Tag Archives: Dmitriy Medvedev

Would the Army Oppose Siloviki Loyal to Putin?

Medvedev and Putin (photo: Reuters)

An unnamed FSB veteran thinks it would.

Monday New Times published a piece on the state of the tandem and political prospects over the next year leading up to the elections which will determine who will be Russia’s president until 2018.

The article’s authors ask whether Medvedev and Putin, frightened by North African events, might be determined to preserve the status quo by any means.  Or perhaps the president and prime minister face an inevitable clash.  The authors have consulted unnamed experts and present their findings.  Scenario No. 2 is Apocalypse Tomorrow.  The mood of the siloviki – in this case, rank-and-file men with uniforms, ranks, and guns – is key to Scenario No. 2 – the tandem blown up.  The authors ask “how would the siloviki conduct themselves if Medvedev decided to fire the premier and his entire government?  On whom would the experts bet?”

The authors asked former USSR intelligence and special service veterans of coup d’etats to sketch out what we’d see in the event of Apocalypse Tomorrow.  They sketch out some of the things Putin and the government would do in addition to calling for the support of the siloviki.

In the end, the article examines the possibility that Putin might agree to go, with the right personal and financial guarantees in place.  His situation is not, after all, exactly like Mubarak’s or Qaddafi’s.

The article ends like this:

“’Putin can hardly count on the silovik bloc if the matter gets to mass bloodshed,’ even a highly placed employee of the FSB’s Spetsnaz Center, which today joins in its structure Directorate A (formerly Group A) and Directorate V (formerly Group Vympel).  ‘His sole full-blooded reserve capable of entering the fray is the Internal Troops [VV], and mainly the VV Spetsnaz’ – the so-called maroon berets.  ‘They are the ones in 1993, after one of the Vympel groups refused to participate in suppressing the civilian population, who fulfilled the given mission’ (this means preventing the storming of the Ostankino television center – New Times).  ‘As far as the FSB Spetsnaz goes, after so many years of ‘reforming’ silovik sub-units, officers will scarcely be zealous in putting down civilians.  Quite the opposite.  It wasn’t for this that they risked their lives in the Caucasus.’  The weakest link, in the opinion of the same expert, is the army:  ‘Among the troops there’s a lot of negative information and dissatisfaction with the reforms that are being introduced.  Promises that a lieutenant will soon receive 50 thousand rubles just remain promises, the apartment issue isn’t resolved.  After the mass dismissal of officers – just in the past year 140 thousand completely young ‘reservists’ were put out in the streets – they will easily return to the ranks [i.e. Serdyukov’s reversal increasing the officer ranks by 70,000], but now they know who their enemy is.  Plus the disbanding of the GRU Spetsnaz.  As a result, the opposition will have something to oppose the Internal Troops.  So the generals will think a thousand times before giving the order to open fire, and if there is the slightest suspicion about the illegitimacy of the mission received, they’ll do everything to sabotage it.’”

“The experts polled by New Times come together on one thing:  a bloody scenario has a greater than 50% probability in one case:  if the premier and his closest silovik circle seriously fear for their lives and property and don’t get a security guarantee.  And now before their eyes there’s even a living example:  going peacefully into retirement Mubarak has a chance to preserve part of his billions frozen in Switzerland, Qaddafi shooting at his own people no longer has such a chance.”

Interesting scenarios, but there are a couple things your present author isn’t so sure about.  Firstly, two things not factored in that could be significant are:  the mood of the average militiaman [i.e. cop] who are very numerous and are also being ‘reformed,’ and the unhappiness among military retirees and older vets demonstrated recently in their Moscow assembly and last year on Poklonnaya gora.  One’s not sure, though, if they’re more supportive of Medvedev or Putin.  Given the choice, they’d probably shoot both.  Secondly, is Medvedev really the type to enter that kind of standoff (or any standoff actually) while holding very few, if any, good cards to play?  At the same time, one is cautious about assuming rational actors.  It’s perfectly conceivable the Russians could blunder and miscalculate their way into Apocalypse Tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Ancentr.ru was following a similar tack earlier this week . . . it looked at the recent personnel decisions regarding General-Lieutenant Valeriy Yevnevich which moved him from the GUBP to Deputy Chief of the General Staff and then to Assistant to the Defense Minister (ostensibly, to advise on peacekeeping activities).  The website thinks this interesting since Yevnevich is a ‘political’ general who as Taman division commander supported President Yeltsin in the 1993 battle with his opponents.  And, it says, such a decisive and staunch supporter of ‘democracy’ as Yevnevich could be useful to vlasti in a responsible post given the general growth in political tension in society, including also a “rise in disloyalty in the army.”  For example, he could command special VDV or other sub-units in an emergency to ensure their loyalty to the regime.  Ancentr.ru goes on to detail other reports from NVO’s Vladimir Mukhin about the level of discontent in the army’s ranks as well as ex-General Staff Chief and Security Council staff member Yuriy Baluyevskiy’s possible role as leader of a military backlash against Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reforms.

