Tag Archives: New Profile

Goodbye GRU Spetsnaz, Hello Army Spetsnaz

Writing in last Friday’s Stoletiye.ru, Rossiyskaya gazeta correspondent Sergey Ptichkin says that, practically on its 60th anniversary, GRU Spetsnaz have landed in a most unexpected place – the Ground Troops.  His piece is full of bitter sarcasm.

Ptichkin concludes:

“The GRU Spetsnaz brigades have transferred into the Ground Troops structure.  Several units have disbanded altogether.  Ranks for duties have been lowered.  Now a senior lieutenant will command a reconnaissance group, and that’s the ceiling.  All warrant officers have been dismissed – there’s no longer such a rank in the army.  And it’s strange that professional sergeants haven’t magically appeared in place of full-grown warrants.  The issue of halting parachute training for reconnaissance men is on the agenda.  Really, why parachutes if they’ve become ‘pure infantrymen?’  They can deliver them to any rebellious village in the mountains or forests on trains or in KamAZes.”

According to Ptichkin, professional Spetsnaz believe:

“. . . it’s simply impossible to train an eighteen-year-old boy into a genuine reconnaissance man-saboteur in one year.  In Afghanistan, Spetsnaz soldiers were sent out only after a year of intensive combat training.  That is real service, when a professional military reconnaissance man was born even at the very lowest level, began a year after callup, but now they’re dismissed into the reserves where they forget everything they learned after a few months.”

Ptichkin recalls the GRU Spetsnaz’ anniversary ten years ago.  Even though their relations with the Spetsnaz were tense, the Defense Minister and General Staff Chief came and paid their respects.

But this year:

“Neither the Defense Minister, nor the Chief of the General Staff, not even their current chief – the Ground Troops CINC came.”

“Many veterans and even serving officers consider this day a quiet farewell to the GRU Spetsnaz, born 60 years ago.  It’s possible something more mobile, combat ready, and effective will take its place.”

So he’s thrown Putin and Medvedev’s own description of the kind of army they want back at them.  Of course, the Spetsnaz have always considered themselves the ultimate fighting force.

Ptichkin says the Defense Minister didn’t even issue a traditional order of recognition for the day of Spetsnaz troops.

“There is still the symbol of military reconnaissance – the bat [literally, ‘flying mouse’].  But very soon it’ll be possible to boldly replace this silent night hunter on the emblem with a grey field mouse.  A sweet and inoffensive ground-pounder.”

ITAR-TASS’ coverage of the Spetsnaz anniversary also clearly identified them as subordinate to the Ground Troops, CINC General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov, and his Chief of Reconnaissance, Deputy Chief of Staff for Reconnaissance, Colonel Vladimir Mardusin.

The press service said Mardusin indicated that:

“. . . at present, army Spetsnaz are organized in independent brigades of special designation, which exist in every military district, and battalions in several combined arms formations of the Southern Military District.  Within the formation of the new profile of the armed forces, independent brigades of special designation were transferred to the Ground Troops and are in direct subordination to military district commanders / unified strategic commands.”

Izvestiya’s Dmitriy Litovkin predicted the GRU Spetsnaz’ transfer from the General Staff’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) to the Ground Troops last November on the day of military intelligence (6 November).  This was after the 67th, 12th, and 3rd Spetsnaz brigades were disbanded, and even the 16th was in danger of the same.

Igor Korotchenko told Litovkin:

“It’s possible to judge what’s happening in the GRU only through open information.  For example, one of the results of the reform is taking the force component from the GRU and resubordinating Spetsnaz to the military district commanders.  Only space, radioelectronic, and agent reconnaissance, and also the analytic service remain in today’s ‘Aquarium.’”

Just a reminder, this would mean they were taken even before the six old MDs were reformed into 4 MDs / OSKs.  The poor performance of the GRU generally and the Spetsnaz specifically in the 2008 Georgian conflict may have provided impetus for the change.  Litovkin and others have reported that the GRU and Spetsnaz received an ‘unsatisfactory’ for their efforts in that brief war.   Meanwhile, subordinating Spetsnaz to warfighting MD CINCs on different strategic directions would seem to make sense, the angst of the GRU, its officers, and veterans notwithstanding.

