entering the government service.

The Prime Minister admits Russia lacks a concept for its national military reserve system, and developing one is a near-term task.

Although the course is set for a professional contract army, Putin still wants young men to prepare for service.  So don’t forget about military-patriotic indoctrination, military-applied sports, and DOSAAF.

And Putin indicates he supports Deputy PM Dmitriy Rogozin’s proposal for a Volunteer Movement of the National Front in Support of the Army, Navy, and OPK.

Part III will be the final five pages on the OPK.

Putin and the Army (Part I)

Putin Flanked by Green Suits (photo: Konstantin Zavrazhin)

Candidate Vladimir Putin’s election manifesto on the military and national security appeared in today’s Rossiyskaya gazeta.  The rambling 6,500-word essay reads like most campaign literature — a series of feel-good sound bites with inconvenient facts, details, and background left out.

But let’s get at it.

Putin says the changing world presents risks of an unpredictable nature.  He insinuates that Russia should expect challenges to its sovereignty over its natural resources.  It can’t tempt others by weakness.  Strategic nuclear deterrence preserved Russia’s sovereignty in the difficult 1990s as it does today.

Putin continues his habit of excoriating the long-ago 1990s but largely ignoring what he did or didn’t do during the 2000s.

He points right off to the GPV’s 19 trillion rubles to modernize the Armed Forces, and the coming FTsP’s 3 trillion for the OPK.  And, he says, he’s convinced the country can afford these expenditures.

Putin then turns to the nature of future war.  He wants the military to “look over the horizon” at the nature of threats in 30-50 years to determine what the army will need.

Deterrence has worked, and Russia keeps its nuclear “powder” dry.  But Putin points to the mass introduction of long-range, precise conventional arms becoming decisive even in a global conflict.

Someone tell Putin this is not news.  But there’s more.

Putin reveals that space and information (or cyber) warfare may be decisive in the future.  Beyond this, he continues, new beam, geophysical, wave, genetic, and even psychophysical weapons may be developed.  Their effects may be comparable to nuclear weapons but more acceptable politically.  So, expect the role of nuclear weapons in deterring aggression to decline.

He then segues wildly to responding quickly and effectively to other new challenges, and how Russia’s ODKB partners will help stabilize the “Eurasian space.”

OK.

Putin proceeds to a long-winded explanation of how the army saved Russia in the terrible 1990s.  As mentioned earlier, he doesn’t have a lot to say about the eight years he was Supreme CINC.

Putin claims he rejected a proposal (he attributes to then General Staff Chief Kvashnin) to move SSBNs from the Pacific and consolidate them in the Northern Fleet.  He says permanent readiness units with contractees were formed on all strategic axes, and, he claims, they allowed Russia to “force Georgia to peace” in August 2008.

No mention that the large-scale introduction of contract service failed miserably during this time.  Also no mention of “winning” the Second Chechen War by ceding federal control of that republic to a brutal young warlord.

Putin rightly notes the Soviet Army’s mobilization model made no sense for Russia, and there was no alternative to building a New Army [starting in late 2008 when he was not president, and after things went so well for the army in Georgia].  He admits there were difficulties and mistakes in this process, but goes on to describe his view of what’s been done in the army.

Full-up permanent readiness brigades have replaced old cadre units.  “Non-core, auxiliary functions” have been moved out of the army to maximize time for training.  And effective Defense Ministry sub-units responsible for the military order have to guarantee the effective formation of technical requirements for the development and production of arms and equipment.

Yes, but that’s not happening yet.

Putin lists other changes in the Russian military.  C2 organs cut by 50 percent.  Four districts with air, air defense, and naval forces subordinate to them.  Seven large air bases established.  Twenty-eight airfields renovated, and 12 more set for this year.  The share of modern ICBMs increased from 13 to 25 percent.  Ten more regiments to be reequipped with Yars or Topol-M.  Putin says Russia has accepted its new strategic ALCM.  Dolgorukiy and Nevskiy will soon enter the fleet.  The Navy’s renewed its presence on the world’s oceans.

