Tag Archives: New Profile

Ivashov on the Army and Putin

Leonid Ivashov

Leonid Ivashov recently talked to Narodnyy politolog on a variety of army topics including reforms, the possibility of a big war, rearmament, president-elect Vladimir Putin, and his military program.  Segodnia.ru also printed the interview.

Once Russia’s top military diplomat, now avowed geopolitician, the former three-star thinks Putin fears externally-driven regime change and is improving the army to forestall such an eventuality.  Ivashov sees a U.S.-led West depriving Russia of allies before focusing on Russia itself.

Asked about army reforms, Ivashov says they have succeeded in cutting forces, but not in rearming them or improving their social conditions.  Reforms have degraded and weakened the army.  Military men mock the New Profile reforms saying, “There’s a profile, but not armed forces.”  Ivashov calls reforms craziness, and says it’s like servicemen have lived in a house under continuous repair for 25 years.

Following up his comment on mobilization reserves cut to the bare minimum, NP asked the retired general-colonel if a big war is possible today.

Ivashov says yes.  Citing how “they” are beating up Russia’s strategic allies (Syria and Iran), he says “What is this if not war?”

Ivashov foresees a large conflict between the U.S. and China and possible spinoff regional and local wars.  He cites a Chinese specialist who calls for a Russian-Chinese alliance to deter a big war and curb the appetite of the West and international oligarchs.

Is Russia ready for such an eventuality?  Ivashov answers:

“I think Putin understands perfectly how military weakness and the absence of strategic allies can be the end for Russia.  Clearly, the Libyan situation ‘helped’ him understand this, just like what is happening now in Syria, and what they are preparing for Iran.  If you can’t defend the country, you are subjecting yourself to a great risk personally.”

“Now Putin is making a sharp turn to the side of strengthening defense capability.  One can only welcome this.  Because today they don’t simply beat the weak, they destroy them.”

Ivashov calls Putin’s military program ambitious, if not systematic.  The regime’s been in a “light panic” since Libya.

He intimates that more than 20 percent of the state armaments program will be stolen since the amount of theft cited by the military prosecutor covers only cases under investigation, not all corruption.

Ivashov suggests lobbying has replaced forecasts of future military actions as the driver of arms procurement.

The case of Mistral, which one wonders where it will be built and how it will be used, Ivashov says well-connected lobbyist structures ensure what gets produced is exactly what their enterprises make.  He was somewhat encouraged that Putin, at Sarov, entertained turning to specialists and experts to examine the army’s requirements.

On GPV 2020, Ivashov concludes it’ll be a serious step forward if only half of what’s planned gets produced, but it can’t be equipment designed in the 1970s and 1980s.  He sees OPK production capacity problems too.  He questions whether Votkinsk can produce 400 solid-fueled ballistic missiles by 2020.

Returning to the big war, he questions a focus on defensive operations for Russian conventional forces, saying offensive capabilities are needed to deter potential enemies.  He claims reduced force structure and mobilization capability have become a joke in the General Staff:

“The main problem for the Chinese in a conflict with us is not defeating our brigade, but finding it.”

Ivashov’s just a little up in arms over the armor situation.  He all but accuses the General Staff Chief of being a paid (or bribed) lobbyist for foreign tank and armored vehicle makers.  He suggests that Army General Makarov should be placed in cuffs if he says the Leopard-2 is better than the T-90 [what about Postnikov then?], and the Main Military Prosecutor should investigate him.

So what is to be done first and foremost to strengthen the country’s defense capability today?

Ivashov replies get rid of Serdyukov and Makarov who have done great damage, and strengthen cadres in the OPK and military by replacing “managers” with those who can apply military science (as Ivashov was taught) to the problem of developing new weapons.

The always provocative Ivashov doesn’t venture whether he thinks  the current emphasis on defense capability will continue or have the intended results.  He seems sincerely to believe in a possible Western intervention in Russia’s internal affairs.  But it’d be more interesting to hear him talk about whether the army would fight for Putin’s regime in something less than that maximal contingency.  Ivashov, unlike some critics of Russia’s defense policy, shies away from blaming the once-and-future Supreme CINC for at least some of the current military state of affairs.

Meeting on Gogolevskiy Boulevard

Protesters and Placards (photo: KPRF.ru)

Thursday about 50 military men gathered near Gogol’s statue in the park across from the Defense Ministry to protest the closure of the Air Forces Academy named for Professor N. Ye. Zhukovskiy and Yu. A. Gagarin. 

These largely middle-aged protesters held placards saying “Air Forces CINC Zelin is the Gravedigger of Air Forces Academies!” or “Prime Minister:  Get Rid of Defense Minister Serdyukov!” or “General Bychkov is a Traitor to VVA Gagarin and VVIA Zhukovskiy!”
 
Recall the Zhukovskiy and Gagarin academies — the former for engineers, the latter for pilots and staff officers — were melded in 2008 in the latest and most painful drawdown of an enormous leftover Soviet-era military educational establishment. 
 
The functions of these mid-career academies are being transferred to the new, consolidated Air Forces Military Training-Scientific Center (VUNTs VVS) in Voronezh.
 
The KPRF organized the protest, and it said about 100 attended.  KPRF.ru and Nakanune.ru recapped the event.
 

KPRF Duma member Vyacheslav Tetekin told Novyy region destroying these academies damages VVS combat readiness since the majority of their 1,600 (perhaps not much lower than the total number of flyable VVS aircraft) instructors and professors won’t go to Voronezh to train future senior officers.

Tetekin argued there are already protests against aircraft noise in Voronezh, and he’ll ask fellow KPRF member and Duma Defense Committee chairman Vladimir Komoyedov to address the prime minister and president on the fate of Zhukovskiy and Gagarin.

Apparently now retired, General-Lieutenant Ivan Naydenov – a former deputy chief of the academy — claimed Defense Minister Serdyukov just wants the institution’s valuable real estate.  Naydenov said only 29 younger instructors have gone to Voronezh.  He put the total staff at only 700, in contrast to Tetekin’s 1,600.

Naydenov has recorded and posted this appeal to save VVA im. Gagarin.

No one will mistake this little event on Gogolevskiy for what took place on Bolotnaya or Sakharov Square.  Nor will anyone confuse the characters in this drama with demonstrators against Duma election fraud.  Or a scarcely-noticed gathering of older military men with the resonance of the first large-scale political protest in years. 

Nevertheless, older Russian officers have taken to picketing about their grievances more frequently of late.  The personal toll in their situation is lamentable.  But cuts and consolidations Serdyukov has made in Russian military education were very deep and difficult simply because they were so long overdue.

Without a doubt, some of those choosing dismissal over moving will add to the queue for military apartments in Moscow and its suburbs.

Barabanov’s Top 20

Defense commentator Mikhail Barabanov published his annotated list of the top 20 military stories of 2011 in yesterday’s Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer.

