Tag Archives: State Defense Order

Gerasimov Says No Sharp Course Change

General-Colonel Gerasimov (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatikov)

General-Colonel Gerasimov (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatikov)

Gazeta.ru pieced together RIA Novosti clips of General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov’s session with foreign military attaches yesterday.

Gerasimov said army reforms begun by former Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov will be “corrected,” not radically altered:

“Anticipating your questions on the possibility of a sharp course change in military organizational development, I would note there won’t be one.  In 2008, the Russian Federation President clearly indicated development tasks for our army, they will be fulfilled.  Naturally, some issues are being subjected to certain correction accounting for deficiencies revealed.”

“Organizational development” is primarily (but not entirely) TO&E and force structure.

Gazeta reports Gerasimov said mixed conscript and contract manning will be preserved, and the one-year conscript service term won’t be increased as some would like.

The new NGSh said the Defense Ministry is creating its own element to track fulfillment of the state defense order (GOZ):

“And by the minister’s decision, a structure will be created in the Defense Ministry which allows for controlling not only the completion of contracts, but work in all phases of the production cycle.”

Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry had various organs with this responsibility, including Rosoboronzakaz, Rosoboronpostavka, etc.  How will the new structure be better?

Gazeta closes with expert opinions on the fate of reforms introduced by Serdyukov.  Igor Korotchenko says:

“We didn’t have Anatoliy Serdyukov’s reform, but a reform the main parameters of which were set by the president.  That is the military reform course will continue fully with the exception of some cases of deficiencies revealed in the military education system, military medicine, and the reinforcement of control procedures over the activity of those structures involved in armed forces outsourcing.”

Ever-skeptical Aleksandr Khramchikhin doesn’t think there was a coherent course to be changed:

“In the army reform, there wasn’t a clear plan of action, one won’t appear under the new defense minister.”

“I don’t think Shoygu’s Defense Ministry will try to correct the course of reform or introduce some fixes.  There is nothing to correct.  Serdyukov’s reform had no kind of course, it went by the trial and error method.  There are grounds to believe that Shoygu will act according to the same principle.”

There’s a long list of policies commentators think will or might be changed, but little so far officially.  A new category to replace Serdyukov’s Reforms is needed.  Maybe Shoygu’s Nuanced Corrections?

A Fuller Picture of the GOZ

Yars ICBM (photo: RIA Novosti / Ilya Pitalev)

It’s been customary for some time to get press information on what the Russian military expects to acquire each year.  Rare, however, are occasions when we receive a report on what they procured to compare with the plan from the year before.

This year is one of those occasions.

Why is anybody’s guess.  But the release of this information — which came from the new armaments tsar First Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Sukhorukov — could be a Defense Ministry weapon in its running skirmish with the OPK.  Information on how the defense sector performed could bolster the ministry’s somewhat beleaguered position on what it buys, from whom, and for how much.

RIA Novosti covered Sukhorukov’s remarks on GOZ-2011 yesterday.

According to him, in 2011, the military received 30 Topol-M and Yars ICBMs, two special designation satellites, 21 aircraft, 82 helicopters, one proyekt 22380 Steregushchiy-class corvette, and 8,500 KamAZ and Ural vehicles.

The price for GOZ-2011 was about 550 billion rubles.

Now, for comparison, in mid-March, Lenta.ru recapped Defense Minister Serdyukov’s statement to RIA Novosti on 2011 procurement plans.  He said the military planned to obtain 36 ballistic missiles, two SSBNs, 20 strategic ALCMs, five satellites, 35 aircraft, 109 helicopters, three SSNs, one surface ship, and 21 SAM systems.  The media outlet itself noted the submarine plans sounded garbled since two SSBNs and an SSN were more likely.

So what was acquired very roughly approximates what was anticipated.  And these are just high-profile systems rather than an exhaustive list.  As indicated at the outset, it’s a fuller picture not a full one.  There could be an official assessment later of what percentage of GOZ-2011 was completed.   

Sukhorukov also said late last year a contract for Bulava SLBM production out to 2020 was signed, but no acceptance date for the missile or the first Borey-class SSBN was established.

He added that 84 contracts worth 42 billion (8 percent of the money) were not fulfilled, and the Yasen-class SSN schedule was not met.  And defect claims reached 7,100, up from 6,800 in 2010.

