In his Defender’s Day eve address on Monday, President Dmitriy Medvedev said:
“The defense of native land, service in the army and fleet has always been considered our holy duty. And those who chose the military profession as the business of their entire lives command great respect among our people.”
Apparently, not too holy since Medvedev didn’t serve, even though he would have been due for conscription at the zenith of the mass mobilization Soviet Army and one of the coldest points of the Cold War . Of course, there are lots of presidents who didn’t serve in their countries’ armed forces.
Medvedev went on to thank Russia’s veterans with the 65th anniversary of the Great Victory fast approaching [9 May].
Then he noted:
“. . . strengthening the defense capability of our country–this, absolutely, is the fundamental basis for our development. Our strategic goal is the formation of an effective army and navy, adequate for the level of modern threats, capable of withstanding any level of aggression and being a real factor in guaranteeing international stability.”
“Before us stands the main mission–to reequip the army and fleet with the newest armaments. It is essential to concentrate resources, all our best forces, and our country has done this more than once, in order to create new quality types of military equipment and finally escape from a system of “patching holes” in old armaments. Some has already been accomplished here, but this is a basic task for the near future.”
“Strengthening Armed Forces personnel will also remain a priority. People who have received a modern quality education answering the demands of the time need to be occupied with military affairs. People who are prepared to complete contemporary combat missions, to complete them in the most effective way and, absolutely, physically and morally prepared.”
“The most important condition for the successful modernization of the Armed Forces–this is increasing the quality of life for servicemen. The current military labor stimulus system (I have in mind the so-called order 400) is already giving positive results today. From 2012 new salaries will be paid to all our country’s officers.”
“Everything necessary is being done so that this year all military men needing permanent housing will receive it. I am keeping this issue under my personal control.”
“By the end of 2012 the issue of providing servicemen with service housing will be fully resolved. I am sure that such guarantees will increase the wellbeing of your families and the prestige of military service as a whole.”
“Next it is important also that all measures to transfer the army and fleet to a new quality should be fulfilled efficiently and on schedule. I am expecting precisely this from the Defense Ministry.”
On Tuesday, Medvedev participated in reigniting the eternal flame on the grave of the unknown soldier below the Kremlin wall. The flame had been moved temporarily to Victory Park on Poklonnaya gora during the renovation of the tomb of the unknown.
Medvedev also visited a military unit in the Moscow suburbs and had tea with a senior lieutenant and his family in their new apartment.
The KPRF and its leader, Gennadiy Zyuganov, played the lead in presenting an opposite point of view on Defender’s Day. The KPRF faithful marched from Triumfalnaya ploshchad to Teatralnaya ploshchad for a rally. The party predicted 10,000 attendees, the police said there were 1,500, and Ekho Moskvy reported 4,000.
One KPRF leader said his party was coming out in defense of the army and fleet, their history, their power and against this senseless reform which Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov is conducting. He said the KPRF would hold rallies in 8 regions where elections are being held on 14 March. Those demonstrations, however, were focused on more ‘bread and butter’ issues like communal service rate increases.
Zyuganov himself was in vintage form, saying:
“The army is currently in an exceptionally poor state. A totally useless man is today in charge of the army. He has no right to hold this office. Not a single military man would want to pronounce the family name of Serdyukov properly, without adding some insult. This means that Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev have put in charge of the army a man who is incapable of teaching servicemen, rallying them together or setting key objectives concerning military security and army training and equipment of our armed forces.”
He continued, saying Russia has “no possibility not only to produce, but even to reform its existing military complex.” He claimed Russia is 10 years behind NATO in military potential, and he said Russia’s strategic forces are “on their last legs.” Addressing Prime Minister Putin, he asked why a minister like Serdyukov was being retained.
IA Regnum reported on a rally in support of army reform and modernization led by United Russia youth wing Molodaya gvardiya and the local branch of veteran’s organization Combat Brotherhood in Ulyanovsk. Press reports said attendees were looking forward to restarting An-124 transport aircraft production at Aviastar, and having OPK enterprises serve as a locomotive for the rebirth of local industry.