Monthly Archives: September 2010

Dolgorukiy Factory Testing Complete

Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy

Not a huge news story, but worth keeping continuity on . . . and there are interesting questions — has the fourth Borey really been laid down, and how many launch tubes will be on unit 2, 3, etc.? 

Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy completed its factory underway testing by 24 September, according to the official Russian news services.  A spokeswoman for Sevmash said the current testing plan was fulfilled, and all established tasks were completed.  Captain First Rank Vladimir Shirin called the last at-sea period ‘excellent.’  All systems reportedly worked well, and minor issues noted during previous cruises were resolved.  The Sevmash delivery team and Dolgorukiy crew are preparing to present the submarine to the state acceptance commission.  But according to Grani.ru, a United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) source told Interfaks the obvious – acceptance of Dolgorukiy into the Navy inventory is not being considered since its main weapon – the Bulava SLBM – is not ready.  The Defense Ministry is still hoping that the new SSBN will be the launch platform for one of the next three Bulava tests.

The news services noted there are two additional Boreys, not three, on Sevmash’s buildingways.  So one supposes number four, Saint Nikolay, hasn’t been laid down yet.

The news services maintain the line that the Borey-class boats will have 12 launch tubes each, but Grani.ru, like other media outlets, claims Aleksandr Nevskiy and Vladimir Monomakh are proyekt 955A units and will have 16 tubes, while Saint Nikolay will be a proyekt 955U boat, possibly with 20 tubes.

Serdyukov Offers Access to Military Units

Varying media accounts of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s meeting Thursday with defenders of conscript rights lead one to think they attended different meetings.

But the Defense Minister deserves praise for facing some of the army’s sharpest critics.  And for apparently saying he wants to meet them routinely, according to Krasnaya zvezda.  His predecessors rarely did.

The headline story from the meeting was Serdyukov’s offer for civilian activists to accompany conscripts through the induction process until they reach their place of service, and settle into their units.  He also offered fuller access to the military’s bases.

RIA Novosti  quoted him:

“We want to propose an option for accompanying conscripts:  take part in the callup commission, and then go with them to units and see how they are billeted.” 

He added that he is prepared to let civilian representatives into all military units, with the exception of an unknown number of secret ones.

According to ITAR-TASS, he said:

“The Defense Ministry on the whole is interested in public organizations having access to military units.”

So Serdyukov bowed to greater civilian involvement, if not control or oversight, and also stumped for his efforts to ‘humanize’ conscript service in the armed forces.

His offer was interesting for the catch it included . . . these civil society representatives have to participate in the callup commission before they can go with new soldiers to their units. 

Maybe Serdyukov thinks they won’t take up the offer.  Maybe he thinks, if they do, they’ll dirty their hands in the difficult work of deciding who has to serve, or doesn’t, and where.  Maybe sorting through far-from-ideal candidates and still trying to meet manpower quotas will temper their criticism.

But it may give conscript rights activists even better insight into induction process problems and abuses than they already have.   We’ll see.

Serdyukov touted efforts to enable conscripts, especially those with dependent parents and children, to serve as close to home as possible, rather than sending them as far away as possible like in the past.

But Valentina Melnikova of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers (SKSM or СКСМ) believes no one is fulfilling Serdyukov’s order to assign draftees closer to home:

“In military commissariats no one pays attention to this.”

According to Lenta.ru, Serdyukov cited his other innovations – introducing a rest hour after lunch, lifting virtually all restrictions on the use of cell phones by conscripts, giving them a chance to earn a weekend pass, and freeing them from all housekeeping and maintenance chores in their barracks, units, and garrisons.  But neither Serdyukov nor the media could say how widely these initiatives have been implemented. 