Some we’ll just note, but Barabanov’s provided interesting details for others.

1.  The continuation of military reform.  The start of the next phase of reforming the Air Forces and Navy.

Barabanov says Air Forces’ reform included the formation of VVKO and the enlargement of Russian air bases.  The reform of the Navy started December 1 and it will soon be restructured into a “new profile.”

2.  Establishment of VVKO.

He comments, “The given construct essentially looks fundamentally like a return to Soviet Voyska PVO Strany (National Air Defense Troops) in the form of a separate service [well, branch] of the Armed Forces.”

3.  The new pay system effective this year.

4.  GPV 2011-2020.

5.  The increase in the Gosoboronzakaz.

Barabanov puts GOZ-2011 at 460 billion rubles, 570 if RDT&E is added.  This was 20 percent more than GOZ-2010, and allowed for the series production of weapons and equipment.

6.  The war between industry and the Defense Ministry.

7.  Development of the PAK FA.

8.  Large helicopter procurement.

Apparently a post-Soviet record.  About 100 new helos, including Mi-28N, Ka-52, Mi-26, and Mi-24 (Mi-35M), were expected to reach the troops.

9.  Bulava began to fly.

10.  OSK “megacontracts” for submarines.

About 280 billion rubles for modernized proyekt 885 and 955.

11.  Ending serial procurement of many ground systems and equipment.

The Defense Ministry said it didn’t need the T-90, BMP-3, or BMD-4 (!?).  Development of an entire spectrum of new armored vehicle platforms began for procurement after 2015.

12.  Domestic space sector failures.

They evidenced the decline of the OPK’s production capability in the space sector.

13.  “Tsentr-2011″ exercises.

They checked the “new profile,” and the greatly enlarged military districts.

14.  Importing arms.

Mistral, Rheinmetall’s training ground in Mulino, foreign sniper rifles, and Israeli UAVs.

15.  Continued growth in Russian arms sales.

$11 billion as opposed to 2010′s $10 billion.  This despite the revolutions in the Arab world.  Rosoboroneksport’s order portfolio is $36 billion.

16.  Arab revolutions.

17.  NATO intervention in Libya.

18.  Military actions in Afghanistan, American troops leave Iraq.

19.  Deadend in missile defense negotiations.

20.  Start of reduced U.S. military spending.

Makarov Reports to Public Chamber

Makarov Briefs the Public Chamber

According to Mil.ru, General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov reported to the Public Chamber today as part of its hearings on “The New Profile of the Russian Army:  Results, Problems, Prospects.”  Here’s a sampling of what he discussed.

According to ITAR-TASS, Makarov said there are 186,400 contract servicemen today, and there will be 425,000 in 2016.  Recruiters will work throughout Russia starting next year.  Prospective contractees will train for three months before signing contracts.  Minimum pay will be 23,000 rubles.  Makarov said 2012 will be a test year, and from 2013, 50,000 contractees will be signed up each year.

RIA Novosti printed Makarov’s stark assessment of Russia’s conscript manpower.  The General Staff Chief said, of all men liable to conscription, only 11.7 percent can be called up, and 60 percent of them are excluded for health reasons.  So, he concludes:

“Therefore we are practically faced with the fact that there is almost no one to callup into the Armed Forces.”

He said Russia’s current mobilization reserve consists of 700,000 ex-conscripts. 

Makarov suggested increasing the prestige of military service through a veteran’s preference system.  Former soldiers and officers would enjoy a priority in hiring for government service, according to RIA Novosti.

ITAR-TASS quoted Makarov on cuts in military command and control organs.  He indicated they’ve been cut by a factor of four — from 51,000 to 13,435 personnel, and this process continues.  One-third of C2 organs were disbanded, and the rest reduced in size several times. 

He indicated that, when the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus numbered 51,000, it occupied more than 20 buildings in Moscow.  The apparat is now in a single building.  Other buildings were sold off.  But Makarov assured his audience the effectiveness of C2 hasn’t declined because of the reductions.

Regarding the new pay system for officers, RIA Novosti wrote that Makarov said higher pay basically implements the old Order No. 400 on premium pay, but officers will still have the chance to receive extra “stimulus” pay under the new system.

ITAR-TASS printed Makarov’s figures on efforts to get rid of old ammunition.  According to the General Staff Chief, at the start of the year, Russia had 119.5 million tons of old munitions to destroy, but now only 7 million.  Less than one percent could be dismantled; the vast majority had to be blown up.  Makarov indicated the number of ammunition storage sites will drop from 161 at present to about 30.

Makarov defended his past criticism of domestic weapons and equipment by giving more examples where foreign systems are superior to Russian ones (i.e. tanks, MLRS, satellites), according to ITAR-TASS.  The general argued for increasing the range and service life of systems as well as providing better protection for soldiers operating them.

RIA Novosti reported Makarov intends to continue pushing for lower prices on arms and equipment the military’s buying.  He intimated there will be a “specialized department” for negotiating with producers.  He claimed shipbuilding contracts with OSK were concluded on the Defense Ministry’s terms.  He added that the military has given Almaz-Antey two years to build two new factories to produce the S-500, according to RIA Novosti.

ITAR-TASS relayed Makarov’s remarks on Russia’s airfields.  Makarov indicated Russia has cut from 357 military airfields down to 26 that he describes as meeting world standards.  Russia has eight air bases. 

He said pilot flight hours are at 90 per year.  He said it’s planned to increase them to 130 next year, and then to 220 at some point.

ITAR-TASS and RIA Novosti carried the General Staff Chief’s comments about threats on Russia’s borders: 

“Under certain conditions, local and regional conflicts can grow into mass ones with the employment of nuclear weapons.”

“The conflict which could occur in connection with the withdrawal of American troops [from Afghanistan] could lead to a local, regional and even large-scale one.  And we have to be ready for it.”

What Kind of Army?

Not again . . . but yes, Wednesday Trud asked what kind of army does Russia need in the future? 

It’s almost 20 years since the army ceased to be Soviet, and the paper asked five relatively independent experts the same question that’s been asked since 1991 –what is to be done about Russia’s Armed Forces?

Yes, it’s repetitive . . . it’s rare we hear something new, the problem is not ideas and initiatives, it’s implementing them.

At the same time, these commentaries are short and pithy.  They cover a lot of ground, and might be handy.

Korotchenko supports the Defense Ministry’s swerve back toward contractees, since there aren’t enough conscripts.  And he doubts conscripts are up to the task of handling modern weapons.  But he points to the need to end dedovshchina and other barracks violence to attract professional enlisted. 

Sharavin believes the big mobilization army is still needed, and conscription will continue alongside contract service for some time.  He wants more benefits for conscripts who’ve served, and he wants the sons of the bureaucratic elite to serve. 

