Monthly Archives: June 2010

Korolev Said Next BSF Commander

Vice-Admiral Korolev

Northern Fleet Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff, Vice-Admiral Vladimir Ivanovich Korolev (Королёв or kor-ol-YOV) will replace current Black Sea Fleet Commander Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Kletskov when he turns 55 in August, according to a ‘highly placed’ RIA Novosti source in the Navy Main Staff.

Rumors to this effect have been around.  In early June, Rupor.info cited an Interfaks story on this.  But Kletskov deputy Vice-Admiral Sergey Menyaylo was not ruled out as a possible successor.

The RIA Novosti source claimed Kletskov was already on leave, and Korolev participated in last week’s talks between Russian Defense Minister Serdyukov and his Ukrainian counterpart in Crimea.

Korolev looks to be a career Northern Fleet submariner.

Advertisements

Popovkin for Kolmakov

A long-swirling rumor that First Deputy Defense Minister, General-Colonel Aleksandr Kolmakov would be forced into retirement became a fact this week.  Talk of this dated to March.  Defense Minister Serdyukov didn’t want both of his first deputies [Kolmakov and General Staff Chief Makarov] occupied with combat training and readiness, reportedly wanting to end this unnecessary division and competition.  More recently, Aleksandr Golts said Kolmakov’s and Makarov’s activities with operational troops intersected, even though nothing was ever heard about tensions between the two generals. 

Argumenty nedeli indicates Kolmakov more than once firmly, but tactfully, expressed his disagreement with Serdyukov’s reforms, specifically the elimination of warrant officers and the posting of excess officers in sergeant’s duties.

It’s not precisely clear who will benefit from Kolmakov’s departure.  The press largely assumes it’s the Genshtab and the main commands of the armed services and branches, but it’s no longer as easy as that.  Golts linked the Kolmakov change with the move to 4 military districts or operational-strategic commands (OSK or ОСК).  He argues that putting all ground, air, and naval forces under 4 operational commands would weaken all central supervisory organs, including the Genshtab and main commands.  As for Kolmakov’s Main Combat Training Directorate, it might move somewhere else, morph into something else, or simply disband.

Deputy Defense Minister and Armaments Chief Vladimir Popovkin takes his old portfolio and responsibilities to his new post as First Deputy Defense Minister.  So as much of the Russian media has noted, rearmament is an entirely new priority and job description for the First Deputy.  One wonders if Popovkin will even have a successor in his old position. 

All observers seem to agree, however, that the swap of Popovkin for Kolmakov and rearmament for troop training focuses the Defense Ministry on providing the troops what they need and the Genshtab and uniformed commanders on training them.  Read Kommersant and Rossiyskaya gazeta for more on this.

Popovkin himself told Rossiyskaya gazeta

“We decided to divide the Defense Ministry’s administrative and operational functions.  A civilian  channel is being created which will support the troops.  A second channel will conduct combat training, all troop activities connected with the operation and use of armaments and military equipment.  It’s been decided to withdraw purchases of armaments and everything else from the duties of the Chief of Rear Services and the Chief of Armaments and to appoint a responsible person who will order and purchase all this.”

This would all seem to connect in the person of Nadezhda Sinikova, whom Medvedev and Serdyukov recently appointed to head and invigorate Rosoboronpostavka.  Military men will continue to make their own orders and requests, but Sinikova’s organization will deal directly with suppliers.

Here’s what President Dmitriy Medvedev said to Popovkin on 22 June:

“Naturally I wish you success and hope that the sector you will coordinate, – this is, first of all, the armaments sector and military equipment and the resolution of a series of issues connected with the civilian component  in the Defense Ministry, – will develop successfully, and we will be able to realize this state armaments program which we are now coordinating.”

“This is a large-scale program, complex, intense, however, at this time, it is directed at establishing on the current foundation a modern, effective armaments system for our army, to reequip, and fully supply it in the framework of those priorities on which we agreed and which must create the basis for the development of our Armed Forces in the future to 2020 and even to 2030.”

“This is a large, complex task.  I hope we have forever gone away from the situation of patching holes in the Armed Forces, which was characteristic in the 1990s and the beginning of this century, and we have set out on a different basis of work.”

“But here methodical, scrupulous work is needed especially with military equipment suppliers because they are sometimes pampered and don’t provide quality, and very unpleasant price increases appear for us.  Therefore we have to hold everything taut, but at the same time acquire everything our Armed Forces need to be combat capable and well trained.”