According to Krasnaya zvezda, Serdyukov wants to revive moribund parents’ committees introduced several years ago, but found impractical when young men served in remote areas far from home.  If they’re closer to home, their parents might be able to visit their units.  Serdyukov also mentioned the 4-year-old Defense Ministry Public Council.  Krasnaya zvezda reported that Melnikova is heading its working group to coordinate its activities with other public and human rights organizations.  Serdyukov expressed the hope that such a unification of efforts will be beneficial.

IA Regnum reports that Petersburg’s Ella Polyakova gave Serdyukov a detailed report on violations of conscript rights complete with statistics, concrete examples, and proposals to better protect them.

Polyakova would like to remove examining physicians from the callup commission, and from the control of the voyenkomat.  She said their qualifications need improvement also.  She objected to Serdyukov’s cuts in military medicine and called for better psychiatric assistance for conscripts in their units.

Polyakova says Serdyukov’s officer cuts have worsened the situation in the barracks.  Sergeants who were supposed to replace officers are ill-prepared for greater responsibility, and barracks violence has spiked as a result.  The Main Military Prosecutor’s figures support her.  Sergey Fridinskiy recently reported that hazing and other barracks violence increased 50 percent in the first five months of 2010.

Newsru.com reported Tatyana Kuznetsova’s concern about the army stretching its definition of fitness and taking men who should be deferred or exempt for health reasons:

“But, as we know, right away, having just reached the troops, many guys turned up in hospitals which were overflowing.  Like in a war, they laid in three rows, on the floor, in corridors.  These boys were called up sick, with chronic illnesses that weren’t discovered during the callup.  They weren’t discovered on purpose.”

All in all, it’s clear that, no matter how often they get together, Defense Minister Serdyukov and human rights activists will continue to disagree about the state of the army and how to change it.

According to IA Regnum, when Serdyukov said there’s no money for contract service, the activists asked him to explain:

“. . . how much money is being expended from budgets at all levels to fulfill the conscription plan in the ranks of the armed forces, as a result of which young men who are sick, invalids, and psychologically unstable end up in the army.  And next compare this with the amounts of expenditures to dismiss conscripts from the army after several months for health reasons, and to pay compensation to the families of those who have died or become invalids in peacetime.”

Mayor Serdyukov?

Rumors of possible replacements for Yuriy Luzhkov as mayor of Moscow have just started swirling, and lots of names are floating, but it’s worth mentioning that people are talking about Serdyukov as one possibility.

Today’s Vedomosti claims Defense Minister Serdyukov is on a reported short-list of candidates for Moscow mayor, along with the President’s deputy chief of staff Aleksandr Beglov, popular Emergency Situations Minister Sergey Shoygu, and Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Sobyanin.

It would be difficult to replace Serdyukov with army reforms in full swing right now, according to a source close to the Presidential Administration.  But Serdyukov is the only one of these men with business experience that President Medvedev is said to value.

One of Vedomosti’s interlocutors ‘knows’ that Serdyukov discussed the possible move with his patron, Prime Minister Putin, on Thursday, delaying the start of the Defense Ministry collegium in St. Petersburg by two hours.

A Defense Ministry official claims there’s talk inside the military department to the effect that Serdyukov was offered the mayor’s job, but declined in order to finish military reform.  Is it really possible to say no to that kind of offer?  Probably not.

Vedomosti also says there’s talk Medvedev will select a native Muscovite, which Serdyukov is not.

How much stock should we put in any of these rumors?  Probably not too much.  They’re interesting nonetheless, and show that Serdyukov and his managerial skills are pretty well regarded.

Collegium on MDs and Antiterrorism

Last Thursday, Defense Minister Serdyukov conducted an extramural ‘board of directors’ meeting in St. Petersburg.  The agenda had two publicized items — forming the new Western Military District (MD) and antiterrorism.

Deputy Defense Minister, General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov (effectively chief of material-technical support) and acting commander of the new Western MD (ZVO or ЗВО), General-Colonel Arkadiy Bakhin reported on the new district.  Genshtab GOU Chief, General-Lieutenant Andrey Tretyak reported “On the Condition of Antiterrorist Work in the RF Armed Forces and Measures to Neutralize Terrorist Threats.”