Belozerov agrees recruiting 425,000 professional soldiers won’t be easy or fast.

Litovkin is harsher; he says there’s no reform, just back and forth on contract service.  He lampoons the current small-scale effort to train professional NCOs.  He ridicules thoughts of a serious mobilization reserve because of the lack of reserve training.

Makiyenko thinks a contract army is cost prohibitive, and the army numbers only about 800,000.  He likes the fighting spirit of soldiers from the Caucasus, opposes segregating them, but hopes Muslim clergymen in the ranks can restrain them. 

Igor Korotchenko:

“Of the million servicemen, ideally we should have 220 thousand officers, 425 thousand contractees and 355 thousand conscripts.   It’s true, not now, but in 10 years.  On the one hand, this is due to the physical impossibility of calling up more – there is simply no one to put under arms according to demographic indicators.  In the last call-up, the army took in 70 thousand fewer conscripts than in the preceding campaigns.  On the other hand, it’s simply scary to entrust those weapons systems, which should be purchased in the coming decade according to the state armaments program (and this is 20 trillion rubles by 2020), to people who were just driven out of the  sticks and into the army for a year.  Whether the Armed Forces want it or not, they are doomed to a certain intellectualization.  However, this is impossible if existing nonregulation relations between servicemen are preserved.  It seems that the Armed Forces leadership has started to understand this.  A program for the humanization of  service which also aims to remove the problem of dodging service (about 200 thousand men) has appeared.  Now in the Ryazan VDV School the first graduating class of professional sergeants is finishing the three-year course of study.  The eradication of nonregulation relations is connected directly with them.”

Aleksandr Sharavin:

“What kind of army to have is determined primarily by the country’s geographic situation.  If there is a potential threat to its territory from neighboring countries, we need a conscript army, through which a large mass of young men pass and allows for having a great mobilization reserve as a result.  If there is no threat, we can limit ourselves to professionals.  Russia has such threats – look closely at the map!”

“Is the transition to a professional army possible in Russia?  I suggest it’s possible, but not necessary. According to the Supreme CINC, we will transition to a new profile of the Armed Forces in 10-15 years.  For this or an even more extended period, conscription will remain.  Possibly in a much easier form — they will serve, not a year, or will call-up not 200 and some thousand, as now, but only 170 thousand men.  In the future, it would do to reduce even this number.  Moreover, reducing it will allow a certain selection and thereby improve the quality of the young men conscripted into the army.”

“In my view, a serving citizen [conscript] can’t receive the current 500 rubles [per month].  Hard military work should be well-paid, otherwise it is objectively devalued.  The rate — not lower than the country’s minimum wage!  We also need to think about other stimuli:  free higher education for those who’ve served, some kind of favorable mortgage credit, and, most importantly, we should only accept those young men who’ve fulfilled their duty to the Homeland into state service.  No references to health conditions can be taken into account.  If there’s strength to be a bureaucrat — get well and find the strength to serve in yourself!  If we need to amend the Constitution for this, we’ll amend it.  Our neighbors in Kazakhstan went this way and got a double benefit:  improved quality of the army contingent and bureaucrats who are not so divorced from the people, as in Russia.”

Vasiliy Belozerov:

“If the political decision is made, it’s possible even now, undoubtedly, to establish a fully volunteer army in Russia.  But do we need this?  I suggest it will be correct and justified if the share of professional sergeants and contractees in the army will be raised gradually.  Since it’s unclear from where a quantity of 425 thousand professionals can be gotten all at once.  They won’t fall from the sky.  We have to remind ourselves that the contingent of both current conscripts and potential professionals is one and the same:  young men 18-28.  This means we have to  create such conditions that it’s not the lumpen who go into the army, but normal men.  And worthy people need worthy conditions.  And there’s one more figure:  based on world experience it’s possible to say that in a professional army in the year for various reasons (health, age, contract termination, etc.) 5 percent of personnel are dismissed.  This means that in a 425,000-man professional corps in a year we have to recruit an additional 20 thousand men.  They also need to be gotten from somewhere.”

Viktor Litovkin:

“As is well-known, the army should know only two states:  either fighting, or preparing for war.  For us, it is either reforming or preparing to reform.  Meanwhile, there’s still no clear presentation of ​​what kind of army we want and what government resources we are prepared to give for this army.”

“In Russia, there is no coherent policy on establishing new Armed Forces.  The fact is the Chief of the Genshtab says we made a monstrous mistake and the Federal Targeted Program for Forming Professional Units failed, therefore we’ll get rid of contractees.  A half year goes by, the very same Genshtab Chief comes to the podium with the words that the country, it turns out, again needs 425 thousand professionals.  Make the basic calculations:  for this number of soldiers we need to have 65 thousand professional junior commanders [NCOs].  And now in Ryazan we have 250 men studying to be sergeants, they’ll graduate next year.  Meanwhile, there’s no data that they’ve selected the next course.  Has anyone thought about this?  And one more thing.  When we say that we need the call-up to create a trained reserve, this is self-deception.  The reserves are so unprepared!  Suppose we trained a soldiers for a year to drive a tank.  What next?  Once or twice a week after work this mechanic-driver has to work on the trainer at the voyenkomat, and every six months — drive a real tank on the range.  Otherwise, in case of war, we get not a trained reserve, but several million 40-year-old guys with beer guts who’ve forgotten which end the machine gun fires from.”

Konstantin Makiyenko:

“In my opinion, the transition to a professional army in Russia is desirable, but absolutely impossible.  A contract army is actually substantially more expensive than a conscript one.  Another thing, our announced one-million-man [army], in my view, likely doesn’t number 800 thousand men.  We have to talk about yet another problem – the coexistence of conscripts from the Caucasus and other regions in the army. Everyone remembers the wild incident, when these guys laid out the word ‘Kavkaz’ using conscripts of other nationalities.  But, on the other hand, conscripts from Dagestan, Chechnya or Kabardino-Balkaria, as a rule, stand-out for the best physical preparation and desire to learn about weapons.  Once the idea was floated to have Caucasians serve in some units, and Russians in others.  At the last session of the Defense Ministry’s Public Council, it was announced that this won’t be.  It was decided to refrain from creating monoethnic military formations of the ‘wild division’ type from the Tsarist Army.  Contradictions between conscripts called up from the Caucasus and other regions of the country will be removed by introducing the institution of military clergy of the Islamic persuasion.”

“New Profile” in Transbaykal

Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye’s Viktor Litovkin wrote recently about his Defenders’ Day press pool visit to the 212th District Training Center (OUTs or ОУЦ) in Peschanka, and to the 29th Combined Arms Army in Chita.  Formerly part of the Siberian MD, they’re now in the Eastern MD or OSK East.  Litovkin set out to see how the military’s “new profile” has been implemented in the four years since he last traveled to Transbaykal.

