Monthly Archives: March 2010

Ten Pantsir-S1s for Russia, or for UAE or Syria?

We all miss things, right?

In Friday’s NVO, Viktor Myasnikov published an insightful article on Pantsir-S1.  He hints that maybe the ten Pantsir-S1s ceremoniously delivered to the VVS aren’t actually for Russia’s VVS.  More interestingly, he provides numbers on the quantity really needed to rearm the Russian Armed Forces by 2020—500 for the VVS and 500 for the Ground Troops’ VPVO.

“‘Pantsir’ is one of the most talked about combat vehicles of the last 20 years.  Everything about it’s been heard, many have seen it at exhibitions, but it only began to come to the troops in recent days.  In the long years of design work (which began in 1990), testing, and disrupted contracts, ‘Pantsir’ received the honorary epithet ‘longsuffering.’”

“Now they’re talking about it again in superlative terms.  One could get the impression this is some panacea against all means of aerospace attack.  Actually, this is a close-range—up to 20 km—air defense system.  It exceeds hand-held ‘Igla’ and ‘Strela’ SAMs, but doesn’t approach the level of ‘Tor.’  And ‘Pantsir’s’ place in the order of battle has been designated perfectly concretely—it will replace ‘Tunguska,’ which in its time replaced ‘Shilka.’  True, it will really only replace ‘Tunguska’ when it gets on a tracked chassis.  For now this is a wheeled rear area variant designated to cover important targets—airfields, bases, air defense positions . . .”

“Initially ‘Pantsir’ was planned for tracked transport in as much as it needed to take the place of ‘Tunguska’ in tank columns to cover them against helicopters and other low flying enemy aircraft.  But the concept began to change due to underfinancing.  And a cheaper variant ‘Pantsir’ put on wheels, became positional as the last line of air defense for rear area targets.”

“The uniqueness of ‘Pantsir’ in the arms market is guaranteed by the fact that U.S., NATO, and Israeli armed forces are not threatened by cruise missiles, planned munitions and UAVs of the potential enemy [many would differ with this assertion].  It [Russia?  Arab states?] doesn’t have them in the necessary amount and won’t have them in the coming years.”

“In accordance with the State Program of Armaments to 2015 it’s planned to deliver 20 of such systems to the RF Armed Forces.  10 have already been received.”

“At the same time the Russian Air Forces’ demand is specified as a minimum of 100 systems of this type.  Incidentally, other specialists believe it’s essential to buy 200-250 systems by 2015 and 400-500 by 2020.  Besides that, the Ground Troops could buy 500-600 vehicles by 2020 for replacing ‘Tunguskas.’  They certainly could, of course, they could, but who will provide them?”

“Besides this, there’s no trusting official announcements that all overdue export contracts for the supply of ‘Pantsirs’ to the UAE and Syria have been fulfilled [actually it’s pretty clear supplies are just starting].  Therefore it’s strange that 10 vehicles suddenly turn out to be withdrawn from the export orders.  Suspicions immediately arise that the buyer has refused them or not accepted them due to complaints about quality.  Meanwhile, some anonymous sources from Tula defense industrial enterprises maintain that everything’s normal with the quality, but the vehicles are just taking a pre-sales run on normal asphalt road conditions.  After the [9 May Victory Day] parade the ‘Pantsirs’ will be repainted desert camouflage and handed over to the foreign buyer.  There’s no need to show them to anyone until the next parade.”

“There are suspicions that the ‘KamAZes’ for these ‘Pantsirs’ are not quite serial models.  ‘Cause in their build-out they are too close to the one in which Vladimir Chagin wins ‘Dakar.’  Would it make sense to have imported turbocharged engines on them?  Such capability of automotive equipment for covering stationary S-400 SAMs is a little unnecessary.  But it’s exactly right for the Middle Eastern or North African desert.”

“But there is another side to this.  It’s been announced that these 10 ‘Pantsirs’ will participate in joint exercises of Russia, Belorussia and Kazakhstan.  And also before the handover to the troops at the ‘Shcheglovskiy val’ enterprise an archpriest blessed them.  Such a ritual wouldn’t be arranged for a buyer from a Muslim state.”

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Pantsir-S1 and the Priority on Arms Exports

KBP's Pantsir-S1

Recent announcements about deliveries of the Pantsir-S1 highlighted the priority still enjoyed by arms exports over domestic procurement of weapons systems for the Russian Armed Forces.