Then the Prime Minister turns to tasks for the next ten years — rearmament:  nuclear forces, VKO, comms, recce, C2, EW, UAVs and unmanned strike systems, transport aviation, individual soldier systems and protection, precision weapons and defense against them.  And he reemphasizes, new generation precision weapons need development and a larger place in Russia’s future doctrine.

Putin seems to say Russia’s happier with the capability of defeating any missile defense than trying to develop its own.  He again promises effective, asymmetrical steps to counter any U.S. MD.

Then, a ten-year acquisition laundry list from candidate Putin:

  • 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 tanks are really surprising.  And the list doesn’t really even match the ten-year tasks Putin set out.

Look for the second half later.  It covers army social issues and the OPK.

Thickening Clouds

Deputy PM Rogozin and Serdyukov (photo: Yuriy Magas)

Anatoliy Serdyukov completed his fifth year as Russia’s Defense Minister on Wednesday (February 15).

But the inimitable Argumenty nedeli concludes “clouds are thickening” around him. 

AN says Serdyukov’s in the “eye of a storm” of PA cadre changes, and he’s begun sacrificing subordinates to save himself.

The paper’s Defense Ministry source claims there will be a large number of resignations from “support structures controlled by the military department,” i.e. the quasi-commercialized, civilianized logistic agencies established to outsource “non-core” military functions.

OAO Slavyanka — responsible for housing and communal services in military towns — will lose its general director, Aleksandr Yelkin, over poor winter preparations and boiler breakdowns in Murmansk, Kaliningrad, and the Far East. 

Not surprisingly, the source says this decision followed Prime Minister Putin’s harsh criticism of Serdyukov on February 9.  See Kommersant, Komsomolskaya pravda, Nezavisimaya gazeta, or Newsru.com for more on this.

The general director of Agroprom — an affiliate of OAO Oboronservis — Natalya Dynkova, lost her position for “redistributing” the military food procurement market.  Agroprom declined an AN request for comment on Dynkova’s situation.

AN’s source also says Serdyukov’s apparat chief [chief of staff] Yelena Vasilyeva is also “hanging by a thread.”  From detention, the indicted former chief of GVMU, General-Major Aleksandr Belevitin has given evidence against her. 

Several months ago, AN claimed dustups with Vasilyeva led to former Deputy Defense Minister Mokretsov’s departure as well as complaints from high-ranking civilians and officers.

Finally, AN’s officer source says the FSB is investigating and arresting some people connected to the Defense Ministry’s commercial structures.  He concludes Serdyukov is ridding himself of people who could compromise him or interfere with him finding a place in once-and-future president Putin’s new government this spring.

BFM.ru sounded a separate but similar note reporting that the chief of a firm entrusted with selling excess Defense Ministry property is suspected of fraud. 

General director of the “Expert” Legal Support Center, Ye. F. Smetanova  allegedly sold military property for reduced prices in exchange for kickbacks ranging from 5 to 25 percent of the transaction, according to the MVD.  She reportedly received 18 million rubles for endorsing the sale of four Samara Voyentorgy for 147 million. 

Investigators are trying to identify other Defense Ministry properties sold with kickbacks as well as possible co-conspirators in the schemes.

In 2011, the Defense Ministry conducted 43 auctions and sold real estate for 4.7 billion rubles.  Movable military property was sold to the tune of 560 million.

It’s worth recalling the Main Military Prosecutor’s words about the scale of Defense Ministry corruption in 2011.  He singled out commercial firms outsourcing for the military and violations of auction rules as particular problems, along with routine kickbacks and bribery.

Where does this leave us?

Things aren’t so rosy for Serdyukov right now. 

For one thing, Rogozin’s replacement of the virtually invisible Sergey Ivanov has probably been a near-daily irritation for the Defense Minister.

Even after five years, it’s still hard to get a handle on all the military’s “financial flows.” 

And resignations and reports of corruption don’t reflect well on Serdyukov.