Litovkin said the army’s future “junior specialists,” i.e. better trained conscript sergeants, aren’t just using simulators, and there’s lots of live action on OUTs ranges and training grounds.

Simulators at Peschanka (photo: V. Litovkin)

The majority of trainees were in training for a minimum of 8 hours a day, not including individual training and PT time.

OUTs Chief, General-Major Sergey Sudakov is new himself, but says much has changed at the center.  He says they’ve gotten new simulators, training buildings and barracks have been renovated, and the mess hall’s been outsourced so conscript-trainees no longer have to pull KP.

Four years ago, the Siberian MD listed 5,970 personnel without housing, but now only 120.  Those without apartments have been taken off the local books, and all their data’s been sent to the Defense Ministry’s Housing Support Department in Moscow. 

Now, however, there are rasporyazhentsy (распоряженцы), those officers, warrants, or sergeants at their commanders’ disposition, in all, more than 200 waiting for permanent apartments outside Transbaykal.  But only 2-3 per month are getting a “letter of happiness” from Moscow saying they’ve been allocated housing, and, in many cases, it’s not in the location they wanted.

The rasporyazhentsy were once commanders and chiefs but now they muster every morning to get orders from their former subordinates.  They don’t get anything serious to do.  They pull assistant duty officer for a unit once a week, or carry out a major’s orders for less than half their old pay.

Medic Senior Sergeant Zhanna Litvinenko is a rasporyazhenitsa who’s waited two years for an apartment in Rostov-na-Donu or Krasnodar Kray.  While waiting to return to “mainland” Russia, she lives on “bare pay,” without supplements, of 16,900 rubles, of which 3,200 pays for her dorm room.

Litovkin visited the officers’ dormitory to see what’s changed since 2007.  He describes familiar noisy corridors with common toilets, showers, and kitchens for officers and their families.  The building’s been renovated, old wooden window frames and the boiler have been replaced, kitchens updated, and showers divided so men and women don’t have to use them on alternating days.

One Captain Rinat Abubekirov and his wife say the load on officers has grown sharply now that there are fewer of them.  The tank training regiment had 140 officers previously, now 98, in a company, there were 7, now 5, and the number of additional duties is unchanged.  A company commander is now a captain, rather than a major as in the past.  Abubekirov has been an O-3 for five years, and no one can tell him when he might make O-4.

Litvinenko and the Abubekirovs in the Officers' Dorm (photo: V. Litovkin)

Training their conscript charges has changed.  Instead of six months, they now have three to do it.  The trainees’ education level varies greatly now — from higher education to some who didn’t finish high school.  Many conscripts arrived in poor health, and the severe Transbaykal winter doesn’t help either.  Minus forty isn’t rare, and -30° (-22° F) is the norm.  They are just not physically or psychologically prepared.  Nevertheless, OUTs Commander Sudakov says fewer are sick this winter than last.

Then, Litovkin turns to the Chita-based 29th Combined Arms Army commanded by General-Major Aleksandr Romanchuk, where the NVO editor says he sees “solid changes.”  All its units are fully manned and permanently combat ready.  In what’s become a fairly common refrain, Romanchuk believes his army’s combat potential exceeds that of its predecessor [the Siberian MD]. He said he and his deputy spent a month at the General Staff Academy learning the new automated command and control system.  He said his best subordinates can earn 100,000 rubles per month in bonuses.

Litovkin says there are questions about the introduction of new equipment in Romanchuk’s command.  It would be good if its tanks and combat vehicles could be replaced quicker.  There are no UAVs or PGMs.  The army relies on T-72B1, BMP-2, Strela-10 and towed air defense guns, and self-propelled Akatsiya and Msta-B artillery.

Litovkin concludes that, while no one believes Mongolia or China will threaten Russia’s borders today or tomorrow, this army needs to train in a real way, with equipment from the 21st century, not the last one.

But this, he continues, is not even the greatest problem.  He was told at every level that it’s simply not possible to make yesterday’s schoolboy into a good specialist in a year.  The commander of the 29th CAA’s 200th Artillery Brigade, Colonel Dmitriy Kozlovskiy, told Litovkin this spring he’ll lose 70 percent of his personnel.  New gun commanders, gunners, radiomen, and reconnaissance, topographic, and meteorological specialists will arrive and in less than a month they’ll need to work like crews, platoons, and batteries, like a unified combat mechanism.  They will learn and leave the army, and the process will begin again.

Sounds like a Russian O-6′s plea for professional enlisted and NCOs . . . .

Litovkin finishes with a story from Romanchuk.  He tells of a tank gunner conscript who hit his target [a 1 -- an excellent in Russian training terms] on his 39th day of service.  He said he just did everything as he was taught, and as he did on the simulators.  In times past, according to Romanchuk, tank gunners got to fire live rounds only after serving six months, and this guy scored a 1 on his 39th day.  But Litovkin asked how his buddies did.  Romanchuk answered 2s and 3s.

More on the Military Personnel Zigzag

Wednesday’s Argumenty nedeli looked briefly at the reversal of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s cuts in the Russian officer corps, as well as plans to increase officer pay.

AN said Serdyukov said 70 thousand officers were needed to establish Air-Space (Aerospace) Defense (VKO), but noted he didn’t say where he would find so many officers for such a complex and specialized military field.

Those thrown out of the service in the course of implementing the “new profile” can’t be brought back, and training new officers will take 10-12 years following the reform of the military education system and the liquidation of the Mozhayskiy Military-Space Academy.

And, says AN, radically increasing pay won’t be so simple.  The budgets for 2011 and 2012 have been approved, so pay raises will have to wait until 2013 and 2014, after a new Duma and president have been elected.  And increasing the number of contractees [also with higher pay] will be another factor in army financing problems.

A General Staff source told AN:

“The approximate manning of VKO in all duty positions, including conscripts, contractees, and officers, will be 20-22 thousand.  This means the majority of duty positions will transfer there from Space Troops (KV), air defense troops and missile defense.  But after the mass cuts there aren’t enough commanders on the level of company, regiment and even brigade commanders.  And in all services and branches of the Armed Forces at that.  Therefore, it’s incorrect to think that all 70 thousand are going into VKO.”

According to him, the establishment of any new service [if it is a service rather than a branch], especially one as high-tech as VKO, requires “decades of work by all staffs.”

AN also cites Aleksandr Khramchikhin:

“It seems to me that constant casting about on the size of the officer corps just says that military reform issues haven’t been worked out in a strategic plan.”

