Tag Archives: Brigades

“New Profile” Brigades

Representative "New Profile" Brigade

Not long ago someone asked what Russia’s “new profile” brigades look like.  There’s a good bit available on this. 

General Staff Chief Makarov signed off on the TO&E (org-shtat) as far back as three years ago, just a couple months after Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reforms were launched. 

The org chart for a typical motorized rifle brigade shown above is inelegant.  Some elements aren’t represented due to your author’s lack of graphic skills.  Among important missing items are the artillery command recce battery and air defense radar platoon.

The sniper platoon has been part of the new TO&E, but its existence was only emphasized by the media of late.

And this post doesn’t delve into precisely how postulated Russian light, medium, and heavy brigades might differ.

The manpower looks to be under 4,400 officers and men, 327 officers and 4,066 soldiers (including 1,005 sergeants) to be exact.  Russia’s officer corps bloat doesn’t seem to apply to serving out here “in the troops,” as they say.  Officers are only 8 percent of the brigade’s personnel. 

However, this representative brigade is (or was) commanded by a general-major (O-7), and had 5 full colonels, and 29 O-5s.  There are almost as many majors (43) as captains (68), and a fairly low number of senior lieutenants (181).

In terms of equipment, battalions remain battalions — 40 tanks or armored vehicles per.  The SP howitzers are 152mm 2S19 Msta-S or 2S3M Akatsiya and/or 122mm 2S1 Gvozdika.  MRLs are the venerable BM-21 Grad, in a battalion of three batteries with six launchers per.  Antitank artillery is towed and ATGMs are Konkurs (AT-5 / Spandrel) and Shturm-S (AT-6A / Spiral).  Air defense isn’t particularly modern consisting of batteries of 2S6 Tunguska (SA-19 / Grison), Strela-10 (SA-13 / Gopher), and Osa (SA-8B / Gecko). 

Other English-language observers have looked at the same data.  This one shows the organization and manpower distribution for a brigade’s sub-units (battalion-level and lower).  This one does much the same with some guessing at tactical organization and equipment.

P.S.  One forgotten thing here is how logistics and maintenance may, or may not, have changed at the brigade level with Serdyukov’s outsourcing, Oboronservis, and taking soldiers off noncore (i.e. non-combat) duties.  But the supply and repair battalions still appear on the org charts.

Medvedev Talks to Brigade Commanders

Medvedev Speaks at Brigade Commanders' Assembly

According to Kremlin.ru, President Dmitriy Medvedev traveled to the Gorokhovets training ground near Nizhniy Novgorod today to observe battalion-level ground and air maneuvers.  It’s a modern twist on an old tradition of presidential speeches before end-of-training-year assemblies in Moscow. 

Medvedev inspected a new field camp, different weapons and equipment, and watched a Tunguska demonstration.

Afterward he met brigade commanders observing the exercise, and addressed them about the process of reforming the armed forces.

Medvedev said for two years Russia has been actively modernizing its armed forces to make them more compact, effective, and better equipped, and completing ‘org-shtat’ measures [i.e. TO&E changes] to achieve a ‘new profile.’  Flanked by Defense Minister Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Makarov, he promised the assembled commanders a defense budget worth 2.8 percent of Russia’s GDP every year until 2020, but he said getting this level of spending will not be easy, and it requires adjustments and cuts elsewhere.

He particularly emphasized establishing the new system of higher pay to replace earlier ad hoc measures like premium pay.  He seemed to say extra money will be squeezed out for this, but people will be watching how it’s spent.  Kremlin.ru posted some of Medvedev’s opening remarks:

“This is creating the conditions to equip the troops with new equipment in accordance with the current edition of the State Program of Armaments and, what is a no less important task and really no less complex, to resolve all social issues which exist for servicemen.  This issues are also well-known.”

 “First and foremost is the indexation of pay which we are already now conducting, and implementation of the housing construction program.  From 2012, the planned reform of the military pay system not according to those fragmentary pieces which exist at present, not according to those selective approaches which exist, but a full reform of pay.”

“In the final accounting, we should get so that base salary, monetary salary of servicemen will be increased practically three times. And in the process to preserve and to extend to all the Armed Forces that which we talked about in the past, that which we did according to groundwork laid in bounds of order 400 and some other Defense Ministry documents.”

