Tag Archives: Contractees

Manning the Northern Fleet

Parade in Murmansk (photo: Mil.ru)

Parade in Murmansk (photo: Mil.ru)

Krasnaya zvezda recently reprinted a column from the Northern Fleet newspaper about manning and contract service.

It’s an interview with the chief of the sailor and NCO manning section in the fleet’s Organization-Mobilization Directorate (OMU), a Lieutenant Colonel Verbov.  It’s funny (perhaps suspicious) because his name is the root of the word verbovat (вербовать) — to hire, enlist, or recruit.

In any event, this LTC Verbov says his priority is manning the fleet’s submarines, and several years ago, submarines were manned at 98 percent — or “practically fully” with contractees.  Since then, conscripts sent to the submarine force have served only ashore.

The manning of billets which should be occupied by contractees is about 90 percent for the fleet as a whole.  He adds, however, that officers lacking officer billets hold some of these contract enlisted positions.  But the situation varies.  In the Kola Mixed Forces Flotilla, third-rank ships are “practically fully” manned with contract sailors and NCOs, but first- and second-rank ships only 50-65 percent.

Contractees are needed for those ships, and for Coastal Troops, Naval Infantry, and Naval Aviation units.  Some 200-250 recruits are accepted on contract service every month.  But this isn’t enough to solve his TO&E manning problems.

So, the interviewer asks, what’s the problem?  Verbov answers:

“. . . many wish to serve, but there are a number of factors, let’s say, negatively impacting organization of the selection of citizens for military service on contract.  Here’s an example, a young man comes into the military commissariat [voyenkomat] and says:  ‘I want to serve on contract in the Northern Fleet.  How much do they pay here?’  They tell him:  ‘Initially 27 thousand rubles [per month].’  ‘That’s not much,’ — says the potential recruit and he leaves.”

“But 27 thousand is really just the starting pay.  Then polar supplements, time served, sea duty begin to ‘grow’ — the salary will begin to grow by leaps and bounds.  But they didn’t explain this to someone, someone who didn’t want to wait, as a result they are left without a contractee.”

“A second factor is poor living conditions.  Unfortunately, they can’t give service housing in all garrisons to every citizen who concludes a contract with the Ministry of Defense.  Initially, a recruit has to live in the unit [usually a barracks], on a ship.  Such a situation doesn’t suit very many, and they break the contract.”

“Non-compliance with the regulation on working time on some ships and in some units forces some contract servicemen to leave military service.  One has to confess, occasions arise when the ‘needs of the service’ deprive people of normal rest.  Not everyone can withstand a regimen of two days off per month.”

Nevertheless, our Verbov says the Northern Fleet filled its quota of contractees at 96 percent in the last year.

So ends a micro-level look at Russia’s military professionalization problem.  Let’s see what the MOD is saying about the issue at the macro-level.

The basic idea was to add 50,000 contractees per year, reaching a total of 425,000 in the armed forces before 2018.

By the end of 2013, the MOD overfulfilled its plan by 27 percent, accepted more than 81,000 new recruits, and had more than 225,000 men serving on contracts, according to the annual report on Action Plan 2020.  The goal for 2013 had been 240,000.

According to Deputy Defense Minister Pankov, the MOD had 186,000 contractees at the beginning of 2013.  If it added 81,000, it would have reached 267,000.  So it must have failed to retain 42,000 contractees during the year, if it ended with 225,000.

For completeness, we should note Defense Minister Shoygu said that the armed forces had more than 205,000 in November 2013.  In December, President Putin said 205,100 (just to be precise).

By early May 2014, the MOD said it had 237,000 contractees.  That’s a good start for about four months.  It wants to reach 280,000 by year’s end.

For argument’s sake, assume it had 205,000, adds another 80,000, but also loses another 40,000.  That leaves the MOD at 245,000 at the end of 2014 (i.e. the same number as the endyear goal for 2013).

Again, ultimately, what matters for the success or failure of contract service is how many guys stay or leave the service.

Data on VDV

One can’t call this news.  News not discovered or reported promptly is just data. Not less important to this mind.  But on with the story . . .

Last summer, VDV Commander General-Colonel Vladimir Shamanov told the press about pending changes in the Russian Airborne Troops’ manning and structure.  Not clear if, when, or at what level they’ve been approved.  But fait accompli is Shamanov’s style.  His influence is larger than his nominal rank and post, and he often gets what he wants.