Walking Back Serdyukov’s Personnel Policies (Part I)

And so it’s begun. 

The first of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s major reform planks – cutting the officer corps from 355,000 to 150,000, or no more than 15 percent of the million-man army – has been reversed.

The Armed Forces’ officer manning level was apparently one topic in yesterday’s meeting between President Medvedev and his “power” ministers about plans to raise pay for servicemen in 2012.

Serdyukov told the media about the decision to increase officers in the Armed Forces by 70,000:

“A decision’s been taken to increase officer personnel by 70 thousand.  This is connected with the fact that we’re deploying additional military units, establishing military-space defense, that is, an entire service (of troops), and the increase is happening in connection with this.”

First, this raised some interesting questions about VKO.  Is it really going to become a service (vid or вид).  After all, the Space Troops are only a service branch (род войск) right now.  That’s quite a promotion.  And are we really supposed to believe the expansion of VKO or the Space Troops will require 70,000 additional officers? 

Of course not, it’s a convenient excuse to walk back a large part of the 50 percent cut in army officers Serdyukov announced when he launched his reforms in October 2008.

Most media outlets were pretty confused on what this means for officer numbers.  They assumed the Russian Army’s at 150,000 officers right now, just add 70,000 for a total of 220,000.  But it’s not so simple.

When Serdyukov started cutting officers, there were 305,000 occupied officer billets.  Krasnaya zvezda said the Armed Forces had 181,000 officers at the end of last year.  So a grand total of 124,000 officers were either discharged, placed outside the “org-shtat” at their commander’s “disposition,” or forced to accept an NCO billet between late 2008 and the end of 2010.  Returning 70,000 to the ranks might leave us wondering only about what happened to the other 54,000.  And 181,000 plus 70,000 takes the officer corps basically back to 250,000, or fully one-quarter of the million-man army.

The army officer corps has endured considerable sturm und drang in a little over two years all for the sake of shedding just 55,000 officers.

More on this tomorrow.

Serdyukov’s Two Presidents

One can’t avoid Wikileaks forever . . . you’ve already read about “alpha dog” Putin, and Medvedev who plays Robin to Putin’s Batman.  But not many media outlets picked up on Defense Minister Serdyukov’s story, but Argumenty nedeli did.

In early 2009, the Azeri Defense Minister reportedly shared details of his meeting with Serdyukov with the U.S. Ambassador in Baku.  Sufficiently lubricated after sharing two bottles of vodka, Serdyukov allegedly asked his Azeri counterpart:

“Do you follow the orders of your President?”

Then Serdyukov volunteered:

“Well, I follow the orders of two Presidents.”

This is really no more than anecdotal confirmation of what’s been known all along — Serdyukov was put in place by Putin, and he’s part of Team Putin.  While appropriately deferential and respectful of President Medvedev, Serdyukov is very unlikely to get in a situation where he might have to cross his mentors from Team Putin.  Medvedev himself is part of the Team writ large, but he’s from a different, and less influential branch.  So, the ruling tandem has a senior and junior member and everyone knows it.

Not exactly a revelation, but Serdyukov’s admission makes for a funny story, and no small embarrassment for him now in dealing with Dmitriy Anatolyevich.

Scapegoat Biront Wins in Court, for Now

Lieutenant Colonel Biront (photo: http://www.odnoklassniki.ru)

Last Tuesday, the Lyubertsy Garrison Military Court held President Medvedev’s dismissal of Lieutenant Colonel Viktor Biront to be illegal.  Recall Biront was the President’s and the Defense Ministry’s scapegoat when the 2512th Central Aviation-Technical Base of Naval Aviation burned in this summer’s infernos near Moscow.

A criminal case for negligence was also raised against Biront, but, according to Moskovskiy komsomolets, they punished him by dismissing him “in connection with nonfulfillment of contract.”  Biront fought back, and an inquiry revealed that, as of 1 February, the base’s firefighting unit had been disbanded, a 50-meter fire break hadn’t been established, and firefighting supplies were absent.  Biront had informed his leadership, but was ignored.  Biront’s lawyer also argued that his client had an impeccable 26-year service record, and had only been in charge of the Kolomna base for 3 months and 25 days.

The lawyer said Biront was left with 70 sailors to dig a fire safety zone around an 8-kilometer perimeter.  And Biront’s predecessor was fined for trying to dig this zone on his own.  The lawyer says the Defense Ministry plans to appeal the overturning of Biront’s dismissal.

In its coverage, Kommersant said Biront’s lawyer pointed out that every due process was violated in his client’s case: 

“First an investigation is performed regarding the disciplinary violation which served as the basis for dismissal, then the serviceman should be familiarized with its results and guaranteed the right to present his objections.  None of this was done.”

The lawyer continues, “The president gave the order to sort it all out and dismiss the guilty, but they didn’t sort it out and found a scapegoat among the unit’s officers.”