“All planned measures, reform measures should be calculated and materially supported in the most rigorous way.  An adjustment in the military budget is being conducted and oversight of the use of resources is being organized for this.  I promise the attention of all Defense Ministry leaders on this:  all these processes need to be completed in coordination with other government structures in order that we should have absolute precision here.”

“A high level of financial support for the Armed Forces allows, I hope, for freeing servicemen from noncore housekeeping functions – that, in fact, was done long ago in the armies of other countries.  The troops need first and foremost to put their attention on operational training, combat exercises, to concentrate exclusively on these issues.  Security duties (firstly, perhaps not even security, but cleaning), everyday support, food preparation should be transferred to civilian organizations.”

Medvedev told the commanders their brigades should be self-sufficient, modern, balanced, and capable of fulfilling missions given them, and he invited their feedback because, as he said, the success of the military’s transformation depends on it.

“It would also be useful for me to know your opinion on the quality of the reform, on the organizational changes, what, in your view, has proven itself useful, and where there are problems.”

Despite soliciting their honest opinions, one doubts the Supreme CINC will hear many complaints from this audience.  They are, after all, winners in the reform process since they managed to continue serving in command positions.

Not Enough Officers in ‘New Type’ Brigades?

In today’s Vedomosti, Aleksey Nikolskiy writes that Vostok-2010 has revealed a problem with officer manning in Russia’s ‘new type’ brigades.

In the course of the exercise, practically all SibVO and DVO permanent readiness units have been ordered to training ranges to test out their new TO&E and train their higher-level command elements.

Nikolskiy says:

“In the words of an officer of one of the motorized rifle brigades participating in the exercise, the new structures sent to the troops at the end of 2008 after the beginning of Armed Forces reform showed that officer manning and supply services are extremely inadequate, for this reason part of the brigades’ forces — for example, air defense means — can’t physically reach the training range.  There were bigger problems also with material support of the troops.”

Vedomosti’s source also says the troops are expecting new brigade structures in August that, according to the rumor, will contain even fewer officers.  A brigade’s officers will reportedly be halved, from 200 to 100, and this will just make the situation worse.  However, an officer from the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus says the new structures are being prepared based on the shortcomings of the exercise, and, if it’s decided there aren’t enough officers, their number will increase.

Humanizing and Outsourcing the Army

Press outlets report that the Siberian MD’s Yurga-based 74th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade is the test bed for Defense Minister Serdyukov’s army ‘humanization’ initiative announced in late April.  And today Chief of Rear Services, Deputy Defense Minister General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov expounded upon the extent of, and near-term plans for, outsourcing of food services in the army. 

The 74th IMRB is trying out a 5-day work week and weekend passes for soldiers.  They are permitted to wear civilian clothes while off-base for the first time.  The brigade has also introduced an after-lunch rest hour into the daily regimen. 

ITAR-TASS quotes brigade commander Colonel Andrey Khoptyar: 

“The intensity of combat training in 2010 has risen significantly, the load on soldiers has increased, therefore extra rest time has been allocated.”

Khoptyar said his soldiers are also getting an additional 30 minutes of sleep at night.

The media describes the 74th IMRB as one of Russia’s best performing and best-outfitted formations.  Some of its soldiers live in ‘hotel-type’ accommodations with four-man rooms and their own bath and shower rooms.

Transferring nonmilitary functions and duties from soldiers and their units to contracted commercial firms was another facet of Serdyukov’s April announcement.  Since December, this brigade’s troops have been spared mess hall duty because a private firm ‘MedStroy’ has taken over responsibility for operating its cafeteria.

IA Regnum described this as a “practical trial of new measures in all-around systematic support of day-to-day troop life by outside civilian organizations on an outsourcing basis.”  As the SibVO spokesman says:

“The main idea of the innovations is to free servicemen, to the maximum extent, from performing noncore tasks, establishing conditions for full-fledged combat training of personnel.”

At present, outsourced food service has already been establishing in the SibVO’s Ulan-Ude, Aleysk, and Yurga brigades, and the district military hospital in Chita.  The process of changing to this system of service has already started in two more permanent readiness brigades, the district training center, rear services units of two SibVO armies, three military schools, and 12 military hospitals this year.