Defense Ministry Collegium

Serdyukov Flanked by Makarov and Pankov

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MER and SP Doubt GOZ Prospects

Andrey Klepach

Yesterday the Ministry of Economic Development (MER) and the Audit Chamber (SP) expressed serious doubt about the government’s ability to fulfill the state defense order in 2011 and 2012.  Speaking to a Duma hearing on the draft budget for 2012-2014 covered by RIA Novosti, Deputy Minister Andrey Klepach said:

“Our Gosoboronzakaz won’t be substantially fulfilled this year and it’s highly probable it won’t be fulfilled next year.”

Deputy SP Chairman Valeriy Goreglyad also told the parliamentarians that expenditures on the army and national defense are:

“. . . not only the least transparent, but also the least effective from the point of view of using state resources, particularly those connected with the Gosoboronzakaz.”

“Therefore, in the first place, a different system of contracting is needed in this area, like in no other [area], a transfer to a federal contracting system where the entire technological cycle [planning to contract fulfillment] is supported.”

Other media outlets largely repeated RIA Novosti while adding a little background.  They reviewed President Medvedev’s comments on the failure of GOZ-2010, and on GOZ problems this spring, as well as repeated government and industry failure to meet Prime Minister Putin’s deadlines for completing all GOZ-2011 contracts.

These outlets also mishandled Defense Minister Serdyukov’s statement from last week about having only 20 billion of 581 billion rubles in GOZ-2011 funds remaining to obligate.  Several news sources inaccurately called it GOZ-2012 money.  As ARMS-TASS reports, the government’s Military-Industrial Commission won’t start reviewing the draft GOZ-2012 until mid-November, and no contracts for next year have been negotiated or placed.

To make things just a bit worse for the government, ex-Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin repeated his budget priorities to a U.N. Millennium Development Goals conference yesterday in Moscow.  According to Utro.ru, Kudrin said:

“I already expressed my position that the increase in military expenditures in Russia is creating a threat to increasing and supporting programs in the area of health and education.  I would give less of an increase in money now for military needs than for health.”

Serdyukov and Baranets

Anatoliy Serdyukov (photo: Vladimir Belengurin)

Komsomolskaya pravda’s Viktor Baranets got to prompt Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov for a few statements on various topics in today’s paper.  It doesn’t seem like he really got to ask questions.

Serdyukov claims all but about 3% of GOZ-2011 has been placed, and 100% advances to the defense sector for 2012 will make for a smooth year of orders and production.  He “dodges the bullet” on not ordering Kalashnikovs.  He returns to the possibility of giving serving officers and contractees money to rent their own apartments, but this never worked well in the past.

Serdyukov says the first phase of military reform involved changing the Armed Forces’ org-shtat (TO&E) structure.  Now, he says, the second phase has begun, and it’s connected with rearming the troops.

On the state defense order (GOZ), Serdyukov says:

“During the formation of the Gosoboronzakaz, we had two issues with the defense sector — the price and quality of armaments.  We got them to open up their production “cost history.”  That is, they showed us everything transparently.  We needed to understand what they were getting and from where.  After long arguments, a compromise was found in the end.  We settled on quality criteria.  The Gosoboronzakaz is almost completely placed.  Of 580 billion rubles a little more than 20 billion was left ‘to settle.’  But we’ve also drawn conclusions from the lessons of this year.  Now the next Gosoboronzakaz will be formed in the Defense Ministry before December with such calculation that they will begin to fulfill it in January.  At the same time, we’re trying to make the Gosoboronzakaz 100% paid in advance to the defense sector.  Not another country in the world has such comfortable conditions for its VPK.”

Serdyukov says the Defense Ministry is still working on MPs, their regs, missions, training, structure, and size.  They’ll be responsible for discipline and order in garrisons and investigations.

The Defense Minister opines that Russia’s Israeli UAVs aren’t bad, but they are looking at Italian ones while domestic development continues.

Serdyukov confirmed that two new factories for producing the S-400 system will be built.  They are designed, and, he hopes, will begin production by 2015.

On tanks, the Defense Minister says they’ve taken the position that they can modernize T-72s to the level of a T-90 or better for 38 million rubles.  He believes it’s cost effective.