In Kommersant’s version, Biront and 30 sailors fought the fires armed with nothing but axes. 

One officer told the paper a chain reaction following Biront’s victory was likely, as others dismissed make similar appeals based on the lack of due process.

So, one can conclude that Medvedev’s ‘tough guy’ on-the-spot firing in the 4 August special Sovbez session was really nothing more than feelgood PR at best, or stupid at worst.  But, if they want to get Biront, they will, especially for being impudent enough to fight the system, and not being a quiet, cooperative victim. 

Biront is one of those allegedly superfluous officers denigrated by the victors in Serdyukov’s ‘new profile’ reforms for being a ‘housekeeper,’ uninterested or unprepared to conduct combat training.

The news about the Biront case has received very little media attention.

Medvedev’s Military Personnel Decrees

President Dmitriy Medvedev’s decrees on changes in Defense Ministry personnel are a relatively new phenomenon.  Decrees have been common for changes in the MVD, but not the Defense Ministry.  Now they’re coming out for generals and colonels occupying nomenklatura-level duties. 

After two years of Serdyukov’s reforms, changes, and cuts, the personnel machinery has begun to make decisions and grind out paperwork on people. 

Interest piqued when General-Lieutenant Burutin, a Putin favorite, was dropped as First Deputy Chief of the General Staff.  But General-Major Buvaltsev moved in the opposite direction, taking a newly-created post as the General Staff Chief’s assistant for command and control.  Serdyukov also swapped out military aides — General-Lieutenant Miroshnichenko for General-Major Medoyev.

Some “general” points on all these dismissals, appointments, etc.

  • Changes in nomenklatura generals and colonels probably represent the “tip of the iceberg” to more widespread changes in colonels, lieutenant colonels, and majors below them in their organizations.
  • The squeeze down to four military districts has made many former MD staff officers redundant.  This is especially pronounced in the Moscow and Leningrad MDs.  It’s also true for the North Caucasus MD and its 58th Army.  This is harder to understand since it just rolled over directly into the new Southern MD. 
  • Individual services and their main staffs were hit, since some of their responsibilities are reportedly moving to the four new MDs.  This was true for Ground Troops, Navy, Engineering Troops, and Rear Services.
  • There’s been a veritable bloodbath in the Defense Ministry’s Main Armaments Directorate — recall this is following First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin’s move to the new civilian side of Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry (he’s taking the armaments portfolio with him, possibly in swap for combat training).  So many, if not all, of these posts will be civilianized and possibly reorganized and consolidated.  Similarly, Rear Services (logistics) is being civilianized, reorganized, and outsourced.
  • Space Troops were touched up pretty well; maybe this is a prelude to melding into the Air Forces.
  • There were several changes at the helms of military-educational institutions.  Not surprising since they are being consolidated rapidly. 
  • Mr. Korotchenko notwithstanding, corruption cases probably don’t have much to do with these changes.  If you’re going to be put on trial, they keep you in the service.
  • In all the decrees, there were some plain old appointments, especially in the Pacific Fleet.  We’re still waiting for a new commander to replace Vice-Admiral Sidenko who now commands the Eastern MD.

November 23 was so busy, there were actually two separate decrees on military personnel posted to Kremlin.ru

In the first decree . . .

Those relieved of current duties:

  • Colonel Vladimir Gennadyevich Gulin, Chief, Armor-Tank Service, North Caucasus MD.
  • Colonel Aleksandr Nikolayevich Ivanov, Chief of Armaments, and Deputy Commander of Space Troops for Armaments.
  • Colonel Anatoliy Mikhaylovich Mordvin, Chief of Reconnaissance, Deputy Chief of Staff for Reconnaissance, Leningrad MD.
  • Colonel Nikolay Borisovich Ostrin, Chief, Missile-Artillery Weapons Service, North Caucasus MD.
  • General-Major Yuriy Ivanovich Rukovichnikov, Chief of Rear Services, Deputy Commander for Rear Services, 58th Combined Arms Army.

These guys are just in limbo, awaiting some reassignment or possibly dismissal from the service.

Dismissed from military service: 

  • Vice-Admiral Sergey Viktorovich Kuzmin, Chief, Combat Training Directorate, Navy.
  • Rear-Admiral Aleksandr Sergeyevich Litenkov, Commander, Central Combat Post, Navy (he had also been a surface force commander in the Northern Fleet in the past).

In the second decree, General-Major of Medical Service Aleksandr Borisovich Belevitin added the duty of Chief, Military-Medical Academy to his primary job as Chief, Main Military-Medical Directorate.

Relieved of current duties:

  • Colonel Nikolay Fedorovich Arkhipov, Chief, Directorate of Planning and Organization of Development and Serial Orders of Weapons and Military Equipment, Main Armaments Directorate.
  • Colonel Sergey Valentinovich Vasiliyev, Chief, Directorate of Coordination of Use, Repair, and Disposal of Armaments and Military Equipment, Main Armaments Directorate.