The SibVO spokesman says state contracts worth 1 billion rubles have been concluded which bring 1,000 civilian specialists to provide services to more than 20,000 of the district’s troops.  The contracts include food and laundry services, housing-communal services in military towns, recreation services, and other material-technical support, including POL provision to the tune of more than 71 million rubles.

Beyond experiments in the SibVO, today Armed Forces Rear Services Chief Bulgakov told the press 340,000 soldiers in all permanent readiness units, military-educational institutions, and cadet and Suvorov premilitary schools will be fed through outsourced contracts by this year’s end.  He indicated 180,000 soldiers will be fed in 200 units for an annual cost of 6.5 billion rubles by 1 September.   At present, the logistics head said civilian enterprises are feeding 141,000 soldiers in 99 units, except in inaccessible and distant areas.  According to Bulgakov, commercial firms not only provide quality service, but are more economical than having soldiers perform this work.  Bulgakov added that outsourced food service has:

“. . . eliminated the diversion of personnel from combat training activities, food quality has improved, the variety of food prepared has broadened, culinary culture has been raised; the energy value, chemical composition and full achievement of the norms of food rations are reliably meeting normative requirements.”

Bulgakov spoke to reporters during a special rear services exercise supporting an ‘inter-service force grouping’ in the SibVO.  He pointed out how studying U.S. and NATO experiences influenced the Russian Army’s decision to outsource support functions.  According to ITAR-TASS, he said:

“As a result it was evident that the entire U.S. and NATO contingent in Afghanistan and Iraq at present is outsourcing all material-technical support.”

He added that “civilian specialists from commercial structures in these countries are working both in military units in their places of permanent deployment as well as in ‘hot spots.’”

Makarov Describes the Army He’s Building

Nikolay Makarov (photo: Viktor Vasenin)

Today’s Rossiyskaya gazeta interview with General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov has lots of questions and answers on the state of U.S.-Russian negotiations on a new strategic arms treaty, and on missile defense.  If you’re interested in those, you’ll need to read for yourself.

If you’re interested in the other things Makarov said, read on.

Asked isn’t it strange that Russia’s army would be cut when NATO is drawing closer to its borders, Makarov answers:

“We proceeded from the fact that the world has changed to a significant degree in the last 15-20 years.  Russia needs armed forces capable of reacting promptly to any threats and challenges.  Our army, if you take the first Chechen campaign, couldn’t cope with these functions.  To fulfill missions we were forced to man military units with, as a rule, untrained soldiers and officers in the course of combat actions.”

Makarov goes on, saying, after 1996, the army manned 13 percent of its regiments at 80 percent of their wartime complement, so they would be ready for action in a few days if needed.  The remaining 87 percent stayed at cadre level, with equipment and supplies in storage.  So Russia kept a big army that ate up enormous resources, but couldn’t carry out missions. Officers and warrants were almost 50 percent of personnel, and there weren’t enough soldiers.  Possible variants for the best structure were considered and the brigade was selected.  And today any brigade can be ready for action in only one hour, according to Makarov.

Makarov says, in Afghanistan and Chechnya, battalions were reinforced with reconnaissance, artillery, air defense, logistics, and repair units before they deployed for combat.  But battalion commanders weren’t so good at commanding these attached units not normally in their TO&E.  So, says Makarov, it was decided to add these units to battalions, so their commanders can learn how to employ them.  And three battalions organized as such and fully manned comes to 4,500 or 5,000 men–a ‘half division’ rather than a regiment.  And, he notes, battalions can operate independently or as part of brigade tactical groups.

He goes on to explain the Russian Army’s changed outlook:

“In the past we fought with multimillion-man groupings of troops, the basis of which were fronts.  The experience of military conflicts of the past decades showed that such a war was possible, but unlikely.  In the future, troops will go over to actively maneuvering actions.  The actions of inter-service groupings on the entire depth of the enemy’s force structure are replacing frontal battles.  The sides will try to destroy critically important objectives, and also conduct noncontact combat actions.”

The interviewer asks Makarov why only 2 tank brigades in 85 Ground Troops brigades, doesn’t the infantry need armored support?