On 18 March, the Russian Air Forces took delivery of their first 10 Pantsir-S1 antiaircraft missile-gun systems (ZRPK) from the Tula-based Design Bureau of Instrument-building (KBP).  These Pantsir-S1 systems will march on Red Square during the coming 9 May Victory Day parade, before heading to the Elektrostal-based 606th Guards Air Defense Missile Regiment that also has the S-400.  Some of the regiment’s Pantsir-S1s will participate in live-fire exercises at Ashuluk in April.

The Pantsir-S1 will replace the 1970s-era Tunguska-M1 in Russian air defense units.  A short- and medium-range missile-gun system, it provides point defense for civilian or military assets like S-400 SAMs.  VVS Deputy CINC for Air Defense, General-Lieutenant Sergey Razygrayev has said three Pantsir-S1 systems will be deployed around each S-400 launcher.

The Pantsir-S1 has 2 twin-barrel 30-mm 2A38M antiaircraft guns and 12 57E6-E SAMs.  It is reportedly effective against targets with a reflective surface of 2-3 square centimeters and speeds to 1,000 meters per second, at a maximum range of 20 kilometers and altitude of 15 kilometers.

The Pantsir-S1 can be mounted on various vehicles and ships, and General-Lieutenant Razygrayev has said it will become a standard air defense system for each of Russia’s armed services and combat arms in the future.

When the VVS got its 10 Pantsir-S1 systems, the KBP deputy general director announced that the Air Forces will receive more than 20 units in coming years.  An unnamed source told ITAR-TASS, the VVS would get 25 Pantsir-S1 by 2012.

Development of the Pantsir-S1 dates back to the early and mid-1990s.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed a contract to buy 50 Pantsir-S1s for $734 million in 2000. Syria also contracted for 36 systems.  Ex-Defense Minister, now Deputy PM for the OPK Sergey Ivanov said in early 2008 that 24 systems would go to customers in 2008, from a total order book of 64 for the Pantsir-S1 (of course, 50 + 36 should be 86, not 64).  But the Pantsir-S1 didn’t finish development and testing until some time in 2008, and entered production later in 2008 or in 2009.

Pantsir-S1 deliveries to the UAE and Syria reportedly began in 2009, and the system is already supposedly operational in the UAE.  An OPK source told Interfaks that the first stage of Pantsir-S1 deliveries to these two countries had been successfully completed.

This month Moscow announced the sale of 38 Pantsir-S1s to Algeria for $500 million.  The systems are supposed to be delivered this year and next.  The Russians are reportedly close to a Pantsir-S1 export deal with Libya, and Saudi Arabia, India, and Belarus have been mentioned as other potential buyers of the system.

So these are pretty lucrative sales for KBP, roughly $13-15 million per unit.

Now back to the Russian Armed Forces which have only 10 newly-received Pantsir-S1 themselves.

In late 2007, the commander of Troop Air Defense for the Russian Ground Troops gave his opinion that Pantsir-S1 needed improvements before it could enter his inventory, specifically he wanted its size reduced and better performance against certain types of targets.  For its part, the VVS had been looking, and waiting, for Pantsir-S1 since at least 2002.  AVN reported in late 2008 that the VVS wants to buy more than 100 of the systems.

Even if the Defense Ministry paid $15 million (unlikely), 100 is still a modest buy of $1.5 billion against annual military procurement of about $40 billion these days.  But one can guess that the military is haggling with KBP over the price it’ll pay for the Pantsir-S1.  And this purchase has to fit with other defense procurement and KBP’s production for its foreign buyers.

Second Half of General Staff Chief’s Interview

General Staff Chief Makarov (photo: Viktor Vasenin)

Rossiyskaya gazeta published the second, less substantial, half of Nikolay Makarov’s interview yesterday.

On speculation that the one-year conscription term will be raised, Makarov said:

“No one intends to increase the conscript service term.  But in the Defense Ministry they are thinking of measures to tighten accountability for evading military service.  Today no serious sanctions are applied against evaders.”

Regarding the supply of young men for the army:

“. . . after the transition to 12-month conscript service the callup increased about two times.  But from 2012 the complex demographic situation in the country will add to the problem of manning the armed forces.”

So this is why the military is thinking about clamping down on evasion, which Makarov puts at about 200,000 for all draft-age men.

