Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Treatment of Private L.

Militaryparitet.com took time to highlight an article from Rusinfotoday.com on the deaths of Privates Lantsov and Tsybuk, as well as the case of the Samara conscripts in Astrakhan. 

21-year-old Kemerovo native Yevgeniy Lantsov last communicated with his wife on 5 January.  In her words, he coughed more than he talked, and he told her he couldn’t get out of bed.  

The military hospital refused to admit Lantsov because they didn’t think he was from one of their units.  It was only on 7 January that Lantsov was seen in a medical unit.  His command subsequently said that they had just moved, and their own medical unit was not set up.

On 10 January, now in serious condition, Lantsov was transferred to the military hospital that originally refused him, and it promptly sent him to the Chelyabinsk Oblast Hospital.

Meanwhile, Lantsov’s command didn’t inform his parents about his condition; they found out when they called the hospital using a telephone number they got from the Internet.  Learning their son wasn’t getting better, they immediately flew to Chelyabinsk.

Lantsov’s mother and father met with a deputy military prosecutor in Chelyabinsk.  According to them, the prosecutor said:

“If you hadn’t come to us, we wouldn’t have known anything about this.”

On 21 January, Lantsov’s parents gave the prosecutor a statement about the absence of prompt medical care for their son, and the next day he died.

The elder Lantsov said:

“No one is concerned about soldiers.  No one needs a soldier.  They’re called up and abandoned.  What need was there to move the unit right before the New Year, when there’s such a freeze?  Officers themselves were in confusion, they had just settled in a new place, and nobody worried about the soldiers.”

For two years, Lantsov had a deferment because of a heart problem.  But he was inducted a month and a half after his daughter’s birth.  His father says:

“We asked for a deferment until spring – his wife was in the hospital with complications for a month after delivery, but they told us – they are discharging your wife, and we’re taking you.  They just have to fulfill the plan.  The order came from above – shave [i.e. induct] them all in turn.”

So Yevgeniy went in the army with a diagnosis of tachycardia and “insignficant limitations” on his service.  Being ordinary miners without connections or money to buy his way out, his parents weren’t able to help him evade service.  So, the dead serviceman leaves a wife, infant child, and a 7-year-old adopted daughter.

Private Konstantin Tsybuk died from an aggressive form of meningitis, although he’d been diagnosed with pneumonia.  He left a wife and 10-month-old daughter in Cherbarkul.  The military commissar of Chelyabinsk Oblast Nikolay Zakharov comments:

“The ‘father-commanders’ didn’t worry about normal, ‘human’ conditions of life for their own soldiers, as a result of this, in the full swing of winter’s freeze, one of them died.  It’s very bad that a soldier perishes in peace time, and not in the fulfillment of a combat mission.  The investigation is on-going and will bring the guilty people to account.”

More than 60 soldiers from Tsybuk’s unit are in the hospital with pneumonia.  Over the New Year’s holiday, the unit’s boiler blew up and the boiler house burned down.  And conscripts had just arrived, and were settled in the frozen barracks.  Tsybuk’s relatives said he called home and said that he had to sleep in his overcoat.  

The Main Military Prosecutor is investigating the illnesses in Tsybuk’s unit, and has found that certain officers did not conscientiously fulfill their duties in protecting the lives and health of their soldiers.  Senior Lieutenant Igor Gurov is being charged with negligence in Tsybuk’s case.

Lastly, Samara conscripts who arrived sent to Astrakhan were living in tents, according to the mother of one soldier, on a dirt floor covered with mattresses, without hot water, while it was -20° C (-4° F).

Many of them got sick, and their commanders didn’t hurry to get them medical attention until their parents went to the human rights ombudsman for Samara Oblast.  After this, their situation improved.  The sick were hospitalized, and the others got wooden floors for their tents and hot food.

Rusinfotoday.com concludes such stories are a dime a dozen:

“There isn’t a person in Russia who doesn’t know that our army is slavery.”

The army doesn’t spend money on elementary but expensive things like real medicine, hospitals, and doctors because:

“Soldiers are an expendable resource which everyone wants to make a profit on.”

“Our country simply doesn’t and won’t have an army.  Just the lives of young men driven into slave work, sacrificed right and left for practically no reason.”

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin has an article today claiming sources tell him there’s an army pandemic, with more than 2,500 men in the hospital with URIs, including more than 500 with pneumonia.  And the military’s medics have been cut 5-7 times.

