Monthly Archives: February 2012

Sub Numbers

Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy

Let’s look a bit closer at what’s been said recently about future Russian submarine production.

On February 2, at the Navy development session in Severodvinsk, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Rogozin got the media worked up when he talked [or was, he claims, misquoted] about producing an aircraft carrier and six submarines every year. 

The Rogozin flap had scarcely settled when Kommersant wrote that its Defense Ministry source indicated the Navy now plans to procure ten Borey-class SSBNs, ten Yasen-class SSNs, and some non-nuclear submarines including six Proyekt 636 or Kilo-class diesel-electric boats. 

The paper referenced former First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin’s rather non-specific early 2011 comment about acquiring 20 submarines (apparently separate and apart from SSBNs) under GPV 2011-2020.

Unfortunately, Kommersant’s failure to clarify this prompted others (e.g. Lenta) to conclude the Navy will get 10 SSBNs, 10 SSNs, and 20 other submarines.

Nevertheless, most observers focused on a still robust number like 30 new submarines in the GPV (e.g. Novyye izvestiya).  Eight or ten Borey units, and the rest Yasen or diesels.  As long ago as late 2010, Trud’s Lukanin wrote about 8 Borey and 22 other subs (though he also mentioned a total of 36 new subs).

Now we’re fortunate that Krasnaya zvezda provided a summary of Navy CINC, Admiral Vysotskiy’s remarks in Pushkin.  He flatly said the Navy plans on obtaining ten new diesel-electric submarines by 2020.  And, in early January, ran a press-release saying 8-10 diesel subs are coming.  According to Vysotskiy and Rear-Admiral Aleksandr Fedotenkov, six will be Proyekt 636 boats for the BSF.

But, interestingly enough, in his recent interview, Vysotskiy wasn’t asked and didn’t talk about sub numbers.

It’s also interesting Yasen and SSNs aren’t the focus of more discussion and speculation given Rogozin’s announcement at Severodvinsk that Moscow would put resources into extra overhauls for third generation nuclear submarines (Akula-, Victor III-, and Oscar II-classes).  This could ease the pressure for new SSNs.

Still, the task set for the Russian Navy and submarine builders will be extremely daunting.  They’re looking at reviving their force by launching between 20 and 30 new boats in much less than a decade.

Curious Coincidence

Danila Chaykin

IA Regnum reported today that a Russian conscript serving in Tajikistan apparently shot himself to death on January 29 while pulling guard duty.  A sad though fairly routine occurrence.  The reasons are unclear.  The unfortunate young man, Danila Chaykin, seemed to be doing well in the service.

But Chaykin wasn’t just any conscript.  He previously served alongside Ruslan Ayderkhanov in the Yelan military garrison.  You’ll recall several months ago Ayderkhanov was apparently savagely beaten before his attackers hanged him to make it look like he committed suicide.

According to the press agency, Chaykin was a witness in whatever investigation of Ayderkhanov’s death took place.  But Ayderkhanov’s case was closed when military investigators almost unbelievably concluded there was no evidence of dedovshchina or other barracks violence.  They say he hung himself for personal reasons.

Recapping Interfaks and coverage, Lenta says military officials suggest Chaykin took his life because his girlfriend married someone else.  But his friends say he didn’t have a girl, and he was due to demob in a couple months.  Meanwhile, claims Chaykin had six gunshot wounds on his body.

Lenta’s version says Chaykin and Ayderkhanov were friends, and the former was questioned about the latter’s death.  Then they transferred Chaykin to Tajikistan.

Transfers of one-year conscripts are pretty rare in the Russian Army, though not unheard of when it comes to manning units in Tajikistan.

It seems a really curious coincidence that Chaykin too would kill himself.  Or was it a move to silence an inconvenient witness?

It’s odd too that the Ayderkhanov case — a case of patently obvious abuse –would die so quietly and completely.

Why does the Russian military, or someone higher up, want to conceal the truth about what happened at Yelan?  The authorities are very nervous about crimes that take place on a “national” [i.e. ethnic] basis.  It’s been postulated that Ayderkhanov was targeted because he was Tatar.