Relieved and dismissed from military service:

  • General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Germanovich Burutin, First Deputy Chief, General Staff.
  • General-Major Anatoliy Vasilyevich Gulyayev, Chief, Organizational-Planning Directorate, and Deputy Chief, Main Armaments Directorate.
  • General Major Yevgeniy Ivanovich Safonov, Chief Engineer, and Deputy Commander, Railroad Troops.

Dismissed from military service:

  • Admiral Viktor Nikolayevich Gladkikh (he was the Defense Ministry’s Chief Personnel Inspector, and had worked on establishing military police, his staff element has probably been civilianized).
  • General-Major Viktor Valentinovich Boronchikhin.
  • General-Major Vladimir Petrovich Kuzheyev.
  • General-Major Viktor Sergeyevich Skrobotov.
  • Rear-Admiral Vyacheslav Vladimirovich Trofimov.
  • Rear-Admiral Yuriy Aleksandrovich Uvarov.

On 18 November, Medvedev’s decree made General-Major Ivan Aleksandrovich Buvaltsev an Assistant to the Chief of the General Staff for Command and Control – a new post.  He had been Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander, Leningrad MD.  And he was once Chief of Combat Training for the Moscow MD.

Relieved of current duties:

  • Colonel Aleksandr Nikolayevich Anistratenko, Chief of Staff for Armaments, First Deputy Chief of Armaments, Moscow MD.
  • Colonel Aleksandr Anatolyevich Arzimanov, Chief of Armaments, Deputy Commander of the 58th Army for Armaments.
  • Colonel Gleb Vladimirovich Yeremin, Chief of Air Defense Troops, Moscow MD.
  • Colonel Oleg Yuryevich Knyazyev, Chief of Staff, Rear Services, First Deputy Chief of Rear Services, Moscow MD.
  • Colonel Aleksandr Nikolayevich Nesterenko, Chief, Engineering Troops, Siberian MD.
  • Colonel Boris Aleksandrovich Ovsyannikov, Chief, Missile-Artillery Weapons Service, Moscow MD.
  • Colonel Pavel Polikarpovich Ovchinnikov, Chief of Rear Services, Deputy Commander of Air-Assault Troops for Rear Services.

Relieved of current duties and dismissed:

  • General-Major Vadim Anatolyevich Odrinskiy, Deputy Commander, North Caucasus MD.
  • General-Major Viktor Nikolayevich Tamakhin, Chief of Radiological, Chemical, and Biological Defense Troops, Volga-Ural MD.

Dismissed from military service:

  • General-Lieutenant Sergey Ivanovich Antonov.  He was a Deputy Chief of the Ground Troops’ Main Staff.

Medvedev’s 29 October decree appointed:

  • Captain First Rank Oleg Viktorovich Apishev, Chief of Fleet Reconnaissance, Deputy Chief of Staff for Reconnaissance, Pacific Fleet.
  • Captain First Rank Anatoliy Vladimirovich Zelinskiy, Deputy Commander for Personnel, Pacific Fleet.
  • Captain First Rank Igor Olegovich Korolev, Chief, Technical Directorate, Pacific Fleet.
  • Rear-Admiral Andrey Vladimirovich Ryabukhin, Deputy Commander, Pacific Fleet, relieved of duty as Commander, Belomorsk Naval Base, Northern Fleet.
  • Captain First Rank Viktor Nikolayevich Liina, Commander, White Sea Naval Base, Northern Fleet, relieving him from duty as Deputy Commander, Submarine Forces, Northern Fleet.
  • Captain First Rank Igor Vladimirovich Smolyak, Commander, 30th Surface Ship Division, Black Sea Fleet.
  • Colonel Roman Valeryevich Sheremet, Commander, 8th Brigade, Aerospace Defense.

Relieved of current duty and dismissed from military service:

  • General-Major Sergey Stepanovich Ivanitskiy, Commander, 14th Missile Division.

The 26 October decree appointed:

  • Colonel Igor Sergeyevich Afonin, Commander, 14th Missile Division (he had commanded the 8th Missile Division).
  • General-Major Valeriy Alekseyevich Konurkin, Deputy Chief, Military Training-Scientific Center, “Air Forces Academy,” Air Forces (the academy has simply been renamed).
  • General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Ivanovich Miroshnichenko, Assistant to the RF Defense Minister.
  • Colonel Leonid Aleksandrovich Mikholap, Commander, 8th Missile Division.
  • General-Major Yuriy Petrovich Petrushkov, Chief, Military Training-Scientific Center, “Air Forces Academy” Branch (Yeysk, Krasnodar Kray).

Relieved of current duty:

  • Colonel Dmitriy Aleksandrovich Yashin (he commanded the 138th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, Leningrad MD).