Gazeta.ru asked to Deputy Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee Igor Barinov to explain what Medvedev was saying about the Defense Ministry’s suppliers:

“Prices on VPK products are growing out of proportion with the growth of inflation and taxes.  For example, the ‘Topol-M’ increased 2.5 times in 3 years, and a sniper rifle cost less than 30 thousand rubles at the beginning of the 2000s, but now the Defense Ministry buys them for 400 thousand.”

“Enterprises don’t want to reduce defects, they place incomprehensible prices on their own products—some places because of corruption, some places because of a lack of restraint.  It’s impossible to allocate money if a process of systematizing price formation doesn’t occur.”

In Vremya novostey, Pavel Felgengauer describes Popovkin as one of the drivers of the current military reforms:

“Popovkin was the first to begin publicly saying that the problems of the Russian VPK are connected with a large lag behind the West.  And he was first to acknowledge that Russian space system use large amounts of Western components.  Before him no one publicly talked about this.  And in 2008 Popovkin was first to announce that Russia will buy foreign military equipment, and not just components.”

An informed, anonymous source also told Vremya novostey that Popovkin is an “old acquaintance” of Medvedev and Putin.  And he will be the Defense Ministry’s real number two man, pushing Army General Makarov lower in the de facto hierarchy [of course, this overlooks the very good likelihood that Serdyukov maintains his own hierarchy based on his own team of trusties and it probably doesn’t include any ex-generals like Popovkin].

Popovkin’s official bio can be found here.

Routine Change of Command or Not?

Kommersant published some extra details on Sergey Karakayev’s career.  He has served in all RVSN command and staff duties.  He began in the 320th Missile Regiment, 7 th Missile Division (Bologoye-4, Tver Oblast) as a group engineer, training and launch group commander, and finally chief of staff.  In 1994, he became a regiment commander, then chief of staff in the 28th Missile Division (Kozelsk-5, Kaluga Oblast).  He commanded this division from 1998-2001.  Then he headed the Second Department, First Directorate, Main Personnel Directorate.  During 2006-2008, he commanded 27 th (Vladimir) Missile Army.  On October 22, 2009, Karakayev became First Deputy Commander and Chief of Staff of the RVSN.

A source told Kommersant Karakayev’s appointment was ‘expected,’ adding that Andrey Shvaychenko requested retirement on 9 June and left on leave.  The source claimed he’d reached the service age limit of 55 for two-star generals, but this isn’t correct.  Shvaychenko actually turned 57 on 18 June.  Kommersant’s interlocutor went on to say that Shvaychenko himself recommended Karakayev to  succeed him.

Academy of Military Sciences strategic arms expert Yuriy Rubtsov told Svobodnaya pressa the change at the top of the RVSN may be related to difficulties in, and disagreements over, modernizing the Russian ICBM force under the new strategic arms agreement. 

According to Rubtsov, the RVSN will have to trim its ICBMs by a third under the new arms treaty.  But new missiles are arriving in the force in only miserly portions, and don’t replace what has to be scrapped.  No matter how much the service lives of ICBMs on combat duty since Soviet times have been extended, they still have to be cut, ultimately in 2015.

Svpressa cites NATO estimates that at most 7 Topols are reaching the RVSN each year.  At such a tempo, it’s essential to keep old weapons a little longer.  A sufficient number of Topol-M missile units have not been created, so the SS-18 and SS-19 still underpin Russia’s delivery of unacceptable damage on the enemy.  But Russia continues unilateral disarmament.  According to Svpressa, in such a situation, the more often you change RVSN Commanders, the easier it is to control them and not allow opposition to your strategic nuclear policy. 

Svpressa speculates maybe replacing Shvaychenko was President Medvedev’s way of flexing his muscles before the U.S. visit, grabbing some attention, and signaling Obama that Russia is disarming as agreed and everything is OK.

Karakayev Replaces Shvaychenko as RVSN Commander

Lots of action near the top of the Russian military pyramid today . . . 

General-Lieutenant Andrey Shvaychenko’s exceptionally brief tenure as RVSN Commander came to an abrupt and unexpected end.  He just turned 57 on June 18, and only commanded Russia’s land-based strategic forces for a little over 10 months.  His predecessor—Nikolay Solovtsov—served for 8 years. 

Already past retirement age for his two-star rank, President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov apparently decided to replace rather than promote him. 

The timing of Shvaychenko’s replacement is interesting and most likely not accidental, to say the least.  The Russians have swapped out a key figure just as they enter the process of ratifying a new strategic arms treaty with the United States. 

General-Lieutenant Sergey Viktorovich Karakayev replaces Shvaychenko.  Like his predecessor, he’s a two-star general, but 8 years younger.  He served as Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the RVSN just since last October.  He occupied RVSN command positions up to and including missile division commander and Vladimir Missile Army commander in 2006-2008.  