We should, however, get back to the original Ptichkin article.  It has a lot of interesting stuff you might want to peruse.  Some is hyperbolic though, so take it with a grain of salt . . .

He describes all details of their formation from 24 October 1950.  The Spetsnaz were subordinate to the General Staff (GRU) because they were first and foremost strategic, and strategic nuclear, warfighting assets designed to disrupt U.S. and NATO capabilities – nuclear weapons, logistics, transport, communications, etc. – in deep rear areas, including even North America.

And, according to Ptichkin, they were supermen capable of singly accomplishing missions not even combined arms sub-units could handle.  And the Spetsnaz were more secret than Soviet nuclear weapons; not even all generals or marshals knew about more than their general outlines.

Everything changed with Afghanistan and glasnost.  Every power structure wanted its own special forces.  And the GRU Spetsnaz were thrust into the forefront of a war they weren’t created for.  But through the skill of their commanders they adapted and were successful.  Ptichkin claims a single Spetsnaz detachment could pacify an entire province.  And, according to him, if the Spetsnaz had been unleashed fully, the Afghan war would have been won and the country under Soviet control by the mid-1980s.

He says Tajikistan in 1992 proves this isn’t a fantasy.  The 15th Spetsnaz brigade under Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, one of the accused in the Chubays’ assassination attempt, was given a free hand there and pacified the country. 

Ptichkin says Spetsnaz weren’t so involved in the First Chechen War, and the results were bad of course.  But they were used more extensively in the Second Chechen.  And he claims the Chechen Spetsnaz battalion under Sulim Yamadayev prevented Georgian saboteurs from blowing the Roki tunnel in August 2008.

And so, says Ptichkin, for 30 years, Spetsnaz have fought in places they weren’t intended to be, but have fought beautifully anyway.  Instead of landing in he main enemy’s rear areas, they are sitting on their own territory prepared, in extreme circumstances, to be sent to the next hot spot in the CIS, and not further afield.

As proof of how they’ve been used, it’s interesting to note the holiday press which says 8 Spetsnaz became Heroes of the Soviet Union in 40 years, but 44 have become Heroes of the Russian Federation in less than 20 years.

Political Tinge of the Serdyukov Flap

In this morning’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vladimir Mukhin says the Serdyukov flap has taken a political tinge.  NG’s Kremlin sources claim President Dmitriy Medvedev is “very worried about the developing situation.”

Mukhin says there won’t be any public lashing a la Mayor Luzhkov, but Medvedev called Serdyukov last week and categorically directed him “to carry out deliberate, well-considered work to create a positive image of the military reform which the country’s leadership is organizing and conducting.”

He concludes it’s clear Defense Minister Serdyukov has already reacted to the call from the Kremlin and begun “to work on the mistakes.” 

On Friday, Serdyukov unexpectedly met with the Defense Ministry’s ‘heavenly group,’ the superannuated retired generals and marshals in its General Inspectors’ Service (SGI or СГИ).  Mukhin says until now Serdyukov hasn’t paid them their due or used their experience in his reforms.  But all of a sudden he gathered them to inform them about how well his changes are going, and announced he’s forming a Defense Ministry organ to work with veterans and veterans organizations. 

And, of course, veterans – specifically airborne vets, but not only them – were the group most offended by what transpired between Serdyukov and Colonel Krasov at the Seltsy airborne training center.

Mukhin turns to retired General-Lieutenant Yuriy Netkachev for a comment:

“Elections are coming, and successes in military reform aren’t apparent.  The social situation of servicemen and military pensioners especially is worsening.  In this case, any incident similar to what happened in Seltsy could be a detonator for mass protest acts by a large number of veterans’ social organizations.  The party of power can’t allow such a thing on the eve of elections.  The opposition has already been using the dissatisfaction of the airborne veterans.  And therefore we will very soon be witness to a mass PR campaign on behalf of the head of the military department and his steps to form a new profile for the army and fleet.”

He didn’t, but Mukhin could have quoted former Soviet General Staff Chief, now SGI member, Army General Mikhail Moiseyev who supported Serdyukov and obediently told ITAR-TASS there’s no other way except to reform the Russian Army:

“We no longer need 192 divisions, it’s better to have a smaller quantity of permanent readiness brigades which will define the army’s combat readiness.”