Specifically (among many things), Shamanov claimed the VDV will:

  • Upgrade some regiments to brigades;
  • Establish a logistics brigade;
  • Raise some companies to battalions; and
  • Add a third maneuver regiment to each VDV division.
Valeriy Vostrotin

Valeriy Vostrotin

That’s all context . . . last October, chairman of the Union of Airborne of Russia (SDR or СДР), retired General-Colonel Valeriy Vostrotin gave out two data points in a comment to Rossiyskaya gazeta:

“We veterans were satisfied with the news that it’s now been decided to reinforce the VDV significantly, to increase their numbers by another 20 thousand men.  For me personally, it’s particularly pleasant that, in 2015 in Voronezh an air-assault brigade with the number 345 will be formed and the banner of the famous 345th regiment, which I once commanded in Afghanistan, will be transferred to it . . . .”

So . . . another 20,000 men for VDV, and a new brigade.  Not confirmed, but possibly on the horizon.

Today Russia’s airborne forces are thought to number about 30,000.  Down from an “on-hand” strength ranging anywhere from 55,000 to 75,000 in the late 1980s or very early 1990s.  Desantura.ru gives figures like that.

Going back to 50,000 would be significant, and would add lots of contractees to the ranks.  Equipping a new formation and other new units would not be a minor undertaking either. 

Again, data not news.  May or may not happen.  But we were informed.

55 OMSBr (G)

Denis Mokrushin’s blog provided heads up to the establishment of an independent motorized rifle brigade (mountain), which may stand up in, of all places, Tuva in 2015.

Tuva and Central Asia

Tuva and Central Asia

According to Mokrushin, the new 55th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade (Mountain) will be based in Kyzyl, capital of the ethnic Tuvan republic located at the geographic center of Asia, not far from Central Asian nations where it might deploy in a crisis.

The new mountain brigade, part of Russia’s Central MD, will reportedly be designated not just for mountain combat, but peacekeeping duties as well.  A story from February indicated only residents of Tuva will be considered for enlistment in the 1,500-man brigade.  It will be mainly equipped with GAZ-2330 Tigr vehicles.

The 55th would be one of a handful of formations specifically created for mountain warfare, the most significant being the Southern MD’s 33rd and 34th brigades.  It will also give Russia a maneuver force in a location near its border currently lacking troops.

According to Tuva’s military commissar, contractees in the brigade will have a chance to support themselves and their families.

Tuva might best be described as remote, rugged, impoverished, and sparsely inhabited.  Its 300,000 or so people are predominately, and increasingly, Tuvan as the Russian population dwindles.

The reported plan to recruit only in Tuva means that the 55th brigade would be effectively an ethnic formation — something the Kremlin and the MOD have steadfastly resisted in regions like Tatarstan or the North Caucasus.  The brigade priest will be Buddhist.

This month, however, a military spokesman said men from neighboring Krasnoyarsk Kray, Khakassia, and Kemerovo will be recruited as well.

The report of a new brigade in Tuva appears against the backdrop of previously announced plans to add more Russian Army brigades and sign up larger numbers of contract servicemen.

Shoot Better

Among changes (and changes of emphasis) in his first year, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu stressed something as basic as shooting better.

Putting metal on target more often.  Something that takes time, practice, and money.

Shoygu broached the issue while reviewing last summer’s exercises in the Eastern and Central MDs.

Defense Minister Shoygu Reviewing Exercises (photo: Mil.ru)

Defense Minister Shoygu Reviewing Exercises (photo: Mil.ru)

Shoygu told the assembled brass:

“In the first place, it concerns poor results in destroying targets from TO&E weapons.  One of the main causes of this is an insufficient quantity of ammunition allocated for combat training of brigades according to existing norms.  We already talked about this problem.  Therefore today we need to adopt a clear mechanism to resolve it.”

Shoygu spoke publicly about the need to increase ammunition expenditure “by several times” from the current norm of 20 rounds per tank or artillery crew.  And more explicitly:

“Our colleagues in other countries shoot 160 shells a year per crew.  We have to increase our indicator at least five times.  We have every possibility for this.”

He and his subordinates mulled the irony that Russia destroys old munitions while not enough new ones are manufactured.  Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov said more money is going to ammunition production.