The Main Military-Medical Directorate, meanwhile, is under investigation by both the Audit Chamber and the Main Military Prosecutor for questionable use of its budget in some instances, according to Mukhin.

In other related news, this morning IA Rosbalt reported an Australian citizen has died of swine flu in Ufa.

Tvoy den says Lantsov’s unit is under a quarantine, and has 36 soldiers in its medical unit with URIs.

IA Regnum reported Friday that there are some quarantine measures in place in Chelyabinsk, where 95 people have allegedly contracted swine flu.

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General Staff Chief Makarov’s Retirement Rumored

On Thursday, Argumenty nedeli said its source claims Defense Minister Serdyukov will soon send some well-known generals into retirement.  The Defense Ministry press service, of course, denies it.

AN’s source says the departure of these generals isn’t due to conflict between them and Serdyukov, but rather to the latter’s policy of “rejuvenating” Russia’s high command.  Among those who will allegedly be retired:

  • General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov (61).
  • Deputy Defense Minister for Rear Services, General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov (56).
  • Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin (57).
  • Navy CINC, Admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy (56).
  • Space Troops Commander, General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko (53).

It’s interesting because none of them is really up against the legal age limit for leaving military service.  And Makarov apparently already has a service term extension from President Medvedev. 

One presumes, according to AN’s information, that the Ground Troops CINC, and RVSN and VDV Commanders are safe for now.

AN also expects some of the newly appointed MD commanders to be dismissed or moved to new posts.

There are other angles to AN’s story besides more rotation in cadres.

First, it repeats earlier press on trouble in finding a replacement for “key military department figure,” former Deputy Defense Minister for Finance-Economic Work Vera Chistova who left her post three months ago. 

An AN source in the Finance-Economic Service claims the lack of a replacement puts in doubt Prime Minister Putin’s promise to deliver a 6.5 percent increase in military pensions on 1 April.  Budget resources weren’t allocated for this.  And there’s still no candidate to replace Chistova.  And without one such issues simply won’t be resolved. 

AN doesn’t mention also that as active duty officer pay is reformed this year, the Defense Ministry will have to figure what to do about retiree pay.  If, as expected, they break the long-standing link between active pay and military pensions, the vets aren’t going to be very happy just before the 2011 and 2012 elections.  Putin just courted representatives of veterans’ organizations about a week ago.

According to AN, the Defense Minister has offered the military finance portfolio to more than one official at different levels in the Finance and Economic Development Ministries, but all of them declined.

The military department’s officers are also talking loudly about the coming appointment of a new Serdyukov deputy who will be called in to “correctly”  track the military’s political preferences ahead of the fast-approaching legislative and presidential elections.  

A high-ranking but unnamed military man tells AN

“He will be an important civilian and definitely a member of ‘United Russia.’  It goes without saying this is connected with the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.  The negative mood of officers is great, it is directed against the minister, his assistants and the party of power which is conducting the reforms without considering the human costs.”

Fox News on the Russian Military

We laughed, we cried, two thumbs way down to Fox News for yesterday’s story on the Russian military.  It makes us wonder what kind of crap they say and write on topics we don’t know anything about.  Well, actually, we already know how bad that drek is too.

Now, no one who frequents this blog will accuse your present author of giving Moscow credit for much.  No, of course not.  But Fox News has succeeded in taking the absurd in Russian defense policy and making it ridiculous.  Fox’s article couldn’t garner a C in a high school journalism class.

At the risk of getting some of the stink on us, let’s examine the piece a little:

  1. Ahem, if you didn’t notice, the Russian military’s been falling apart for a long time.  And, actually, in the most objective sense, experts who’ve watched the process would say Defense Minister Serdyukov and his cronies may have arrested the process some over the last 4 years.
  2. Yes, CAST did put out a new monograph, but it’s a slender volume, and certainly neither comprehensive nor groundbreaking in any sense.  CAST is valuable, but hardly well-known.  And its leadership is probably not fully independent of the current regime.
  3. Fox’s claim that Russia only has 8-10 thousand deployable troops is a ridiculous misreading of intentionally hyperbolic statements in the CAST report.  No serious analyst believes that Russian forces aren’t more ready today than they were 5, 10, or 15 years ago.  But this is a relative comparison.  It doesn’t mean they’re sufficiently ready, in sufficient quantity, to execute the missions they’ve set for themselves.
  4. The Russians have already beat the furniture salesman stuff to death, but one supposes it’s still funny to a nonspecialist audience in the U.S., a country where actors become governors and presidents (and good ones at that).  But even the most basic journalistic accounts normally note that Serdyukov married well, gaining a father-in-law with a strong connection to Vladimir Putin.  And Serdyukov’s no dummy; he probably engineered most of the tax case against Khodorkovskiy.  Not sure Fox knows who Khodorkovskiy is though.  The bottom line is, most people accept Serdyukov as a savvy and tough bureaucrat with talent, who was specifically selected to do a job he’s well-suited for.  Doesn’t mean he hasn’t pissed off Russian military men.  That’s exactly what he was supposed to do.
  5. Fox missed the point that Serdyukov was sent in to stop the stealing, not to cut the military’s budget.  Does Fox realize the $78 billion that DoD’s going to trim over five years isn’t much less than what Russia’s military budget will be over that period?  Duh.
  6. Fox saves itself a little by referring to Felgengauer, but it can’t spell his name.
  7. Russian defense industry has problems, yes, but buying abroad is more complex than Fox’s passing mention.  Fox didn’t bother to Google Mistral either.
  8. Fox’s military expert is wrong; Russia still has a military.  But the U.S. needs to worry about whether and what kind it will have in the future.  We don’t need a “sick man of Eurasia,” and a military vacuum there wouldn’t be good for Americans.  And we also need to worry if there will be a country there, by the way.  Fox’s retired general is right, however, when he reminds that Russia is still a nuclear weapons superpower, and it is relying on nukes heavily for its security.  And its conventional weaknesses increase the risks of miscalculation.  But this has been the case for much of the past 20 years. 

But none of this is a news story.  The news story is that even skeptics have to admit the Russian military is doing a little better, and it’ll be interesting to find out how much better the next time it goes into action.  It’ll be interesting to see if it’s somewhere on the former Soviet imperial periphery, or against another internal threat in the North Caucasus.

The Russian media reactions to the Fox article are just starting, we’ll see if they get interesting.

But thanks Fox for providing something to write about this morning.

Solomonov on Need for Increased Missile Production

MIT General Designer Yuriy Solomonov told Interfaks yesterday Russia needs to increase intercontinental ballistic missile production in the coming years to preserve its strategic nuclear forces (SYaS or СЯС).  See a more complete version of his remarks at Arms-expo.ru.  He said:

“We have two years at our disposition to be in a condition, proceeding from implementation of the production preparation program, to get all cooperation ready for the possibility of manufacturing a large quantity of products.  Many times more than have been made previously.”

He said Russia has produced 6-10 missiles per year over the last ten years.  And he acknowledged that plans for increased production volume may not be fulfilled:

“All this rests, with respect to corporate enterprises, on resolving the task of allocating them investment.  And the regulatory-technical base — the way officials interpret it — doesn’t allow for resolving this task.  If it isn’t resolved, it’s possible to say unequivocally that the task of significantly increasing the volume of products delivered by 2013 won’t be fulfilled either.”

So he’s saying the reluctant state will need to invest in Votkinsk and its component suppliers?

Solomonov notes that the Votkinsk plant, manufacturer of the Topol-M and RS-24 ICBMs, produced up to 120 Pioner (SS-20) medium-range missiles a year between 1980 and 1987.  He says:

“It follows from this that the production capabilities of the factory undoubtedly allow it to realize, proceeding from this potential, production of a substantially larger quantity of missiles than in the preceding ten years.”

Sick in the Urals, and Elsewhere

The Defense Ministry’s suddenly got its hands full of sick conscripts in the Urals, Kaliningrad, and possibly Novosibirsk.  It’s also just a little defensive about the situation.

The situation sounds like it’s close to getting out of control.  First, it points up the poor health of many Russian conscripts coming into the army.  It  undermines Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s talk of “humanizing” conscript service.  And it returns us to the issue of the cuts in military medicine that several commentators have decried.  The issue of swine flu in the Urals is of more general concern. 

This round of problems with sick conscripts surfaced on 16 January when Konstantin Tsybuk died of pneumonia.  He served in v / ch 86727, the 255th Combined Arms Training Range in Chebarkul.  His duty officer, a Lieutenant Igor Gurov, didn’t report finding him ill, or seek medical assistance.  Investigators are now looking at negligence charges against Gurov.  The 20-year-old Tsybuk left a wife and infant daughter behind.  ITAR-TASS has reported there are 63 other pneumonia cases in Chebarkul’s military hospital.