Asked about measures to make the life of military school and institute cadets more like that of other students, Makarov said changes in the order of the day will have cadets go to classes and exercises in the mornings, and they will be free in the afternoons.  He continues:

“Why do we have to lock cadets in the barracks?  We understand if a person consciously picked the military profession, this means he will study.  If he’s not sure of his choice, he’ll simply get filtered out.”

Makarov indicated the Defense Ministry is looking at having its new state-owned rear services corporation Oboronservis supply militarized security guards for garrisons.  Privatized security companies would relieve servicemen of all guard duty functions and allow them to stop taking personnel away from combat training.  He cites U.S. and Israeli experience in using hired security for these purposes.

Makarov reaffirmed that only professional contract soldiers will serve in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  He added:

“Even brigades in immediate proximity to the borders will be manned by professional soldiers to the greatest degree.”

That’s a lot of confidence to express in a professional contract service program that he’s deemed a failure.

Makarov indicated the ranks of generals have been trimmed from 1,200 to about 700, but he insisted all combined arms brigades with 3,000 personnel would be led by general-majors, not colonels.  He said generals had been cut in the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus, its main and central directorates, including the Genshtab, and the main commands of the services.  He concluded, “Now to become general, you need to serve with the troops.”

Makarov discussed the evolving training and promotion system for officers:

“Now a system has been built out where an officer after [commissioning] school can occupy at most a company commander position without supplementary training.  They can only be appointed higher through specialized courses.  Candidates for promotion need to complete them, take corresponding examinations.  And then they will pick the best on a competitive basis.  They will appoint them to higher positions.”

Under the old Soviet and Russian system, mid-career education and training didn’t usually come into play until an officer had commanded a battalion and was preparing to move into regimental command or staff positions.

Makarov said the new specialized courses might run 3 weeks for battalion chief of staff positions, or maybe several months for other positions.  He said the army would not be looking at keeping officers in certain posts for obligatory periods.  Some might master their duties in one year, others might not in five, he said.

Asked about whether Russia would accept French helicopter carrier Mistral as a ‘shell’ without weapons and electronics, Makarov said:

“The country’s leadership and the Defense Ministry have an absolutely clear position on this subject.  If a final decision on Mistral is made, then we’ll accept this ship only in a fully equipped form–with all command and control systems, navigation, and armaments.  The only exception is helicopters.  They will be ours.  Everything else must be done to their standards in full form.”

Asked whether the army would conduct reservist assemblies and even callup reservists for short periods, Makarov said no, conscripts are covering Russia’s manpower requirements, and reservist training assemblies would be kept at the level of about 10-15,000 men for the whole country.

Kavkaz, Perimeter, and ‘Dead Hand’

President Medvedev with Cheget Officer-Operator (photo: RIA Novosti)

A retired colonel (probably with some firsthand experience though none is noted) used yesterday’s Komsomolskaya pravda to add to the still fairly small public body of knowledge on Soviet and Russian nuclear command and control.

Colonel Mikhail Timoshenko writes that the Soviet nuclear ‘suitcase’ was created 20 years after the U.S. developed its ‘briefcase.’  Developed in the 1970s under Brezhnev, the Soviet system came in response to the short flight-time of U.S. missiles and fears of a surprise strike.  Short-tenured CPSU General Secretary Chernenko (1984-85) was the first Soviet leader to be accompanied by the ‘suitcase’ and officers responsible for operating it.

According to Timoshenko, the ‘suitcase’ (codenamed Cheget) is part of the Kazbek automated command and control system for strategic nuclear forces and was actually introduced in 1983.  It answered the threat of a sudden nuclear attack in which the Soviet NCA might not reach the command post, or might not be able to send orders over ordinary communication lines.  The system had to have conference-call capabilities so the General Secretary, Defense Minister, and General Staff Chief could all use it.  And it had to be simple for elderly men trying to think and decide under extraordinary stress and time constraints.

Timoshenko paints a little scenario of how it would work.  The silence of the missile attack warning center is broken by an alert signal.  The launch warning puts probable targets and time-to-target information on display screens.  The duty officer asks himself, is it a system malfunction or is it war?  He decides to send the alert signal to the duty general in the Genshtab’s Central Command Post (ЦКП).  The seconds are flying.