On the AK-74, Serdyukov claims they aren’t rejecting it, but they have depots overflowing with 17 million automatic rifles.  He says they’ll be used or modernized, some will be sold, and others transferred to other power ministries.

Serdyukov believes the draft military pay law now in the Duma will raise pensions by 50 or 60 percent.  Active military pay will be as advertised:  a lieutenant is supposed to get 50,000 or more rubles a month.  Contract enlisted will start at 25,000 or more depending on their duties.

Serdyukov hopes the problem of housing for retired servicemen will be concluded in 2013.  Then he can focus on service housing for contractees.  He proposes paying contractees to rent apartments while the Defense Ministry acquires or builds service housing.  “Apartment money” is a possibility but it has to be thought out.

GOZ War Winding Down?

Vedomosti’s Aleksey Nikolskiy sees a possible end to the conflict between the Defense Ministry and industry over the production of strategic nuclear systems.  His OSK source claims a multiyear Defense Ministry contract with Sevmash for proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBNs will be concluded in the coming week.  This would reportedly leave OSK with just one contract remaining to be completed.

Conclusion of a 40-billion-ruble contract for three proyekt 11356M frigates was announced Wednesday.

Vedomosti’s source said the Defense Ministry and OSK also finished a deal for proyekt 885 Yasen-class SSNs several days ago.  The paper once again cites Konstantin Makiyenko’s 500 billion ruble price tag for the new SSBNs and SSNs.

An industry source tells Vedomosti that all MIT’s ballistic missile contracts are complete.

While deals for renovating Russia’s strategic forces are apparently done at last, not all contracts for conventional armaments are finished, particularly those involving Rostekhnologii and its enterprises, according to the director of one of them.

What’s this mean?

The conclusion of submarine / SLBM / ICBM production contracts would be a relief to both sides since their absence has been the biggest GOZ news story.  If all this is done, or almost done, one would expect a major government or Defense Ministry press announcement soon.

If the submarine deals are worth 500 billion rubles, that is, once again, apparently closer to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s price than to OSK’s.

The proyekt 11356M frigates are updated Krivaks (or Talwars for India), and they aren’t exactly cheap.

The issue of incomplete contracts with Rostekhnologii’s enterprises is significant given the size and breadth of their work on weapons and military equipment.  People will ask which enterprises and systems are in question.  It also contradicts Serdyukov’s recent claims that only OSK deals needed to be inked, and implies there are lingering problems and issues in areas other than shipbuilding.

Serdyukov’s New First Deputy

Aleksandr Sukhorukov

As rumored in mid-summer, President Medvedev announced today former KGB and FSB officer Aleksandr Sukhorukov, most recently Director of the Federal Service for the Defense Order (Rosoboronzakaz), will be First Deputy Minister of Defense.

According to ITAR-TASS, Defense Minister Serdyukov introduced the 55-year-old Sukhorukov during a working meeting with Medvedev in Stavropol.

Medvedev and Serdyukov noted Sukhorukov will be responsible for arms procurement and the beleaguered state defense order.

He’ll be sitting in the hot seat right away.  Medvedev told him:

“. . . this is a very delicate process:  on one side, you need to understand the realm of the Armed Forces, the field of modern military technology, on the other, you need to build relationships with suppliers correctly.  But it’s not always simple to do, the current history of concluding contracts shows this.” 

RIA Novosti elaborated:

“Last night, RF Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s deadline for concluding all Gosoboronzakaz-2011 contracts expired.  On Thursday, the media reported that this task was not completed.”

Sukhorukov takes the post vacated by Vladimir Popovkin, who took over the Russian space agency Roskosmos.

Sukhorukov was with Serdyukov at the Federal Tax Service.  He followed the Serdyukov team to the Defense Ministry, becoming Deputy Director of Rosoboronzakaz in mid-2008, and Director a year later.  But he kept a low public profile at that agency.

He was born November 11, 1955 in Kasli, Chelyabinsk Oblast.  He graduated from the Chelyabinsk Higher Tank Command School in 1977, and later a KGB Higher School.  He apparently worked for the KGB in the Armed Forces, retiring as an FSB lieutenant colonel in 1996.   

