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.

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