The duty general sends the alert signal to the Gensek, Defense Minister, and NGSh as well as the duty officers of the armed services.  The three not-so-young people constituting the NCA have to decide if everyone lives or dies.  Some kind of mistake is possible.  Try the hotline, but the president is playing golf and can’t come to the line.  Or maybe he isn’t playing golf, and he’s really hidden in his bunker.  There are only seconds left to think.

Finally, the codes are entered and the Gensek (or one of the three in the NCA) presses the button.  And in front of the duty crews the indicator panel says, “Order.  Conduct Launch.”  The crews turn their keys and press their launch buttons.  Nuclear war has begun.

Timoshenko says people may wonder whether the Russian nuclear ‘suitcase’ is fundamentally different from the Soviet one.  He answers by saying it’s different in the way it’s put together.

In 1993, the Kazbek system’s service life expired.  ‘Holes’ in Cheget and Kazbek had to be patched.  Only Soviet parts were used in its development, but he USSR’s collapse left almost all microelectronics production ‘abroad.’ It was forbidden to use imported elements that might have ‘bugs.’  And there were practically no specialists remaining who knew all the intricacies of the system and terminal.  But naval officers continued to follow in the RF President’s shadow the way they had the Gensek.  And they were inseparable, practically part of his family, in the next room or behind a wall, checking the system, testing comms channels.

Timoshenko says the next problem was what if the Gensek or President, Defense Minister, and NGSh were spread out all over the country or abroad, and they still needed to be connected instantly.  Can you imagine a Soviet-era Defense Minister being ‘temporarily inaccessible’ for even an hour?

So, Timoshenko says, we had to create the Kavkaz mobile communications system, the signal of which cannot be decoded or jammed.  With such a channel, the three special subscribers could quickly get information on a nuclear attack regardless of their location, the repeater is always with the special subscriber.

But what if somehow the comms didn’t work, Kazbek or the missile attack warning system didn’t work, or all three people with the Cheget were killed? There’d be no one to make decisions or give orders.  Even more improbable–what if missile duty crews can’t launch.  What to do?  A safey net, some insurance was needed.

Simultaneously with Kazbek, development work on the Perimeter system began at Experimental-Design Bureau (ОКБ) Leningrad Polytech.  Perimeter was intended for the assured retaliatory launch of ICBMs and SLBMs, if the enemy has destroyed all command levels.  But the main thing is the system evaluated the situation and made decisions independently.

In Perimeter, there was a component with the name ‘Dead Hand.’  If its sensors reliably confirmed a mass nuclear strike, and the system itself lost comms with the RVSN’s main command nodes, several command missiles with powerful radio transmitters would launch.  Flying over Russian territory, these missiles would repeat a signal and launch codes to Russia’s missile forces.  Having gotten the signal, launch systems would work in automatic mode, giving a guaranteed retaliatory blow to the enemy.

But how can a machine know when it’s time, not too early or too late.  Creating a reliable system with such parameters is highly difficult. Timoshenko says there were lots of conditions that could block the system’s operation.

Testing was conducted from 1979 to 1982.  According to Timoshenko, the U.S. learned of Perimeter from one of its developers in 1993.  And the New York Times published an article entitled, “Russia Has ‘Doomsday’ Machine” on October 3, 1993.

Timoshenko says, at the insistence of its American ‘friends,’ the system was taken off combat duty in June 1995 as part of START I [?].

He goes on to note that naval officers with the nuclear ‘suitcase’ are not so visible these days.  They’ve probably been ordered to keep a low profile.  He relates how Yeltsin handed over his beloved ‘suitcase’ to Putin on the day of his resignation.  But Gorbachev didn’t personally hand his over to Yeltsin.   A general carried it to the new Russian President’s office.

Timoshenko tells one last story.  In 2000, NII AA [presumably the Moscow-based Scientific-Research Institute for Automated Equipment named for Akademik V. S. Semenikhin] was competing the job of chief designer and one candidate was from a Russian-American computer and electronics firm called RAMEK-VS.  Timoshenko says imagine how much would have been paid in Soviet days to get close to the nuclear button and C2 systems.

Makarov Describes the Army He’s Building

Nikolay Makarov (photo: Viktor Vasenin)

Today’s Rossiyskaya gazeta interview with General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov has lots of questions and answers on the state of U.S.-Russian negotiations on a new strategic arms treaty, and on missile defense.  If you’re interested in those, you’ll need to read for yourself.

If you’re interested in the other things Makarov said, read on.