From 1996 to 2004, he was deputy director, then director for the Finance Ministry’s northwest regional center for hard currency and export control.  He was a deputy director and director of a territorial directorate (probably northwest again) of the Federal Service for Finance-Budget Oversight in 2004-2006. 

In 2006-2007, he worked for then-Federal Tax Service Director Anatoliy Serdyukov as Chief of the Organizational-Inspectors Directorate.

In 2007, Sukhorukov followed Serdyukov to the Defense Ministry as an advisor.  He became Chief (not surprisingly) of its Organizational-Inspectors Directorate.  Serdyukov made reference to this directorate in his 2010 year-ender when he described how he checks on implementation of his policies. 

But, in late 2007, Sukhorukov jumped ship to the government, becoming assistant to then-Prime Minister (and Serdyukov’s father-in-law) Viktor Zubkov, and then Director, Department for Control and Verification of Fulfillment of RF Government Decisions.

In mid-2008, he arrived at Rosoboronzakaz.

You can find bio data here, here, and here.

In the Russian context, Sukhorukov seems like someone who knows how to find out if people are getting things done, and presumably what to do to them if they’re not (shoot them, send them to work in the fresh air, or fire them).  He seems very much a Putin man, an archetypal silovik.

He doesn’t, however, seem like someone who can help people figure out how to get things done.  Perhaps the Defense Ministry could have used someone with not just investigative, accounting, or legal experience, but maybe with an engineering, industrial, scientific, or technical background in the OPK.

It’d be interesting to know what Sukhorukov did in the army / KGB / FSB . . . he might have been a run-of-the-mill osobist, a “special section” guy monitoring some unit’s reliability and loyalty, or helping secure its secrets.  But he might have served in a defense plant, or been detailed to work in anti-corruption efforts.

Latest on GOZ Woes (Part I)

So much has swirled around the state defense order (Gosoboronzakaz or GOZ) this year that it makes one avoid the topic.  But here’s a shot at making amends for neglecting it. 

Perhaps this information will just precede the next wave of GOZ news, likely to break before the end of August.  The current deadline for putting out GOZ contracts is August 31 (who knows when the weapons and other military equipment being bought will actually be delivered?).

You may recall Prime Minister Vladimir Putin set August 31 as the most recent “last deadline” for placing all GOZ-2011 contracts back in late July.  At that time, Putin pretty much put all blame on the Defense Ministry.  Defense Minister Serdyukov said he would complete the contracting, and report to the President and Prime Minister by the deadline.  The report is supposed to be a joint one reflecting the positions of all players involved in the GOZ.

This very day, BFM.ru reports that Deputy PM Igor Sechin says he’ll be two more weeks negotiating OSK shipbuilding contracts with the Defense Ministry.  He claims three of 13 remaining contracts are being signed today.  Prices for the remaining ten will apparently be specified and agreed over the next 14 days.

According to ITAR-TASS, a VPK source indicated the Defense Ministry still needs to contract with Sevmash for delivery of one Proyekt 885 (Yasen-class) and two Proyekt 955 (Borey-class) submarines this year.  The source said work continues despite the lack of a signed contract.

ARMS-TASS, however, provided the best insight into the current state of play on the GOZ.  The news agency cited Deputy Finance Minister Anton Siluanov on a Putin-led government conference on the GOZ early this week.  Siluanov concluded the Defense Ministry will soon sign its contracts and send out advance payments.  Additionally, he criticized the delays for “breaking budgetary discipline,” and added that defense contracts are being signed on credit schemes and state guarantee mechanisms [i.e. not cash].

ARMS-TASS also quoted Putin at length:

“Naturally, the priority in buying equipment, armaments is, of course, domestic equipment, but it should still be modern, wanted, promising and acceptable to the customer, to the Defense Ministry, but taking account of prices for the state.”

“An unprecedented amount of monetary resources — 750 billion rubles — has been allocated for the purchase and modernization of equipment and armaments, for RDT&E on defense subjects.”

“In modern Russia such money has never been allocated so that in a year there’s 750 billion rubles — this is not some kind of percentage, this is half again as much as in 2010.”

“The government is counting on all this enormous money being effectively used to improve the quality of the work of defense industry and state customers.”