As recently as five or six years ago, there were people who would fight for answers and accountability.  One fears there are fewer today.  Maybe fear itself is greater now.

Revenge of the Fallen

Ivan Safronov

Well, more like Return of the Retired, or Dawn of the Dismissed, or whatever.  Your attention’s been grabbed (hopefully).

Last Thursday, Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov reported the Defense Ministry will bring 4,011 ex-general officers back as civilian advisers and consultants, primarily in military districts (unified strategic commands — OSKs) and large operational-tactical formations (armies).  The idea, apparently, is for today’s top commanders to benefit from the experience of their predecessors.

Safronov’s report is based on claims from a source in Defense Minister Serdyukov’s apparat, his immediate staff.  The plan to deploy retired generals as advisers got Serdyukov’s approval on January 20.

The former higher officers will also work as scientific associates in VVUZy and in military commissariats.

Kommersant’s source said these men generally have advanced education and a wealth of combat troop and administrative experience to share with today’s commanders.

Safronov turns to Vitaliy Tsymbal to describe how deploying a huge number of ex-generals contradicts earlier Defense Ministry policy:

“There’s no particular logic evident in this, many now retired generals are already remote from military affairs.  This is a sufficiently magnanimous gesture on the part of the minister, but it doesn’t have some kind of deeper sense in it.  Earlier nothing stopped him from dismissing the very same generals for various reasons.”

According to Safronov’s source, it remains only to determine what to pay the returning generals. 

Who knows if any of this will actually happen?  But if it does, it’s another walk back on a key plank of military reform.  Remember the walk back on keeping 220,000 rather than only 150,000 officers?

In late 2009, General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov said the Defense Ministry had cut 420 of 1,200 generals in the Armed Forces.  With current manning, the remaining 780 generals are enough for a relatively high 1-to-1,000 ratio to other personnel.  So they’ll be digging deep for 4,011 former generals.  Who and what will they find?  

In late 2010, Makarov almost bragged about cutting useless, superannuated officers:

“During this time [before 2009], we grew an entire generation of officers and generals who ceased to understand the very essence of military service, they didn’t have experience in training and educating personnel.”

However, those officers and generals saw it differently, for example:

“Ill-conceived reform has left the Russian Army without a central combat training methodology – that is, now no one knows what and how we teach soldiers and officers on the battlefield.”

So either Serdyukov’s shift to a new, younger, and more junior generation of military leaders isn’t working out, or there’s some other reason for bringing the older dudes back.  One obvious possibility would be to keep them from being openly and publicly critical of Putin’s regime and Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry on the eve of the presidential election.  Maybe some can be bought for a small supplement to their pensions.  A couple things are more certain.  If the old generals arrive, their former subordinates — now in charge — probably won’t like having them around.  The old guys probably won’t enjoy it much either.  And the whole scheme may not even get off the ground, or last very long if it does.

SSBN Patrols

A Delta IV SSBN (photo: ITAR-TASS)

Not all interesting commentary on the Navy’s future came from Deputy Prime Minister and OPK steward Dmitriy Rogozin last week.  

Media outlets quoted Rogozin saying Russia would soon be able to build an aircraft carrier and six submarines a year.  Subsequently, he claimed he was misquoted, and actually said Russia would be finishing renovations on the Admiral Gorshkov for India and building/repairing six submarines this year.

Navy CINC Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy also had curious comments of his own.

According to ITAR-TASS, on Friday, Admiral Vysotskiy told an audience that, by June or a little later, Russia will resume continuous SSBN combat patrols.  Then he added, “We’ve waited 26 years for this event.”

That would be, or will be, quite a news story.  To see where the Russians have been on SSBN patrols, consult Hans Kristensen.  He reported Russia conducted ten SSBN patrols in 2008, and might have reached, or be headed back toward, a continuous SSBN combat patrol posture.  But there is, apparently, no patrol data for 2009, 2010, and 2011.

