Tag Archives: Anatoliy Serdyukov

Not a Fish, But a Crawdad (Part II)

Topwar’s summation of the Kommersant story on Defense Minister Serdyukov’s retention brought many comments in its forum.  They came mainly from conservative critics of Serdyukov and President Putin.

It’s a tough slog for anyone suggesting Serdyukov has done things that were overdue and necessary.  Anatoliy Eduardovich is roundly criticized for destroying what existed, and not putting anything better in its place.  Worse, some call him a traitor serving “Western interests.”

S_mirnov writes only a real idiot, or one who values an apartment more than his country, could believe Serdyukov is the best man to guarantee officers housing.  To him, the reappointment of Serdyukov is akin to giving the Titanic’s captain a new ship and having him sail to the same destination with surviving passengers.

Sinandju concludes not sending Serdyukov into retirement is just another sign of what Putin’s oligarchic-bureaucratic government is all about.

Redpartyzan alleges there were more questions about Serdyukov’s performance in office than ministers who were not reappointed.

BigLexey says Serdyukov’s been kept around to be a scapegoat for the army’s problems at an appropriate time, so the president and prime minister won’t be blamed.

Kadet787 from Belarus shares a poem about Russia appointing as Defense Minister not a wolf or bear, but an ass who sells military property for half what its worth.

To Topwar’s suggestion that time might tell about Serdyukov’s continuing tenure, Older replies all of Taburetkin’s wonders have been seen and Putin and Medvedev have behaved strangely.

Then Teves from Germany asserts Serdyukov remains because he did what Putin wanted despite the illusions of “superpatriots.”

Borisst64 analyzes the situation like this:

“The aim of Serdyukov’s appointment was clear from the start – destroying the structure of the country’s VS [Armed Forces], if they leave him, it means severe decisions (cuts, relocations, etc.) will still be implemented. The logic is understandable, the people’s attitude toward Serdyukov is negative, still they are patient, and we’ll appoint a new one [Defense Minister] when everything is perfect and nothing threatens the [new Armed Forces] image.”

Olegych picks up the defense of the Defense Minister:

“Serdyukov is a normal, honest Defense Minister, cleaning up all the bullsh** accumulated for decades.  Dedovshchina, thievery, ruined bases and military units, the lack of arms and POL supplies, the absence of housing – that’s what was, and what would be left.  And if you poured trillions of rubles into the sad MO [Defense Ministry] structure that existed before him, the result would be poor.  In the context given, Serdyukov is not a fighter, but a finance officer, a controller of resources, of tightly planned and justified expenditures.  And here’s the entire answer to why he remains at his post.  He remains at his post because there are real and tangible results from his leadership:  housing acquired, new armaments introduced, increased pay, an increase in exercises and flights, the destruction of millions of tons of old and dangerous ammunition, untangling the flywheel of the Gosoboronzakaz.  Cutting the number of servicemen and training institutions is an essential and necessary step, because there are no resources to maintain them.”

For a bit, the discussion devolves to Putin, whether “the Tsar is good and the boyars bad,” and whether it’s OK to insult the president.  And, more interestingly, whether Putin will eventually lose support and give rise to more “bolotniki.”

There’s a final counter to Olegych when Drugar says:

“Why Serdyukov is again Defense Minister is obvious.  The only thing not understood is what servicemen and the army / fleet as a whole are waiting for.  Generally, judging by recent events, the army is turning into a commercial enterprise, this transformation of everything and all to a civilian basis has allowed turning the servicing of army structures into a fantastically profitable and absolutely unpunishable business!  It’s possible to steal billions, imagine how much it costs to feed, clothe soldiers, repair equipment, supply spare parts, build-repair, and the like.  But, if someone will say it, report, Mr. Serdyukov – a MILITARY SECRET, gentlemen, a military secret . . .  This is the finale, the culmination of the Putinist corruption scheme!  So in Russia they still never steal . . .  People have become mute and blind from propaganda and zombification, have lost the ability to think (!), they are accustomed to softened up facts from the state’s zombie box [television].  Pronouncing ‘that yes they’re all d*cks there in the end,’ every one will stay home and continue hoping Putin will steal, steal, but remember about the people . . .  In vain.”