“Meanwhile, according to data which I have, more than 30 percent of the total volume of the GOZ still doesn’t have contracts.”

There’s quite a lot in those statements.  Probably as much substantive as Putin’s said publicly about GOZ problems.

Tomorrow we’ll do Part II on the latest woes.  Then maybe we’ll look at 2011 — the year of the GOZ.  And possibly even a look at the GOZ since 2000 or so.

Government Hour (Part II)

There was plenty of interesting media coverage of the Defense Minister’s meeting with the Duma on Wednesday, and plenty of criticism of what he said or didn’t say.  Plenty worth covering in a Part II, especially regarding Serdyukov’s effort to shift the blame for another failing GOZ.

Radio Svoboda quoted KPRF deputy Vladimir Ulas putting all the blame for the army’s current state right at Anatoliy Serdyukov’s feet:

“The public clearly understands that the situation in the Armed Forces is far from favorable.  Constant scandals which rock this department, the morale-psychological situation in which personnel, first and foremost, the officer corps, find themselves, both the material condition, and the lack of modern armaments – all these problems are completely real.  I also hoped to hear answers to questions, how the Defense Ministry intends to solve them, from the minister.  But, to my greatest regret, the biggest, in my view, problem of today’s Armed Forces is the absolutely dense incompetence of the military leadership.  With people like Serdyukov still heading our Armed Forces, and he, unfortunately, is far from the only one, hoping for some kind of positive shifts is absolutely senseless.”

There was plenty more to be said about problems with the GOZ, the OPK, and the VPK and Defense Ministry blaming each other for what looks like a failing GOZ-2011.

KPRF deputy Anatoliy Lokot told Nakanune.ru:

“I have the impression that these sessions are ‘closed’ to hide the bitterness of the questions and negative results of the work of Military-Industrial Commission (VPK) and Defense Ministry leaders.”

United Russia’s Igor Barinov reiterated what he said he told President Medvedev a year ago:

“I noted then that the lack of competition and incomprehensible system of price formation in the VPK is a deadend path.  We’re reaping the fruits of this now.  Judge yourself:  one, well, a maximum of two enterprises produce this or that type of our armament or military equipment.  Meanwhile, enterprises getting money from the federal budget dispose of it as they wish.  Prices simply come from the ceiling.  No one bears any responsibility for quality.  No one invests money in improving types of military equipment, in the end it goes that even in infantry weapons we’ve fallen behind.  Our legendary automatic weapon Kalashnikov, the value of which everyone recognized before, now lags the best Western types in tactical-technical characteristics.  And so it is in almost every area, with rare exceptions in the areas of missiles and some aircraft.”

“The Defense Ministry announced it won’t buy airborne combat vehicles [BMDs] and infantry combat vehicles [BMPs] from ‘Kurganmashzavod.’  This enterprise was one of the guilty in breaking the Gosoboronzakaz.  And here’s the thing in this.  ‘Kurganmashzavod’ is part of the United ‘Tractor Plants’ Corporation.  Budget money is shared out with ‘Kurganmashzavod’ in a targeted way for the purchase of equipment, but the corporation’s directors dispose of it according to their discretion, and, naturally, BMP and BMD production is the last thing of concern for the owners of this holding company.”

“If they understand that they can be deprived of budget resources, then this enterprise will be forced to invest in quality, and in cutting defects, and in the improvement of product types.  In addition, strict supervision is needed.  Money was allocated but no one asked anyone about this money, and the result was zero.”

The KPRF’s Lokot also dwelled on the GOZ:

“It’s obvious that if the Gosoboronzakaz isn’t formed in the first half of the year, then nothing will be accomplished in the remaining part of the time since money will only begin coming in at the end of the year.  Serdyukov acknowledged that today 13.4% of all contracts in the plan have been formed.  Some time ago, Sergey Ivanov gave us other numbers.  But I think that this number juggling was caused by competition between the Defense Minister and the Military-Industrial Commission.  Ivanov lumps all the blame on the Defense Ministry, Serdyukov – on the defense-industrial complex.  He even began his [Duma] speech with this, saying that the military-industrial complex is guilty of everything.  They have poor qualifications, technology losses, poor production and so forth.  But really at a minimum the Defense Ministry itself bears 50% percent of the responsibility for such a situation.”

