Tag Archives: Dmitriy Medvedev

Reacting to Felgengauer

A good friend asked for a reaction to Pavel Felgengauer’s latest piece.

This author agrees with many of Felgengauer’s views, though not all of them.  In particular, this observer is unable to declare, like Felgengauer, that Russia’s military reform is failing abjectly, despite its uneven results.

Let’s look at his article.

Mr. Felgengauer presented the essence of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s dustup with Prime Minister Medvedev last week.  Serdyukov said outright, if the PM wanted to fire someone for failing to prepare semi-abandoned military towns for handover to regional authorities, he should fire him.

You may have read on these pages, the problem of no-longer-needed military towns is an enormous one.  There’s a veritable archipelago of hundreds of voyengorodki throughout Russia.  They’ve long since lost their purpose and support from the Defense Ministry.  Fixing them to transfer to civilian control is an enormous task, probably beyond the Defense Ministry’s current financing and capabilities.

One Putin campaign pledge for 2012 was not to foist broken down military infrastructure on Russia’s regions and localities.  And, though left unsaid, the problems of voyengorodki are connected to the military housing woes.  If more apartments were ready for occupancy, there might be fewer ex-servicemen living in the archipelago of former military towns.

Felgengauer could have written about how the Serdyukov-Medvedev flap reflects wider tensions in Russia’s ruling elite.  Between Putin’s people and Medvedev’s.  He did say the scandal showed the latter’s relative powerlessness.

Felgengauer might have clarified for some folks that, under the constitution, the Defense Minister answers to the President first, and the PM second.  Not so for most ministers.

He mentioned the situation harked back to Serdyukov’s reported ambivalence about continuing in his job.  There was also pre-election talk that Serdyukov might be replaced at the start of Putin’s third term.  But Felgengauer concludes Putin wanted to keep him in the post regardless.

Felgengauer suggests Serdyukov might suffer a “mental meltdown.”  He could have reacquainted readers with the temper and frustration Serdyukov showed the VDV in Ryazan in late 2010.

Turning to strictly military issues, Felgengauer concludes, “. . . the actual capabilities of the military after almost four years of Serdyukov’s reforms are questionable.”

Despite efforts to move away from reliance on hollow units, and increase permanently ready units, woeful undermanning (Vedomosti, June 9) leaves newly formed army brigades crippled, “with most of them not ready to be used in combat as full units in any circumstances.”

He continues:

“Most of the soldiers are one-year serving conscripts, called up two times a year, so half of them at any moment have been serving less than 6 months — not yet trained to be battle-ready at all.”

Let’s examine all this a bit.

Undermanning certainly exists.  The lack of detail on the strength of Russia’s new brigades make things somewhat sketchy.  If (a very big if) the brigades aren’t large, 300,000 conscripts might stretch to cover them, barely.

If the 45 maneuver units have only 3,000 draftees each, that’s 135,000.  Add maybe 60,000 (40 x 1,500) in other brigades, and Russia uses 200,000, or two-thirds, of its conscripts for the Ground Troops.

If these brigades are fully equipped and can depart garrison in an hour or two, they’re technically permanently ready.  But, as Felgengauer points out, six months is not adequate time for combat training, so it’s not clear what missions they can accomplish.  The issue is more combat capability than readiness.  Permanent readiness is a starting point, not an end in itself.

Felgengauer rightly notes that Serdyukov’s reform has lacked a strategic objective and defined doctrine.  One might say it’s failed to prioritize goals, problems, and threats.  Felgengauer says “attempts to meet all other possible threats [besides the U.S. / NATO] resulted in thinly spreading out limited resources.”

This author agrees completely.

Felgengauer ends, weakly, saying military food service was outsourced to make conscript service more attractive, and Putin might abandon it.  He views it as a failed military reform.  It may be, but outsourcing was really introduced to keep draftees in training 100 percent of the time rather than in non-military duties like KP.

We’ll return to the issue of whether military reform is succeeding or failing another time.

Medvedev Visits GRU Headquarters

General-Major Sergun Welcomes Medvedev and Serdyukov

President Dmitriy Medvedev, accompanied by Defense Minister Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Makarov, paid a visit on GRU headquarters yesterday.