That, of course, is a real no-brainer, and surely there must be aspects of Serdyukov’s reforms Moiseyev doesn’t agree with.  We’d like to hear about them.

Moiseyev also thinks Serdyukov is going to establish an assistant to the commander of each MD and fleet commander for work with veterans.

Shamanov Sides with Serdyukov

General-Lieutenant Shamanov

VDV Commander Vladimir Shamanov knows which side his bread’s buttered on.  Talking to the press yesterday, Shamanov supported the boss in the storm over his alleged obscenity and грубость at the VDV’s Seltsy training center.

In short, Tverskaya, 13 reported the airborne chief doesn’t believe the story about Defense Minister Serdyukov.  He denies the boss ordered Colonel Krasov dismissed as head of the airborne commissioning school.

According to Shamanov, Serdyukov expressed doubts about constructing the Church of the Prophet Elijah opposite the airborne training school, since cadets aren’t there for long.  The Defense Minister suggested [politely one is sure] that they move the church to a populated area adjacent to the training center where the congregation can take care of it [but aren’t the VDV cadets and officers the congregation?].  Shamanov concludes:

“All the rest is cock and bull.”

Apparently answering the Union of Russian Airborne Troops’ appeal to the President and Patriarch, Shamanov told ITAR-TASS and RIA Novosti he’s satisfied with the course of army reforms, and doesn’t see any reason to worry about the fate of his service branch:

“The plans that will be presented to the Supreme CINC for approval indicate that the VDV’s composition will remain as before.  Also two more district-level airborne formations [соединение] should come into service raising the troops’ potential overall.”

As if to assure people the VDV won’t march on the Kremlin, Shamanov added that the situation in his branch is “normal,” and his troops are occupied with combat training as usual.

Tverskaya, 13 reported Shamanov saying for the umpteenth time that his branch will remain independent [i.e. not be subordinated to the Ground Troops] under Serdyukov’s ‘new profile’ reforms.  He added that the VDV will get the BMD-4M according to the ‘concept’ of GPV 2020.

We should recall that Serdyukov may have helped Shamanov on some occasions, and certainly did in one instance.  The Defense Minister at least acquiesced in Shamanov’s return to lead the VDV in May 2009.  And last September, he helped Shamanov out of his own scandal when he tried to order a detachment from the VDV’s 45th Independent Reconnaissance Regiment to detain an investigator looking into his son-in-law, a well-known criminal figure.  Shamanov only got a reprimand for this incident.  He could easily have been dismissed.  Serdyukov likely retained him because the airborne general is a useful ally.

In today’s Tverskaya, 13, Deputy Defense Minister Naginskiy offered an impassioned defense of Serdyukov.  Naginskiy was on the Seltsy inspection with the Defense Minister.

Naginskiy said they saw facilities unfinished since 2008.  But he doesn’t exactly deny the press reports:

“Nothing terrible happened there.  I think if people standing 120 meters behind us heard something, filled it in, and put it on the Internet, they are dishonest.  I can say there was no boorishness or cursing, but there were raised voices, when on the territory of a unit entrusted to you someone is selling things and someone is building for 180 million rubles, undoubtedly, this calls forth natural indignation and, as it should, a conversation in raised voices.”

Naginskiy goes on, questioning why they need a church at Seltsy when troops go there to train and then return to Ryazan, but:

“I’m in absolute solidarity with the Defense Minister — what I saw there brought indignation.  There were no orders to move the church.”

This morning Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Viktor Litovkin reported some comments from Colonel Krasov himself: 

“In particular, Serdyukov expressed dissatisfaction over the incomplete repair of the cafeteria and engineering networks.  The conversation was very emotional both from Krasov’s side [speaking of himself in the third person] and from Serdyukov’s side.  However, this was a businesslike dialog.  The Ryazan school has already eliminated deficiencies revealed during the military minister’s visit.”