Asked isn’t it strange that Russia’s army would be cut when NATO is drawing closer to its borders, Makarov answers:

“We proceeded from the fact that the world has changed to a significant degree in the last 15-20 years.  Russia needs armed forces capable of reacting promptly to any threats and challenges.  Our army, if you take the first Chechen campaign, couldn’t cope with these functions.  To fulfill missions we were forced to man military units with, as a rule, untrained soldiers and officers in the course of combat actions.”

Makarov goes on, saying, after 1996, the army manned 13 percent of its regiments at 80 percent of their wartime complement, so they would be ready for action in a few days if needed.  The remaining 87 percent stayed at cadre level, with equipment and supplies in storage.  So Russia kept a big army that ate up enormous resources, but couldn’t carry out missions. Officers and warrants were almost 50 percent of personnel, and there weren’t enough soldiers.  Possible variants for the best structure were considered and the brigade was selected.  And today any brigade can be ready for action in only one hour, according to Makarov.

Makarov says, in Afghanistan and Chechnya, battalions were reinforced with reconnaissance, artillery, air defense, logistics, and repair units before they deployed for combat.  But battalion commanders weren’t so good at commanding these attached units not normally in their TO&E.  So, says Makarov, it was decided to add these units to battalions, so their commanders can learn how to employ them.  And three battalions organized as such and fully manned comes to 4,500 or 5,000 men–a ‘half division’ rather than a regiment.  And, he notes, battalions can operate independently or as part of brigade tactical groups.

He goes on to explain the Russian Army’s changed outlook:

“In the past we fought with multimillion-man groupings of troops, the basis of which were fronts.  The experience of military conflicts of the past decades showed that such a war was possible, but unlikely.  In the future, troops will go over to actively maneuvering actions.  The actions of inter-service groupings on the entire depth of the enemy’s force structure are replacing frontal battles.  The sides will try to destroy critically important objectives, and also conduct noncontact combat actions.”

The interviewer asks Makarov why only 2 tank brigades in 85 Ground Troops brigades, doesn’t the infantry need armored support?

Makarov answers that, like cavalry in the new age of automatic weapons, today the tank’s role is becoming secondary.  But what’s causing the change? He says it’s the information and artificial intelligence inside equipment, highly accurate weapons used as part of a single information space, and weapons that ‘see’ and ‘know’ everything and can be used against troops and targets in automatic mode.  But he calls robot-tanks with highly accurate weapons a thing of the future at this point.  And Makarov adds that no one is forsaking tanks:

“Here you’re talking only two brigades. Actually we are filling motorized rifle brigades with a great number of tanks.”

Makarov explains the advantages of modular brigades and battalions. Modularity means freedom in structuring battalions and brigades.  If we need a fist of motorized rifle and tank battalions and artillery batteries, we make it.  Commanders in the past didn’t have this freedom.  The entire army force structure was laid out for the conduct of a large-scale war.

Makarov explains modularity as a reaction to Chechnya and even World War II where C2 and force structure was created out of troop units that weren’t coordinated [неслажённые –a difficult one in English, troops that weren’t previously trained and melded together into a cohesive unit or formation].

Asked if there aren’t place in the RF where one can fight with divisions, Makarov says the Russian Army hasn’t gone completely away from divisions [but almost].  But he goes on to insist that their modular nature allows brigades to be used just as well as divisions in Siberia or the Far East, just as well in a large-scale war as independently.

Asked how the army can be trained to fight in a new way, he says:

“The last twenty years there was no intensive combat training in the Russian Army, graduates of commissioning schools and academies didn’t reinforce their theoretical knowledge with practical actions.  And like a foreign language–if there’s no practice, in 2-3 years it’s forgotten.  At the same time, officers without such practice rose in position and rank, some even served to the point of commanding armies.”

“Two tasks stood before us.  First of all, to change the mentality of commanders and their views on war.  It certainly wouldn’t be the one they were taught in the past.  Troop actions, capabilities and forms of their employment have become absolutely different.”

“In order to get to a common understanding, a common methodology is needed.  We are beginning to introduce it, but we are dedicating the current year to individual training of servicemen and combat coordination [слажевание]  of brigades.  From January to February 2010 at the base of the Military Academy of the General Staff we conducted supplementary courses with military district, fleet, and army commanders and their deputies.  Officers ranking from general-colonel to colonel serve in these positions in the armed forces.  Special demands are made on them as organizers, directors, those directly responsible for teaching and training subordinate military command and control organs and troops.”