Medvedev came to bestow state awards on GRU officers.  Presidential visits to the home of Russian military intelligence are rare, and usually come in connection with its anniversary (November 5).

So we have to suppose the lame-duck Supreme CINC and possible future prime minister went to the GRU to (a) bolster its newly-appointed chief, General-Major Igor Sergun, and (b) try to boost the morale of a service hard-hit by cuts and reorganizations under Serdyukov’s reforms.  Medvedev’s brief remarks seemed to confirm as much.

According to Kremlin.ru, after giving the GRU obligatory praise, Medvedev told its officers that the world situation is changing and “it requires adjustments not just in intelligence priorities, but also methods . . . .”

He continued:

“Consequently, a reorganization of the entire system of military intelligence has also occurred.  These changes have been introduced.  The results of the recent past show that the GRU is successfully coping with its established missions.  And on the whole military intelligence is performing professionally and effectively.”

“Of course, we need to increase the operational potential of the service, and its information potential, and its analytical potential.”  

Medvedev’s “on the whole” was a recognition of a state of affairs that is something less than fully optimal.  How much we don’t know.  He also seemed to be dealing with an audience more accustomed to, and happier with, operations than analysis.

The president went on to note the GRU’s traditional role in monitoring the global political-military situation, forecasting threats, tracking military-technical and defense industrial developments, and, especially, in counteracting international terrorism.

Kremlin.ru provided this video of Medvedev’s remarks.

Medvedev Talks Bulava Acceptance

Medvedev Shakes Korolev's Hand

This post is admittedly as much about using a good photo and video as relaying something you haven’t heard.  But the visuals bring the subject to life a little.  At any rate, the lengthy Russian holiday season is upon us, so any post (even one with fluff) is better than none. 

Tuesday Russia’s lame duck President and Supreme CINC Dmitriy Medvedev greeted a group of military men — Armed Forces, MVD, FSB, SVR, and MChS officers — in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s St. George’s Hall to congratulate them on their new command positions or promotions to higher ranks.

Shown above are (from right) Southern MD Commander Aleksandr Galkin, Central MD Commander Vladimir Chirkin, Northern Fleet Commander Vladimir Korolev, Black Sea Fleet Commander Aleksandr Fedotenkov, and VVKO Commander Oleg Ostapenko.

Galkin and Chirkin are apparently there to mark their elevation to three-star general-colonel rank, while the latter three are now at new posts.  And Ostapenko’s sporting a blue uniform.  Didn’t the ex-Space Troops wear green reflecting their RVSN roots?

Kremlin.ru published some of Medvedev’s remarks to his senior officer audience:

“In recent years, we have modernized the Armed Forces in the most substantial way, optimized the structure and manning of the army and navy, improved the combat command and control system, and strengthened the strategic nuclear deterrent forces.  From 1 December of this year, new troops –Aerospace Defense Troops began combat duty, and in November a new radar station for monitoring air space in the western direction was brought into operation.”

“The army and navy have to resolve an entire series of missions relative to supporting the national development strategy and, accordingly, military organizational development during the period of the coming 10 years.  One of the most important goals is the technical reequipping of troops.  Our key priority remains further reequipping of the troops, and weapons and equipment of the most modern and next generation.  And of course, this task also demands the preparation of specialists, demands the preparation of personnel who will be fully capable of using this equipment as intended.  Therefore, it is important to guarantee the proper level of professional knowledge in cadets and young officers.”

“We are continuing the improvement of our armament, and our equipment.  In this context, I would like to note specifically that despite the problems currently remaining in the missile-space sector, nevertheless, we have just made a very important step:  we completed the flight testing cycle of a naval strategic nuclear forces system, I have ‘Bulava’ in mind.  This cycle, I remind you, was not simple, and went forward with certain problems.  Still our industry proved it can develop new, modern, and highly efficient types of strategic weapons.  One of them is the ‘Bulava’ system, which now, after all this testing, will be accepted into the arms inventory.”

Pervyy kanal covered the ceremony, showing Medvedev, three VVKO and/or Air Forces general-majors, a Bulava launch, and assorted siloviki, including Sergey Ivanov, Nikolay Patrushev, Rashid Nurgaliyev, and Aleksandr Bortnikov.