A short item that says a lot . . . just a couple comments:

  • This piece is saying that VKO officers and specialists will be taken from the ranks of those currently serving in KV, PVO, and PRO.
  • The 70,000 additional officers will plug holes in command positions throughout the Armed Forces.
  • It would be difficult to bring back dismissed officers.  But there are lots of serving officers living in limbo outside the shtat (штат), outside the TO&E at the disposition (распоряжение) of their commanders, who could be called back to their units.
  • Military education’s been hammered, but it looks like Mozhayskiy’s still operating.
  • Delivering the promised new higher pay system in 2012 will be difficult under current and projected budgetary constraints.  So it’s another opportunity for the regime to fail.  But the Kremlin and White House don’t really need to worry about military votes anyway.
  • Kramchikhin’s right on.  Serdyukov’s idea to cut the officer corps in half – from more than 30 to 15 percent of Armed Forces personnel – was right.  But he failed to plan properly for it, and he tried to do it too fast.  Without accounting, or compensating, for the myriad historical, economic, and cultural reasons Russia had so many officers in the first place – reliance on conscripts and the lack of a strong NCO corps being first and foremost.  So another correct step is discredited by hubris, lack of foresight, and poor execution.  Serdyukov didn’t need to measure seven times before cutting, but twice would have been nice.
  • Taking “decades” to put VKO in place would certainly be the old-fashioned speed of Russian military reform.  But if it’s to be done quickly and successfully, it has to be done with more care than Serdyukov’s demonstrated over the last four years.

Serdyukov’s Year-Ender

Anatoliy Serdyukov (photo: Izvestiya / Vladimir Suvorov)

ДОРОГИЕ ЧИТАТЕЛИ ! ! !

С НОВЫМ ГОДОМ ! ! !

Thanks for reading and commenting this year.

This one could have been entitled, The Army’s Great Scourge or Reform Isn’t Utopia or We Straightened Them Out.  Great quotes, but you’ll have to read to the bottom.

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s year-ending interview in Monday’s Izvestiya is a good read.  The paper asked some harder-hitting questions than Serdyukov normally gets.  And, though they aren’t necessarily new, his answers are pretty direct and revealing.  There are problems with a lot of them though.

Let’s look first at what Serdyukov said, then we’ll look at the deeper meaning of his answers.

Asked about this year’s command and control changes, the Defense Minister says:

“The most important thing is that we already changed the entire troop command and control system.  From one side, we tried to minimize the command and control levels; from the other side, to equip them technically.  Now the next task is before us – to tie it all into a single system so that every district commander answers not just for the ground, but also for the air, and air defense, and naval component.  The next step is we are trying to conduct exercises in such coordination between districts.  I think 2011 is key for us on this plane.”

On the decision to move to four unified strategic commands (OSKs) and cutting levels of command, Serdyukov said:

“This is the General Staff’s idea.  Before going to the president with such a proposal, we discussed this initiative since the end of 2007.  At the same time, we had conferences at various levels, consulted with experts, important military leaders, and studied international experience again – both American and NATO.  We tried to analyze the situation from every angle and arrived at the fact that this is really useful for various reasons.” 

“First and foremost, the transition to the OSK should be reflected in the controllability of the army.  A simple example:  at the beginning of the transformations, an order from me to a battalion commander had to go through 17 levels.  So you understand this influenced the speed of their transmission, and the content of the information itself.  Now we have three levels in all. If one wanted, it would be possible to calculate how much was saved both on communications nodes, and on communications systems themselves, and in speed.  And as a result – the army’s combat capability rose 50 percent.”

Asked about what will happen in combat situations now that more civilians occupy military support jobs, the Defense Minister says:

“Several factors converge into one point here, therefore, we came to the conclusion that we could and should divide directions of responsibilities – operational and support.  It’s not an accident that the Defense Minister has a first deputy – the Chief of the General Staff and a first deputy – a civilian who handles the direction connected with supporting the operational component.  Everything’s been thought out, and there won’t be any kind of failures.  Neither peacetime, nor wartime frightens us.”

On General Staff Chief Makarov’s assessment that the commander’s slovenliness caused 150 conscripts to get ill in Kemerovo, Serdyukov takes the opportunity to describe the pains he’s taken in establishing systems to monitor the implementation of military reform:

“Unfortunately, we are getting started.  Actually, when we launch any process, we try to organize the monitoring system and incentive system in the final result.  But this doesn’t always work.  We’ve established a series of structures for monitoring.  They are, for example, the financial inspectorate, which checks the use of budget resources.  Then the personnel inspectorate – occupied with the activity of every officer and civilian specialist.  There is the military inspectorate, which checks those measures which should go on in this or any military institution.  There is an organizational-inspector directorate occupied with checking fulfillment of all directives, orders, decrees, laws, etc.  This is that system of monitoring which gives the capability to influence internal army processes, and to move them.  Naturally, an entire system of regulations exists where the duties of every colleague, every sub-unit are strictly prescribed as is the corresponding period for fulfilling the orders.”

Asked about indicators of the fulfillment rate for Defense Ministry orders:

“All orders are being fulfilled.  The question is different:  are they on schedule?  And for the last half year, the picture generally doesn’t look bad.  The schedules we are establishing are holding on the whole.  Inside the ministry, we changed our entire workflow, accordingly this entailed a cut in signatories on this or that issue or project.  We are introducing electronic workflow which allows us at any stage to check how this or that directive or order is being fulfilled.”

“But there are also breakdowns.  Recently we had a collegium in Khabarovsk.  We listened to the report of an army commander who should have implemented 87 different measures, but implemented all of two.  What kind of combat readiness and discipline can you speak of if an officer doesn’t fulfill his own duties?”

“When we embarked on reform, both I personally, and many of my colleagues strove to understand:  what kind of problems really could be blocking the army’s development – housing, lack of money, lack of equipment, of soldiers?  Now there’s everything.  If you serve, then according to order 400 the money is very respectable.  We are providing housing.  There’s one hundred percent in equipment.  Almost one hundred percent – give or take one-two percent – in servicemen.  There you have it:  if you chose this profession, then serve.  But here we are stumbling over weak managerial discipline – the army’s great scourge.  And even here we’re trying, from one side, to stimulate work, and from the other – to severely demand fulfillment of service duties.”

Is Russia buying weapons abroad because the systems are really needed or is it being done out of political considerations:

“There is a certain requirement for foreign military equipment, because in a series of types of armaments, we, unfortunately, will fall behind.  Our models don’t meet the demands presented by the times.  It’s important also to understand how to formulate the tactical-technical tasks and characteristics of this or that essential production.  Therefore, we’re also trying to familiarize ourselves with those modern models of equipment and armaments which our partners have.  For this, in fact, we are buying equipment in small amounts – as in the case of UAVs.”

“However, besides equipment, it’s also necessary to have trained personnel, and a command and control system.  We don’t have many models of armaments, but to work on their development, spend time and money on their adoption is simply irrational, it’s simpler to buy, to study, and later begin to develop our own production.  Those Israeli drones gave a serious impetus to developing domestic industry.  Not long ago, the president was at the test range and there we showed him Russian models that are sufficiently reliable.  They are fully suited to us.”