Relieved of duties and dismissed from military service:

  • General-Major Nikolay Ivanovich Vaganov, Deputy Chief for R&D, Main Armaments Directorate.
  • General-Major Aleksandr Nikolayevich Ionov, Chief, Organization-Mobilization Directorate, Deputy Chief of Staff for Organization-Mobilization Work, Leningrad MD.
  • General-Major Aleksandr Vasilyevich Mazharov, Chief of Armaments, Deputy Commander for Armaments, Leningrad MD.

The 1 October decree appointed:

  • Colonel Gennadiy Nikolayevich Lapin, Deputy Chief of the Military Academy of Rear Services and Transport for Training and Scientific Work.
  • Mr. Igor Nikolayevich Lyapin, Director, Transportation Support Department, Defense Ministry.
  • Colonel Aleksey Anatolyevich Obvintsev, Chief, Military-Medical Academy Affiliate (St. Petersburg), relieved of duty as Chief, Military Institute of Physical Fitness.

Relieved of duties:

  • General-Major Yuriy Mikhaylovich Rovchak, Deputy Chief of Military Academy of Communications named for S. M. Budennyy.

Relieved and dismissed from military service:

  • General-Major Aleksandr Viktorovich Kochkin, Chief, Organization-Planning Directorate, Deputy Chief, Main Missile-Artillery Directorate.
  • General-Major Igor Basherovich Medoyev, Assistant to the RF Defense Minister.

Dismissed from military service:

  • General-Major of Medical Service Vladimir Borisovich Simonenko.

The 21 September decree relieved:

  • Vice-Admiral Sergey Viktorovich Kuzmin, Chief of the Combat Training Directorate, Navy.
  • Colonel Vladimir Mikhaylovich Prokopchik, Deputy Chief, Engineering Troops.
  • Captain First Rank Vasiliy Anatolyevich Shevchenko, Chief, Technical Directorate, Pacific Fleet.

Appointed:

  • Rear-Admiral Valeriy Vladimirovich Kulikov, Chief, Combat Training Directorate, Navy.

Relieved and dismissed from military service:

  • General-Major Aleksandr Vasilyevich Stetsurin, Chief, Automotive Service, Volga-Ural MD.
  • General-Major Aleksandr Nikolayevich Yakushin, Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander, Space Troops.

Dismissed from military service:

  • Rear-Admiral Anatoliy Ivanovich Lipinskiy.

Medvedev’s first military personnel decree on 8 July made Grigoriy Naginskiy a Deputy Defense Minister without portfolio, though he’s continued to work on housing and construction.  The decree also appointed Vice-Admiral Vladimir Korolev as Commander, Black Sea Fleet.  And it made General-Lieutenant Sergey Zhirov Director of the Defense Ministry’s Department of Rear Services Planning and  Coordination, instead of Chief of Staff, First Deputy Chief of Rear Services.

Medvedev Calls for Unified Aerospace Defense

Yesterday President Dmitriy Medvedev delivered the annual Federal Assembly address.  It was rather brief, uninspiring, and contained relatively little on the military, except his call for work on a unified aerospace (air-space) defense (VKO or ВКО).  This could be a death knell for independent Space Troops.  He also repeated his warning that an agreement on missile defense is needed, or another round of the arms race will ensue.

But let’s look from the beginning . . . Medvedev suggested the army’s modernization might help jumpstart the scientific and technical modernization of the economy.  He said the 20 trillion rubles for the State Program of Armaments will be doubly effective if they give Russia dual-use technologies that can help modernize production processes and develop both fundamental and applied research.  And Medvedev again mentioned creation of a Russian DARPA:

“Therefore we are creating a special structure which will research and develop breakthrough technologies for the defense sector.  There are such structures, you know, in other countries.  We are expecting many of them will find application in everyday life.”

There seems to be a huge disconnect between Medvedev’s almost offhand comments here and what military men expect out of that 20 trillion.  One doubts many in the armed forces see any of this funding going to R&D.  They see it going almost entirely toward procurement of existing weapons and equipment woefully lacking in today’s military inventory.  Perhaps it’s Medvedev’s way of selling (as if he needs to) these expenditures to the average citizen.  

At any rate, Medvedev then gets down to brief comments on the armed forces:

“The development of our state and society is impossible without effective support of national security and defense.  We have taken a course for a deep modernization of the Armed Forces, for conducting systemic, meaningful transformations in them.  The combat component of the Armed Forces, the combat readiness system, command and control, and material-technical support of troops have already been updated.  Our combat exercises have again become regular and, what’s of no small importance, large-scale.  Four military districts have been formed instead of six.  In the framework of the State Program of Armaments to 2020, troops are being outfitted with modern equipment.”

“What tasks still have to be resolved?  First.  In the next year, particular attention needs to be given to strengthening the country’s aerospace defense, to unify existing air and missile defense systems, missile attack warning, and space monitoring.  They should act under the unitary command and control of a strategic command.”

“Second.  Today’s Russia, it goes without saying, also needs a modern army and fleet, compact and mobile troops manned with high-class specialists and the newest weapons.  This requires both serious resources (I just stated the volumes of these resources), and new, sometimes complex, decisions.  At the same time, it is necessary to fulfill all obligations to people who chose army service for themselves, first and foremost to resolve the housing question within the planned time.”