As early as 19 January, RIA Novosti reported 25 soldiers from various garrisons were in Chernyakhovsk’s hospital with pneumonia.  A Baltic Fleet prosecutor was also on scene checking sanitary, heating, and clothing conditions in their units.

Svpressa.ru gave a full run-down on other reported pneumonia outbreaks in the army, including 100 cases in Novosibirsk, and 26 in Saransk.

On Friday, a conscript named Yevgeniy Lantsov apparently died from swine flu (A/H1N1 – California / Mexico) in the Chelyabinsk Oblast Clinical Hospital.  Lantsov was drafted from Kemerovo on 20 December, and served briefly in v / ch 69806, the first-rank air base at Chelyabinsk / Shagol.  He was the leading edge of a swine flu outbreak in Chelyabinsk.  Four locals have died since, and RIA Novosti reports 50 cases in the city.

On Monday, conscript Sergey Vasilyev serving in v / ch 55059, a training regiment at the former PUrVO junior specialist training center in Yelan, died of pneumonia in the 354th District Military Hospital in Yekaterinburg.  The Main Military Investigative Directorate is currently investigating his death for evidence of negligence.

The Defense Ministry’s mounted something of a PR campaign to counter bad publicity about sick conscripts.  Krasnaya zvezda advised citizens not to be alarmed about the “sanitary-epidemiological situation” in the Armed Forces.  It claimed the military’s sickness rate is down 21 percent on average compared with last year, specifically down 24 percent in the Western MD, 15 percent in the Central and Eastern MDs, and 11 percent in the Southern MD.  It says pneumonia cases are down 15 percent, and most are mild. 

Of course, we aren’t told what the absolute numbers were last year (or over many years), only about a relative improvement.  And none of these districts even existed last year, so there is lots of room for fudging the numbers. 

Vesti.ru covered Serdyukov’s visit to Tyumen and Tomsk last weekend where he outlined Defense Ministry efforts to prevent further outbreaks:

“A decision’s been made:  where the temperature drops below minus 20 degrees (-4° F), guard duty will be cut from two to one hour.  And outside drills will be moved indoors.”

“The entire central Defense Ministry apparatus is strictly following these issues.  Each of my deputies is observing a distinct region, how the situation is taking shape there.”

“I submit that we’ll handle the situation.”

Serdyukov was in Tyumen looking at establishing a presidential cadet school, ironically, on the grounds of a former military-medical institute where army medics were once trained.

Vesti.ru reported that sick conscripts said their barracks were practically unheated, and they had to sleep in their uniforms. 

Serdyukov ordered the Chief of the Main Military-Medical Directorate, General-Major Aleksandr Belevitin and a team of specialists to the area to investigate and check on measures to prevent further spread of viral and acute respiratory infections.

Mistral Contract Signing Today

The Elysee announced Sunday that French President Sarkozy and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin will sign the Mistral contract in Saint-Nazaire today.

InoSMI.ru and Militaryparitet.com provided the story from Le Point.

Sarkozy and Sechin will inspect the Mistral and Tonnerre, as well as the Dixmude, which is still under construction.

Le Point says the Mistral deal was originally entrusted to oligarch shipbuilder Sergey Pugachev and his holding company United Industrial Corporation (OPK), and rumors circulated about French and / or Russian middlemen receiving commissions for brokering it.  Ultimately, Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) — headed by Sechin — took over negotiations with Paris.

Le Point claims the Russians asked the French to provide Link 11 and Link 16 combat information systems along with Mistral.  The French demurred, saying transferring these NATO systems required the agreement of all 27 alliance members.  Moscow reportedly persisted as recently as the NATO-Russia Lisbon Summit, saying this equipment would support its participation in joint operations with NATO.  Its request is formally being studied, but won’t be approved, according to Le Point.

The Results of Reform

Trud’s Mikhail Lukanin offered an interesting one last Wednesday . . . with help from other frequent commentators, he takes a swag at describing the results of Anatoliy Serdyukov’s nearly 4-year tenure as Defense Minister.

It’s interesting because it’s unclear if Lukanin’s article is intended to damn by faint praise, to be sarcastic, or was ordered by someone.  Maybe he intends to say these are just results, the good and the bad.

It’s easy to see some good in Lukanin’s first five, but his final three are pretty much unleavened.

