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.

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