“We’ve built a training chain, but we understand that this is just the first step.  Everything that officers study in theory still needs to be assimilated in practice.  For this in the second half of May we plan to conduct an operational assembly on the base of one of the units of the Moscow Military District where we are developing a single methodology of training in brigades and below.”

Makarov says 148 new ‘programmatic-regulation documents’ have already been developed.  The Kavkaz, Zapad, and Ladoga exercises last year showed some problems with them, but working groups from the Center for Military-Strategic Research and the Main Combat Training Directorate are reworking them.  The revised regulations will be used in Vostok-2010.  The goal is to have a new combat training program and new combat manuals before 1 October.  Once approved, they’ll be used to organize training starting in 2011.

Makarov also takes this opportunity to expound on his views of netcentric command and control.  He mentions that the U.S. war in Iraq showed that former canons about needing to have 2-3 or 5-6 times superiority in forces and means for military victory no longer necessarily apply.  He says Moscow has the ambitious goal of achieving netcentric command and control in 2-3 years, but the future system is being established in the SKVO this year.

The last issue raised for part one of Makarov’s interview–contract service.  Makarov says the media claimed he had recognized the failure of military reform, when what he really addressed were the miscalculations in contract service over a period of several years.

He says 6-month conscripts were forced into contracts just to meet the [previous] Genshtab’s dictate to have not less than 95 percent contractees in permanent readiness units.  He says these guys were not professionals, but rather just highly [well, not terribly highly] paid conscript soldiers who left the army at the end of their two years anyway.  So, Makarov concludes, it’s no surprise that contract service became a fiasco.

But he adds, we aren’t turning away from it.  A fully contract army would be the very best variant if Russia could afford it [can’t it?], but it can’t according to Makarov.  So he continues:

“Therefore we want to select as professionals only those who’ve served in the army [as conscripts], and only for positions determining the combat capability of military units, related to the operation of complex and expensive equipment.  In the Navy, practically all positions are such.  In motorized rifle brigades not less than 20 percent of the TO&E will be contractees–tank, antiaircraft, and artillery system drivers, gunner-operators, some other specialties.  Plus sergeants.”

“Moreover, if a sergeant is a professional, has served 10-15 years and the level of his training is higher than a new lieutenant, he should get more than the young officer.  We understand that the pay of a contract soldier has to guarantee the attractiveness of military service.  All this will be put into the new pay system.”

Asked about housing for contractees, Makarov says professional soldiers and sergeants need to live like officers in service apartments or dormitories.

Winter War 2010

The Russian press has noted the 6 March article in leading Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat describing how a Russo-Finnish war might play out in 2010.  With the conveniently provided English, one can read for oneself.  But here’s a capsule version.

The imaginary war scenario begins with a Russian cruise missile strike on the Finnish Broadcasting Company compound.  Under the State of Defense Law, mobilization begins and the Chief of Defense becomes Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Defense Forces.  Russian fighter aircraft engage Finnish F/A-18 Hornets around Helsinki.  Finnish government entities evacuate to safer locations.  Russia’s motorized offensive presses across the Karelian isthmus, trying to reach the Finnish capital in two days.  The Finns respond with antitank weapons and German-made Leopard tanks.  Russian airborne are dropped in Helsinki to disrupt rear areas; fierce urban warfare ensues. Civilian casualties mount and noncombatants flee for Sweden.  The Russians and Finns are engage each other on the electronic front [but few details are fleshed out].

The war is decided in the air.  Russian air power overwhelms Finland’s 100 combat-capable aircraft.  But it’s no quick victory for Moscow, and the Finns receive lots of international support [it makes them feel much better to be sure].

There’s obviously a lot to question in the conjecture above.

Rossiyskaya gazeta from 19 March indicated that there’s buzz about the article in Russia and Finland, and people mostly want to know why such a ‘provocation’ has been published.  So RG asked the Finnish paper’s editor to comment, and he replied:

“In the last two months we’ve written a lot about the Winter War and its results.  And this article was part of that series of publications.  I want to note that in this material a fictional war scenario is presented.  Its purpose was to show how such a situation would develop if such a conflict broke out like at the start of the Winter War.”

“I’m not prepared to talk about what kind of war scenarios exist in the Finnish military.  This is exclusively their business.  We just published our view of an imaginary war.”