However, NVO’s Viktor Litovkin noted a different problem — practice firings too routine for crews to learn anything about shooting in combat:

“The first deficiency on which Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu focused is ‘we still shoot poorly.’  The causes here are several.  One of them is the fact that tankers, as a rule, conduct combat firings from training tanks.  Three-four of them per battalion.  The tank range on the brigade training area has been studied down to the last knoll, so that every sight setting is thoroughly well-known.  And how to fire at what distance.  And all targets are well-known.  Behind the sight of a TO&E tank, on unfamiliar terrain, people are lost.  And unacceptable mistakes ensue.”

So, the military leadership is more occupied with the quantity than the quality of training.

There’s a personnel policy connection here too, curiously  unmentioned by the leadership.

There are legions of former conscripts who rarely, if ever, fired live rounds from weapons locked in storage rooms of the barracks during their year of service.  But the planned expansion of contract service should produce many enlisted who stay long enough not only to learn to shoot better themselves, but to teach other contractees and conscripts.

Then there’s always technology.

Recently, Mil.ru reported that the Central MD’s Samara-based peacekeeping brigade [15th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade] increased the effectiveness of fire training by 20 percent after introducing laser simulators into the process.

This isn’t the first time the army’s used simulators, but it isn’t noted often.

Soldier Outfitted with 9F838 Tselik Laser Fire Simulator (photo: Mil.ru)

Soldier Outfitted with 9F838 Tselik Laser Fire Simulator (photo: Mil.ru)

It shouldn’t be news.  It’s been 34 years since the U.S. Army started using MILES.  What’s surprising is how late this technology is reaching Russian troops.  Mil.ru indicated the 15th IMRB got its simulators through new 2013 procurement.

The system is standard fare.  It looks a tad cumbersome, but it can reportedly be used with any infantry weapon, grenade launcher, or ATGM.

Russia is not so far behind in the technological sense, but more so in simply producing and using laser simulators.

One short dissertation says work on laser simulators began at TsKB Tochpribor in 1986.  Simulators for infantry weapons, BMPs, and tanks were fielded quickly.  The author concludes Soviet ones didn’t lag behind their U.S. or NATO counterparts.

But (he doesn’t note) just around the corner were the USSR’s disintegration and a long hiatus in Russian military procurement.

Still, Tochpribor stayed at the problem, developing new simulators (especially lighter ones) and an automated combined arms training system for up to 900 infantrymen and 180 combat vehicles called Barelef-SV, which passed state testing in 2008.

But domestic development and production like Tochpribor’s cannot fare well against Germany’s Rheinmetall and its €100-million-plus contract to build Moscow a brigade-sized live combat simulation and marksmanship training center slated to open this year in Mulino.

Parts of Russia’s defense industry are getting protection from the possibility of foreign competition (opened up by ex-Defense Minister Serdyukov), but apparently not this part.

Not that Tochpribor and Rheinmetall are in the same league.  The latter’s a world class designer and integrator of military simulators.  A system like that intended for Mulino is network-intensive, and it’s probably beyond Tochpribor’s competence.

Facts in Contractee Debate

Perhaps you saw the tweet relaying a RIA Novosti report claiming 900 men  signed up for contract service in Kemerovo this year against only 160 in 2012.

A reader responded that Russia’s recession obviously benefits recruiting, while another said no, it’s the doubling of volunteer pay that’s bringing more men in the door.  The first said twice nothing is still nothing.

You get the idea.

An interesting issue, but one that requires some facts.

We can’t test the idea that it’s the recession.  We can, however, examine (at least a little) the idea that it’s the doubled pay.

The most recent series of Russian contract service experiments began in Pskov in 2002.  The first men to sign up were paid 3,300 rubles per month (rank and duty pay with no supplements).

By 2007 — the end of that effort to add about 130,000 contract enlisted to the army’s ranks — some contractees were earning 9,000, 10,000, or even 12,000 per month.

If we adjust the 3,300 and 12,000 for Russia’s consumer inflation during the intervening years, contractees have to get 10,000 to 20,000 to get equivalent pay today.

The Defense Ministry has said they will get about the same as today’s increased junior officer pay, or 30,000 to 35,000 rubles per month.

So is that doubled or not?