No absolute answer why Serdyukov remains, but some interesting and reasonably educated opinions.

Not a Fish, But a Crawdad (Part I)

It’s nice when you send yourself on a sabbatical.  But it’s terrible when your first post of the month doesn’t come until the 24th.  Seriously, this author should be flogged for neglecting the reader.  And he isn’t exactly prepared to dive back into frenetic posting either.  Only to hang more text out here now and again.

Serdyukov with Putin (photo: AFP)

This topic and title were stolen from Topwar.ru.  The site picked up on Kommersant’s examination of why Anatoliy Serdyukov was one of only five ministers to retain his post in the first Putin 2.0 government.

Kommersant claims Serdyukov came somewhat close to being retired in December when, at then-Prime Minister Putin’s behest, FSB Director Bortnikov searched out potential replacements.  Bortnikov looked at Rostekh’s Chemezov, Roskosmos’ Popovkin, and Deputy PM and OPK steward Rogozin.  The former pair convinced Putin of the “inexpedience” of making either of them Defense Minister in Serdyukov’s place.  Rogozin reportedly was willing, but, of course, already had a higher-ranking post.

Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov cited Aleksandr Kanshin and a Defense Ministry apparat source to the effect that Putin decided it’d be better to have Serdyukov see the military reform process through to its conclusion.

For its part, Topwar.ru also attributes Serdyukov’s “unsinkability” to a desire to avoid changing leadership in the midst of reform.  It also writes that Anatoliy Eduardovich turned out to be, at least in some ways, the best available and most willing candidate.  Topwar sums Serdyukov’s position up with this adage:

“When there aren’t any fish, even a crawdad is a fish.”

But Anatoliy Rak isn’t likely to replace Taburetkin as a nickname for the Defense Minister.

The most interesting part of Topwar’s account, however, may be the large number of commentaries, which we’ll look at in part II of this post.

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.

Will Serdyukov Go?

Pavel Baev

Back to a familiar topic . . . is it possible or likely Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov will resign or be dismissed from his post prior to the March 4 presidential election?  It is, of course, a topic that won’t quit.  At least not for the next two months. 

Pavel Baev discussed this with BFM.ru over the holiday. 
 
We looked at Baev’s view of Serdyukov’s reforms back in the spring.  He was neither sanguine about them nor forgiving of mistakes made.
 
We also looked earlier at a couple considerations of whether Serdyukov might leave or be forced out of the Defense Ministry. 
 
In August, Mikhail Rostovskiy thought Serdyukov’s position pretty secure, and this author postulated, with once-and-future president Vladimir Putin secure in the Kremlin again, Anatoliy Eduardovich might find relief from the defense portfolio in a job both cushier and more to his liking.
 
In April, Aleksey Makarkin also thought Serdyukov was pretty safe.
 
It’s obvious that the aftermath of the December 4 Duma elections changed a lot of things.
 
Now Oslo-based Professor Baev thinks Serdyukov could be sacrificed in the election run-up for nothing other than loyal performance of the tasks Putin set him to in February 2007.
 
Baev says Putin believes his regime faces an old-fashioned Cold War-style political threat.  Various Western “circles” (NATO, NGOs, CIA) think the regime’s exhausted itself.  Any possible replacement would be welcome to them.
 
Then we get to the essence of Baev’s argument — the fact that the Defense Minister has generated great dissatisfaction and irritation among Russia’s defense factory directors.  Without a serious go-between in the Military-Industrial Commission, Serdyukov’s become the focus of their ire.  They blame him and his subordinates for rejecting Russian weapons and equipment, and claim they’ve hurt Russia’s reputation as an arms exporter.
 
His case in point is the complaint from railcar and armor producer Uralvagonzavod during Putin’s December 15 “direct broadcast” Q and A with citizens.  A caller asked Putin to take Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Makarov by the neck, and replace the former with a “clearheaded Defense Minister.”
 

Baev’s interviewer asks whether Serdyukov will keep his current seat under Putin 2.0:

“. . . I think that the Defense Minister will be replaced even before the election.  The Armed Forces and military enterprises are a large and serious part of the electorate.  It was possible to extinguish accumulated irritation with the promise of money since after long promises they raised pay for officers, although not as substantially as was said.  It’s also possible to give money to OPK enterprises and sacrifice an unliked minister.”