In its coverage, ITAR-TASS noted that recommendations from forming the ZVO will be applied to the new Southern, Central, and Eastern MDs. 

After the collegium, General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov told journalists that work on the ZVO was being closely analyzed, and all issues had been resolved in the main.  But its command doesn’t fully recognize the importance of its tasks, and its combat training demands higher quality work.  Makarov called this a consequence of the fact that, for 15 to 20 years, almost 85 percent of officers in command and control organs didn’t command troops. 

Of course, Makarov considers himself a ‘troop general’ and that 85 percent figure makes it easy for him to oversee cutting the officer corps by 50 percent.

Makarov said the terrorist attack near Buynaksk was being closely analyzed, and noted that commanders didn’t take measures necessary to protect their people.  But the tasks essential to countering terrorist threats have been identified.

Krasnaya zvezda reported that Serdyukov met human rights organization representatives during a break in the collegium.  More on this later.

The Military Elite

Vitaliy Shlykov (photo: Sergey Melikhov)

This is something sure to be overlooked, but it’s fun, interesting, and worth considering.

Every year Russkiy reporter selects its 100-person elite of Russia in various categories — artists, educators, journalists, doctors, businessmen, social activists, scholars, lawyers, bureaucrats, and military men.

The magazine touts its selections as people the country needs to know and listen to.  It calls them authoritative and influential people; they aren’t necessarily the most powerful or widely known.

It’s worth knowing who the magazine believes is influencing military thinking and men in uniform.  You read what many of them write on these very pages.  Picking only ten had to be hard.  One can think of dozens of others.

The article also has a short interview with one of the ten, Vitaliy ShlykovRusskiy reporter asked him what it means to be authoritative in the military, what society thinks of the military, and whether the military influences the authorities.  It’s worth reading.

Without further ado, the military elite are:

  • Makhmut Gareyev
  • Vladimir Dvorkin
  • Vladimir Shamanov
  • Vladimir Popovkin
  • Vitaliy Shlykov
  • Vladimir Bakin
  • Vladimir Boldyrev
  • Mikhail Pogosyan
  • Leonid Ivashov
  • Nikolay Makarov

Contract Service Not Quite Abandoned

In St. Petersburg Thursday, Anatoliy Serdyukov explained that the Defense Ministry is cutting the number of contractees due to a lack of funding:

“We don’t have the resources to maintain contractees in the amount we want, therefore a reduction in contractees and an increase in conscripts are occurring.”

He made the remarks in response to complaints about higher draft numbers in a meeting with human rights activists.  

Serdyukov said the transition to permanent combat readiness units requires the Defense Ministry to take a full draft contingent, meaning that an increased number of those with an unfulfilled military obligation are being conscripted. 

But he repeated past statements that the armed forces will drop by 134,000 at some point to a level of one million personnel.

According to Svpressa.ru, at the March Defense Ministry collegium Serdyukov admitted:

“We are not satisfied with the results of this [contract service] program.  We somewhat underestimated the situation in units – who should transfer to contract, on what conditions, with what kind of pay.”

RIA Novosti cited GOMU Chief Vasiliy Smirnov from the end of July when he said that contractees will man more than 100,000 soldier and sergeant billets in the Russian military.  This press item added Smirnov’s comments that contractees will be 20 percent of the armed forces, and currently number 210,000.  And money freed up by the reduction in contractees will go to increased pay for other unidentified servicemen.

Some of this reporting – especially Smirnov’s 100,000 and 20 percent figures – seems garbled, but it’s just that some key background’s been left out.  Let’s rebuild some context around last week’s statements, so they make more sense.

Looking back on what was said officially last winter, General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov had a much harder edge on his pronouncements about the failure of contract service.  Serdyukov was much less categorical; he emphasized that contract service was being cut, not abandoned.