That certainly sounds like some type of unpleasantness transpired.  Litovkin says it’s strange neither Shamanov nor Krasov remembered [or mentioned] any obscenities.  But nevertheless he concludes:

“If this is ‘cock and bull’ as General Shamanov says, or simply ‘businesslike dialog,’ as Colonel Krasov asserts, then it’s no longer worth worrying about the battle against dedovshchina and nonregulation relations in the armed forces.”

It isn’t worth it because the abuse of subordinates apparently begins from the Defense Ministry’s very top, and won’t ever be rooted out.

Litovkin finishes saying the VDV have nothing to gain from fighting with Serdyukov, and are just trying to silence the whole incident.  There will be other defense ministers, but the VDV will always exist.

Izvestiya’s Dmitriy Litovkin says his Defense Ministry sources say there were no demands to raze the church.  He claims Serdyukov may have wanted to move it outside the base’s gates to ease access for its parishioners.  He finds the whole situation odd since there are 200 churches on Russian military property, and next year the army will begin training military chaplains.

Creating ‘New Profile’ Army Not Easy in Far East

A variety of press reports indicate establishing a ‘new profile’ army in the Far East is a difficult and increasingly protracted process.

On 7 September, ITAR-TASS said General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov was in Chita to resolve a number of army problems.  The press service noted Makarov was accompanied by new Eastern Military District (MD) Commander, Vice-Admiral Konstantin Sidenko.

Specifically, Makarov was in eastern Siberia (now part of the Eastern MD) working on ‘military organizational development [строительство]’ – a Russian euphemism for TO&E changes and force restructuring – and development of base military towns and their social infrastructure.  In plain English, the General Staff Chief was in the Transbaykal sticks sorting out which units go into this or that brigade, or get disbanded, and how to provide housing and a modicum of other basic services for their soldiers, officers, and families.

But Makarov and Sidenko may have worse problems further east.

On 8 September, ITAR-TASS published a small, but significant report claiming that Khabarovsk Kray’s military garrisons and towns are not ready for winter.

Preparation for heating season in the majority of military buildings in Khabarovsk Kray is breaking down, according to the Kray’s emergency situations commission.  The poor state of preparation of communal infrastructure (i.e. boilers, coal supplies, steam pipes, etc.) and apartment blocks in Lazo, Bikin, and Vanino Rayons is alarming.

A Kray official said, “. . . supplies of winter fuel haven’t been established, boiler equipment hasn’t been repaired, facilities don’t have personnel.”  In Vanino, workers repairing a major boiler received layoff notices.  Days before the start of heating season, several boilers have been completely dismantled and there are no supplies of coal, according to the news agency.

 The emergency situations commission noted that:

“The Defense Ministry has begun transferring housing-communal servicing functions for its garrisons to private organizations, but this process has bogged down.”

The military’s Housing Management Directorate (KEU) representatives in the Far East didn’t deny the problems, but blamed them on a catastrophic lack of financing.  The military’s indebtedness to Far East communal services providers over the first 7 months of the year is 181.6 million rubles, and Khabarovsk Kray accounts for more than 88 million of this amount.

The first deputy chairman of the Khabarovsk Kray government has asked military prosecutors to intervene and force the army to prepare the region’s military towns and villages adequately and forestall emergency situations this winter.

All this comes on top of reports of similar problems last fall.  

Half of Russia’s 85 new army brigades had to move units and construct new barracks, housing, and other essential infrastructure for them, and this was proving especially difficult in the Far East. 

Almost a year ago, Vladivostok’s largest newspaper Zolotoy rog reported that officers in two newly organized brigades in the Far East were in danger of being stranded in ‘open fields,’ or field conditions, because they lacked materials and funding to prepare their garrisons.  However, the deputy commander of 5th Combined Arms Army assured the media that barracks and other buildings were being repaired for brigades at Barabash and Sibirtsevo.

Zolotoy rog reported that one battalion commander took out a private loan to repair barracks for his men.  Some officers who arrived at Barabash left after seeing the condition of their new garrison, and the brigade also had trouble keeping battalion commanders for the same reason.  The brigades reportedly turned to Primorskiy Kray’s governor for help.

So what are we to make of all this?