The first general-major wearing the blue uniform is Sergey Popov, late chief of air defense for VVS, now Commander of VVKO’s Air and Missile Defense Command.  The second couldn’t be identified by your author.  The third is Igor Makushev, Commander, 1st Air Forces and Air Defense Command (perhaps just the 1st Air Forces Command since the advent of VVKO).

But returning to Medvedev and Bulava . . . the Supreme CINC’s words unleashed minor euphoria about the SLBM’s imminent acceptance. 

For example, on December 28, RIA Novosti reported its highly-placed Defense Ministry source claimed a decision on accepting the Bulava-Borey weapons system is before the country’s political leadership.

But Medvedev didn’t say the missile is now ready to be accepted.  He just said it would be, and we already knew that.  Also, he never mentioned Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy which must be accepted in tandem with Bulava for this strategic weapons system to achieve IOC.

Vedomosti’s Defense Ministry source was more on the mark saying Bulava “practice” launches could continue for some time. 

Going slow would seem to track with Defense Minister Serdyukov’s apparently unhurried approach toward Bulava at this point.  There have been reports that Dolgorukiy isn’t ready, and launches next spring and summer could come from Borey unit 2 Aleksandr Nevskiy by then.

At any rate, the Bulava program’s come a long way from the nadir of its December 2009 failure.  But this isn’t exactly the end of the road either.  Moscow still has to work out a reliable and well-controlled production run of some 128 missiles (and 768 warheads) plus spares.  Not to mention ramping up construction and completion of eight Borey-class boats.

Thank you for reading this meandering post, as well as others this year.  Your author wishes you a happy 2012.

С новым годом!

First Get Some Rockets

Iskander

How do you rattle your rockets?  First get some rockets. 

President Dmitriy Medvedev’s address last week underscored the extent to which Russian foreign and defense policies are hampered by the condition of the OPK and its shortage of production capacity.

Medvedev’s description of Russian steps in response to U.S. and NATO missile defense in Europe certainly didn’t surprise anyone, though it may have forced them to conclude the U.S.-Russian “reset” is wearing thin.

To refresh the memory, the first four were (1) put the Kaliningrad BMEW radar into service; (2) reinforce the defense of SYaS with VVKO; (3) equip strategic ballistic missile warheads with capabilities to overcome MD; and (4) develop measures to disrupt MD command and control.

Then fifth, repeating several previous assertions to this effect, Medvedev said:

“If the enumerated measures are insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy in the country’s west and south modern strike weapons systems which guarantee the destruction of MD’s European component.  One such step will be deployment of the ‘Iskander’ missile system in the Kaliningrad special region.”

And, ultimately, of course, Medvedev also noted the dispute over MD could lead Russia to withdraw from new START.

Russianforces.org was first to write that Medvedev’s enumerated steps represented nothing more militarily than what Moscow already intends to do, with or without U.S. missile defense in Europe.

Kommersant recalled the difficulty of making threats with the Iskanders:

“The problem is by virtue of its limited range (several hundred kilometers) ‘Iskander’ missiles can only threaten [Russia’s] neighboring states, but in no way the U.S. MD system as a whole, and on this plane, they have little influence on the strategic balance as such.  Moreover, the Russian military has promised to begin deploying ‘Iskanders’ massively since 2007, but since then the deadlines for their delivery to the army has been postponed more than once.  The army now has a single brigade of ‘Iskanders’ – the 26th Neman [Brigade], which is deployed near Luga.  This is 12 launchers.  There is also a 630th Independent Battalion in the Southern Military District.  In GPV-2020, ten brigades more are promised.”

So, Iskander deployments, including probably in Kaliningrad, will happen anyway, regardless of MD, when Moscow is able to produce the missiles.

Interfaks-AVN quoted Ruslan Pukhov on the missile production capacity issue.  If Russia wants to deploy Iskander in Kaliningrad or Belarus or Krasnodar Kray as a response to European MD, then:

“. . . it’s essential to build a new factory to produce these missiles since the factory in Votkinsk can’t handle an extra mission.”

“Productivity suffers because of the great ‘heterogeneity’ of missiles [Iskander, Bulava, Topol-M, Yars].  Therefore, if we want our response to MD on our borders to be done expeditiously, and not delayed, we need a new factory.”