Makarov answers that, like cavalry in the new age of automatic weapons, today the tank’s role is becoming secondary.  But what’s causing the change? He says it’s the information and artificial intelligence inside equipment, highly accurate weapons used as part of a single information space, and weapons that ‘see’ and ‘know’ everything and can be used against troops and targets in automatic mode.  But he calls robot-tanks with highly accurate weapons a thing of the future at this point.  And Makarov adds that no one is forsaking tanks:

“Here you’re talking only two brigades. Actually we are filling motorized rifle brigades with a great number of tanks.”

Makarov explains the advantages of modular brigades and battalions. Modularity means freedom in structuring battalions and brigades.  If we need a fist of motorized rifle and tank battalions and artillery batteries, we make it.  Commanders in the past didn’t have this freedom.  The entire army force structure was laid out for the conduct of a large-scale war.

Makarov explains modularity as a reaction to Chechnya and even World War II where C2 and force structure was created out of troop units that weren’t coordinated [неслажённые –a difficult one in English, troops that weren’t previously trained and melded together into a cohesive unit or formation].

Asked if there aren’t place in the RF where one can fight with divisions, Makarov says the Russian Army hasn’t gone completely away from divisions [but almost].  But he goes on to insist that their modular nature allows brigades to be used just as well as divisions in Siberia or the Far East, just as well in a large-scale war as independently.

Asked how the army can be trained to fight in a new way, he says:

“The last twenty years there was no intensive combat training in the Russian Army, graduates of commissioning schools and academies didn’t reinforce their theoretical knowledge with practical actions.  And like a foreign language–if there’s no practice, in 2-3 years it’s forgotten.  At the same time, officers without such practice rose in position and rank, some even served to the point of commanding armies.”

“Two tasks stood before us.  First of all, to change the mentality of commanders and their views on war.  It certainly wouldn’t be the one they were taught in the past.  Troop actions, capabilities and forms of their employment have become absolutely different.”

“In order to get to a common understanding, a common methodology is needed.  We are beginning to introduce it, but we are dedicating the current year to individual training of servicemen and combat coordination [слажевание]  of brigades.  From January to February 2010 at the base of the Military Academy of the General Staff we conducted supplementary courses with military district, fleet, and army commanders and their deputies.  Officers ranking from general-colonel to colonel serve in these positions in the armed forces.  Special demands are made on them as organizers, directors, those directly responsible for teaching and training subordinate military command and control organs and troops.”

“We’ve built a training chain, but we understand that this is just the first step.  Everything that officers study in theory still needs to be assimilated in practice.  For this in the second half of May we plan to conduct an operational assembly on the base of one of the units of the Moscow Military District where we are developing a single methodology of training in brigades and below.”

Makarov says 148 new ‘programmatic-regulation documents’ have already been developed.  The Kavkaz, Zapad, and Ladoga exercises last year showed some problems with them, but working groups from the Center for Military-Strategic Research and the Main Combat Training Directorate are reworking them.  The revised regulations will be used in Vostok-2010.  The goal is to have a new combat training program and new combat manuals before 1 October.  Once approved, they’ll be used to organize training starting in 2011.

Makarov also takes this opportunity to expound on his views of netcentric command and control.  He mentions that the U.S. war in Iraq showed that former canons about needing to have 2-3 or 5-6 times superiority in forces and means for military victory no longer necessarily apply.  He says Moscow has the ambitious goal of achieving netcentric command and control in 2-3 years, but the future system is being established in the SKVO this year.

The last issue raised for part one of Makarov’s interview–contract service.  Makarov says the media claimed he had recognized the failure of military reform, when what he really addressed were the miscalculations in contract service over a period of several years.

He says 6-month conscripts were forced into contracts just to meet the [previous] Genshtab’s dictate to have not less than 95 percent contractees in permanent readiness units.  He says these guys were not professionals, but rather just highly [well, not terribly highly] paid conscript soldiers who left the army at the end of their two years anyway.  So, Makarov concludes, it’s no surprise that contract service became a fiasco.

But he adds, we aren’t turning away from it.  A fully contract army would be the very best variant if Russia could afford it [can’t it?], but it can’t according to Makarov.  So he continues:

“Therefore we want to select as professionals only those who’ve served in the army [as conscripts], and only for positions determining the combat capability of military units, related to the operation of complex and expensive equipment.  In the Navy, practically all positions are such.  In motorized rifle brigades not less than 20 percent of the TO&E will be contractees–tank, antiaircraft, and artillery system drivers, gunner-operators, some other specialties.  Plus sergeants.”