“We don’t have ships like the Mistral.  We never built them.  But to try to catch up now is senseless.  We plan to buy the license and technical documentation for their production.  Moreover, there’s an agreement that, starting with the third ship, we’ll build the helicopter carriers in Russia.”

Doesn’t such an approach hurt Russia’s defense industry?  Wouldn’t it be better to finance and support our own enterprises:

“In the new state program of armaments, for four years, we laid out 600 billion rubles which will be allocated according to a new credit system for enterprises under a government guarantee.  Now  discussion is going quite actively on the subject of how this should happen, with what credit requirements and conditions.  This is one of the forms of financing which has a relationship not so much to support of enterprises as to the system of paying the state defense order itself.  It allows for transferring the load from the second half of the GPV to the first and vice versa.  Or to take off the peak load, meanwhile working out forms of active participation in financing by the Ministry of Finance and the banking system.  Incidentally, the reaction is fully positive, we already have trials with the largest banks – with Sberbank and VTB.”

On inter-ethnic conflicts in units and the possibility of creating nationality-based units:

“This isn’t today’s or yesterday’s problem.  If the commander fulfills his duties completely, then time and energy for conflicts simply won’t remain.  If they’re occupied with physical training for a minimum of four hours a day in every unit , and the remaining time is combat training, as it’s stipulated, then no kind of misunderstandings will arise.  It’s not important where you’re from, which nationality, and religion, if you just fall in your rack after exercises.  The problem again is in the commanders.  Some of them are simply estranged from working with personnel – they see that there are many physically strong, willful guys in the unit, and give over control of the barracks to them.  But those ones become abusers.”

What happens with commanders like these:

“We’ll dismiss them, get others.  An officer must be physically and morally very well prepared and engender only respect.”

Has the army rid itself of dedovshchina with the move to one-year service:

“We now are trying to get away from this term.  There is no longer such a phenomenon.  There is simply hooliganism, crude violation of the law.  If a man served three months, what kind of ‘ded’ is he?  The roots of dedovshchina are much deeper than commonly believed.  In Soviet times, when people served three-five years, then it was the rule:  a man just called up, and a man looking at demob in six months, have different training.  Here then is this phenomenon, really, and its origin.  Now this is pure hooliganism, legally punishable crime which we have fought and will fight without compromise.  Here it’s important that the commander in the sub-unit should fulfill his duties completely.  Then there can’t be any kind of conflicts by definition.”

Asked about accidents with munitions dismantlement over the last year, and how is the problem being resolved now, Serdyukov says:

“The problem is very serious.  For long years, munitions were stockpiled to excess, calculated for a multimillion-man army.  Besides, in the last twenty years, virtually no attention was given to combat training and firings, but the norms of munitions stockpiling remained as before.  As a result, so much ended up in excess that we have work for several years.  To dismantle them by industrial methods is quite complex – there aren’t enough enterprises.  Besides, this is very expensive and not safer than destruction.”

“Therefore, we’re now preparing special teams, certifying equipment, and selecting officers.  They mainly need to be combat engineers.  We’re picking ranges.  We’ve figured where, in what volume, and what we need to blow up, and worked out safe techniques.  We need at a minimum two, maybe three years of such work.  Yes, this will create some temporary discomfort and difficulties.  But it’s impossible to not do this.  If the entire arsenal at Ulyanovsk had blown up, the trouble would have been much more serious.”

Asked about demographic problems, a potential shortage of conscripts, and possibly cutting more deferments, the Defense Minister answered:

“We won’t revoke anything.  As far as demographic problems go, it goes without saying that they exist and we will take them into account.  How do we solve this problem?  I think if the country’s financial situation allows, then we will still try to return the issue of a contract army.  No one has revoked this program, we didn’t realize it because of a lack of resources.  We haven’t  rejected the idea itself.”

Serdyukov tells his interviewers flat out, there’s no longer opposition to his reforms in the army.  What happened to his opponents:

“We straightened them out.  Of course, this was difficult, especially at first.  Now a team of like-minded people has been laid down which itself is generating reform ideas.  Something’s already started to come from it.  People see this and understand:  reform is not utopia, but completely concrete matters.”

After four difficult years in the Defense Ministry, where does Serdyukov see himself:

“I still haven’t finished my service, so I can’t begin to talk about what’s been achieved and what hasn’t.  We’re now in a transitional phase.  There’s not a single direction of the ministry’s activity that modernization, the transition to a new profile wouldn’t affect.  We are working everywhere – in all spheres:  armaments, scientific-research activity, education, organization of daily service, military-technical cooperation.  I can’t say now what we’ll succeed in, and in which direction we’ll lag.  It seems to me that everything’s going pretty well.  We’re on schedule, there’s no deviating.”

Let’s deconstruct some of this shall we? 

Serdyukov and company seem to be obsessed with eliminating layers.  You know sometimes redundancy is good, and prevents making mistakes.  In a net-centric army, every layer sees the picture, but doesn’t necessarily have it for action.  It’s very hard to believe Serdyukov’s claim that just cutting command levels increased combat capability 50 percent when you look at everything that’s factored into the Russian definition of combat capability. 

Yes, we know operational and support stovepipes have been created.  But Serdyukov completely dodges the question of what happens when the combat tooth depends on a civilian tail.  There are obviously answers to this, but the Russians aren’t accustomed to this.  He brushes it off saying there just simply won’t be any failures.  That’s reassuring.

 On the soldiers in Kemerovo and slovenliness, Serdyukov goes a bit non-sequitur.  It’s great hearing about his monitoring system and the implementation of orders, etc.  One wonders, however, if electronic workflow in the Defense Ministry was as important as many things that needed to happen in the troops this year.  But then it gets really interesting.  We start to hear in Serdyukov’s words some of the animus he has for officers.  Why did he ever have such an army commander as the one he vilifies?  He really lays into officers, saying he’s given them everything they need now, they just need to do their jobs.

Serdyukov really avoids the question on buying arms abroad and hurting domestic producers.  He monologues about some convoluted credit provision scheme for paying out the GOZ.  This issue of real money for producers to make weapons and equipment is significant.  Even with the GOZ and a new GPV in place, all anyone can talk about is extending credit to the OPK in 2011.  Hmmm, interesting.

He blames commanders again for inter-ethnic conflicts in the army.  If they were doing their jobs, it couldn’t happen.  If they just wore the boys out properly, it wouldn’t occur.  There is some truth in this, yes, but it’s more complex than just that.  But saying any more might have taken the Defense Minister into a social and political minefield.

On dedovshchina, again Serdyukov blames officers for not taking care of the problem.  Serdyukov’s insistence on just talking about hooliganism makes some sense, yes, but there is still dedovshchina going on.  And, by the way, dedovshchina was never just purely hazing, making the juniors do the crappy jobs; it always had more violence, abuse, and crime in it than Serdyukov is willing to allow.