But a resignation won’t be enough:

“I don’t think so because the problems have gone too far.  It’s hardly possible to put the protest mood just on one minister.  Everyone understands perfectly that it’s not the minister who started all this and carried all this out, no one suspects Serdyukov of being a confirmed reformer, having a program, or being a man motivated by a sense of his own mission.  He is a manager, an executive, and extremely stubborn, but he didn’t start this, and that’s clear.  And I don’t think Serdyukov will hold onto the minister’s chair.  The problems and conflicts have become so acute that it’s becoming costly to him.  I think they’ve had enough of him.”

Baev concludes that another civilian should take over the Defense Ministry, and continue separating its intertwined military and civilian functions.  He doubts Serdyukov’s replacement will reverse anything, but simply move forward on the problems reforms have created.

Serdyukov’s departure seems like more of a possibility now than before the Duma elections.  As Baev suggests, Putin could sacrifice his Defense Minister to appease his numerous unhappy defense industrial constituents.  Serdyukov’s fate may hinge on how badly Putin needs a boost for March 4. 

The Defense Minister’s 5-year anniversary comes next month and provides an opportunity for a change short of dismissal.  This author gets the impression Serdyukov’s energy for his difficult job has declined lately.

As for Uralvagonzavod, its workers are unlikely to quit sniping at the Defense Minister.  They, along with other military vehicle makers, have reportedly learned their defense order for 2012 has been drastically cut in favor of procurement in 3-5 years.

Serdyukov Year-Ender (Part III)

A good day to finish old business . . . this covers the second half of Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s Rossiyskaya gazeta interview.  Serdyukov, while remaining on message, seems tired or uninspired in giving this interview.  He reviews old ground rather than breaking any new.

Serdyukov talks about coming to grips with large existing stockpiles of tanks, BMPs, BTRs, guns, and automatic rifles, and indicates he’s waiting for the defense sector to propose some fundamentally new systems.  In regard to Kalashnikovs, the Defense Ministry is open to new developments from private firms but isn’t eschewing future AK purchases from its traditional supplier either.

On Mistral, Serdyukov tells RG the French will decide where it’s best to produce units 3 and 4, and Sevmash is the likely place.  But he wants them to come in cheaper than number 1 and 2 being built in France.  He expects Russia to acquire leading edge shipbuilding techniques in the process.

Serdyukov shows a flash of interest when asked about conclusions from Russia’s recent space launch failures:

“One conclusion — we have to change our approach to military acceptance.  And we’re occupied with this.  Next year we want to reformat it.  There’s already understanding about what has to be done in training units for military acceptance specialists, their incentives, and technical equipping.”

“Generally, this is a serious question.  We haven’t devoted the due attention to military acceptance because of various obstacles.  Now we are smoothing out the situation.  Not so long ago the prime minister had a conference, and Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin gave a whole series of instructions on price formation and tracking contracts.  Acceptance and production quality was one issue.  Today this task is being worked, and we are preparing proposals by the end of the year [2011].”

Serdyukov says voyenpredy can be civilians, but they should be former military men with lots of practical experience.

The last significant point in the second half of Serdyukov’s interview is his call for differentiated training for new professional sergeants — 3 or 4 months for those in motorized rifle units and 2 years or more for EW or communications specialists, for example.  The comparison he gives is training equivalent to technical secondary school or old school for warrant officers.  He indicates he’s not afraid future NCOs will become “eternal students.”

Serdyukov Year-Ender (Part I)

Serdyukov Watches Troops with President Medvedev

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov gave a two-part interview to Rossiyskaya gazeta this week.  It covers some contentious issues, but the questions aren’t exactly hard-hitters, and there’s no follow-up on his answers.  Nevertheless, Serdyukov as always puts out a steady and consistent message on what he, the government, and military are trying to accomplish.  Much of the first part of his interview concerned this year’s GOZ problems and the Defense Ministry’s difficulties coming to terms with defense sector enterprises.

