Monthly Archives: February 2011

Yuriy Dolgorukiy Headed for Pacific Fleet

In Vladivostok yesterday, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov made the surprising announcement that the first Borey-class SSBN, Yuriy Dolgorukiy, will deploy to Russia’s Pacific Fleet, once it becomes operational with its complement of Bulava SLBMs. 

To be precise, Serdyukov said:

“The first Borey will enter the TOF [Pacific Ocean Fleet].  This is how it is in our plans.  . . . new barracks are already built for crews of new submarines.  Since 2007, we’ve been taking down old barracks and building new ones, renovating the social infrastructure 100 percent.”

Serdyukov made the comments while inspecting new construction in Vilyuchinsk for Pacific Fleet contractees.

Basing the first Borey away from where it was built, and away from Russia’s Northern Fleet, is a sharp break from the Soviet / Russian Navy tradition of keeping the first units of new classes — especially SSBNs — close to their point of origin at Sevmash.  A Pacific Fleet deployment could complicate service and support not only for Yuriy Dolgorukiy, but for its new missile system as well, and make this more costly too. 

The Defense Ministry seems to have decided it needs to retain a two-fleet naval strategic nuclear deterrent.  And putting the first Borey there seems essential given that the Pacific Fleet has only a handful of 30-year-old Delta III-class SSBNs at this point.  This decision may also reflect what’s been presented several times as an increased Russian military focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

Mukhin on the Army’s Protest Mood

According to Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin, Defense Minister Serdyukov has lost the confidence of his bosses, as well as his carte blanche to reform the Armed Forces.  NG’s Kremlin source claims Serdyukov’s initiatives will be vetted at higher levels (i.e. the Sovbez and President) in the future.  But can there really be any initiatives left at this point?  Isn’t it all either implementation or reversal at this point?

President Medvedev’s press-secretary quickly denied that responsibility for military reform is being transferred elsewhere, and insisted it remains with the Supreme Commander-in-Chief and his Defense Minister (but what about Putin?).  She called Mukhin’s report a “lie,” and said only Medvedev and Serdyukov answer for Armed Forces reform, while others just “contribute to it.”

Mukhin covers Putin’s trip to Kaliningrad about military housing where he was told about discontent among military retirees and he promised a 50-70 percent increase in their pensions.  General-Lieutenant Netkachev blames Putin for letting military pensions slip from three times to barely equal to a normal labor pension.

Mukhin’s final interlocutor cites Finance Minister Kudrin on the cost of these political promises to the military increasing Russia’s defense burden from 3 to 4.5 percent of its GDP.

It’s worth including all of Mukhin’s article:

“Election Candy for the Military Electorate.  The Party of Power Struggles for the Votes of Veterans and Servicemen.”

“The fundamental steps connected with reforming the army will now be implemented not by the military department itself, but by the Security Council (SB), where the main director of this work will be the Deputy Secretary of the SB, ex-Chief of the General Staff Yuriy Baluyevskiy.  A Kremlin source has told ‘NG’ such information.  It notes that in its responsibilities, the Sovbez is charged with supervising the general work of the government and power structures in creating a positive image of the main activities of military organizational development, especially in the social sphere for officers and retirees and their family members.”
 
“So it is that the carte blanche given to Anatoliy Serdyukov several years ago by Vladimir Putin for a radical reorganization of the country’s Armed Forces is now canceled.  Further reforms will be agreed at a higher level and, of course, with the participation of Dmitriy Medvedev’s team.  As an SB source notes, Prime Minister and United Russia leader Vladimir Putin agreed to such steps for two reasons.  First, the image of the country’s military-political leadership was recently severely shaken, and the protest mood among a large number of serving military personnel and retirees is growing.  Taking into account the experience of the Arab revolutions, the tandem, apparently, decided to secure itself.  Secondly, the electoral battle has pushed the party of power to correct steps in the army’s reform and especially in social issues.”

“Vladimir Putin’s 23 February trip to Kaliningrad, where he, along with General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov, Deputy Defense Minister Grigoriy Naginskiy, and other government officials met about the housing problems of servicemen and where he met with residents as UR leader, was evidently connected to these factors.  These meetings happened at the same moment when on Poklonnaya Gora in the capital, the Union of Airborne of Russia (SDR) demanded the Defense Minister’s resignation, when on the Arbat [location of the Defense Ministry’s buildings] under the flags of [the political party] ‘Yabloko,’ military retirees demonstrated demanding doubled pensions, when on Pushkin Square in Moscow and Lenin Square in St. Petersburg communist-veterans demanded a solution to the housing problems of servicemen.  Television didn’t show these and other protest actions, occurring in many regions, at all.  On the other hand, all central television channels broadcast Putin’s visit to Kaliningrad.”

“Against this background, ‘Finans’ magazine published its latest list of [ruble] billionaires in Russia, where under number 163 current Deputy Defense Minister and United Russia activist Gregoriy Naginskiy was noted.  On the list, he is noted as founder of the engineering firm ‘Titan-2’ which is involved in construction.  His personal wealth is estimated at 20.7 billion rubles.  We note that in the Defense Ministry Naginskiy is also in charge of construction issues.”

“At a meeting with Putin, one of the leaders of the Kaliningrad veterans movement, former chief of the 11th Army’s political department, General-Major Boris Kosenkov handed the Premier a ‘little extremist manifesto’ being disseminated among veterans in Kaliningrad.  At the same time, talking about low pensions for retirees, the general stressed that ‘a very tense situation is being created in our veterans’ organization structures and political parties are even using this problem in the election campaign.’  As is well-known, there’s no such thing as a former political worker, and the veteran precisely seized the moment to enlighten the Premier about the mood among military pensioners.  Vladimir Putin had no choice but to agree with the fact that ‘really the situation with pension support for servicemen doesn’t correspond to the principles on which it was formed in previous years.  And according to recent data, for about 40% of military pensioners (or, maybe, even a little more), the pension is already either equal, or even a little less than a labor pension.’  Putin immediately promised that the ‘increase in military pensions will be substantial.  It will be an increase of about 1.5 times, about in the range of 70%.’”