“Moreover, if a sergeant is a professional, has served 10-15 years and the level of his training is higher than a new lieutenant, he should get more than the young officer.  We understand that the pay of a contract soldier has to guarantee the attractiveness of military service.  All this will be put into the new pay system.”

Asked about housing for contractees, Makarov says professional soldiers and sergeants need to live like officers in service apartments or dormitories.

Collapsing Contract Service, the Draft, and Professional NCOs

General Staff Chief Makarov’s recent death pronouncement for contract service means, as he said, more conscripts in the near future (or an attempt to conscript more soldiers).

In the longer run, however, the collapse of contract service means the Russian Army faces several manpower policy choices, each unpalatable for its own reasons.  The army will likely be less combat ready, and less combat capable, than desired.

Think back about where the army’s been, and how it reached the current predicament.

The armed forces were reportedly 1.13 million men, but probably more, in recent years.  At any moment, they had four distinct draft contingents of about 130,000 conscripts, totaling 520,000 draftees.  Next, they had a layer of perhaps 300,000 contractees and warrant officers.  The contractees included probably 90,000 long-term enlisted, NCOs, and females as well as no more than 80,000 contract soldiers from 2002 and later.  There were probably about 130,000 warrants.

So, let’s count 520,000 conscripts and the middle layer of 300,000, for a total of 820,000.  Lastly, on top, let’s add nearly 400,000 officers. 

What did this manpower structure mean for the Russian Army’s force structure?

With practically the same number of conscripts and officers, the force structure was hollow–few units or formations were fully manned and many low-strength (cadre) units had officers and equipment, but only small numbers of soldiers–conscript or contract–and they existed only to be fleshed out with mobilized reservists in the unlikely event of a big war.

This structure didn’t work well in little wars like Chechnya or more recently Georgia in which the army had to piece together regiments by finding combat ready battalions and capable commanders wherever they could be found.

In 2006, Putin said of the military dilemma at the outset of the second Chechen war:

“. . . we needed to gather a force of at least 65,000 men.  And yet the in all of the Ground Troops there were only 55,000 in combat ready units, and even they were scattered all around the country.  The army was 1.4 million strong, but there was no one to do the fighting.  And so unseasoned lads were sent to face the bullets.”

And in late 2008, Medvedev emphasized the need for 100 percent combat ready units as the number one lesson of the August conflict over South Ossetia:

“Overall, these changes aim to make the Armed Forces more combat ready.  We talked about the war in the Caucasus, where our armed forces demonstrated their best qualities, but this does not mean that there were not also problems that became apparent.  We need to continue improving our Armed Forces. What steps does this require?  First, we need to move over to a system of service only in permanent combat ready units.”

So, after the August war with Georgia, Serdyukov moved to eliminate the huge, big-war mobilization base, hollow units, and unneeded officers, and to use the savings to man and outfit 85 Ground Troops brigades in a permanently combat ready condition.

Given a nominal strength of 3,000 men in them, the army needs roughly 260,000 troops to man these new combat brigades.  And this doesn’t count conscripts needed elsewhere in the Ground Troops, Rear Services, VVS, VMF, RVSN, VDV, or KV.

With the commencement of the one-year draft in 2008, Moscow doubled its induction of conscripts from 130,000 to 270,000 every six months.  And the Ground Troops need fully half the 540,000 conscripts present in the armed forces at any given moment.

Like any country, Russia has a real and an ideal army, the army it has and the army it wants (a la Rumsfeld).  Moscow’s ideal army by 2012 has one million men, including 150,000 officers, a layer of 64,000 professional NCOs, and conscripts as the balance, perhaps 800,000.

But the Arbat military district hasn’t articulated it this clearly for several reasons.  First, shedding officers and (warrants) year after year isn’t an easy task.  Second, the number of professional NCOs desired or available in the future is in doubt given General Staff Chief Makarov’s and Defense Minister Serdyukov’s statements on the failure of contract service and the apparent withdrawal of funding for the current contract sergeants program.  And third, it’s unclear if Moscow can draft 400,000 young men semiannually to put 800,000 soldiers in the ranks.

