Kramnik on Vostok-2010 and Military Reform

This is complete finally.

Ilya Kramnik’s RIA Novosti piece about the exercise has been quoted by others, but it hasn’t gotten attention as a whole on its own.

So what does Kramnik think?  He cites Makiyenko to the effect that Vostok-2010 showed that reform has been positive for the army, but there are, of course, problems.  Troops aren’t uniformly well-trained, and the failure of contract service has really hurt.  But Kramnik gives Defense Minister Serdyukov a lot of credit, on the order of being a 21st century Milyutin.  But back to the problems again.  Things like contract service, tension over officer cuts and premium pay, military education cuts, and the failure to deliver new weapons have to be fixed.  But Kramnik believes Serdyukov is the kind of guy who’ll go back and fix what he didn’t get right or get done.  Then Kramnik shifts to the type of conflict the military reform is preparing the Russian Army to fight.  Obviously [?] not a nuclear one, but rather, again turning to Makiyenko, a Central Asian local war scenario that might threaten the RF’s internal stability.  The conclusion is that, if reform stays on track and occurs quickly, the army will be able to meet this challenge.  Some, however, might well argue that even a properly and rapidly reformed Russian Army might not be enough to contain and damp down the kind of conflagration Makiyenko describes.  Finally, Kramnik concludes that even the U.S. front isn’t secure; an American regime in 2012 or 2016 might take to renewed active support of new ‘color revolutions’ in Moscow’s back (or front) yard.

Here’s a verbatim text:

“The official results of the just ended ‘Vostok-2010’ exercise are still being reckoned, and this will be done by the Defense Ministry.  Meanwhile, it’s already possible to make some conclusions.” 

“‘Vostok-2010’ was the largest of all in the post-Soviet period of Russian history.  More than 20 thousand men, 75 aircraft, 40 combat and auxiliary ships took part on the ground, in the air, and at sea in maneuvers conducted from Altay Kray to Vladivostok.”

“The aim of the exercise was to check the three-level command structure — operational-strategic command – operational command – brigade, and other new elements in the Armed Forces command and control and support system, and to uncover deficiencies needing correction.  An expert of the Russian Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Konstantin Makiyenko expressed his opinion on the recent maneuvers:  ‘The recent maneuvers fully refuted the propagated myth about how the army is being destroyed as a result of the actions of the current Defense Ministry leadership.  It’s obvious the army is alive and developing.  Units participating in the exercise demonstrated their combat capability, despite the fact that they are not in the ranks of the best military districts, and scarcely armed with the most modern equipment.'”

“‘It’s especially worth focusing on the good morale of the officer personnel — it’s not possible to speak of general enthusiasm, of course, but I didn’t see dim eyes among the officers.  As a group, they are interested in the success of the current reform and hope for its success.'”

“While agreeing with this point of view, one has to note that the situation with soldiers looks a little different, both RIA Novosti’s reviewer [Kramnik] and Konstantin Makiyenko have also noted this.  Very much depends on the branch of troops and the basic training of the soldiers themselves.  Contract-servicemen in a ‘Tochka-U’ operational-tactical missile launch battery look and are trained much better than conscript-soldiers in motorized rifle units.  In the words of motorized rifle officers up to the battalion commander level, the reduction in the number of contractees has negatively affected platoon and company training.  Ideally, the service term of a specialist-soldier (mechanic-driver, weapons system operator, etc.) needs to be three years, that is achievable only on the contract manning principle for these positions.”

“Speaking about the attainability of the announced goals of the reform, one can say the following:   the will of the military leadership which certainly exists, is the main component of success, a firm understanding of the goal is also obvious, and the possession of authority — it’s not possible to doubt this.  As a result, the current Defense Ministry leadership needs only time to realize its ideas.  Overall, the military reform being conducted is the most significant event of Russian history in the last ten years — since the suppression of the separatist rebellion in the North Caucasus.  The Serdyukov-Makarov reform in the military sphere is the most radical and deepest since the time of Mikhail Frunze’s reforms in the 1920s, if not since Dmitriy Milyutin in the 1860s and 1870s.”