Serdyukov doesn’t say how he’s addressing the real civil-military relations problem he’s got in Chelyabinsk with regard to the explosions at Chebarkul.  But at least it’s a little like the problems his counterparts face in normal countries, and one has to credit him for taking on a lingering military problem all his predecessors simply ignored.

Wow, is Serdyukov cocky on vanquishing his opponents in the military!  He ought to watch it, it could come back on him.  But as we’ve seen, large-scale, public political demonstrations are going to come from other sources (i.e. the soccer fan bunt or pogrom).  The purely military ones (i.e. the Russian Airborne Union, etc.) tend to be more farcical.  But veterans and even serving officers could provide critical mass in a bigger social protest.  And there’s always the chance that some disaffected Kvachkov could fire a grenade at the Defense Minister’s limo.  Yes, yes, I can hear you — this is just by way of playing out one scenario on what could happen in the future.

One has to respect Serdyukov’s reticence to judge his legacy right now.  It may be possible he’ll leave the big marble building on the Arbat one day thinking how much he’s changed everything, thinking he’s a 21st century Dmitriy Milyutin.  And he may be, at least in comparison with any other choice.  He is making essential changes, and some progress.  More than this analyst thought he would back in early 2007.  But, on close inspection of the military, we may discover that less will actually have changed and improved than we think right now.

How much longer will Serdyukov continue in this burn-out job?  He’s pretty stoic, but he’s definitely more frayed than 4 years ago.  The issue probably comes down to the larger context of the Putin-Medvedev tandem and team — changes in high-level personnel could be more difficult now with every passing day.  Perhaps Serdyukov will remain through a fifth year, and the seating of the next Russian president.

It’s a great interview.  We got some real insight into the Defense Minister’s thinking.  Never could have gotten this 20 or 30 years ago.

Serdyukov’s Duma Session

ITAR-TASS reported a few tidbits from Defense Minister Serdyukov’s closed session before the Duma yesterday.  Not surprisingly, Serdyukov told Duma deputies:

“We fulfilled those tasks which the President gave to conduct the Armed Forces to a new profile in 2010.  The Armed Forces’ combat readiness increased 1.5 times.  We believe that the combat readiness of the army and navy will grow 3-3.5 times toward 2020.”

RIA Novosti reported that Serdyukov said combat capability, not combat readiness.  Combat capability seems to make more sense.

ITAR-TASS says Serdyukov familiarized deputies with the basic tasks of transitioning to the new profile, and the completion of reforms planned for 2010.  Attention was given mainly to implementing the State Program of Armaments and social issues for servicemen.  He said:

“I familiarized deputies with the transformation of the military districts, changes in army corps and brigades, and military command and control at all levels.”

Corps?  Did he really say that?

Answering a question about housing for servicemen, Serdyukov said the Defense Ministry has fulfilled the government’s order about this:

“In 2009, we obtained 45,500, and in 2010 55,000 apartments from all sources.  This attests to the fact that the government’s order has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled.”

As usual, the official news sources turned to Duma Defense Committee Chairman Viktor Zavarzin for comment, and he said:

“I give high marks to today’s meeting of the chief of the defense department and deputies.  We have established tight coordination with the Defense Ministry on legislative support of military reform, and bringing the Armed Forces to a new profile. “

“We are certain we will decide all issues concerning the rearmament of the army and navy, and social support of servicemen with the Defense Ministry leadership.  I say that we need to preserve this pace which exists in the Defense Ministry and with us next year to take the work to the intended results.”

Regarding rearmament, Zavarzin said:

“Besides, in ten years, the share of modern weapons in the army should be not less than 70 percent, for which unprecedented sums have been allocated.  For this, not only a principled position of the Defense Ministry, but also readiness by OPK enterprises for serial deliveries of modern types of armaments is required.”   

Zavarzin said Serdyukov didn’t have much to say on the Mistral purchase, but Zavarzin said:

“In our view, we don’t need to acquire a hunk of metal, but we need the documentation and understanding of those ideas and developments abroad which will enable us to realize the possibilities of our industry.”

Is Russian shipbuilding really going to learn that much from Mistral?

Zavarzin expressed the opinion of the deputies who think:

“We need to give the Defense Minister great credit because he is deeply involved in these issues and, as the one ordering, aiming to supply the army and navy modern armaments and military equipment. Our convictions are that we should create a competitive environment and competitive structures which would push Russia’s defense-industrial complex to the development and creation of the newest weapons systems, including for the Navy.”

At the same time, Zavarzin credited the Defense Ministry for understanding that military social issues deserve special attention too:

“We are talking about creating attractive conditions for those who are serving, but also providing all stipulated benefits to those who are dismissed from military service.  And this is the guarantee of permanent and service housing for servicemen and their family members, but also increasing pay to servicemen and military pensioners.  By 2012, the new pay system for servicemen should be functioning.”

“It’s understood that the level of pay and military pensions today is far from what’s really needed.  Here it’s necessary to change the situation in a cardinal way.”

ITAR-TASS also talked to members of the three other factions in the Duma. 

The KPRF’s Gennadiy Zyuganov negatively evaluated the army’s combat capability saying:

“The state of preconscription training is zero, and mobilization reserves have disappeared.  The general condition is such that today the army is not in a state to defend the country reliably in the event of a small conflict.”

Zyuganov claimed that defense is spending every third RF ruble, and “spending it absolutely ineffectively.”

He complained that outsourcing support functions to civilian companies has doubled the cost of maintaining each soldier.  Zyuganov also said that, “Switching to expensive cars is a luxury in hard times.”

The Just Russia spokesman supported Serdyukov’s formation of a single queue for military apartments, saying:

“We all know that earlier this was a very corrupt sphere where there was a great deal of injustice and complaints.”

Just Russia supported publishing the apartment queue on the Internet, as well as Serdyukov’s ‘humanization’ of conscript service (an extra day off, ability to communicate with family, service near home, and weekend passes), though nothing was said about the extent to which any of these have been implemented in units.

But the Just Russia faction leader also said:

“Today we raised the issue of material support for civilian workers serving the RF Armed Forces.  Today their wages are so low that a whole row of military commanders complains that they can’t fill vacant positions:  simply no one comes for such pay.”

According to RIA Novosti, Just Russia also supports giving military retirees the option of civilianizing their pensions, a move also advocated by the Defense Ministry, but opposed by the Finance Ministry.  The move would spare the Defense Ministry from choosing between paying more in pensions as active pay rises, or breaking the sacred link between active pay and pensions.  For its part, the Finance Ministry doesn’t want pay out for more expensive civilian pensions.