Vesti FM also covered his remarks:

“’Iskander’ is produced at the Votkinsk plant.  The ‘Bulava,’ and ‘Topol-M,’ and multi-headed ‘Yars,’ are also produced there.  Therefore, such heterogeneity in missiles leads to the fact that they are produced at an extremely low tempo.”

The 500-km Iskander (SS-26 / STONE), always advertised with significant capabilities to defeat MD, was accepted in 2006.  But the Russian Army didn’t  complete formation of the Western MD Iskander brigade or Southern MD battalion until the middle of last month, according to ITAR-TASS.  The army expects to get a full brigade of 12 launchers each year until 2020. 

But Iskanders still aren’t rolling off the line like sausages.  This spring Prime Minister Putin promised to double missile output, including from Votkinsk, starting in 2013, and pledged billions of rubles to support producers.  In early 2010, Kommersant wrote about Votkinsk overloaded with orders, trying to modernize shops to produce Iskander.

Votkinsk and Iskander are, by the way, not the only defense-industrial problem relative to countering MD.  Nezavisimaya gazeta pointed out VVKO will need lots of new S-400 and S-500 systems (and factories to produce them) to protect Russia’s SYaS.  But we digress . . . .

What do defense commentators think about Medvedev’s statement and Iskanders? 

Vladimir Dvorkin calls them a far-fetched threat:

“There are no scenarios in which they could be used.  If Russia used them in an initial preventative strike, then this would signify the beginning of a war with NATO on which Russia would never embark.”

Aleksey Arbatov says relatively short-range missiles don’t scare the Americans, but could spoil relations with Poland and Romania.

Aleksandr Golts says the slow pace of Iskander production makes it not a very serious threat.  He notes Putin’s restraint on threats over MD:

“Being a rational man, he perfectly understands that an attempt to create such a threat will get an immediate response, which, considering the West’s potential, will create a much bigger problem for Russia.  That is, there’ll be a repetition on another scale of the history with the deployment of Soviet medium-range missiles in Europe.”

One supposes rather than driving a wedge between the U.S. and MD-host countries, Russian threats might reaffirm the wisdom of having a tangible U.S. presence on their territory.

Lastly, Leonid Ivashov reacts to Medvedev’s reminder that Russia could withdraw from new START:

“When President Medvedev says that we will withdraw from SNV [START], the Americans just smile.  They know perfectly well the state of our defense-industrial complex.”

Medvedev Signs Pay Law

Medvedev's Meeting on Pay Law

Monday President Medvedev met an unusual group — the Defense Minister, General Staff Chief, and MD / OSK commanders (but no service CINCs or branch commanders) — to announce he signed the long-discussed law on military pay that becomes effective on January 1, 2012.

The increased military pay in this law was a key goal for Anatoliy Serdyukov when he arrived at the Defense Ministry nearly five years ago.  Premium pay was just a stopgap.  So this is a success for his reform program.  His idea was to cut half (or more) of the officer corps and raise the pay of those remaining.  Of course, he had to back off somewhat on cutting down to 150,000 officers.

Why did it take so long to enact an increase in military pay?  Was it hard to find the money?  Maybe, given the global financial crisis of the late 2000s.  Was it hard to overcome former Finance Minister Kudrin’s resistance to higher defense outlays?  

Newsru.com, Svpressa.ru, and others see the pay increase as timed to coincide with Duma and presidential elections, and designed to engender the military’s goodwill toward the current leadership at the ballot box.  It’s worth noting the reduction in conscription from two years to one came in the context of the last national elections in 2008.

According to Kremlin.ru’s account, Medvedev indicated he wanted to congratulate those assembled on their long, hard effort to raise military pay to its new level, on average 2.5 or 3 times above today’s pay.  RIA Novosti provides the standard example of lieutenants rising from 19 to 50 thousand a month. 

In addition to higher base pay, the usual supplements will remain in effect, including additional pay for special duties, class qualifications, and difficult service conditions.  Premiums of up to three times base pay for outstanding performance will also continue.  Military pensions will increase at least 50 percent to 17,000 on average.  Read more about pay calculations here.