“Third.  The army should free itself from ancillary tasks and noncore functions.  These functions need to be transferred to civilian organizations, to concentrate attention, most of all, on real combat training.  A young man only goes to the army for one year, and the program of training in military affairs is not becoming easier.  It is essential that every young man assimilate the program in full measure.”

Medvedev goes on to describe his discussions about European missile defense with NATO in Lisbon.  He repeats his warning that, if an agreement on missile defense isn’t reached and a full-fledged joint cooperation mechanism isn’t created over the next decade, another round of the arms race will begin:

“And we will be forced to make a decision on the deployment of new strike means.  It is perfectly obvious that this would be a very grave scenario.”

Material-Technical Supply Points for the Navy

Picking up from President Medvedev’s admission that he has some ideas on the issue of naval bases abroad . . .

A source in military circles told ITAR-TASS today Russia is not conducting negotiations on new military bases abroad, but, if necessary, it’s prepared to return to this issue.  The source says: 

“There are also material-technical supply points for our Navy, and there’s talk about the fact that we’re continuing to resolve questions on their status, [but] we aren’t conducting new negotiations on the establishment of new bases.”

The source said, if necessary, Russia would establish new bases:

“But the main thing here is to arrange it so that they [new bases] would operate on a reliable legal basis.” 

The source gave Cam Ranh as an example of a former naval base which could be used in the future as a material-technical supply point: 

“A base is when a military contingent is located on a permanent basis, weapons are stockpiled, combat missions are set forth, but Russia even has a material-technical supply point in the Maldives.”

So they won’t actually be bases?  It seems pretty obvious that, to be useful, they’d have to have a degree of permanence, and maintenance capabilities and personnel, and stockpiles of POL and spare parts.

Master and Commanders

Major media outlets covered President Dmitriy Medvedev’s dialogue with five commanders (three Ground Troops, two Navy) at Gorokhovets.  But one’s own look at what was said, and how it was said, is sometimes better.

The Supreme CINC took some surprisingly forthright views and questions from his commanders.  He didn’t make specific promises about providing the troops new assault helicopters, better protected combat vehicles, or tanks.  He just kept saying the GPV will be fulfilled.

Medvedev told one commander “we all know well what kind of army we had” before this most recent reform began in late 2008.  This is funny since it’s a slam on Vladimir Putin, who was responsible for the army’s condition for most of this decade.

Much of the dialogue depends on an artificial dichotomy between combat (combat training) and noncombat (housekeeping) officers, and on the need to shed the latter.  It is easy now, of course, to belittle officers in the 1990s, and much of the 2000s, who tried to keep their subordinates paid and housed, and conscripts from beating or killing each other, at a time when there was not enough money, fuel, equipment, or even troops for training.  A lot of officers neglected those housekeeping duties and turned to private schemes, crime, or corruption in those days. 

The two naval officers practically beg Medvedev for contractees because their conscripts can’t learn their jobs in one year.  The Supreme CINC is supportive, but he won’t do it until the concept is fiscally viable (not a bad idea since the most recent contract service effort was spoiled by failure to deliver pay and benefits that would attract professional enlisted).

And, finally, Medvedev revealed he is committed to finding Russia access to naval facilities abroad to support the Navy’s deployments.

But let’s look at exactly what was said . . .

VDV Colonel Igor Timofeyev, commander of the 56th Independent Air-Assault Brigade, told Medvedev his troops would like Army Aviation to have new helicopter types, for landing troops and providing effective fire support, i.e. all-purpose assault helicopters.  He also said his companies depend on UAZ vehicles for transport, which lack sufficient personnel protection, and can’t mount extra firepower.  Then he gets to his point . . . having seen new vehicles at Gorokhovets, he hopes he will have them in his own formation soon.

Medvedev avoids responding directly:

“Of course, the fact is what we have today is undoubtedly better than what we had at the beginning of this decade, but all this is still very, very far from what we are aiming for.  You mentioned ‘UAZy.’  I could also name other vehicles, I simply won’t do this in order not to put anyone in an awkward position.  But, unfortunately, the degree of their protection from very simple types of armaments, including infantry-type armaments, is practically nil.  We haven’t even been working on proper armor plating for a very long time, because we considered it expensive.  The mission now is to ensure that all transportation means, all our light and heavier types of transport means receive an effective defense against infantry weapons and, if possible, against heavier types of weapons.  This is definitely more expensive, but these are the lives of people, the lives of our servicemen, this is ultimately the effectiveness of the employment of the Armed Forces.  Therefore it’s essential for us to work on this, just as we will, of course, work on and fulfill the State Program of Armaments as a whole.”

The Supreme CINC doesn’t address the colonel’s call for better air support, and he admits the VDV’s vehicles are inadequate, but promises only that everyone’s transport means are going to receive more protection.  But nothing specific.