“I have given the example of Novosibirsk proving the obvious guilt of the Defense Ministry in breaking the order.  One of the enterprises – the Lenin Factory, which puts out very important products for infantry weapons, became a victim of Defense Ministry officials.  In January this year, Serdyukov opened a state order tender with his signature, but closed it in March.  Now half the year is gone, and there are no results.  The enterprise isn’t working, products aren’t coming out, 211 million rubles spent on reequipping won’t bring any returns, and now they’re generally talking about cutting part of the work force.

“Right in Novosibirsk at the Comintern Factory the S-400 surface-to-air missile system is being produced on the enterprise’s own money, and not with government resources.  Serdyukov says:  ‘I don’t see anything terrible in this, let the enterprise do it on its own money.’  But where does it get its capital resources?  What world is Serdyukov living in?”

Vedomosti talked to a former Defense Ministry official who basically said the threat of arms purchases abroad really didn’t scare anyone.  And, according to him, although Serdyukov considers defense industry leaders lazy and prone to stealing, everyone understands imports can never replace domestic production.  Finally, a source close to the PA told the business daily that Serdyukov himself opposes the Mistral acquisition because of the large expenditures required to build its base infrastructure.

Government Hour (Part I)

Yesterday Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov appeared for his latest “government hour” to discuss the state of Russia’s defenses with parliamentarians.  One gets the sense his opponents were more on the offense this time than in the past.

The KPRF pushed to have his Duma meeting opened to the press, but its motion failed.  The faction noted Serdyukov’s yet to have an open session.  It’s first deputy chairman, Sergey Reshulskiy said:

“In all the previous closed ‘government hours,’ I never once heard and no one has proven to me that we are discussing anything secret here.”

“What will he [Serdyukov] tell us?  That they are supplying ‘Mistral’ without its full equipment?  This isn’t a secret.  That servicemen sent into retirement aren’t getting housing, this isn’t a secret either.”

Faction member Vladimir Fedotkin said:

“The West knows a hundred times better than we deputies what’s being created in our army.”

United Russia supporters thought Serdyukov’s answers exhaustive, but others were dissatisfied with his presentation.  Reshulskiy said he heard nothing concrete in Serdyukov’s statements about the recent depot explosions, fulfilling the GOZ, or resettling servicemen from the far north.

LDPR member Sergey Ivanov [not to be confused with Serdyukov’s predecessor] said he had counted on having a different conversation with the Defense Minister, and Serdyukov answered questions like a partisan politician.  Ivanov continued:

“In particular, Serdyukov didn’t give any concrete answer why Russia is buying ‘Mistral’ helicopter carriers from France and where they will be deployed.”

Just Russia’s Svetlana Goryacheva said her party “heard very sad things:  everything’s either not completely financed, not fulfilled, not completely fulfilled.  The Gosoboronzakaz is practically broken.”

Serdyukov apparently called the 102nd Arsenal disaster in Udmurtia a “remnant” of the Soviet era.  The munitions located there arrived during the early 1990s pullout from Germany and Hungary.  He blamed the “human factor” as well as “inadequate storage capabilities.”

Serdyukov also reportedly denied any retaliation against the Lipetsk pilots who blew the whistle on premium pay extortion at the base.  He said the scandal would not reflect on them in any way, and they would continue to serve.

The Defense Minister said Russia won’t be buying German Leopard tanks [recall Postnikov’s suggestion that they might be cheaper than a reworked T-72].  Nor is NATO standardization in the offing.

After the ‘government hour,’ United Russia’s Igor Barinov, deputy chairman of the Duma defense committee, told the press the Mistral deal is complete except for formalities, but most deputies believe buying the ships is a mistake:

“I myself am a little skeptical about the possibilities for combat employment of these types of weapons.”

Nakanune.ru had good coverage of the session.  It’s description said problems with the GOZ were front and center.  When Serdyukov explained how officials and factory directors were punished for breaking the GOZ, several deputies suggested that Serdyukov should resign if his qualifications don’t enable him to solve defense production problems.

Barinov also addressed this saying:

“I won’t cite concrete figures, since this could be secret information, but it’s possible to call the situation lamentable.”

Look for Part II tomorrow.