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.