Serdyukov’s Post-Collegium TV Interview

After last Friday’s Defense Ministry collegium, Serdyukov was interviewed on Rossiya 24.

He probably fielded more pointed questions than normal, but he easily navigated them.  At times, he answered partially and the interviewer didn’t follow up with the next logical question.

Asked about officers dismissed in 2009, he said the armed forces shed 65,000 of them, who retired on age or health grounds, requested dismissal, or violated their contracts.  There was no mention of those put in limbo outside the TO&E, without duty posts and only their rank pay to live on.  These are the officers who can’t formally be dismissed because they don’t have housing, and are living at their ‘commander’s disposal.’  There was also no mention of how many warrant officers were put out in 2009.

Serdyukov said some officers accepted civilianized posts, and 4,000 received job retraining–a pretty small number against the large need for it.

The Defense Minister said dedovshchina was officially down 15 percent, and he doesn’t want only platoon and company commanders punished when it happens in their units.  He wants to see all levels of command take more responsibility for the problem.  Not sure what he’s insinuating, but it could be a warning to higher ups that they could suffer too when big time violence cases hit the news and make the Arbat military district look bad.

Serdyukov talked about higher officer training and appraisals, mentioning the assembly for 550 officers from the military districts and army commands.  He said we tried to make them understand what it is we’re trying to do.  But many lacked the knowledge and necessary skills–presumably to continue in the service.  See today’s Nezavisimaya gazeta.  Viktor Litovkin writes about generals and senior officers dismissed under Serdyukov.  Military district and fleet staffs which used to number 500-700 officers have been cut to 300.  Trimming the ‘bloated egg’ is generally a good idea, but as Litovkin says, it really depends on the quality of those left behind.

Back to Serdyukov’s interview . . . in cutting the military educational establishment from 65 to 10 mega-institutions, he said fewer officers will be needed but the quality of their training must be improved.  The 10 left standing have or will have their faculty members assessed for fitness to serve and they’ll get facility improvements.

On contract service which General Staff Chief Makarov has pronounced dead, Serdyukov said:

“The results of the program were not satisfactory.  In reality, we underestimated the situation somewhat, as regards who should switch to contract service and on what terms, or with what pay.”

“. . . the next program should be revised in an attempt after all to think it out regarding what specific positions should be filled by contract service personnel.  Of course, this applies to complex skills, where expensive equipment is operated.”

Nevertheless, he noted that he expects the contract sergeant program [albeit small-scale and apparently no longer funded] to succeed.

He said the army borrowed from foreign military experience in deciding on the shift from divisions to brigades.  He said the latter’s potential is virtually the same or even greater in some cases than that of the former.

Serdyukov said the Defense Ministry has reported to the Supreme CINC on its view of how it would like to reequip over the next 5-10 years.  He repeated that cuts to R&D and maintenance had allowed for bigger buys of new arms in 2008 and 2009.

He admitted Bulava hasn’t been successful, but he expects this system to be put right and completed.

He addressed possible foreign arms purchases:

“. . . in some areas we are lagging behind quite badly.  This relates not just to the Navy but also other services.  We are buying things in single numbers right now.  They are things like UAVs, all kinds of sights, night vision equipment–it is a very broad spectrum where we are specifically lagging.”

Despite reports that Moscow would be negotiating only with Paris on Mistral, Serdyukov claimed Russia is talking to the Netherlands and Spain.  He denied it was no more than a glorified cruise ship, saying it could perform many roles and had many different capabilities.

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