Next it’s the turn of Colonel Yakov Ryazantsev, commander of the 57th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade.  Ryazantsev talks about the difficult process of dismissing officers who forgot about combat readiness and combat training or weren’t prepared to work under ‘modern conditions.’

Medvedev took this opportunity to say this is the reason for much criticism of the military reform process:

“Often in the media and in the statements of independent analysts we read very severe things about how the reforms are being conducted, about the condition of the Armed Forces’ combat capability.  This is normal, undoubtedly, because there should be critical stories, should be investigation of what is being done.  We have an open society, and the Armed Forces cannot appear like a closed corporation in this sense.  Nevertheless, sometimes these judgements bear an exceedingly severe character.  Some of them concern dismissals from the ranks of the Armed Forces.  In this context, I have a question for you:  what number of servicemen in your view in percentage terms were dismissed from your brigade?”

Ryazantsev goes one better and gives precise numbers:  415 officers of 611 in the former 81st Motorized Rifle Division were dismissed.  He says they were officers who focused on ‘everyday problems’ rather than the fulfillment of military service duties.

Meandering a bit, Medvedev returns to the issue of combat training vs. housekeeping, saying:

“And we all know well what kind of army we had.  We were just talking about ‘paper’ divisions and cadre sub-units.  That’s all there was.  And not just, by the way, in latest Russian history, but in the Soviet period it was, since every year the number of cadre units increased and increased.  How did this reflect on our combat capability?  It’s clear how.  And officers, unfortunately, who served in such places, were occupied mainly with housekeeping tasks.”

“But today those who aren’t prepared to serve are not allowed to serve.  So what you just said, once again strengthens my certainty in this.”

Next Colonel Valentin Rogalev, commander of the 74th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, tells Medvedev he can’t say his arms and equipment are fully adequate, especially when it comes to tanks and BMPs.  Referring to the GPV and plans to modernize 30 percent of equipment by 2015, Rogalev says:

“And we hope, Comrade Supreme CINC, that fundamentally new types of tanks and BMPs with greater firepower and also increased crew protection will enter the arms inventory soon, not as single units, but systematically.  This will significantly raise the brigade’s combat possibilities.”

In his response, Medvedev talks about galvanizing the OPK to produce what the army needs, about the GPV, and about spending money wisely, but he doesn’t promise Colonel Rogalev anything.

Then the Navy took over.  Captain First Rank Sergey Pinchuk described the condition of his Baltic Fleet surface ship brigade:

“In the ship formation I command, 10 years ago there were ships with an average service life of 10-15, but some even with 25 years.  They were mainly technically inoperable, technically unready, insufficiently manned, with minimal supplies, ships generally didn’t go to sea for years.  Today new ships have entered the formation.  They are multipurpose corvette class ships for missions in the near ocean zone.”

“The armaments and military equipment mounted on the new ships allows us to cut personnel on the ship substantially, practically by three times.  And the requirements on this personnel have increased significantly.  Besides officers, these are contract servicemen.  You talked about them today.  In the fleet, large effort on their training, education, creation of favorable service conditions is being conducted.  However, one would like to see that this category of servicemen has also found support at the state level.”

In his response to Pinchuk, Medvedev acknowledges that “we are still just preparing” to support contractees in terms of competitive pay and normal service and living conditions.

One wonders how long it will take to get ready . . . they spent most of the past decade preparing to implement contract service before pulling the plug earlier this year.

Nevertheless, Medvedev insists “I understand this and the Defense Ministry leadership understands,” and we “will return to the issue of supporting contractees in the near future.”

Again, no commitment.

Last up is Captain First Rank Ildar Akhmerov, commander of the 44th ASW Ship Brigade.  Akhmerov describes greatly increased underway time and Horn of Africa antipiracy operations by his four ships, and then concludes the sea time and servicing of complex shipboard equipment and systems are increasing the requirements on the training of all crew members.  The price of a mistake far from Russia is too high.  As formation commander, he says he has to increase the number of contractees on deployed ships by taking them from other ships, because conscripts can’t master complex equipment in their short time.  So in the fleet and the district, they’ve made great efforts in selecting contractees, and providing them housing.  But at present, this issue remains highly important not only at the level of a fleet formation, a district, but even on a state level.

Akhmerov continues saying his ships in the Gulf of Aden need higher quality rear and technical support than other ships.  But Russia has no bases in foreign countries in the Indian or Pacific Ocean where his ships could take on supplies, repair, and get some kind of rest for their crews.  This is presently done by support ships in the detachment of ships, but a shore base would increase the quality of rear and technical support and reduce costs.

Medvedev responds:

“On contractees, I just told your colleague.  We, of course, understand this problem.  And the fact that you have to pull contractees from other ships is not very healthy.  Now we simply have to understand what sum will be sufficient to motivate contractees.  We have discussed this more than once in Sovbez sessions, the Minister and Chief of the General Staff participated in this discussion.  I think here we will need to some degree to proceed from lieutenant’s pay, but for this we need to prepare so that this decision will be financially supported.  But, I repeat yet again, without modern, well-paid, socially motivated contractees in the army, nothing, of course, will occur in the Armed Forces.”