The army Russia has is messier than the vision stated above.  Serdyukov says they are at 1 million already.  There were a reported 355,000 officers at the outset of the current reform in late 2008.  About 40,000 officer billets were vacant and 65,000 officers were released in 2009, putting them at 250,000 officers today.  Serdyukov has set about the elimination of almost all warrant officers, but he hasn’t said what they’ve done in this regard yet. Let’s guess 30,000 have been dismissed, leaving 100,000 warrants.  Let’s also make reasonable guesses that 60,000 recent contractees and 70,000 longer term ones remain in the troops.

So what is there?  Armed forces with 540,000 conscript soldiers and about 480,000 officers, warrants, and contract enlisted.  Moscow will have to revitalize its military education system to get the smaller number of quality officers needed in the future.  Getting the requisite numbers of conscripts will be a challenge given the country’s well-known demographic problems which are biting hard right now.  But obtaining the noncommissioned officer layer of military unit leadership is also proving difficult.  The layer is presently a jumble of perhaps 230,000 warrant officers, contract sergeants, and even officers and warrants who’ve accepted downgraded positions rather than dismissal.  It is not the army’s ideal, but this middle layer fulfills some functions.

With all this said, what are the Russian Army’s manpower options for the future?

If Moscow actually reduces the officer corps to 150,000 by 2012 and the contract sergeant program is not put on track, the balance of its 1 million man army could be 800,000 or 850,000 conscripts (including conscript-sergeants trained for only 3 or 6 months).  Drafting 400,000-425,000 men every six months would be practically impossible.  Of the current cohort of maybe 900,000 18-year-olds, maybe 300,000 can be inducted, leaving the army to find 500,000-550,000 conscripts among men who are 19-27 and have not already served, but can be difficult to induct for various reasons.

Even if manned fully, a 12-month force has to make Moscow wonder whether this mass of conscripts with this amount of training really meets its definition of a modern, combat-ready, and combat-capable army.

Reducing the manpower requirement by cutting the army’s overall size would reduce the draft burden, but it would contravene the decreed million-man army policy.  There would be howls of protest that the army is too small to cover Russia’s borders (as if one million is even enough to do it).

Extending conscription back even to 18 months would ease this task considerably.  Moscow could take just slightly more than the 270,000 it is conscripting now for 12 months, and by keeping them an extra six months, it could work its way up to a conscripted force of nearly 850,000 in the space of a year and a half.  An increased draft term would be unpopular but Russians would swallow it.  It’s not like it would lead to a Medvedev (or Putin) defeat at the polls in 2012.  The real problem might be the draft’s similarity to taxes–the longer (or higher) they get, the more incentive for people to avoid them.

So that brings us back to the central point.

The way to reduce the number of conscripts needed for a million-man army, keep the draft term at 12 months, and have a reasonably well-trained and capable force is the one path that has been abandoned–developing a large and professional NCO corps that has the right material incentives to serve for a career.

The slow-to-start, small-scale, and apparently recently eviscerated Federal Goal Program to train only 64,000 professional sergeants is not enough.  The current ranks 230,000 of former officers turned sergeants, warrant officers, warrants turned sergeants, contract sergeants, and enlisted contractees is a stew that could theoretically be converted to a professional NCO corps, but it would be far from easy.  In terms of size, however, it’s more like what’s required to do the job, lighten the conscription load a little, and impart some professionalism to a mass, short-term draftee army, if these NCOs become professionals themselves.

What professional NCOs demand in return is pretty basic (higher than median income wages, family housing, and guaranteed off-duty time outside the garrison), but they haven’t gotten it since the most recent contract experiments began in the early 2000s.  In many cases, even officers haven’t got these things.  But the pay promised in the contract sergeant program (up to 35,000 rubles per month after graduation) is more like what’s needed to attract men.

The sergeant program seems to be the army they want, but the Defense Ministry appears to have pulled the financial plug on it.  The flotsam and jetsam is the army they have and might be turned into something, but there’s no move in this direction as yet.  Meanwhile, recall that Serdyukov’s plan for mass officer reductions was partly justified by the thinking that many officer tasks would go into the hands of capable NCOs.  And as recently as the 5 March Defense Ministry collegium, Medvedev said:

“Particular attention also should go to sergeant personnel. Sergeants need to be capable, if the situation demands it, of replacing their tactical level officers.”