The LDPR was skeptical of Serdyukov.  Its spokesman said:

“We didn’t hear any news that would surprise us.  And the points of this endless reforming, they are all mainly well-known.  It feels like the man [Serdyukov] is in the flow of what’s happening, but our faction doesn’t always share those methods with which this is happening, particularly cuts, civilianization.”

Sounds like he’s tired of sound bytes too.

Igor Barinov, Deputy Chairman of the Defense Committee from United Russia, expressed concern that Serdyukov’s VVUZ reductions have cut military education to the bone:

“Of course, optimization on this level was essential.  But I think it was clearly a mistaken decision to stop induction [of new cadets] into military VUZy altogether this year and next.”

Mikhail Grishankov, also from United Russia, said there have been failures in the program of providing housing to servicemen.

Not One of My Generals Looks Down on Me

Serdyukov with Der Spiegel (photo: Yevgeniy Kondakov)

Let’s look at Defense Minister Serdyukov’s two most recent media interactions, starting with his interview Sunday on Rossiya TV’s ‘News of the Week’ program.  If anyone finds the video for this, please send it in.  As it is, we have just the wire service snippets.  Better than nothing.  Much of this you will have heard before, but there will be things of interest, so don’t stop reading.

On the army’s winter preparations, Serdyukov said the Defense Ministry has studied the ‘serious emergencies’ [so there were more than just Steppe] in military garrisons last winter, and taken necessary measures to prepare the army for this winter.  He says the army is 98-99 percent ready, so he concludes this winter will go very quietly. 

This is, of course, quite a contrast with what Minregion and Basargin have reported, as well as with Severomorsk’s predicament.  There hasn’t been any press release announcing that the Severomorsk garrison’s utilities debt has been cleared, or that the heat’s been turned on yet.  The Navy had been preparing to move several hundred people from buildings belonging to eight different units without heat.

On allowing parents and public representatives to accompany conscripts to their service locations, Serdyukov had this comment:

“It seems to me this removes a certain tension from both parents and public organizations.  And this worried us enough, therefore we, including commanders, became more seriously inclined to it.”

Serdyukov issued yet another denial of any intent to change the current one-year draft term:

“Once again I want to say we don’t intend to increase the term (of service).  The term is 12 months, and so it will remain.”

He called a professional army a goal “we still can’t allow ourselves.”

He commented, yet again, on Russia’s plans for foreign arms purchases:

“Unfortunately, in recent years, in a number of (cases) and types of equipment we have fallen behind a little.  This, certainly, concerns both armored equipment and communications and UAVs somewhat.  We, naturally, won’t go over to mass purchases of foreign armaments and military equipment, we will only buy that which interests us, in limited quantities, to understand and evaluate those tactical-technical characteristics which they possess, on the one hand, and on the other – to try to formulate for our industry what we want to see from ourselves very soon.”

Serdyukov mentioned again Russia’s desire for two large amphibious carriers from abroad, and confirmed that two more would be built in Russian shipyards using the full technical documentation transferred along with the first two units.

The Defense Minister described a three-stage military reform to 2020:

“In the first part there are TO&E measures, and we have essentially already completed them.  We’ve gone to 1 million (servicemen) in size, of them 150 thousand will be officers, on the order of 100-120 thousand will be professional noncommissioned personnel, and the rest will be conscript soldiers.”

“The second task is, naturally, social issues which we need to take care of for our officers.  And armaments are the third task.  Armaments is a quite lengthy process.  We’ve broken it into two parts:  to 2015 is the first phase and out to 2020 will be the second.  We need to get to these parameters:  by 2015 modern equipment in the army must be not less than 30 percent and by 2025 on the order of 70 percent.  We believe that 2020 will be the completion of the transition to a new profile of the armed forces.”

It looks like Serdyukov is giving more wiggle room on rearmament.  Most reports to date have quoted Defense Ministry representatives saying 70-100 percent new arms by 2020.  Well, perhaps ITAR-TASS heard it wrong.  For this writer’s money, even 30 percent in 2015 looks like a longshot.

Also, not really much to say about those military social issues – and this presumably would be the main focus now since task one’s pretty much done and task three’s a long-term deal.

Even the pretty much completed task one is interesting.  Many press and media outlets seized on this one to finally understand, more precisely, the composition of the armed forces.  So Serdyukov says they’re down to 150,000 officers already.  And with a thinner layer of sergeants, that leaves between 730,000 and 750,000 conscripts at any given time.  But drafting 270,000 semiannually would leave Moscow short by roughly 200,000 conscripts.  Better round up those evaders.  And with all the varying comments, it’s very hard to say if Russia’s at one million men (150,000 officers) yet or not.

But moving on . . . on 27 October Der Spiegel copped an interview with Serdyukov.  It focused on relations and cooperation with NATO, Europe, and the U.S., and Russia’s view of missile defense, but there was stuff on Serdyukov’s reforms.  The Defense Minister told Spiegel flatly:

“As far as weapons go, in recent years, no modern weapons have been bought for the Russian Army.  Our armaments are largely outdated.”

Quite a stark admission he might not make to a Russian magazine.  Perhaps he’s willing to be a little more painfully blunt with a Western publication.

On buying abroad, Serdyukov told Spiegel that Russia can produce everything it needs, but some things are simpler, cheaper, and quicker to get from foreign producers.  He confessed that Russian industry has fallen behind the last 20 years.

Serdyukov goes on to discuss the million-man army, the imbalance in officers and grunts, eliminating corruption, Rosoboronpostavka, and cutting administrative layers. 

Then he’s asked why military men might oppose his changes:

“It’s obvious.  Who wants to lose his job?  Over the coming three years, we will cut the size of the officer corps to one hundred fifty thousand men.  At the same time, we will make service in the army more attractive, in particular, by raising pay.  The attractiveness of army service has now reached the very lowest level.”

Again, are they at 150,000 officers or not?  No one’s clear on this.  And one would think, with all Serdyukov’s efforts, serving might already be a little more attractive.

Asked if he’s worried about a military putsch, Serdyukov said:

“This doesn’t worry me.  We aren’t taking any impetuous measures.”

Of course, impetuous depends on whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of policy.

His interviewers asked if it’s easier for a civilian to conduct reforms in the military.  Serdyukov said:

“I can’t do everything myself.  We are working in a team – the Chief of the General Staff and my deputies.  It’s possible some things are simpler for me to do because I’m not connected to certain traditions and understandings which exist in the army.  I see problems from the outside, and because of this it’s easier for me to ask why we can’t do things differently.”

And finally they asked him if a general can take a civilian seriously, and he replied:

“I can assure you not one of my generals looks down on me.”

Shades of Seltsy perhaps . . . it seems it would have sufficed to say something bland like ‘we have our own spheres and mutual respect’ or we’ve created a two-branch Defense Ministry with civilians occupied with this and military men with that.  But instead Serdyukov comes off sounding like it’s a choice between dominating and being dominated.