On Tuesday, General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov provided his year-end wrap-up on the ‘new profile’ of the Armed Forces in the form of a press-conference featuring a videolink with the four new MD / OSK commanders.
It was pretty much a self-congratulatory celebration of how Makarov and company have turned everything in the Russian military around for the better. As Moskovskiy komsomolets put it, “Nikolay Makarov told the media how bad it was in the army in the past, and how good it will be in the future.”
Rossiyskaya gazeta paraphrased Makarov’s remarks, giving only a couple direct quotes. First up was President Medvedev’s call for unified aerospace defense (VKO) before the end of 2011.
RG says Makarov said VKO will be fully operational in 2020 when new reconnaissance and weapons systems have been deployed. He said its purpose is to defend the state [interestingly the state, not the country] from ballistic and cruise missiles. It needs to be an umbrella against any kind of threat, including low-altitude ones.
Makarov said different military structures have been occupied with the security of the skies. Space Troops do orbital reconnaissance and ground-based missile early warning. The air forces and air defense armies (АВВСиПВО or АВВСПВО) and radar troops monitor air space for approaching hostile aircraft. The Special Designation Command (КСпН) covers the Moscow air defense zone [didn’t this long ago change its name to the OSK VKO?]. Air defense troops (ЗРВ) and fighter aviation cover other important facilities. The system was set-up on a service (видовой) basis and that’s why it was uncoordinated. It needs to be made integrated and put under the command of the General Staff [of course – this sounds like Olga Bozhyeva in MK]. In the Defense Ministry, they understand unification won’t be quick and will require a lot of resources, but there’s simply no other way.
Izvestiya proffered a quotation on this one:
“If we look at how this system was built earlier, then it’s possible to see that it acted separately by services and branches of troops, and also by regions. So, Space Troops answered for space reconnaissance, the work of missile attack warning stations. The Ground Troops for the activity of radar units. Now we are uniting all these separate organizations in a unitary whole. We need to establish the foundation of this system in 2011. To finish its formation completely by 2020.”
According to RG, Makarov said a modern army would be useless without a new command and control system for the Armed Forces. Russia’s move to a unified information environment will cost 300 billion rubles, and will be phased, with the initial phase being the replacement of all analog equipment with digital systems by 2012. Command and control systems will be developed and produced in Russia, but other weapons will be bought abroad. This is when he broke the news about Mistral winning the amphibious command ship tender.
RG concludes Makarov called for a fully professional Armed Forces, but the words it quoted aren’t particularly convincing:
“Now we can’t do them like this. But year by year we’ll increase the selection of contract servicemen with commensurate pay.”
However, Moskovskiy komsomolets quoted the General Staff Chief this way:
“We are aiming for a contract army. Now we can’t make it so instantly, but year by year the number of contract servicemen, with commensurate pay, will increase.”
Olga Bozhyeva viewed this as a total reversal of Makarov’s earlier rejection of contractees and insistence on conscripts as the backbone of the army.
Makarov also talked about efforts to create ‘human’ service and living conditions. He referred, as always, to outsourcing and civilianizing mess hall and other housekeeping duties. He repeated that, starting in 2012, officer pay will increase by several times. According to Krasnaya zvezda, Makarov said 50 percent of officers now receive higher pay through premiums and incentives. Officers and their families will be moved from remote garrison towns to oblast centers where their children can get a better education and wives can find work. About the large cut in military towns, he said:
“We had about 22 thousand of them, approximately 5,500 remain, but in all, we’re taking the number of military towns to 180.”
Of course, he didn’t mention who will take care of large numbers of retirees left behind in that archipelago of abandoned military towns.
KZ gave its own recap of Makarov’s press-conference, and it’s interesting to hear his rehash of why the army needed a ‘new profile.’ His remarks blow up any lingering myth about the 2000s, at least the Putin years, as the time of the Russian military’s rejuvenation. He said:
“Before 2009, 87 percent of the Armed Forces consisted of formations and military units with abbreviated personnel and cadres, practically not having personnel. They almost didn’t conduct operational and combat training. The army didn’t just degrade. During this time, 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.”
KZ paraphrases more of Makarov. The personnel training system caused complaints. VVUZy were teaching the Great Patriotic War. Low pay and poor prospects for housing made the officer’s profession a low-prestige one. In units, personnel weren’t occupied with combat training, but serving themselves, and military discipline fell as a result. On the whole, the Armed Forces stopped fulfilling the missions for which they are intended, and could scarcely react to threats and challenges beyond the state’s borders and inside the country.
Makarov addressed how the MDs were changed to meet future threats and challenges:
“Planning and troop employment happened with significant difficulties, since each of six military districts had a series of missions where one often contradicted another. Moreover, four air forces and air defense armies were established, as a result, the zones of responsibility of the military districts and these armies didn’t coincide at all. This led to confusion in employing air defense forces. At the same time, experience showed that military actions in recent decades are conducted, as a rule, by unified force groupings and forces under a unitary command. Each of our districts and each of our four fleets existed independently. Each had its own zone of responsibility, not matching the others. In order to organize any kind of joint actions, it was necessary to establish temporary commands, temporary structures, which, as a rule, were poorly prepared, didn’t have corresponding experience. All this led to unsatisfactory results.”
Izvestiya quoted him:
“In the bounds of the ongoing transformations, full-blooded troop groupings have been established on all strategic axes. Four full-blooded commands have appeared for us which, having in their composition and immediately subordinate to them all forces and means, can react adequately to all challenges and threats to the borders of our districts. Changes in the Armed Forces command and control structure are a necessary occurrence since the old administrative-territorial division had stopped answering the challenges and threats of the time.”
New MDs (photo: ITAR-TASS)
Then Makarov brought in MD commanders over the video so they could attest to how it’s going. They remarked on how cutting intermediate, redundant command levels has made their jobs easier. Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Arkadiy Bakhin said 40 percent of his formations and units have outsourced some support functions.
KZ says earlier MD commanders answered only for Ground Troops, and when they needed forces from another service or branch, they had to get permission from above. Southern MD Commander, General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Galkin claims making these requests cost the commander time, but now all forces and means are in one command, the fundamentally new unified strategic command (OSK). Galkin also says freeing soldiers from support tasks means there are now 20-22 training days per month instead of 15-16.