General-Lieutenant Karakayev

Somewhat atypically, he served some time as a department chief in the Defense Ministry’s Main Personnel Directorate.  He completed studies in the civilian North-Western State Service Academy before finishing the General Staff Academy.  He holds a doctorate in military science.  His full biography is here

Kremlin.ru provided the following excerpt from today’s Gorki meeting between Medvedev, Serdyukov, and Karakayev: 

“This is a serious position.  The functioning of our nuclear shield depends on work in these duties.  And of course, I hope that you will do everything necessary, everything dependent on you to apply your knowledge, your experience for the good of the country, to create the right RVSN command and control system.” 

“Despite the fact that we are reducing our nuclear arsenal, this must not affect the combat core within the limits of that agreement which is currently operative for us, and within the limits of that agreement which is in ratification.” 

“Generally, it’s necessary to do everything so that our Rocket Troops of Strategic Designation will be fully combat ready and can fulfill their established missions.” 

Karakayev gave a customarily brief response: 

“Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief, I will not fail.” 

Pervyy kanal covered also covered the Gorki meeting, if you’d like some video.  

The change in the RVSN may be a result of the bumps and bruises of reaching internal agreement to go forward with the new strategic offensive arms treaty.  Or maybe not.  But something’s clearly wrong; a ten-month tenure is clearly far off the norm.  Medvedev’s short comments aren’t much to go on, but they seem to say (a) Shvaychenko wasn’t doing the job the way his masters wanted; (b) the masters want an improved strategic nuclear command and control system; (c) the new arms treaty doesn’t threaten Russia’s nuclear deterrence capability and, therefore, is a good deal for Moscow; and (d) the RVSN Commander needs to focus his attention on the optimal operation of whatever weapons systems provided him by the country’s leadership.  And Karakayev indicated in front of the cameras that he’s on-board with all this. 

Armaments Chief Vladimir Popovkin also replaced First Deputy Defense Minister, General-Colonel  Aleksandr Kolmakov.  Popovkin seems to have accommodated Serdyukov, and fit well into the Defense Minister’s ‘new profile.’  The ex-Space Troops general seems to be the type of official the civilian leadership wants in its more civilian Defense Ministry.  He will keep charge of the weapons portfolio, and training and readiness accounts overseen by Kolmakov will probably go back to the Genshtab.  But more on this one tomorrow.

Humanizing and Outsourcing the Army

Press outlets report that the Siberian MD’s Yurga-based 74th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade is the test bed for Defense Minister Serdyukov’s army ‘humanization’ initiative announced in late April.  And today Chief of Rear Services, Deputy Defense Minister General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov expounded upon the extent of, and near-term plans for, outsourcing of food services in the army. 

The 74th IMRB is trying out a 5-day work week and weekend passes for soldiers.  They are permitted to wear civilian clothes while off-base for the first time.  The brigade has also introduced an after-lunch rest hour into the daily regimen. 

ITAR-TASS quotes brigade commander Colonel Andrey Khoptyar: 

“The intensity of combat training in 2010 has risen significantly, the load on soldiers has increased, therefore extra rest time has been allocated.”

Khoptyar said his soldiers are also getting an additional 30 minutes of sleep at night.

The media describes the 74th IMRB as one of Russia’s best performing and best-outfitted formations.  Some of its soldiers live in ‘hotel-type’ accommodations with four-man rooms and their own bath and shower rooms.

Transferring nonmilitary functions and duties from soldiers and their units to contracted commercial firms was another facet of Serdyukov’s April announcement.  Since December, this brigade’s troops have been spared mess hall duty because a private firm ‘MedStroy’ has taken over responsibility for operating its cafeteria.

IA Regnum described this as a “practical trial of new measures in all-around systematic support of day-to-day troop life by outside civilian organizations on an outsourcing basis.”  As the SibVO spokesman says:

“The main idea of the innovations is to free servicemen, to the maximum extent, from performing noncore tasks, establishing conditions for full-fledged combat training of personnel.”

At present, outsourced food service has already been establishing in the SibVO’s Ulan-Ude, Aleysk, and Yurga brigades, and the district military hospital in Chita.  The process of changing to this system of service has already started in two more permanent readiness brigades, the district training center, rear services units of two SibVO armies, three military schools, and 12 military hospitals this year.

The SibVO spokesman says state contracts worth 1 billion rubles have been concluded which bring 1,000 civilian specialists to provide services to more than 20,000 of the district’s troops.  The contracts include food and laundry services, housing-communal services in military towns, recreation services, and other material-technical support, including POL provision to the tune of more than 71 million rubles.