Addressing his small audience, Medvedev said:

“In such a way, servicemen have a very serious stimulus to carry out their service duties well and improve their professional training.”

He was careful to say those without duty posts (the so-called распоряженцы) won’t be left behind:

“It also includes important provisions, which, in principle, allow us to prevent worsening of the material situation of different categories of servicemen, citizens, dismissed from military service, their family members, if the amount of pay given them is reduced in connection with introducing the new system, then here there is an established mechanism of compensation and balancing out of these payments that is also an important guarantee of financial stability for our servicemen.”

Not reassuring.  But those guys won’t vote for United Russia and Putin anyway. 

The president continued:

“I won’t conceal that many drafts were ripped up around it, there were many discussions about whether we were prepared to raise pay to such a degree, whether the state had the resources for this, whether this wouldn’t drain our budget, wouldn’t create some kind of problems in the future?”

“I want to tell those present and, naturally, all servicemen of the Armed Force to hear me:  it won’t drain us, everything will be normal, and all required payments by the government will be made because this is the most important guarantee of raising the professional preparation of servicemen and improving the quality and effectiveness of the Armed Forces.  Therefore, the decisions, proposed several years ago, are being executed and put into action by this law.”

Thanking Medvedev, Serdyukov said:

“For us, in a complete sense, this resolves all earlier problems:  this is manning with both officers and contractees; this is serving; this is the attractiveness of military service, the fact is this is the entire complex of issues which weren’t practically resolved for us.”

Medvedev completed his remarks with this:

“But the main thing the state, by adopting this law, its signing and, accordingly, its entry into force, shows is that decisions once given voice are subject to unconditional fulfillment, whether someone likes them or not, if depending on them is the social condition of a huge number of people:  these are servicemen and their family members.”

“And further, we will do this so that our Armed Forces will be highly effective, and service in them will be prestigious and highly professional.”

So Medvedev declared it a test of governmental capability, and swiped at dear departed Kudrin who opposed the extent of defense budget increases in view of priorities like education and health (not to mention the pension fund).

It takes capability to implement a decision, yes, but it takes even more to stick with it over the long term.  Will the Russian government be able to continue the new level of military pay when the elections are over, economic conditions less favorable, oil prices and revenues lower, and budgets tighter?  That’ll be the true test of capability.

P.S.  We shouldn’t forget that the Defense Ministry has also semi-obligated itself to paying 425,000 professional enlisted contractees 25,000 rubles or more a month in the future.  That will probably equal the bill for paying officers.  Let’s estimate this total cost at 500 billion rubles a year.  The non-procurement defense budget in 2009 was only 670 billion.

A Kick On the Way Out

We may see more stories of this type, the kind you see when the president is a lame duck.

Novoye vremya has an article  this week about what various observers expect from Putin III — reformer or dictator.  Military men see the question as a little off-the-mark for them.  The magazine quotes two of them. 

A General-Major S. from the staff of the Ground Troops CINC says: 

“We don’t discuss it in categories of dictator-reformer.  It’s important for us to know who is tsar in the country!  Putin is clarity.”

General-Lieutenant N. from the Genshtab agrees that Medvedev couldn’t be such a tsar:

“Personally, I always knew that we have one Commander-in-Chief.  And it wasn’t Dmitriy Anatolyevich.  In the midst of the Georgian events I tried to report to the president on the situation in South Ossetia.  So he interrupted me, he says, this isn’t for me.  Go report to the Chief.  From that point, in the Genshtab there was never confusion over subordination:  the VPK and Defense Ministry churn in a triangle Serdyukov — Chemezov — Putin.  The name Medvedev wasn’t discussed here and isn’t discussed.”

Interesting vignettes, especially the latter.  Such a state of affairs was generally suspected.  Then again, it’s safer and easier to say such a thing this week than last.

Latest on GOZ Woes (Part II)

To review this week . . . Prime Minister Putin’s current deadline for completing GOZ contracts is August 31, but it’s unlikely to be met, even by loyal Deputy PM and OSK Board Chairman Igor Sechin.  Deputy Finance Minister Siluanov said Defense Ministry contracts are being made on credits and government-backed financing rather than cash.  Putin said the price tag for GOZ-2011 is 750 billion rubles, but 30 percent of projected procurement still isn’t covered by contracts as the final third of the year begins.