The Army’s Become More Mobile

Lukanin quotes Vitaliy Shlykov:

“Until 2008, our army looked like fragments of the old, Soviet one, weighed down with heavy weapons, oriented toward global nuclear war with practically the entire world.”

He says even in the August war against Georgia the army was still “Soviet” — slow to stand up, with an archaic command and control structure.  But now the situation’s changed with mobile brigades that can answer an alert in 1 hour instead of days.

The Army’s Rid Itself of the Spirit of the Barracks

Valentina Melnikova tells Lukanin that the soldier’s life has changed cardinally under Serdyukov.  She says, until recently, one-third of soldiers were typically involved in nonmilitary work every day.  Now soldiers are gradually being freed from such duties as commercial firms take them on.

New Equipment Has Come to the Troops

Lukanin writes that finally a start’s been given to the largest rearmament of the army in post-Soviet times.  One that will take new weapons and equipment from about 10 percent of today’s inventory to 90-100 percent [official sources only claim 70 percent] by 2020.

Lukanin quotes Ruslan Pukhov:

“The Navy alone will receive 40 submarines and 36 new ships, and the Air Forces 1,500 aircraft in the next decade.”

Officer Pay Has Grown

Lukanin says lieutenants and majors made 14 and 20 thousand rubles per month respectively before Serdyukov’s reform,  but now 50 and 70 thousand if they receive premium pay for outstanding combat training results.  And from 2012, premium payments will be included in their permanent duty pay, and 50 thousand rubles will be the minimum base pay for officers.

Lukanin quotes Aleksandr Khramchikhin: 

“The officers of our army are actually comparable with the armies of developed countries in pay levels. “

They Didn’t Talk Reform to Death

Lukanin says experts think it’s good Serdyukov’s reform was pursued energetically, without lengthy discussion and debate.  Pukhov gives the cut from 6 to 4 military districts as an example:

“At one time, it would have taken years to transfer a huge quantity of officers and generals from place to place, but the Defense Ministry did this in just 4-5 months.”

They Stopped Training Officers

Lukanin refers to Serdyukov’s halt to inducting new cadets into officer commissioning schools until at least 2012.  He says 2010 graduates were either released or accepted sergeant positions.  This led to the departure of experienced instructors, and their replacement with younger officers lacking the necessary experience.

Sergeants Almost Ceased to Exist

Contract sergeants were dispersed in 2009-2010.  The Defense Ministry considers them poorly trained, and in no way superior to ordinary [conscript] soldiers.  Now it’s counting completely on conscripts with an even lower level of training.

There’s Nothing to Defend Against China

Here Lukanin notes that some results of reform have put people on guard.  Anatoliy Tsyganok tells him tank units have been practically eliminated: 

“Now only 2,000 tanks, old models at that, remain in the army.”

In Tsyganok’s opinion, tanks are still very relevant for the defense of Russia’s border with China.

What do we make of all this?

  • It’s good that the Russian Army was restructured into smaller, more combat ready formations, i.e. brigades, and sub-units. 
  • We really have no clear picture of the extent and success of outsourcing nonmilitary tasks in the army.  Meanwhile, the “spirit of the barracks” is alive and well when it comes to dedovshchina and violence in the ranks. 
  • The promise of another rearmament program shimmers on the horizon, but it’s not delivering much yet, and there are plenty of serious obstacles to completing it. 
  • The officer pay picture has improved, but the Defense Ministry has real work to do this year to implement a fully new pay system next year.  Meanwhile, several years of premium pay have caused divisions and disaffection in the officer corps. 
  • Moving out smartly on reform was a change over endless talk, but there are areas where more circumspection might have served Serdyukov well. 
  • The Defense Ministry definitely had to stop feeding more officers into an army with a 1:1 officer-conscript ratio.  We’ll have to see what kind of officers the remaining VVUZy produce when the induction of cadets restarts. 
  • Aborting contract service cut the army’s losses on the failed centerpiece military personnel policy of the 2000s.  But something will have to take its place eventually to produce more professional NCOs and soldiers. 
  • Russia is probably right to deemphasize its heavy armor.  It doesn’t appear to have much of a place in the coming rearmament plan.  And tanks really aren’t the answer to Moscow’s largely unstated security concerns vis-a-vis China anyway.

So what’s Serdyukov’s scorecard?  A mixed bag.  Probably more good than bad, but we’ll have to wait to see which results stand and prove positive over the long term.  Definitely superior to his predecessor’s tenure.  Expect more Serdyukov anniversary articles as 15 February approaches.