Beyond experiments in the SibVO, today Armed Forces Rear Services Chief Bulgakov told the press 340,000 soldiers in all permanent readiness units, military-educational institutions, and cadet and Suvorov premilitary schools will be fed through outsourced contracts by this year’s end.  He indicated 180,000 soldiers will be fed in 200 units for an annual cost of 6.5 billion rubles by 1 September.   At present, the logistics head said civilian enterprises are feeding 141,000 soldiers in 99 units, except in inaccessible and distant areas.  According to Bulgakov, commercial firms not only provide quality service, but are more economical than having soldiers perform this work.  Bulgakov added that outsourced food service has:

“. . . eliminated the diversion of personnel from combat training activities, food quality has improved, the variety of food prepared has broadened, culinary culture has been raised; the energy value, chemical composition and full achievement of the norms of food rations are reliably meeting normative requirements.”

Bulgakov spoke to reporters during a special rear services exercise supporting an ‘inter-service force grouping’ in the SibVO.  He pointed out how studying U.S. and NATO experiences influenced the Russian Army’s decision to outsource support functions.  According to ITAR-TASS, he said:

“As a result it was evident that the entire U.S. and NATO contingent in Afghanistan and Iraq at present is outsourcing all material-technical support.”

He added that “civilian specialists from commercial structures in these countries are working both in military units in their places of permanent deployment as well as in ‘hot spots.’”

Light Armor Acquisition Still Undecided

RIA Novosti reports the Defense Ministry is still undecided about purchasing European-made light armor for its military vehicles.  Defense Minister Serdyukov has said Russia might buy it from a German company.

Monday Deputy Defense Minister, Armaments Chief Vladimir Popovkin visited Italian firm IVECO’s display at Eurosatory-2010 in Paris.  IVECO uses German technology in fabricating light armor. 

Popovkin said:

“Issue of acquiring light armor and technology for its fabrication still isn’t decided.  Domestic scientific-research institutes still haven’t answered us about whether they’re ready and capable of making such armor.  If they make it, then we’ll use it, if they don’t, we’ll search for ways of getting Western technology for its subsequent production in Russia.”

Popovkin also indicated leading military producers are actively developing a new class of wheeled armored vehicles.  He said in the Russian Army’s modernization there are plans to establish light, medium, and heavy brigades.  Light brigades will have wheeled, medium wheeled and tracked, and heavy only tracked vehicles.  

A RIA Novosti source said:

“A lot depends on the deployment locations of these brigades and the combat missions they’ll be given.  This will be the determining factor for supplying brigades with this or that equipment.”

As an example, he mentioned IVECO’s development of a 29-ton wheeled tank with composite armor and a 120-mm main gun.

More Drugs, Extremism in the Army

According to ITAR-TASS, Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy today warned colleagues at an inter-governmental meeting on military-patriotic indoctrination that anti-drug measures among minors are not having the intended effect, and: 

“Based on last year’s results, the growth of crime connected with illegal trade in narcotic and dangerous substances in the troops (of all power structures) exceeded 70 percent.” 

For his part, Deputy Defense Minister, State Secretary Nikolay Pankov agreed that drug-addicted youth pose a threat not just to the army, but the whole country.  He added: 

“The ‘drug addiction’ diagnosis is becoming customary for draft commissions.” 

At the Draft Board (photo: Newsru.com)

And as if on cue, today from a Ural region draftee assembly point in Yegorshino came the story of 100 young men who arrived recently high on marijuana in hopes of being deferred from conscript service for dependence on narcotics. 

The voyenkomat reported nothing like 100 guys showing up before the draft board in a state of ‘narcotic intoxication’ has previously happened. 

A voyenkomat representative said: 

“There’s never been such a thing, we are sure this is a particular feature of the current draft.  The young guys intentionally used narcotics in order not to end up in the army.” 

According to Newsru.com, a State Narcotics Control officer for Sverdlovsk Oblast is investigating the ‘stoners’ who came from Nizhniy Tagil, Yekaterinburg, and Pervouralsk.  The voyenkomat said these men would be returned to their towns for additional medical observation and rehabilitation. 

ITAR-TASS reported more of Pankov’s comments on a different subject.  He said: 

“In Russia, nearly 150 extremist youth groups are active, the participants in them live mainly in big cities.” 

Pankov didn’t rule out that young extremists could spread from large cities to small towns and lightly populated areas, saying: 

“This is highly probable.  All this comes into military collectives and leads to the growth of nonregulation relations, so-called ‘dedovshchina.'”  

This is just one reason the army’s always preferred country boys from the ‘sticks’ rather than city guys.

The topics of drugs and nationalism in the army, if not taboo outright, have been little discussed.  Some honest talk about these problems might be the first step in solving them.