For a contractee who re-ups, maybe it is.  But field research would be required to find out how these guys perceive the proffered pay.

For comparison’s sake, the average Russian monthly wage at this time last year was (according to Rosstat) about 26,000 rubles.

The Russian Army’s tried to professionalize its soldiers since its inception in 1992.  It’s tried especially hard since 2002.  That was during the second Chechen when the prospect of being a conscript sent to a shooting war caused large numbers of young men to evade the draft.  And the Kremlin was already paying relatively good money (about 30,000 rubles per month) in combat bonuses to soldiers willing to go to Chechnya.

But here’s what became obvious during the contract service push in 2002-2007:

  • Promised pay was not always delivered.  If it was, it was sometimes siphoned off by officers and other middlemen.  Now, maybe (just maybe), that’s changed because officer pay has risen fairly dramatically.
  • Promised benefits were not delivered.  Especially when it comes to housing and living conditions.  Contractees were told they’d live better than conscripts in barracks.  The vast majority of times they didn’t.  Service apartments (for married contractees) and even renovated dormitories were generally unavailable.  Money for construction was tight, and tens of thousands of officers were also awaiting housing, or improved housing, owed them.
  • Retention was, not surprisingly, a huge problem.  The majority of contractees were not more stable guys interested in a career as an enlisted man or NCO, but younger men looking to make quick rubles while searching for something better.

Without high retention, contract service was, is, and will be meaningless.  Actually, worse than meaningless because it entails great expense, lots of time and effort, and considerable opportunity cost.

We could talk all day about current contractee accession, but fact is, it really doesn’t matter.  The real test is whether the Russian Armed Forces have 425,000 professional enlisted soldiers by the end of 2017, and how many of them they manage to keep by 2020, 2023, 2026, etc.

P.S.  The quality, knowledge, and training of those 425,000 guys is pretty critical too.

Official Word on Contract Service

Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov

Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov

Yesterday NVO recapped the Defense Ministry position on efforts to enlist 50,000 contract servicemen in 2013.  

The Armed Forces have to recruit (and retain) 50,000 each year through 2017 when they’re supposed to have 425,000 contractees.  President Putin decreed the goal upon his inauguration for a third term.  

Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu addressed contract service in a Monday videoconference.  He said the army has to enlist 60,000 contractees to reach 240,000 by the end of 2013.  Shoygu factored in more to cover the  anticipated departure of 10,000 current enlisted.

Deputy Defense Minister, State Secretary Nikolay Pankov reported the armed services had 186,000 contractees on January 1.  He said the selection of candidates is running a little ahead of schedule:

“This year the first quarter target indicator was fulfilled at 107%.  10,699 men were picked and accepted for military service.  In the second quarter we are planning to accept not less than 18,500 men for military service on contract, including 4,500 men in April.”

Defense Minister Shoygu addressed reestablishing warrant officer ranks eliminated by his predecessor.  He ordered up a directive listing the technical posts to which warrants will be assigned:

“Not depots or bases — only to those places where we really need specialists in maintaining complex equipment and complex weapons systems.”

Though not noted by NVO, according to the Defense Ministry account, Shoygu said 14,000 servicemen are no longer on ordnance disposal duty since explosive methods were halted.  He wants to hand shipbuilding companies the repair and dismantlement duties now carried out by 5,000 sailors. 

He didn’t specify whether these servicemen are conscripts or contractees.  But he apparently agrees with his predecessor’s emphasis on getting uniformed personnel out of non-core functions.

But back to signing up 50,000 contractees for service this year.  Is it possible?

Defense Ministry recruiting centers opened in August, and Mil.ru’s reported their numbers.  Some from the fall, others from the first quarter of 2013.

  • The Western MD indicated it dispatched 2,500 new contractees by early January.  The Murmansk Oblast, by itself, has to recruit 3,000 this year.
  • The Central MD recruited 1,100 in late fall, and has to enlist 5,500 in 2013.
  • The Eastern MD reportedly recruited 1,000 by March, and its number for the year is 11,000.
  • No word on overall Southern MD numbers.

So the country’s most sparsely inhabited regions need to provide about one-third of the contractees for 2013.  More populated western and southern areas have to provide two-thirds.  They should have supplied roughly 3,000-3,500 recruits each to reach the first quarter total of 10,699.   

