Shurygin Critique of Military Reform (Part 1)

Vladislav Shurygin

In part one of Big Reform or Big Lie, military commentator and critic Shurygin complains that opposing views on Serdyukov’s military reforms have not been heard.    

Instead of his idealized view of the former Soviet Army fairly harmoniously serving the state’s interests, he sees today’s Russian military as an army of the underprivileged, who can’t escape service, protecting the interests of particular individuals, or political and economic groups.  He likens it to an old Soviet labor camp, with officers in the roles of overseers and guards, and conscripts as inmates, divided into various upper and lower castes.   

Shurygin provides unsourced polling data that “would shock any sociologist.”  More than 80 percent of conscripts don’t trust the government.  Sixty percent are dissatisfied with the country today, and 90 percent are disenchanted with Russia’s social and economic inequality and don’t want to risk their lives for it.  

He says mass drunkenness, self-interest, protectionism, and corruption is flourishing in the officer corps.  Officers live a pitiful half-beggarly life and are demoralized.  They serve to obtain apartments and a pension, or the possibility of arranging a good existence in the civilian world.  Eighty-eight percent of officers retire within six months of receiving an apartment or a pension.  And the High Command has lost its will, backbone, and ability to talk to the authorities as equals as result of purges.  

So what has two years of reforms brought?  The fully combat-ready brigade as the universal unit from Kamchatka to Pskov, according to Shurygin.  But the lovely paper plans of the staff are far from real implementation.  Many brigades are light, having only 2,200 men instead of 3-5,000.  There are several different forms of brigades and it’s impossible to find even two identical ones.  

Shurygin concludes the brigade is an especially bad fit for Russia’s Far East.  They are spread thin.  Despite this, General Staff Chief Makarov tells the media that they can hold off an enemy for 45 days while mobilization and reinforcement takes place.  Shurygin compares Makarov’s optimistic words to those of Stalin’s generals who promised to defeat the USSR’s enemies on their own territory.  

By contrast, officers in the Far East joke that after the Serdyukov-Makarov “optimization,” the Chinese Army won’t find it hard to defeat Russians.  The problem will be to find them. 

Shurygin believes ‘optimized’ brigades are not equal to the regiments they replaced in combat capabilities.  It is difficult to move brigades as a single combat units.  It’s a chaotic, extended process in which command and control is lost.  He attributes much of this to not having enough officers. 

Regiments of 2,000 had 400 officers and warrants, whereas new brigades of 4,000 have 327 officers.  Weakness in command and control is felt especially in the brigade staff, where officers with combat experience and long years of service are missing because of dismissals.  The old regiment staff had 48 officers and warrants, the new brigade staff only 33 officers. 

Shurygin thinks the new brigades are especially lacking in reconnaissance.  They have a reconnaissance chief, but no department or section to analyze and integrate information for the commander. 

In battle against a technologically advanced enemy, the enemy’s reconnaissance, target designation, and weapons delivery capabilities would exceed those of the ‘new profile’ brigades several times over.

Some things needed for real combat capability have been forgotten.  In copying Western-style brigades, the Defense Ministry forgot to copy their strong logistic support which is still provided by divisions.  Shurygin cites General-Major Vladimirov in calling the new brigades “abnormally inflated regiments,” which Shurygin says have fully lost the mobility and unity of regiments.

Shurygin turns next to the vaunted 1-hour readiness assertion first publicized by Makarov.  He wants to ask Makarov whom he intends for motorized rifle brigades in Tver, Naro-Fominsk, or Samara to fight on one hour’s warning.  By contrast, according to him, the U.S. concept of readiness comes into play once forces are deployed to their theater of action.  Shurygin goes on to explain that VOSO, the Russian staff’s military transportation service responsible for strategic mobility, has been slashed from 2,500 to 400 personnel.  As an example of the current lacked of needed mobility, he says it took 5 days for a partial tank brigade to move 500 kilometers in Russian-Belorussian exercises this summer.  So it’s understandable that Makarov would rather focus on 1-hour readiness than on mobility.

Shurygin ends by citing Khramchikhin on what kind of forces Russia is getting via military reform.  For Georgia or terrorism, Russia has the RVSN and nuclear submarines it can’t use.  For advanced opponents like the U.S. and NATO, Russia is clearly weak and can’t effectively oppose them.  For an equal like China, there simply aren’t enough Russian forces.

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One response to “Shurygin Critique of Military Reform (Part 1)

  1. It’s clear that Russia’s problems are as they were in 19th century: roads and fools.

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