On the issue of foreign bases, he said:

“As you know, bases on the territory of foreign states aren’t created on the order of President of the Russian Federation.  For this, it’s necessary to conduct complex political-diplomatic work . . . .”

“I won’t hide from you that we have some ideas on this issue, but I won’t say them out loud for understandable reasons.  But it’s obvious that when, let’s say, support ships follow ships, this is very expensive and the expenditures are really huge.  And this is very often ineffective when this support train has to drag itself over the territory of the entire world ocean.  In this sense, our current partners have much better conditions, because they have staked out bases in the most varied parts of the world, visit and replenish themselves.  Generally, this is an issue which demands really attentive state interest.”

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.

Serdyukov’s Carte Blanche

In an editorial Monday, Vedomosti supported the carte blanche President Dmitriy Medvedev has apparently given Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov and his military reforms.  The paper likes the reforms enough that it wants the President to think about the possible effectiveness of the ‘army method’ in reforming the MVD.  Here’s what Vedomosti had to say:

“Renaming the Army”

“Dmitriy Medvedev’s and Anatoliy Serdykov’s joint trip to a model Moscow suburban military unit went beyond the protocol of the visit.  The President’s speech in awarding outstanding military men became a new signal to officers, the army, and society:  ‘Despite the fact that all changes are difficult, they are necessary…  Everything that is now being done is directed at establishing modern and effective armed forces.  Here there are both problems and good decisions, I am following this personally as Supreme CINC.’  The Kremlin demonstrated that, despite the recent media scandal, it trusts the civilian Defense Minister, won’t bow to the generals’ and veterans’ opposition, and intends to continue its planned military reform.”

“The new carte blanche for Serdyukov for further transformation is important for many reasons.  The current minister is not the first civilian director of the military department.  However, he specifically replaced a campaign of reforming with systematic transformations.  In his inheritance from Sergey Ivanov, Serdyukov received a much truncated army of the Soviet type, not answering modern requirements.  Dedovshchina, obsolete armaments (modern equipment is not much more than 10% of the general inventory) and command and control, and manning were its main problems.  Add to this corruption among the generals which prevented equipping the army with new types of armaments and communications.  The victorious August war of 2008 showed that the victors couldn’t suppress the enemy’s aviation and artillery and were inferior to the vanquished in modern communications and reconnaissance means.”

“Serdyukov’s attempts to establish control over expenditures on purchases for the army met severe resistance from rear services officers and generals.  Not long ago he acknowledged to journalists:  ‘When I came to the Defense Ministry, speaking plainly, I was surrounded by large amounts of thievery.  Financial licentiousness, the impunity of people whom no one had checked out (…) was so deeply ingrained that it had already become a way of thinking.’  The minister confirms that the transparency of the defense order is a ways off.  The unnecessary secrecy of the military budget is interfering with this.  Meanwhile, progress in the struggle against traders in shoulderboards is obvious.  In 2006, corruption cases were started against seven generals, in 2007, when Serdyukov became minister, — against 16, in 2008 — against 20, in the first half of this year — against eight more.”

“Besides this, the Defense Ministry put up for sale unneeded property and facilities which were being illegally rented out to enrich a few people, and didn’t allow for building apartment blocks for officers needing housing on these grounds.”

“On the whole, it’s possible also to consider organizational transformations a success:  the transition to a more modern system of command and control and the reduction in the excess number of generals and higher officers.  In 2008, of 249 generals and admirals who underwent certification [аттестация], 50 were dismissed, and 130 sent to new places of service.  One can’t avoid mistakes in cutting and dismissing officers, but those deprived of a sinecure cried loudest of all about the collapse of the army and treason.”

“The struggle with barracks hooliganism goes on with varying success.  According to the Main Military Prosecutor’s data, in 2006, more than 5,800 people suffered beatings from fellow servicemen, in 2009 — 3,000.  And for the first five months of 2010, 1,167 soldiers suffered from dedovshchina — 1.5 times more than the analogous period of 2009, of them, four died.  The cause is not only in the growth — because of the cut in the service term — the number of new conscripts went from 123,000 in the fall of 2006 to the current 270,600.  Generals, having botched the program costing 84 billion rubles to transfer to contract, now are forced to call up those with criminal records.  Military police will remain a paper tiger for ‘dedy’ and ethnic clans.  We note that Serdyukov hasn’t forsaken a professional army, but put off its creation until the time when the Defense Ministry will be able to select and not collect contractees through deception and duress.”

“Nevertheless, it’s notable that over 3 and 1/2 years, the reform, being conducted by independent managers without legal changes and loud renamings, has really moved forward.  It’s possible it’s worth the President considering the effectiveness of the army method in reforming the MVD.”