Based on the early results, it doesn’t seem possible.  Recruiting centers had a “running start” during the fall.  And it’s likely the most interested men signed up right off.  Finding candidates may be harder later in the year.  And it may be easier now than in 2014, 2015, etc.

Gerasimov Speaks

Gerasimov on RF Defense Priorities

Gerasimov on RF Defense Priorities

On Thursday, General Staff Chief and First Deputy Defense Minister, General-Colonel Valeriy Gerasimov spoke about RF defense priorities at a conference on Russia’s military security in the 21st century.  The meeting was organized by Duma and Federation Council defense committees.

Gerasimov largely repeated earlier official statements, but added a few comments that might be significant for what they left out.

Strategic nuclear forces are, of course, Russia’s priority.  He mentioned acquiring Topol-M, Yars, and SSBNs, modernizing Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers, and getting satellite systems for VVKO, according to Krasnaya zvezda’s recap of his remarks.

For conventional forces, among other things, Gerasimov said VTA will get 200 new transports, and the Ground Troops and VDV new heavy, medium, and light armor using the Armata, Kurganets, and Bumerang platforms, respectively.

The VKO system for protecting important state and industrial facilities will be formed in 2016-2020.  Mobile S-500 brigades will have this mission.  Troop air defense will be the responsibility of SAM brigades equipped with the S-300V and Buk-M3.

All Ground Troops missile brigades will have the Iskander.

The new NGSh declared that, since the 2008 decision to make “cardinal changes” in the Armed Forces, the share of new types of arms in the army has increased from six to 16 percent.

He apparently didn’t say anything about a new strategic bomber or surface combatants beyond frigates.

On the possibility of Russia being dragged into armed conflicts by 2030, Gerasimov said the level of existing and potential military danger will increase because of competition for energy resources and trade.  He nodded to net-centric and information warfare saying they are a new fourth dimension for conflict.

Gerasimov addressed non-military warfare:

“The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic aims, which in a number of cases significantly surpass military means in effectiveness, has grown.”

“They expand clandestine military measures, and include informational confrontation measures, the actions of special operations forces, the use of the population’s protest potential.”

Also on Thursday, Gerasimov was asked about President Putin reducing the requirement for six months of military training to four before conscripts can be sent into combat.

According to RIA Novosti, the NGSh essentially said no one should worry about this because contractees would be used in combat.  Russia now has three brigades fully manned by contractees in the North Caucasus. 

He linked the reduction to the current one-year draft, and more intense training that prepares draftees for combat in four months.  He also claimed outsourcing has relieved them of “non-core” functions.  This despite the fact that outsourcing has fallen from favor along with former Defense Minister Serdyukov. 

What Gerasimov didn’t say is that there’s no legal bar to using a Russian soldier with four months of service in a combat operation.

RIA Novosti printed criticism of the conference, and of Gerasimov by implication, from former United Russia party and Duma Defense Committee member Mikhail Nenashev: 

“Everything we heard at this event had already been said a million times before in different auditoriums:  all participants shrugged their shoulders as if to say where do they get these reports?  There was no content, no line of thought, just some lecture.  Therefore it was a ‘check the box’ conference.”

“So, unfortunately, it wasn’t an event for the level of the 21st century.  These were conversations like in some garrison house of officers.”

GURLS

So, Do You Have a Girlfriend? (photo: Izvestiya / Gleb Shchelkunov)

So, Do You Have a Girlfriend? (photo: Izvestiya / Gleb Shchelkunov)

A strange and ironic title.  “Do Ask, Do Tell” might be appropriate too.

By chance, two recent articles focused on the Main Directorate for Personnel Work (GURLS or ГУРЛС).

Information at Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye’s disposal indicates Defense Minister Shoygu will reorganize GURLS into a Cadre Policy Department (DKP or ДКП), like what he had at MChS.  The change would encompass everyone working with personnel issues, military education, and psychological evaluation and treatment.

Author Vladimir Mukhin concludes the Defense Ministry’s personnel structures haven’t been effective during the entire post-Soviet period.  But former Defense Minister Serdyukov, in particular, had little use for personnel work.  He dismissed the last chief of GURLS, and left the post vacant.  The chief before was convicted for bribery and sent to jail for seven years. 