Still, Serdyukov remains a member of Team Putin, and he’s probably secure.  The election season makes everyone nervous, and it’s hard to say who’s driving corruption charges.  Shaking out some incompetent or corrupt defense officials might serve to create the impression that Prime Minister Putin’s on top of things.

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.

The Russian Threat

DNI James Clapper

Ahhh, the annual testimony . . . and a story based mainly on English sources for a change.  Thanks to VPK.name for picking up the Vzglyad piece which printed a few lines on what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s unclassified Worldwide Threat Assessment testimony to the SSCI had to say about the state of the Russian military.  Otherwise, this would have been overlooked.

A few preliminaries . . . Clapper is a tall septuagenarian reared professionally in the Cold War who manages to keep on climbing the career ladder.  His bulbous dome once prompted underlings to dub him “the Martian” (although it’s known he’s actually from Remulak).  But analysts liked him (at least long ago) because he really seemed to listen to them.

Now on to his testimony, or statement for the record.  Clapper didn’t write it, nor did his staff.  It’s carefully crafted compromise language melding the views of CIA analysts mostly, and DIA analysts and others a little.  One guesses the text hasn’t changed too much from previous years.  A comparison of changes (especially adverbs) from year to year might be more revealing than what the document says.

Thanks to the Washington Post for printing the DNI’s sanitized testimony.  Unlike the impression you’d get from the Russian media, Clapper’s statement isn’t all about the Russian threat.  It definitely isn’t 25 years ago when the USSR was front and center throughout.  Russia appears first on page 7 as a state-based cyber threat and page 8 as an economic espionage threat.  Then it retires to page 20 where a mainline discussion of the country finally begins.

Domestic politics gets one-third of a page; foreign policy (you can read it yourself) gets two-thirds.  The document boldly predicts “more continuity than change” under once-and-future president Vladimir Putin “at least during the next year.” 

But that’s just the problem, isn’t it?  Putin can’t change his fragile system of rule without toppling the entire shaky edifice.

The reader’s also told (shockingly) that Putin’s unlikely to be an “agent of liberalization,” will continue protecting his wealthy cronies, and will try to placate the masses (though Russia’s moderate economic growth rates won’t support this). 

This straightline type of assessment is easy and safe to stick with, especially for one year.  Continuity is always the baseline scenario with a sufficiently short timeframe.  

Good thing the document didn’t have to judge whether Putin will complete his third term in office, the conditions under which he could be forced out, or who might take his place. 

One might have even settled for the simple conclusion (that many Russians are making):  Putin’s regime has exhausted its potential after 12+ years.  It’s unlikely to last another six, let alone another 12, even if it’s impossible to foresee exactly what Putin’s undoing will be.

Maybe the real answers are in the classified testimony.  No, not likely.

The next page has 3 paragraphs, two-thirds of the page, at last, on the Russian military.  The first is lost to a largely factual effort to explain the military’s reforms since late 2008.  The second sensibly concludes that:

“. . . funding, bureaucratic, and cultural hurdles—coupled with the challenge of reinvigorating a military industrial base that deteriorated for more than a decade after the Soviet collapse—will complicate Russian [rearmament and force modernization] efforts.”

One could say deteriorated for nearly two decades, and there are many Russian observers who believe it can’t be revived.  Surprising nothing’s said about buying weapons and arms technologies abroad.  Again, perhaps in the secret version. 

But at least this testimony doesn’t assume the military and OPK will automatically and absolutely get every ruble and every system talked about in the context of GPV 2011-2020.

The third paragraph tries to say what all this means.  Russia will have the military might to dominate the post-Soviet space (already largely true for the past 20 years) but not to threaten NATO collectively. 

Which raises an interesting point.  Is this document insinuating  Moscow might try to threaten one NATO member individually to test the alliance’s reaction and cohesion?

But, in the end, the text says until improvements in conventional capabilities really reach Russian troops, the Kremlin will continue looking to its nuclear forces to offset its weaknesses vis-a-vis potential opponents with stronger militaries.

You can read on yourself for more on Central Asia, the Caucasus, Ukraine, and Belarus.