Serdyukov says he’s been occupied for two years with reaching agreement on prices, deadlines, and quality for arms and other military equipment.  But, he says, now producers have no reason to complain because they’re receiving 80-100 percent advance payments for their work.  Some contracts for ships, aircraft, and strategic missiles are long-term ones extending to 2017-2020.  He adds:

“The fact is we are completely forecasting the entire future activity of a company for many years to come.  This allows for planning for expenses and receipts, training personnel, introducing new technologies, reequipping the production base.”

Regarding the tussle over OPK prices, Serdyukov says he’s told enterprises to give the Defense Ministry their production cost [себестоимость], and the military department will make production profitable for them.  Producers can have a profit margin of 20-25 or even 30-35 percent, but, he says, component suppliers will be limited to a one-percent mark-up.

Many producers (Sevmash for one) blame their suppliers for their own high costs, but it seems likely that limiting sub-contractors to a 1 percent profit is a formula for failure.

But Serdyukov has one condition for profits of 30-35 percent over the cost of production:

“The difference [10 percent?] has to go toward the technical reequipping of the enterprise, the purchase of new technologies and licenses.  And this will lead to lower costs or improved technical characteristics and combat potential of this or that weapon in the future.”

Later Serdyukov noted the Defense Ministry will compensate producers for annual inflation but production cost and timeframe will remain fixed. 

Then questions turned to the issue of foreign weapons.  Serdyukov said the Defense Ministry can’t buy Russian arms that aren’t up to world standards in price and quality.  Russia, he said, is interested in foreign systems so it can understand where it lags or has already fallen behind.  He described cooperative ties with foreign producers, buying licenses, and organizing joint production of entire systems or components in Russia as a way to get domestic industry up to date.  Serdyukov said foreign characteristics and prices are always part of the discussion of price formation with OPK enterprises.

Serdyukov told RG he doesn’t believe the Russian defense sector’s potential has dissipated despite the economic and financial difficulties of the last 15 years.  But now, with a 10-year GPV in hand, Russia has to restore the volume of defense production to the level of the 1980s.

He said foreign purchases were mainly small numbers of samples for the Defense Ministry to investigate.  It bought Iveco armored vehicles for explosive testing, after which Russia proposed to produce them jointly with Italy in Voronezh.

Year Two

This blog completed its second year yesterday.  There were 288 posts in year two (a few less than last year).  Just a couple to go to reach 600 posts since December 10, 2009. 

One hopes the reading was half as worthwhile as the writing.  But frustration lingers.  It’s impossible to follow everything.  Adding Twitter provided a “release valve” for overflowing news.  Still there’s tension between posting short items and writing more detailed pieces drawing together many different sources. 

In 2011, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov had plenty of interviews, official appearances, and other public utterances to cover.  There were a large number of high-level personnel changes, retirements, and dismissals to report.

Serdyukov eased a little on cutting the officer corps.  The Defense Ministry readied its new higher pay system while scandal plagued the stopgap premium pay scheme.  Military housing remained a major headache as always.

Moscow hit a wall on manpower and had to accept undermanning.  After acknowledging there aren’t enough potential draftees, the military is starting over (yet again) with an effort to create professional enlisted and NCOs through contract service.

This year began with questions about the GPV’s feasibility, but devolved into immediate problems with GOZ-2011.  The Russians threw money at the OPK without looking at the defense sector’s (and the procurement bureaucracy’s) capability to turn financing into the kind of weapons and equipment the military requires.  Difficulties ramping up production of naval and missile systems occupied media attention.  The public debate over the relative merits of buying Russian or foreign weapons made several headlines.     

So where is Russia’s military?

To this observer, the Russian Armed Forces are improving and beginning serious rearmament.  But the hour is late.  Significant future problems could derail recent positive changes.  These include new and old, unsolved economic, budgetary, social, demographic, and possibly even political challenges.  Not to mention purely military obstacles to modernizing the army and navy.

Your visits and page views grew significantly in year two.  Page views are about 400 a day, 2,000+ a week, and 9,000-10,000 a month.  We’ll see if this is the ceiling for this rather specialized topic.

Your views, opinions, and arguments are always appreciated.  Those sharing or highlighting data and evidence on issues are particularly valuable.