First, having Makarov travel out east to straighten up a mess is something of a no-confidence vote in new Eastern MD Commander Sidenko.  It’s a particularly inauspicious start since many eyes are on Sidenko to see how he performs as the first naval officer to lead this major ground-oriented command.

Second, Khabarovsk Kray had some pretty stark criticism for Defense Minister Serdyukov’s policy of privatizing logistics support functions for the army.  What might work in the new Western or Southern MDs may not work well in the remote reaches of the Eastern MD.

Third, this early warning of problems may be an attempt to prevent another ‘Steppe’ garrison crisis in Transbaykal this winter.  And the problems are not confined to active military garrisons.  Lots of remote former garrisons – with real living retirees – are caught in limbo between military and civilian municipal services.  Pereyaslavka’s problems last winter are just one case of this.  Pereyaslavka happens to be the administrative center of Lazo Rayon, cited this year as the scene of potential problems this winter.

So while the Defense Ministry and media focus almost exclusively on the attractive leading edge of the army’s ‘new profile,’ it pays to remember that Russian military reform has a large, messy trailing edge that’s found in places like Lazo, Bikin, Vanino, Barabash, Sibirtsevo, and Pereyaslavka.

Winners and Losers in Organizing New MDs and Armies

Today a Ground Troops spokesman told ITAR-TASS three current Leningrad Military District (MD) brigades will form a 6th Combined Arms Army (CAA) in the new Western MD.  The 200th, 138th, and 25th Motorized Rifle Brigades will comprise the new army, and its headquarters will probably be Agalatovo, just north of St. Petersburg.  The spokesman also said a surface-to-air missile brigade and independent engineering brigade will be added to the Western MD.

These comments came in conjunction with a visit by Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov to the region to check on the formation of the new MD.  The spokesman said Postnikov may be working on peacetime coordination between the district’s Ground Troops, the Northern and Baltic Fleets, and Air Forces units.  He said, in wartime, “everything’s clear – [the district’s] commander directly commands everything deployed within the district’s boundaries.  But there’s still no experience of coordination in peacetime and we need to get it.”

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin also wrote today that the third new CAA will be based in Maykop, Southern MD.  Mukhin says that staffs, commands, formations, and military units in the Far East, Siberian, and Moscow MDs are being liquidated in the shift to four new MDs / OSKs, and, as a result, several thousand officers will be placed outside the TO&E beginning 1 September.  He thinks many of them won’t find vacant posts, and will be discharged from the army.

Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry will also be putting some soon-to-be-vacant properties up for sale, e.g. Moscow MD headquarters (Polina Osipenko Street, Moscow), Far East MD headquarters (Seryshev Street, Khabarovsk).  The initial asking prices for these buildings and land will be several billion U.S. dollars.  As long planned, proceeds from these sales, along with the sale of the Navy Main Staff, military educational institutions, and other military establishments in Moscow, are supposed to fund construction of housing for servicemen as well as military garrison infrastructure in new army deployment locations.

Mukhin talked to General-Lieutenant Yuriy Netkachev about Maykop.  Netkachev says Moscow is resurrecting the army headquarters located there until 1993.  He believes Maykop was chosen to reinforce against threats from Georgia as well as threats to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

In the Central MD, Mukhin says the 67th Spetsnaz Brigade will move yet again, from IVVAIU in Irkutsk to Chita or Transbaykal Kray.  The IVVAIU building will be sold.

Mukhin sees Moscow’s demilitarization and moving forces closer to their likely operational theaters as the right policy, but asks if it’s underpinned with resources.  It has serious impact on servicemen and their families, and they’ve been forgotten in this process.

Mukhin quotes servicemen’s union chief Oleg Shvedkov:

“Continuing steps to transition the troops into a new profile supposes not only a significant cut in professional servicemen, but also their relocation to a new place of service.  And this means new everyday life problems are possible:  transfers, absence of housing, work for spouses, education for children, and the like.  The Defense Ministry is trying to resolve these issues on its own, but it would be more correct for the government to work on them through a special federal program.”

No One, Except Us!

VDV Day Revelry

No service (or branch), except the VDV, generates this kind of media attention for its anniversary.

On 2 August, the VDV will celebrate its 80th birthday, and to mark this nice round number, the holiday will actually be a three-day fiesta running from 31 July.