A continuous SSBN patrol would be in line with more strategic bomber patrols and mobile ICBM deployments.  It would make sense for a Kremlin worried about U.S. insistence on fielding missile defenses.

But the difficulty comes with doing it.  Russian SSBNs are down to ten aging boats — six Delta IVs (possibly only three active due to overhauls and repairs) and four Delta IIIs.  The newest Delta IV is 22 years old, and the newest Delta III is 30.  Constant patrols could stress this force to the limit. 

Pinning a return to constant SSBN patrols to the year 1986 [26 years ago] is interesting too.  Did General Secretary Gorbachev order the Navy to reduce patrols?  Did the Yankee I SSBN (K-219) sinking near Bermuda have anything to do with it?

Vysotskiy said there’s noticeable momentum in the fleet, and the state’s leadership sees its development as a priority comparable to VKO.  He continued:

“Yesterday I together with directors of ministries and departments ranking as ministries and deputy ministers conducted a very serious event in Severodvinsk where the shipbuilding program to 2035 was roughly reviewed.  Our Duma, Federation Council have long awaited it, in order to review it.  Proposals were prepared, I won’t say what kind, in my view faithful to taking fleet construction to the state level, lifting it somewhat from a ministerial ‘slot.'”

Vysotskiy sees putting the Navy’s development before the national leadership as a panacea for its ills.  He’s probably long felt the Navy doesn’t get a fair shake from the Defense Ministry.  But it’s likely even Putin 2.0 won’t be able to give the Navy the kind of attention and resources its CINC wants.

The Russian Threat

DNI James Clapper

Ahhh, the annual testimony . . . and a story based mainly on English sources for a change.  Thanks to for picking up the Vzglyad piece which printed a few lines on what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s unclassified Worldwide Threat Assessment testimony to the SSCI had to say about the state of the Russian military.  Otherwise, this would have been overlooked.

A few preliminaries . . . Clapper is a tall septuagenarian reared professionally in the Cold War who manages to keep on climbing the career ladder.  His bulbous dome once prompted underlings to dub him “the Martian” (although it’s known he’s actually from Remulak).  But analysts liked him (at least long ago) because he really seemed to listen to them.

Now on to his testimony, or statement for the record.  Clapper didn’t write it, nor did his staff.  It’s carefully crafted compromise language melding the views of CIA analysts mostly, and DIA analysts and others a little.  One guesses the text hasn’t changed too much from previous years.  A comparison of changes (especially adverbs) from year to year might be more revealing than what the document says.

Thanks to the Washington Post for printing the DNI’s sanitized testimony.  Unlike the impression you’d get from the Russian media, Clapper’s statement isn’t all about the Russian threat.  It definitely isn’t 25 years ago when the USSR was front and center throughout.  Russia appears first on page 7 as a state-based cyber threat and page 8 as an economic espionage threat.  Then it retires to page 20 where a mainline discussion of the country finally begins.

Domestic politics gets one-third of a page; foreign policy (you can read it yourself) gets two-thirds.  The document boldly predicts “more continuity than change” under once-and-future president Vladimir Putin “at least during the next year.” 

But that’s just the problem, isn’t it?  Putin can’t change his fragile system of rule without toppling the entire shaky edifice.

The reader’s also told (shockingly) that Putin’s unlikely to be an “agent of liberalization,” will continue protecting his wealthy cronies, and will try to placate the masses (though Russia’s moderate economic growth rates won’t support this). 

This straightline type of assessment is easy and safe to stick with, especially for one year.  Continuity is always the baseline scenario with a sufficiently short timeframe.  

Good thing the document didn’t have to judge whether Putin will complete his third term in office, the conditions under which he could be forced out, or who might take his place. 

One might have even settled for the simple conclusion (that many Russians are making):  Putin’s regime has exhausted its potential after 12+ years.  It’s unlikely to last another six, let alone another 12, even if it’s impossible to foresee exactly what Putin’s undoing will be.

Maybe the real answers are in the classified testimony.  No, not likely.