Defense Ministry Collegium

Serdyukov Flanked by Makarov and Pankov

November’s the time for year-end evaluations in the Russian military, and the Defense Ministry had its collegium yesterday.  Mil.ru printed Defense Minister Serdyukov’s introductory remarks.

First on his mind was complete fulfillment of the State Defense Order next year, and signing all GOZ-2012 contracts next month.  He said all responsibility for ordering will be transferred to a “Federal Procurement Agency.”

Some media sources assumed this means Rosoboronpostavka.  This author thinks it could be something new.  It’s important, so here’s exactly what Mil.ru says he said:

“Next year the functions of the ordering organ are being fully transferred to the Federal Procurement Agency.”

If that means Rosoboronpostavka, why not just say Rosoboronpostavka?  ITAR-TASS actually replaced Serdyukov’s words “Federal Procurement Agency” with Rosoboronpostavka.  At the very least, not everyone’s working from the same sheet of music.  But continuing with Serdyukov’s remarks . . .

Unlike large-scale strategic exercises of recent years, the coming year will stress tactical-level training.  But Southern MD exercises will test the new Armed Forces command and control system.

He noted establishment of VVKO by December 1, and said it will “intercept any targets right up to hypersonic speeds, both in the air and in space.”

Military police will start working in the troops in 2012, according to Serdyukov.  They are still occupied at present with selecting personnel, writing regs, etc.  Serdyukov earlier said they’d be functioning in 2011.

The Defense Minister indicated all service functions in the Armed Forces will be outsourced next year.

Without much fanfare, he said the new system of enlisted contract service will start in 2012.

Serdyukov said stimulus pay for officers will continue alongside their newly-approved higher pay.

First Deputy Defense Minister, Chief of the General Staff Nikolay Makarov delivered the collegium’s main report, but the press wasn’t invited to stay.

Meanwhile, today NG sources “don’t exclude” that Anatoliy Serdyukov could soon leave the Defense Ministry to become Finance Minister.  There’s talk Russia’s NATO Permrep Dmitriy Rogozin could succeed him as Defense Minister [because he toured the 58th Army with Medvedev this week].

There are always rumors like these.  Recently it was said Makarov would be “sacrificed” as an electoral offering to military men who don’t like him.  Sometimes the rumors bear out, sometimes not.  More important are the reasons behind any personnel changes. 

Is Putin or Medvedev likely to find a more effective steward of the military than Serdyukov?  Probably not.  The fiery politician Rogozin would be a dramatic change from the retiring technocrat Serdyukov.  The former would inspire and appeal to the troops more than the latter, but not do a better job.  Of course, we shouldn’t assume capability is the leadership’s most important criterion in picking a Defense Minister.

It’s 60-40 for Serdyukov

Serdyukov and Ivanov (photo: Komsomolskaya pravda)

After a couple months and 50 votes, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov got past his predecessor Sergey Ivanov by a margin of 30 votes to 20 for the title of better defense minister.

It was interesting.  Serdyukov (your author’s choice) jumped out to a big lead, and Ivanov spent the rest of the time trying hard to catch up, but never quite making it.  Every time Ivanov started to, Serdyukov supporters came out and boosted his numbers.

It was surprising though.  Your author thought Serdyukov would crush Ivanov.

Of course, none of this was scientific.  And it was a fallacious comparison.  The men arrived in different circumstances and experienced different situations.

For this author’s money, though, Serdyukov has done a much better job with the hand he was dealt.  Primarily because he’s actually done some things.  And he broke the uniformed military’s grip on defense policymaking.  Granted, the results haven’t been exactly perfect.  And, over time, views of Serdyukov will be influenced by what comes after him.  But 60 percent in this little poll isn’t a bad showing for a guy who encountered and tamed a lot of resistance along the way.

Ivanov, by contrast, was timid, tentative, and generally ineffective, in this writer’s view.  To be fair, he held less favorable cards by comparison, especially early on.

It may possible, of course, that the 20 votes for Ivanov are anti-Serdyukov votes rather than pro-Ivanov.

If you voted and would like to comment about your thinking either way, others would be interested to read it.