Also marking the occasion, a new documentary film entitled ‘Landmarks of History, 80 Years of the VDV’ has been released, but, surprisingly, it wasn’t picked up by theaters or television. 

According to Rossiyskaya gazeta, the Moscow city government paid for its production.

VDV Commander, General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov stars in the documentary, providing lots of the commentary, noting that the VDV are already ‘new profile’ since they are permanently ready, mobile, and physically fit.  Including its generals.  Shamanov told press conference he just recently made two jumps.

A VDV press-service representative told Nezavisimaya gazeta:

“Unfortunately, the VDV anniversary film will hardly be shown to a broad central TV audience at present.  For some reason, the central television channels have no particular desire to reflect this day comprehensively, but of course they will show people in striped tee shirts swimming in fountains.”

Ah, yes, the fountains . . . General-Lieutenant Shamanov told the press mobile groups of VDV and Moscow OMON troops would work together to keep airborne guys from bathing in the capital’s fountains on the branch’s birthday.  Interestingly, he had to admit to ITAR-TASS that he was perplexed by an announcement that the police have permitted dips in fountains for several years, having found that trying to prevent them only led to conflicts.  Police also said they would be on-hand to make sure nothing happens to bathers, according to Nakanune.ru.

While sounding reasonable and accommodating, the Moscow OMON Commander also noted that OMON, the GUVD’s 2nd Operational Regiment, and VV troops were ready to “respond to events.”  He expects 5,000 VDV revelers.  About 1,700 police, including 350 OMON (of whom 109 are former VDV themselves), will be on duty, according to Svpressa.ru.  It claimed former and current VDV officers would also help in keeping order.  The OMON Commander told Vesti.ru, “In recent years we’ve come to mutual understanding largely thanks to VDV veterans who now serve in the Moscow police.”

Of course, it doesn’t do for the regime to have two elite silovik forces square off in the capital.

Beyond announcing that the VDV is already fully subscribed when it comes to the ‘new profile,’ Shamanov also made his obligatory statement / promise that the VDV preserves its independence and  role as the reserve of the VGK to reinforce strategic directions.

He commented to ITAR-TASS on the VDV’s capacity for air drops:

“In realizing the measures in the State Program of Armaments – 2020, the VDV will be capable of landing by parachute an airborne or air assault division.  Now the question hinges on the degree of readiness of the existing fleet of Il-76 military-transport aircraft, but also on how these possibilities will be after the realization of the State Program of Armaments, calculated out to 2020.  A month ago we agreed on the draft GPV.  The modernization of the existing fleet of Il-76 aircraft and an increase in their number is in there.  It also provides for the purchase of Russian-Ukrainian An-70 aircraft, refurbishment of existing An-124 aircraft and the construction of 20 new aircraft of this type.”

He continued:

“. . . we also need to use the American experience in using civil aviation aircraft in the interests of the military.  All this would allow us by 2017 to establish the possibility of landing a full airborne or air assault division.”

“. . . it’s possible to solve it even more quickly by a combination, when the first echelon is approximately 30 percent airborne – landing by parachute, the rest by runway.  We could accomplish this task in three months after receiving the order.”

Answering a question about helicopters and air mobility for the VDV, Shamanov said:

“With the General Staff, we’ve defined a concept for establishing an army aviation brigade in the VDV in the future.”

And on army aviation’s transfer to the Air Forces in 2002:

“It would be the right decision to return army aviation to the Ground Troops, as it’s done throughout the world.”

Shamanov also told RIA Novosti 120 men from 104th Parachute Regiment of the 76th Airborne Division will stay in Kyrgyzstan until parliamentary elections are held.

‘Virtual’ Apartments and the Army’s Protest Mood

Ex-Military Men Protesting 'Virtual' Apartments (photo: RIA Novosti)

In Monday’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vladimir Mukhin described a 15 May demonstration outside the Defense Ministry by former officers who were allocated ‘virtual’ apartments in Balashikha six months ago, but have been unable to occupy them due to slow paperwork.  Their demands are simple:  these retirees want bureaucratic obstacles removed.  