The next page has 3 paragraphs, two-thirds of the page, at last, on the Russian military.  The first is lost to a largely factual effort to explain the military’s reforms since late 2008.  The second sensibly concludes that:

“. . . funding, bureaucratic, and cultural hurdles—coupled with the challenge of reinvigorating a military industrial base that deteriorated for more than a decade after the Soviet collapse—will complicate Russian [rearmament and force modernization] efforts.”

One could say deteriorated for nearly two decades, and there are many Russian observers who believe it can’t be revived.  Surprising nothing’s said about buying weapons and arms technologies abroad.  Again, perhaps in the secret version. 

But at least this testimony doesn’t assume the military and OPK will automatically and absolutely get every ruble and every system talked about in the context of GPV 2011-2020.

The third paragraph tries to say what all this means.  Russia will have the military might to dominate the post-Soviet space (already largely true for the past 20 years) but not to threaten NATO collectively. 

Which raises an interesting point.  Is this document insinuating  Moscow might try to threaten one NATO member individually to test the alliance’s reaction and cohesion?

But, in the end, the text says until improvements in conventional capabilities really reach Russian troops, the Kremlin will continue looking to its nuclear forces to offset its weaknesses vis-a-vis potential opponents with stronger militaries.

You can read on yourself for more on Central Asia, the Caucasus, Ukraine, and Belarus.

Cosmic Corruption

Sergey Fridinskiy

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy gave Interfaks an interview several weeks ago in which he described generally improved crime statistics in the Armed Forces.  But he also called the scale of corruption in the military nothing short of “cosmic.”

Fridinskiy told the news service the army’s crime situation is stable and even improving.  Crimes by servicemen are down 16 percent, and there are fewer crimes committed by officers.  There’s a constantly growing number of military units where no legal violations law are registered.  Last year fewer soldiers suffered violence at the hands of their fellow soldiers.  But the army’s top law enforcer doesn’t think he’ll run out of work any time soon:

“In particular areas, for example, like saving budget resources allocated for military needs, or corrupt activities, the crime level, as before, is significant.  And we’re still far from ridding ourselves of nonregulation relations.”

More than 1,000 military officials were prosecuted for corruption, including 18 general officers — one-third of whom received jail time.  Since January 2011, the GVP’s prosecuted 250 bribery cases, many more than in 2010.  Fridinskiy singled out the GOZ and commercial firms outsourcing for military units as areas where problems are “not small.”  He puts annual Defense Ministry losses to corruption at 3 billion rubles.

This is, interestingly, the same figure he cited in early 2010.

Asked about the types of corrupt schemes in the military, Fridinskiy responded:

“Mainly untargeted use of budget resources, violating the rules and requirements of conducting auctions, competitions, and contractor selection, paying for work not really performed, significant inflating of prices for military products.  There are also multifarious kickbacks, bribes, and misuse.  Generally, the banal sharing out of budget resources.  Devotees of living on state funds especially go for violations of the law.  Their scale now is simply stratospheric, I would even say, cosmic.”

Fridinskiy said the GVP’s been active in checking high-level Defense Ministry officials’ asset and property declarations.  He said called the scale of violations here “impressive.”  More often, he continued, the GVP finds evidence of servicemen and officials engaged in illegal entrepreneurship and commercial activity.  He mentioned an unnamed deputy Northern Fleet commander who failed to disclose his wife’s assets, and a Rosoboronpostavka bureaucrat who simultaneously serves as general director of a corporation.

The GVP Chief then shifted gears to talk about barracks violence which he said was down by 20 percent in 2011, with cases involving “serious consequences” declining a third.

Lastly, Interfaks asked about military police, of which Fridinskiy’s skeptical.  He emphasized military prosecutors will continue supervising army investigations, but he doubts MPs are ready to run criminal inquiries.  He repeated his familiar assertion that they aren’t a panacea; their existence won’t change the social factors behind crime among servicemen.

Would have been interesting if the news agency had asked if this year’s higher pay for officers will cut army crime in 2012.