“It’s not possible here to say that we, in any case, wanted somehow to harm the relations of Finns toward Russia with our publication.  I don’t think it’s possible to do this with one article.  Or just the same draw Finland closer to NATO membership.  Therefore I ask you not to find any kind of secret designs in our publication.”

“I want to note that our material cannot be put in the same row with reporting on a Russian attack on Georgia from Georgian television station ‘Imedi.’  The aim of the story of our Caucasian colleagues was to shake up the country’s population.  In our material, we immediately indicated that the published war scenario was completely fictional.”

On 17 March, Argumenty nedeli criticized the author of the war scenario for not explaining why Russia and Finland would end up in a war.  Even in the Cold War, Finland was a better friend to Moscow than some of its socialist allies.

According to Argumenty nedeli’s defense correspondent Yaroslav Vyatkin, Helsinki lived pretty well off trade with the USSR from the 1950s to the 1980s.  But in the 1990s, an anti-Russian mood came over Finnish society.  Finland forgot about its role as bridge between East and West, and reoriented its economy toward the EU.  Some social movements actively agitated for Finland to join NATO.  Vyatkin believes the U.S. has stoked these sentiments in hopes of broadening NATO’s northern flank.

But, according to Vyatkin, Finns who want NATO membership don’t understand that the alliance can’t defend them, whatever it promises.  But he has confidence in the rational and calm Finns to make the right choice when it comes to Russia and NATO.

Then Vyatkin takes a closer look at the article’s military propositions and Finnish forces–about 90 Leopard and 65 T-72 tanks, about 200 BMPs and 800 BTRs.  BUK-M1 air defense systems around Helsinki (which it stopped procuring due to reported unhappiness with their poor resistance to jamming).  Vyatkin says the Finns’ F/A-18s and Hawk trainers would just meet a glorious death in close combat with A-50 controlled Su-27, MiG-29, and MiG-31B fighters. He thinks, though not strong, the Baltic Fleet is more than a match for the Finnish Navy.  However, he acknowledges that only the 138th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade and 76th Airborne-Assault Division are adjacent and immediately available for action against Finland.

Vyatkin tails off by noting that, although brave, and not badly trained and equipped, the Finns lose, but Russians and Finns won’t be fighting anyway.

Vyatkin’s assessment seems a bit overconfident.  Russia’s Genshtab surely wouldn’t be this sure of easily subduing the Finns, especially or hopefully not after what was nearly, in many ways, a debacle against the Georgians in South Ossetia two years ago.

Svobodnaya pressa talked to Leonid Ivashov’s assistant at the ‘Academy of Geopolitical Problems,’ Konstantin Sivkov, about the new Winter War scenario.  Sivkov calls it nonsense, saying it sounds like someone confused Russia with the U.S., since backward Russia’s not capable of such operations. He adds that he really doesn’t want to comment on such stupidity.  Sivkov’s hard-pressed to come up with any conceivable reason why Moscow would want to go to war with Helsinki.  So, he chalks this all, like the ‘Imedi’ incident, up to an effort to cast Russia in the role of an enemy, and to prepare for Western aggression against Moscow.

In early March, Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer published an article on northern Europe and NATO written by a candidate of military sciences, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Rocket and Artillery Sciences and the chief of the scientific-research department of the Defense Ministry’s Military History Institute.  The authors examined the possible negative consequences of Sweden and Finland joining NATO.  They concluded that Finland has been a true military neutral, but domestic political debate and swings in public opinion on joining NATO have become more pronounced since the late 1990s.  Some Finnish leaders have favored NATO, while others have argued for orienting more toward the U.N. or EU instead of joining NATO, which would, in their view, only add to international tension.  The authors note that, despite its formal military neutrality, Helsinki has taken practical steps toward more integration with NATO, including going over to NATO arms standards, conducting joint maneuvers with NATO, and using Partnership for Peace to promote military compatibility.

Regarding the ‘Atlanticization’ of northern Europe, they conclude that the region’s military-political configuration and balance of forces would change radically if Sweden and Finland joined NATO.  For Moscow, they recommend not only following the situation closely, but adopting a more clearly ‘multivariate and weighted’ line in relation to these countries.  It is noted that, even if they joined NATO, they might not agree to host foreign troops.

Finally, the authors say that Finnish military policy could have particular significance for northern European security in coming years.

Military Police, Open Up!