The protest was not covered by the media, or received only scant coverage.  However, the Defense Ministry’s promise to fix the problems for former servicemen from Balashikha was reported widely in the press. 

Mukhin’s subtitle for the article reads, “Unfulfilled Presidential housing program for the military leading to protest actions.”  He concludes that military demonstrations have been so rare in post-Soviet history that, if they occur, they have to be symptomatic of something.  He says similar protests have happened in other regions with large military garrisons. 

Everyone remembers Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reports about fulfilling the military housing program in 2009.  However, it’s becoming clear that this didn’t happen.  New military housing and construction chief Grigoriy Naginskiy not long ago announced that of 45,000 permanent apartments handed out in 2009, less than half have been occupied.  So the plan wasn’t achieved.  This has provoked a protest mood in the army, and the authorities, it seems, prefer not to notice it.  

Mukhin cites similar situations and actions in Bashkiriya, and elsewhere in  Moscow’s far suburbs.  The All-Russian Professional Union of Servicemen (OPSV or ОПСВ) tells Mukhin it’s pretty simple.  A garrison is drawn down, and officers who don’t want to relocate are put out of their apartments (sometimes into the street).  The garrison is then sold by Defense Ministry officials with a direct interest in this.  Mukhin concludes, that’s the ‘new profile’ army for you. 

OPSV Chairman Oleg Shvedkov told Mukhin several thousand retired officers and servicemen participated in May 1 protests around the country.  They protested not just housing, but also pension and pay problems.  But, of course, active-duty servicemen are prohibited from participating in political actions under the law. 

Viktor Baranets also addressed the plight of former officers in Balashikha in a 12 May article. 

According to ITAR-TASS and RIA Novosti, a Defense Ministry housing official promised on 15 May that the problem of 80 retired servicemen and the apartments allocated to them in Balashikha would be resolved before the end of June.  He said the process of preparing all the necessary documents would be complete by that time. 

A Defense Ministry spokesman said a meeting with an ‘initiative group’ [i.e. the protesters] was held in the ministry.  He also indicated the Defense Ministry is trying to speed up and smooth out the process of preparing and registering survey and property ownership documents.

Victim of the ‘New Profile’

Obvious individual suffering from Serdyukov’s ‘New Profile’ military reforms hasn’t been readily apparent until now.

Russian media today carried sad news about a 34-year-old lieutenant colonel, one Aleksey Kudryavtsev, serving in Udmurtiya, who hung himself in the forest upon learning his unit would be disbanded.

Press said he served in v/ch 93233, which Yandex shows is the military commissariat [draft and mobilization office] for Igra Rayon of the Udmurt Republic.  Kudryavtsev must have been one of the few remaining uniforms in the commissariat since most military men were early victims of Serdyukov’s cut in the officer corps.  Some officers have been able to serve on as civilians.

Despondent on finding out about his imminent dismissal, the lieutenant colonel stood to lose not only his post, but also his service apartment.  He wrote his wife a note saying not to look for him and to start a new family, and then disappeared last September.  His body was finally located in a remote wooded area.  He left sons of 4 and 8 behind.

Newsru.com and Argumenty nedeli covered the story.

Rearmament Tempo Less Than 2 Percent Per Year

Vasiliy Burenok

Vasiliy Burenok told a round table at the ‘Army and Society’ exhibition in Moscow Friday that the current pace of Russian force modernization, not more than 2 percent, won’t support the transition to a ‘new profile’ military.

Burenok is Director of the Defense Ministry’s 46th Scientific-Research Institute (46 NII).  The 46 NII is a lead organization involved in formulating the State Armaments Program (GPV) and State Defense Order (GOZ).  It works on military-technical policy documents and program planning methodologies.  Burenok is a member of the Scientific-Technical Council of the RF Government’s Military-Industrial Commission (VPK).

Reviewing history a bit, Burenok told his audience, at the beginning of the 1990s, the rearmament rate was 5-7 percent annually.  But, between 1991 and 2000, financing for new arms and equipment declined more than 50 times, leaving only enough money to maintain existing weapons.

Burenok concludes to get the army to the ‘new profile’ it’s essential to introduce 9 percent new equipment every year, and for some services and combat arms, up to 11 percent.