Medvedev Signs Pay Law

Medvedev's Meeting on Pay Law

Monday President Medvedev met an unusual group — the Defense Minister, General Staff Chief, and MD / OSK commanders (but no service CINCs or branch commanders) — to announce he signed the long-discussed law on military pay that becomes effective on January 1, 2012.

The increased military pay in this law was a key goal for Anatoliy Serdyukov when he arrived at the Defense Ministry nearly five years ago.  Premium pay was just a stopgap.  So this is a success for his reform program.  His idea was to cut half (or more) of the officer corps and raise the pay of those remaining.  Of course, he had to back off somewhat on cutting down to 150,000 officers.

Why did it take so long to enact an increase in military pay?  Was it hard to find the money?  Maybe, given the global financial crisis of the late 2000s.  Was it hard to overcome former Finance Minister Kudrin’s resistance to higher defense outlays?  

Newsru.com, Svpressa.ru, and others see the pay increase as timed to coincide with Duma and presidential elections, and designed to engender the military’s goodwill toward the current leadership at the ballot box.  It’s worth noting the reduction in conscription from two years to one came in the context of the last national elections in 2008.

According to Kremlin.ru’s account, Medvedev indicated he wanted to congratulate those assembled on their long, hard effort to raise military pay to its new level, on average 2.5 or 3 times above today’s pay.  RIA Novosti provides the standard example of lieutenants rising from 19 to 50 thousand a month. 

In addition to higher base pay, the usual supplements will remain in effect, including additional pay for special duties, class qualifications, and difficult service conditions.  Premiums of up to three times base pay for outstanding performance will also continue.  Military pensions will increase at least 50 percent to 17,000 on average.  Read more about pay calculations here.

Addressing his small audience, Medvedev said:

“In such a way, servicemen have a very serious stimulus to carry out their service duties well and improve their professional training.”

He was careful to say those without duty posts (the so-called распоряженцы) won’t be left behind:

“It also includes important provisions, which, in principle, allow us to prevent worsening of the material situation of different categories of servicemen, citizens, dismissed from military service, their family members, if the amount of pay given them is reduced in connection with introducing the new system, then here there is an established mechanism of compensation and balancing out of these payments that is also an important guarantee of financial stability for our servicemen.”

Not reassuring.  But those guys won’t vote for United Russia and Putin anyway. 

The president continued:

“I won’t conceal that many drafts were ripped up around it, there were many discussions about whether we were prepared to raise pay to such a degree, whether the state had the resources for this, whether this wouldn’t drain our budget, wouldn’t create some kind of problems in the future?”

“I want to tell those present and, naturally, all servicemen of the Armed Force to hear me:  it won’t drain us, everything will be normal, and all required payments by the government will be made because this is the most important guarantee of raising the professional preparation of servicemen and improving the quality and effectiveness of the Armed Forces.  Therefore, the decisions, proposed several years ago, are being executed and put into action by this law.”

Thanking Medvedev, Serdyukov said:

“For us, in a complete sense, this resolves all earlier problems:  this is manning with both officers and contractees; this is serving; this is the attractiveness of military service, the fact is this is the entire complex of issues which weren’t practically resolved for us.”

Medvedev completed his remarks with this:

“But the main thing the state, by adopting this law, its signing and, accordingly, its entry into force, shows is that decisions once given voice are subject to unconditional fulfillment, whether someone likes them or not, if depending on them is the social condition of a huge number of people:  these are servicemen and their family members.”

“And further, we will do this so that our Armed Forces will be highly effective, and service in them will be prestigious and highly professional.”

So Medvedev declared it a test of governmental capability, and swiped at dear departed Kudrin who opposed the extent of defense budget increases in view of priorities like education and health (not to mention the pension fund).

It takes capability to implement a decision, yes, but it takes even more to stick with it over the long term.  Will the Russian government be able to continue the new level of military pay when the elections are over, economic conditions less favorable, oil prices and revenues lower, and budgets tighter?  That’ll be the true test of capability.

P.S.  We shouldn’t forget that the Defense Ministry has also semi-obligated itself to paying 425,000 professional enlisted contractees 25,000 rubles or more a month in the future.  That will probably equal the bill for paying officers.  Let’s estimate this total cost at 500 billion rubles a year.  The non-procurement defense budget in 2009 was only 670 billion.