How did the government, Defense Ministry, and OPK arrive at an August 31 deadline that’s unlikely to be met?

The latest round of this year’s GOZ woes started in early July when MIT General Designer Yuriy Solomonov told Kommersant that GOZ-2011 was already broken, and Russia’s strategic missile inventory is not being renewed as necessary.  He said there’s no contract for the RS-24 / Yars ICBM, and the late arrival of money makes it impossible to salvage 2011.

President Dmitriy Medvedev responded by calling Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov on the carpet.  According to RIA Novosti, he told him:

“Sort out the situation.  If there’s information that the state defense order is broken, it’s true, organizational conclusions are needed in connection with those who are responsible for this, regardless of position or rank.”

“If the situation is otherwise, we need to look into those who are sowing panic.  You know how according to law in wartime they dealt with panickers — they shot them.  I’m allowing you to dismiss them, do you hear me?”

RIA Novosti reported Serdyukov’s opinion on the “wild growth” in the price of military products, especially from MIT and Sevmash.  He said MIT is asking 3.9 billion and 5.6 billion rubles respectively for Topol-M and Yars ICBMs.  Serdyukov put GOZ-2011 at 581 billion rubles [different from Putin’s figure!], and added that only 108 billion, or 18.5 percent, was not yet under contract.  He said everything would be done in 10 days.

At virtually the same time, Deputy PM and VPK Chairman, Sergey Ivanov told ITAR-TASS 230 billion rubles were not yet contracted out.  OSK piled on Serdyukov, claiming contracts for 40 percent of the Navy’s share of the GOZ weren’t finalized.

In late July, it looked like Northern Wharf (which reportedly produces 75 percent of Russia’s surface ships, and is not part of OSK) might be made into an example for other “GOZ breakers.”  While prosecutors talked vaguely about the misuse of GOZ money, the shipbuilder’s representatives apparently mounted a vigorous defense, asserting that the enterprise has been right on time, even though it’s underfinanced by the Defense Ministry.

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy said prosecutors uncovered 1,500 GOZ-related legal violations during the preceding 18 months.  He indicated there were 30 criminal convictions, and state losses amounted to millions of rubles in these cases.  The most egregious example  was the theft of over 260 million rubles given to OSK’s Zvezdochka shipyard to repair Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy.  Fridinskiy indicated the enterprise director and his close associates apparently had 40 million of the money in their own names.  Recall Fridinskiy earlier said 20 percent of defense procurement funding is stolen.

According to Rossiyskaya gazeta, Defense Minister Serdyukov claimed he was on the verge of signing contracts with MIT for Topol-M and Yars production.  Once again, he said all contracting would be finished in two weeks.

In mid-August, OSK enterprises Sevmash, Admiralty Wharves, and Zvezdochka said they would soon be forced to cease work unless the Defense Ministry signed contracts with them.  Putin, Sechin, and Serdyukov met and launched a special interdepartmental commission to set prices for the Navy’s remaining 40 billion rubles in GOZ contracts.  And, according to Kommersant, everyone was once again reassured that all contracts would be completed in two weeks.

And it’s not just all ICBMs, ships, and submarines . . . Kommersant wrote that the Defense Ministry eschewed contracts for 24 or more MiG-29K and more than 60 Yak-130 trainers at MAKS-2011.

So what does the mid-year GOZ picture look like? 

The president and prime minister have fumed and set a series of deadlines, not met thus far.  And the defense minister and deputy prime ministers have assured them they would meet each deadline in turn. 

More interesting, and somewhat unnoticed, is the fact that the prime minister and defense minister (among others) seem to be consistently working from different sets of numbers on the size of the GOZ, and how much has been placed under contract.  The GOZ hasn’t captured this kind of leadership attention at any time in the past 20 years.

Producers are being honest when they say late state contracts mean they can’t do anything (or at least what the Defense Ministry wants them to) in what remains of the year.

Picking up the pieces of GOZ-2011, and trying to put GOZ-2012 on a better footing will occupy the rest of this year.

Lost in everything is what will the Russian military get eventually by way of new hardware, and when will they get it?  And how good will it be?