Shurygin Critique of Military Reform (Part 1)

Vladislav Shurygin

In part one of Big Reform or Big Lie, military commentator and critic Shurygin complains that opposing views on Serdyukov’s military reforms have not been heard.    

Instead of his idealized view of the former Soviet Army fairly harmoniously serving the state’s interests, he sees today’s Russian military as an army of the underprivileged, who can’t escape service, protecting the interests of particular individuals, or political and economic groups.  He likens it to an old Soviet labor camp, with officers in the roles of overseers and guards, and conscripts as inmates, divided into various upper and lower castes.   

Shurygin provides unsourced polling data that “would shock any sociologist.”  More than 80 percent of conscripts don’t trust the government.  Sixty percent are dissatisfied with the country today, and 90 percent are disenchanted with Russia’s social and economic inequality and don’t want to risk their lives for it.  

He says mass drunkenness, self-interest, protectionism, and corruption is flourishing in the officer corps.  Officers live a pitiful half-beggarly life and are demoralized.  They serve to obtain apartments and a pension, or the possibility of arranging a good existence in the civilian world.  Eighty-eight percent of officers retire within six months of receiving an apartment or a pension.  And the High Command has lost its will, backbone, and ability to talk to the authorities as equals as result of purges.  

So what has two years of reforms brought?  The fully combat-ready brigade as the universal unit from Kamchatka to Pskov, according to Shurygin.  But the lovely paper plans of the staff are far from real implementation.  Many brigades are light, having only 2,200 men instead of 3-5,000.  There are several different forms of brigades and it’s impossible to find even two identical ones.  

Shurygin concludes the brigade is an especially bad fit for Russia’s Far East.  They are spread thin.  Despite this, General Staff Chief Makarov tells the media that they can hold off an enemy for 45 days while mobilization and reinforcement takes place.  Shurygin compares Makarov’s optimistic words to those of Stalin’s generals who promised to defeat the USSR’s enemies on their own territory.  

By contrast, officers in the Far East joke that after the Serdyukov-Makarov “optimization,” the Chinese Army won’t find it hard to defeat Russians.  The problem will be to find them. 

Shurygin believes ‘optimized’ brigades are not equal to the regiments they replaced in combat capabilities.  It is difficult to move brigades as a single combat units.  It’s a chaotic, extended process in which command and control is lost.  He attributes much of this to not having enough officers. 

Regiments of 2,000 had 400 officers and warrants, whereas new brigades of 4,000 have 327 officers.  Weakness in command and control is felt especially in the brigade staff, where officers with combat experience and long years of service are missing because of dismissals.  The old regiment staff had 48 officers and warrants, the new brigade staff only 33 officers. 

Shurygin thinks the new brigades are especially lacking in reconnaissance.  They have a reconnaissance chief, but no department or section to analyze and integrate information for the commander. 

In battle against a technologically advanced enemy, the enemy’s reconnaissance, target designation, and weapons delivery capabilities would exceed those of the ‘new profile’ brigades several times over.

Some things needed for real combat capability have been forgotten.  In copying Western-style brigades, the Defense Ministry forgot to copy their strong logistic support which is still provided by divisions.  Shurygin cites General-Major Vladimirov in calling the new brigades “abnormally inflated regiments,” which Shurygin says have fully lost the mobility and unity of regiments.

Shurygin turns next to the vaunted 1-hour readiness assertion first publicized by Makarov.  He wants to ask Makarov whom he intends for motorized rifle brigades in Tver, Naro-Fominsk, or Samara to fight on one hour’s warning.  By contrast, according to him, the U.S. concept of readiness comes into play once forces are deployed to their theater of action.  Shurygin goes on to explain that VOSO, the Russian staff’s military transportation service responsible for strategic mobility, has been slashed from 2,500 to 400 personnel.  As an example of the current lacked of needed mobility, he says it took 5 days for a partial tank brigade to move 500 kilometers in Russian-Belorussian exercises this summer.  So it’s understandable that Makarov would rather focus on 1-hour readiness than on mobility.

Shurygin ends by citing Khramchikhin on what kind of forces Russia is getting via military reform.  For Georgia or terrorism, Russia has the RVSN and nuclear submarines it can’t use.  For advanced opponents like the U.S. and NATO, Russia is clearly weak and can’t effectively oppose them.  For an equal like China, there simply aren’t enough Russian forces.