Makarov and Serdyukov offered different figures on contractees; the former said 190,000 and the latter 150,000.  And Smirnov said 210,000.  Recall all three figures probably included 79,000 or less recruited in the 2004-2007 program.

Serdyukov said first the contract service program will be cut – perhaps down to Smirnov’s 100,000 – then eventually expanded to 200,000 or 250,000.  In his March interview, even Makarov said ideally a motorized rifle brigade should have about 20 percent professional enlisted personnel. 

At Alabino in May, Serdyukov said contract service is being reworked.  The key thing is he’s yet to explain exactly how he’ll do it.  For the time being, he’s saying there’s no money for it, but it remains on the agenda.

For now, contractees will or may be cut to Smirnov’s 100,000 level, but if they expand back to 200,000 somehow in the future, they would be 20 percent of Serdyukov’s million-man army.  For now, they’re going to be 18 or 13 percent of the army, and drop maybe as low as 10 percent before increasing (maybe).

We should also recall Valentina Melnikova’s admonition not to believe Russian generals (or defense ministers) when they say they can’t afford a professional army.  They just have other priorities right now.

Makarov on Iran, Lasers, Deferments, and Bulava

Attending today’s OPK modernization meeting in Ramenskoye, General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov talked to the press, and said:

“A decision not to supply Iran with the S-300 was made, it, of course, falls under the sanctions.  The leadership made a decision to stop the supply process, we are fulfilling it.”   

He wouldn’t say the contract to supply them has been broken.  Apparently asked if the missiles could be provided in the future, Makarov said:

“We’ll see, this will depend on Iran’s conduct.”

Unnamed official sources put the price of the Iranian S-300 contract at hundreds of millions of dollars.

ITAR-TASS reiterated Defense Minister Serdyukov’s 20 August comment on providing Iran the S-300:

“We aren’t supplying anything.  There’s no decision on supplying them.”

Makarov’s comments coincided with President Medvedev’s ukaz implementing UNSCR 1929 from 9 June.  The ukaz expressly listed the S-300 as an item not to be transferred from Russia to Iran. 

Asked about Russia’s military laser program, Army General Makarov said development is on-going:

“Work on a combat laser goes on throughout the world, including here.”

He added that it was premature to talk about the characteristics of Russia’s laser system.

Answering another question, Makarov said student draft deferments won’t be abolished:

“The possibility of ending deferments for students is not being considered.  This issue is too socially significant.”

“There are many other measures which will allow us to resolve the situation [with the draft].”

He added that he expects Serdyukov to talk about the draft at Friday’s Defense Ministry collegium.

Asked if compulsory military service will be increased from 12 months, he said, “I don’t know if there’s sense in this.”

But Makarov went on to vent his frustration about conscription:

“Today not more than 13 percent of young people are called up, the rest aren’t called up for health reasons.  We need to understand what is happening .  It can’t be that only 13 percent of our young people are healthy.  Among people getting a deferment or exemption from the army on health grounds, 40 percent of them had documents either purchased or manufactured in some way.  In other words, there’s an issue, and we need to toughen monitoring in this area.”

Thirteen percent is really low.  And the corruption rate when it comes to health exams in commissariats is at least 40 percent.  We need to explore his numbers and math.  These are startling figures.

Makarov paid a little respect to Serdyukov’s fledgling effort to ‘humanize’ conscript service:

“A number of measures to reduce the load on prospective conscripts are being reviewed.”

Finally, press questions turned to the pending Bulava SLBM tests.  Makarov said:

“The missiles which we’re preparing to launch were produced from beginning to end under strict monitoring by military acceptance, the Defense Ministry, and the Military-Industrial Commission.  A great deal will depend on these launches.  If the launches are unsuccessful, then we have to shake up fundamentally the entire cycle of missile production.”

On the timing of the next Bulava test, Makarov contradicted Serdyukov’s last statement by saying:

“It’s doubtful this will happen in September.”