“As proof, it’s possible to note the fact that the Defense Ministry leadership is constantly searching and ready to correct those steps which, when checked, turn out to be incorrect or unattainable in real political-economic conditions.  So, the current principles of manning the army will undergo a serious correction:  it’s obvious that neither the organization of contract service, nor, even more, the existing format of conscript service corresponds to the demands of the time.”

“Evaluating the correspondence of the Defense Ministry leadership to its missions, it’s possible to say, that at present Russia has the most appropriate military leadership since the collapse of the USSR.  At the same time, it’s obvious that the radicalism of the reform, the compressed time of its implementation, unavoidable resistance in the environment and hard economic conditions didn’t allow for avoiding a large number of mistakes and excesses.  Among the most fundamental failures it’s possible to name the collapse of the army’s transition to the contract manning principle, serious social tension arising in connection with the rapid reduction of officer personnel, the ambiguous situation with the scale of servicemen’s complaints after the introduction of the differential pay system [premium pay or Serdyukov’s Order No. 400?], the hurried and not completely thought out reform of military education and many, many other things.  It’s  particularly worth focusing on the implementation of the state armaments programs which fail one after another, not being executed in a significant part.  As a result, the lag of Russia’s Armed Forces behind the most developed countries in the level of  technical equipping continues to grow such that in conditions of a quantitative lag it could become very dangerous.  All these mistakes have to be corrected, since they impact on rudiments of the army’s combat capability.”

“For what type of wars does Russia’s new army need to prepare?  Obviously, the time of long wars between the great powers has gone into the past — nuclear weapons haven’t left chances for such a development of events.  The most probable type of conflict in which the Russian Army will be involved is a local conflict on Russia’s borders and the territory of the former USSR, in the course of which there could be clashes with the most varied enemy:  from a regular army to many bandit formations and terrorist groups.”

“In Konstantin Makiyenko’s opinion, Central Asia presents the greatest danger in the future of a possible hot conflict with Russia’s direct participation:  ‘The U.S. and NATO, obviously, are less and less controlling the Afghanistan situation, and it’s not excluded that in the foreseeable future they may have to abandon this country.  The return to power in Afghanistan of the ‘Taliban’ movement looks most realistic in the event of such a development of events.  The arrival of Islamic radicals in power would unavoidably be a catalyst for conflicts on the territory of former Soviet republics of the region already riven by contradictions.  Weak authoritarian regimes in Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, not to mention what’s become the ‘failed government’ in Kyrgyzstan, could be easy prey for the Taliban.  As a result, Russia might be forced to consider the likelihood of a large Asian conflagration which it would have to prevent, or if it didn’t succeed — extinguish, at a minimum with the aim of preserving its own internal stability.  One very much wants to believe that the reform will bear fruit before the described situation becomes a reality.'”

“Besides the described scenario it follows to study also the probability of another development of events:  as experience has shown, on the territory of former USSR republics, the rise of openly anti-Russian regimes with external support at their disposal can’t be excluded.  For today, such a situation is a low probability due to the fact that the current administration in the U.S. — the main sponsor of ‘colored revolutions,’ is clearly not inclined to continue the policy of George Bush.  However by 2012, if President Obama loses the election, the situation could change, and this risk is even greater in 2016 when the administration will change in any case.  Meanwhile, you have to note that even the Democrats remaining in power in the U.S. is not a guarantee of a peaceful life:  Obama’s point of view on a coexistence format with Russia is hardly shared by all his fellow party members.  In the worst case, a return to the next variant of Cold War and new spiral of the arms race isn’t excluded.”

“The coming decade isn’t promising Russia an easy life.  The success of military reform is all the more important.”

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