Serdyukov cut personnel work officers by a factor of three, sold off cultural-educational institutions in large garrisons, and was prepared to privatize major facilities reportedly worth “several billion dollars” — the Central Academic Theater of the Russian Army, the Cultural Center and Museum of the Armed Forces.

The article in Izvestiya is much more interesting. 

Its headline says Russian officers are obligated to determine the sexual orientation of their soldiers (among other things).

This comes from “methodological recommendations” codified by GURLS at the end of last year.  They cover the spectrum of psychological work with young soldiers, from counteracting “barracks rackets” to national [ethnic] and religious issues.

As they put it, “disorderly sexual relations” qualify as a sign of nervous-psychological instability on par with alcohol addiction, running away from home, suicidal tendencies, and stealing.

Officer-educators (officer-indoctrinators) should get to know a soldier, ask about his sexual experience, if he has a girlfriend, and whether her fidelity is important to him.

A physical inspection of the soldier to look for tattoos is recommended:

“The reasons for having tattoos could attest to a low cultural and educational level.  If the influence of external motivations is established, for example persuasion, coercion, then this will attest to the compliance of the young man, his inclination to submit to another’s will.”

“. . . knowledge of tattoo symbols will help the officer best organize work with a specific individual.  Special attention should go to tattoos on areas of the face, the genitals, the buttocks.  They can attest not only to specific personal attitudes, but also to possible sexual deviations.”

A military psychologist from GURLS tells the paper the army remains a bastion of traditional views on sexuality:

“In closed military collectives, sexual minorities introduce unnecessary tension, negatively influence the moral atmosphere.  Soldiers begin thinking not about their service, but about extraneous things.”

An assistant battalion commander for personnel work says he can’t talk with every young soldier; this is up to company and platoon commanders.  But the perplexed officer asked rhetorically:

“Will they inspect genitals for tattoos?  And how do you ask about the first sexual experience?  ‘When did you try a woman for the first time, greenhorn?  Answer straight, don’t weasel.'”

He claimed he had one gay contractee who came to the army looking for more partners.

Other officers told Izvestiya they aren’t in a hurry to follow GURLS’ guidance. 

Before Serdyukov introduced the “new profile” reforms, companies had deputy commanders for indoctrination work, and battalions still had a staff psychologist.  Now there’s only the deputy battalion commander for personnel work, and companies have four officers — the company commander and three platoon commanders.

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 Rock and a Hard Place

Russians in Tajikistan (photo: RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko)

Conscripts or contractees?  It’s difficult for the Russian Army to get the right kind of conscripts, where it needs them.  But, over time, it hasn’t been any easier to obtain long-term contract enlisted either. 

Last week, Izvestiya wrote about army plans to replace conscripts currently serving in its 201st Military Base in Tajikistan with contractees. 

An officer in the formation told the paper it’s too costly to keep 3,000 conscripts in Tajikistan, and, by the end of 2012, the Russian Army will replace half with contractees.  A GOMU source tells the paper replacing all 3,000 at once is “unrealistic.”  Contractees will reportedly serve on three-year deals getting 30,000 rubles per month.

The situation for Russians in Tajikistan, the officer says, is strained, and Tajik authorities regularly detain conscripts for one reason or another.  As an example, he cites the case of a conscript driver who killed three Tajiks last January.  Thus, he concludes, it would be easier with “professionals” – contractees —  who “know what they’re doing, and can be responsible for their actions.”

But there’s no reason to think contractees will avoid trouble any better than conscripts.  The first contract experiment proved that.  Contractees are more costly and just as difficult to control, if not more than their conscripted brother-soldiers.

According to Izvestiya, the 201st now has 5,500 personnel, including the 3,000 conscripts.

An old Krasnaya zvezda report says, in early 2007 – at the height of the first, failed attempt at introducing contract service – the military base had 7,000 servicemen in all, about 60 or 65 percent contractees.  Its two maneuver units had 50 percent or fewer in their ranks.

Back then, the Defense Ministry daily said the military was all set to send conscripts in place of hired soldiers.  It was hard to convince older, experienced men to go to Tajikistan because of the difficult living conditions and prospects for serving on contract in Russia.

As Izvestiya’s interlocutor intimated, relations between Moscow and Dushanbe are a bit strained right now, prompting some to wonder out loud if manning the 201st won’t become a moot issue.