On 12 March, Krasnaya zvezda profiled what might be the armed forces’ first military police department (OVP) in the Astrakhan military garrison, under the Navy’s Caspian Flotilla.

A Statute and Instruction cover the authority and operations of Russia’s military police (MPs).  The KZ article says their formal functions reinforcing discipline, providing security, conducting antiterrorism measures, and controlling traffic.

Russian military police are a long time coming and far from all are happy about the idea.  Instituting an MP force was first debated in the mid-1990s, but it didn’t happen.  The major sticking point was whether the military police would answer to, or be independent of, the Defense Ministry.

As recently as very late 2005, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov didn’t support the idea, but hardly a month later, after the notorious Sychev abuse case, then-President Putin and then-Defense Minister Ivanov came out for establishing a military police force, primarily to halt violent crime and abuse in the barracks.  But the concept fell by the wayside after several months of debate.

Just as suddenly as the thought of military police disappeared, it resurfaced last fall.  The force was to be established on 1 December with a strength of 5,000 personnel, and military police units were to work jointly with local military komendaturas [commandant’s offices] for the first year before subsuming them.

As in the 1990s, the idea encountered considerable opposition primarily from the RF Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin and Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy.  Lukin supports military police but only if they are independent of the Defense Ministry.  He has said military officials don’t need one more bureaucratic apparatus.  For his part, Fridinskiy said:

“We need to think clearly about all aspects of this issue, including those connected with legal and financial support. Moreover, where will we find such a number of qualified people?  In our country’s conditions, it’s not a certainty that military police will bring positive changes.  Where is the guarantee that we won’t get the very same excesses that they always talk about in connection with the [civilian] police–we aren’t selecting different people, it’s all the same contingent.”

Fridinskiy seems to be worried about military prosecutors tripping over MPs, or MPs fouling the work of his prosecutors.  He definitely doesn’t entertain the idea that they could work well together. 

There were press rumors over the winter that Defense Minister Serdyukov had decided to scrap the plan to institute MPs, but defense spokesmen denied the reports.  And at least the very first OVP has appeared and gotten some publicity.

The Astrakhan garrison’s OVP chief is an O-4 who once served as head of the security department for an armaments storage base, and chief of the garrison’s guardhouse.  His KZ interviewer says the OVP Chief knows all the ins and outs of garrison service firsthand.

The OVP Chief says the composition of an OVP is determined by the size, locations, and characteristics of the garrison it serves.  His OVP has a security and convoy section, investigation section, and an MP platoon, and he describes its initial capabilities as modest.

The security and convoy section guards and transports prisoners to the prosecutor’s and military-investigative organs, to disciplinary battalions, or investigative detention.  The investigative section prepares cases against soldiers accused of disciplinary offenses.  The MP platoon is responsible for patrol service, preventing crime, and maintaining discipline within the garrison.

The article indicates the OVP will spend a lot of its efforts on searching for AWOL soldiers.  The OVP Chief indicated that komendaturas and military commissariats haven’t been able to concentrate on this job in the past for lack of resources.  Russian AWOLs are known as ‘sochintsy’ from the abbreviation SOCh, or those ‘willfully leaving the unit.’

The Astrakhan OVP Chief recognizes that liaison and relations with unit commanders, local civilian law enforcement, and municipal authorities will be key for him to do his job.  More likely and problematic, however, is the possibility of crossed wires with military prosecutors or the local branch of the military-investigative directorate.  There are already lots of investigators out there investigating military incidents.  The investigative authority of the MPs was a contentious issue in the debate over them.

Russia’s 5,000-strong MP force is a modest start for a million-man army, and the success of the effort can’t be judged until it’s possible to see how many, or how few, OVPs are established.  Past initiatives in military law enforcement aren’t particularly encouraging.

For example, the 2005 effort to reestablish the guardhouse–administrative confinement–in order to do away with the army’s five disciplinary battalions (disbats)–the idea was abandoned when Serdyukov arrived because it required sending men guilty of more serious offenses into the civilian penal system where, unlike the disbat, they would get a permanent criminal record.  The guardhouse effort also went unrealized because it was costly; 98 old guardhouses needed to be rebuilt and 44 new ones were proposed.  And so the disbat lives.  Similarly, the Defense Ministry may discover it doesn’t want to pay to create a lot of OVPs.

Only time will tell how far or wide MPs will be implemented.