Does it matter what old soldiers think? It doesn’t seem to right now. Maybe they’re just bitter old dudes whose time has passed.
But they certainly provide interesting and frank commentary on the state of the OPK, the Armed Forces, and Serdyukov’s reforms at odds with official pronouncements from the Kremlin, White House, and Defense Ministry.
Former 58th Army Commander, retired General-Lieutenant Viktor Sobolev wrote recently for Pravda. He reacted to a program on the army on NTV from October 9. It apparently wasn’t posted on NTV’s site.
Sobolev says this right up front:
“On the eve of elections, our president and Supreme Commander-in-Chief Dmitriy Medvedev and ‘national leader’ Vladimir Putin have been worried in turn by the condition of the country’s army and military-industrial complex and are assuring gullible Russian citizens that they will do everything so that our Armed Forces meet modern requirements and receive new types of armaments and military equipment in a timely manner.”
“The Russian mass media [SMI] under the government’s and president’s control have been actively used in making these assurances.”
The ex-general-lieutenant is critical of just about everyone: Serdyukov and his “effective” managers, people who haven’t served in the army, former First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin who wanted to buy more arms abroad, his successor Sukhorukov who dares insist that defense enterprises substantiate their prices, independent defense commentators like Litovkin and Pukhov, interest-hungry banks, corrupt middlemen.
He points only to Tactical Missile Armaments Corporation General Director Boris Obnosov in a positive light for recognizing that other countries won’t sell Russia their best weaponry.
Still, Sobolev’s under a bit of a misimpression thinking that Moscow is really buying lots abroad. In fact, a cynical observer might conclude the whole situation over the last year was designed to let Putin be the champion of the domestic defense sector vs. Medvedev the Westernizer. But we digress . . .
For Sobolev, this all sums to an OPK with a broken GOZ, that’s chronically underfinanced and losing its capability to produce modern arms and equipment.
Again, the cynic might say this was already lost a number of years ago.
But, says Sobolev, when compared with the OPK:
“Even worse is the situation in the Armed Forces. It’s believed we have a million-man army which Mr. Sukhorukov recalled on this program. Let’s calculate it together. According to TO&E, there are 150 thousand officers in the army, no warrants at all, they were liquidated. According to civilian [but he still wears his uniform] GOMU Chief V. Smirnov, 184 thousand contractees are serving in the army and navy. In all 334 thousand, the remaining 666 thousand are conscript servicemen. But they simply couldn’t have called up so many. Moreover, conscripts serve not only in the army and navy, of the number called up, up to 30% serve in the Internal Troops, Border Guards, MChS units, presidential regiment, and so forth. This means in the army and navy huge undermanning exists, and it will only get bigger. It’s planned to reduce the fall callup by 2 times. More than 200 thousand citizens, according to Smirnov, are evading military service. The spring callup stretches out to September, and the fall until March. In the troops, they’re occupied with it constantly, in the course of the entire year, they take young soldiers into their ranks in small groups, organize individual training for them and try to man sub-units. At the same time, the process of dismissal also goes on without interruption. In these conditions, you can’t talk about any kind of quality manning of sub-units. What kind of units of permanent combat readiness are these?”
“Therefore NATO’s military analysts note with satisfaction that, as a result of the reforms conducted, Russia’s Armed Forces aren’t capable of completing missions even in local conflicts, ‘The Russian Army does not have a sufficient quantity of transport resources for redeploying troops over great distances, does not have a sufficient quantity of aircraft and pilots who know how to fly in any weather, no unified information system. There are not enough soldiers in the army . . .’”
“In NATO, they understand the Russian Army’s fallen apart, but how about our country’s leadership?”
Sobolev’s no crank, and he’s not to be taken lightly. Born and schooled in southern Russia, he probably has combat experience whereas the current General Staff Chief and Ground Troops CINC probably don’t. Sobolev served as Deputy Commander of the OGV(s) in Chechnya in 2002, before taking over the NCMD’s 58th Army in 2003. He ended his career as the chief military advisor in Russia’s Indian embassy in late 2010.
A more recent photo shows him looking just about as fit in retirement at age 61.
One wonders if a conservative like Sobolev realizes how much his thinking coincides with that of more liberal critics he seems to detest.