This 9 to 11 percent is, of course, the difficult target President Medvedev set at the Defense Ministry Collegium.  Burenok indicated just how difficult–going from less than 2 to an 11 percent annual renewal rate.

Armaments Chief and Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin also addressed the ‘Army and Society’ round table.  He said GPV 2011-2020 will go to the president for approval in June.  The new GPV will be accompanied by yet another new Federal Targeted Program for OPK Development.

Popovkin said a number of systems won’t be produced under the new GPV.  They include short-range tube artillery, and BTR-80, BMP-2, and BMP-3 combat vehicles that soldiers are afraid to ride in.

State of the ‘New Profile’ in One District

General-Lieutenant Bogdanovskiy

Leningrad Military District (LenVO) Commander, General-Lieutenant Nikolay Bogdanovskiy held a news conference today and, along with talking about the upcoming Victory Day parade on St. Petersburg’s Palace Square, he talked about his district’s ‘new profile.’

Firstly, following General Staff Chief Makarov, Bogdanovskiy said contractees will be reduced and conscripts increased.

Specifically, he stated:

“. . . the number of contractees will be signficantly reduced, many of those who showed themselves incapable of serving will need to be dismissed.”

The LenVO needs 25,000 draftees from this spring’s consription campaign beginning on 1 April. But he said this won’t create problems because, last fall, 100,000 young men came through the LenVO’s voyenkomaty and 25,000 were deemed fit to serve.

The LenVO Commander said, in the process of ongoing personnel cuts, 1,600 officers and 1,200 warrants have been ‘placed at the disposition’ of their commanding officers, but only 346 and 284 respectively have been discharged from the service.

These are surprisingly small numbers.

So, in the LenVO at least, only 22 percent of the officers destined for dismissal could actually be dismissed with the benefits and apartments owed them.  The other 78 percent remain in limbo, without duty posts and living on their rank pay [perhaps one-fourth of their former total monthly pay].  And 24 percent of warrants could be sent home with benefits and housing while the other 76 percent wait for these things.

Bogdanovskiy has also asked St. Petersburg’s governor to resolve a situation with owners of garages located on land the Defense Ministry claims near the village of Yukki, where the LenVO now wants to build apartments for servicemen.  But that one will be hard; the Defense Ministry’s old nemesis Rosimushchestvo says the property doesn’t belong to the military.  The builder and construction equipment have already been out to the site with the intention of knocking down the garages.  Boganovskiy says the plan is to put 50 apartment houses on this territory.

The LenVO Commander also acknowledged problems with military housing built in the district:

“I’ve more than once tried to sort out the quality problem in the housing in Pushkin.”

He indicated the problems started small, but failure to fix them in a timely manner means ten times the amount of money must be spent to repair them now.  But he promised to do so by the end of spring.

On the force structure front, he says the LenVO’s reforms were largely completed in 2009.  Ten brigades and other units were formed or reformed in the process [the district has 3 combined arms brigades–the 25th, 138th, and 200th].

Regarding problems with the command and violence in the 138th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade at Kamenka, Bogdanovskiy said:

“. . . we haven’t managed to complete fully tasks connected with discipline–in particular, in the 138th Kamenka Brigade the commander, chief of staff, and assistants for armaments and socialization work were dismissed because of events there.  Now the situation is normalizing, we are trying not to repeat past mistakes.”

Interesting insights into what the Serdyukov’s reforms have meant for one, albeit small and not particularly significant, district.  But, if such a large percentage of officers are being left ‘at the disposal’ of their commanders, can one believe Serdyukov’s assertion that 65,000 officers were put out of the armed forces last year?  Does this include a small number of dismissed and a much larger number of those left ‘at the disposal’ of commanders?  On an issue closely tied to officer cuts, can one believe that the Defense Ministry really obtained 45,000 apartments last year if so many soon-to-be-ex-officers are ‘at the disposal’ awaiting them?

It would seem that, if Serdyukov has failed, or been unable, to move as speedily on officer reductions as he wanted, the door might be left open for someone to reverse this policy, especially if a large number of potentially angry officers remains for a long time in the limbo of being neither in, nor out of, the army.