“‘Let them, of course, raise pensions.  But now this looks like pure PR,’ believes General-Lieutenant Yuriy Netkachev, advisor to the Association of Social Defense for Veterans of ‘Rus’ Special Sub-Units.  ‘In 2000, when Vladimir Putin became President, military pensions were on average three times more than civilian ones.  Now they are much lower.  Who stopped the current authorities from keeping our pensions at the previous level?'”

“Academy of Military Sciences Correspondent-Member Colonel Eduard Rodyukov draws attention to another fact.  ‘In Kaliningrad, Putin promised to allocate another 150 billion rubles to solve all the housing problems of servicemen and military pensioners.  President Dmitriy Medvedev has once again pledged that from 2012 the salaries of officers will increase several times. In Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin’s opinion, all these transformations, as well as realization of rearmament programs, which the President and Prime Minister proudly proclaim, will require increased defense spending of at least 1.5% of the country’s gross domestic product.  That is the total expenditures in the military budget next year will be 4.5% of GDP.  For comparison:  in the U.S. about 3.5% of GDP is spent on defense.’  Rodyukov draws attention to the fact that in Russia wars are not foreseen in the near future.  But spending on defense will be very great.  ‘This will lead to increased problems in the economy.  Or is there a possibility that militarization simply won’t occur, and this means the military’s negative attitude in society will exacerbate further.’ Rodyukov supposes.”

Popovkin Details the GPV

Yesterday First Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin gave RIA Novosti more details on Russia’s procurement plans under the State Program of Armaments (GPV), 2011-2020.  He said 78-80 percent of the 19-trillion-ruble Armed Forces portion of the GPV will go to procurement.   

Popovkin said Russia plans to develop a new liquid-fueled heavy ICBM to carry up to ten warheads, and having a service life of up to 35 years.  Former RVSN Commander General-Lieutenant Andrey Shvaychenko talked about a new liquid heavy as far back as late 2009, and the issue’s been debated in the Russian military press since. 

Popovkin said the Defense Ministry plans to accept the Bulava SLBM and the first two Borey-class SSBNs this year.  There will be 4-5 Bulava launches this year.  Recall to date only 7 of 14 Bulava tests have been successful.  Addressing the missile’s past failures, Popovkin said there were many deviations from the design documentation during production.  He also said Russia plans to build eight SSBNs to carry Bulava by 2020.  He was unclear if this includes the first two Borey-class boats.

Popovkin said work on a new strategic bomber is ongoing, and he claimed a technical design will be complete in 2015.  He said this work isn’t being rushed.

Popovkin told RIA Novosti  the Air Forces will receive more than 600 new aircraft and 1,000 new helicopters by 2020.  In 2011, Su-27SM, Su-30M2, Su-35S, Yak-130, and Su-34 aircraft are to be procured.  More than 100 helicopters, including Mi-26 transports and Mi-28N and Ka-52 combat helicopters will be acquired this year, according to Popovkin. 

Popovkin said a contract for the first ten experimental PAK FA (T-50) aircraft will be signed in 2013, with serial production of 60 aircraft beginning in 2016.

The GPV includes the purchase of ten S-500 air defense systems.  Popovkin said this system will begin testing in 2015, initially with missiles from the S-400.  Fifty-six S-400 units will also be purchased by 2020.  This sounds like seven 8-launcher battalions.   

Popovkin said the GPV will buy 100 ships – including 20 submarines, 35 corvettes, and 15 frigates – for the Navy.  He didn’t specify types for the other 30 ships, and it’s unclear if new SSBNs are included in these numbers.  Popovkin reconfirmed Russia’s plan to buy two and build two Mistral amphibious ships.  Recall also the Black Sea Fleet alone is supposed to get 18 new ships including proyekt 636 diesel-electric submarines, proyekt 11356 and 22350 frigates, and proyekt 11711 LSTs.

Popovkin also mentioned plans to buy a limited number of French FELIN soldier systems, with the intent of Russia producing its own version by 2020.  He looks for it to equal the advertised capabilities of U.S. and German equivalents.

Cross-Referenced Polls

FOM against VTsIOM on the army’s current condition:

Army’s condition            FOM    VTsIOM
“Very good, good”        8 percent 13 percent
“Average”      40 percent 44 percent
“Poor, very poor”      35 percent 29 percent

And Levada against VTsIOM on the army’s capability to defend against an external threat:

Capable of defending           Levada   VTsIOM
“Definitely yes, most likely yes”        59 percent 55 percent
“Most likely no, definitely no”        28 percent 30 percent

VTsIOM Defenders’ Day Poll

Some more polling results for the 23 February holiday.

VTsIOM polled 1,600 people in 138 inhabited areas of 46 regions, with a margin of error of 3.4 percent.

Some questions are similar to FOM’s and Levada’s.

How do you assess the Russian Army’s current condition?

VTsIOM doesn’t aggregate, so we will.  “Very good, good” is 13 percent this year.  “Average” is 44 percent.  And “Poor, very poor” is 29 percent.

Do you think the army is capable of defending Russia against a real military threat from other countries?

“Definitely yes, most likely yes” is 55 percent this year.  It’s interesting that the “definitely yes” answer is down to only 12 percent vs. 31 percent three years ago.  “Most likely no, definitely no” is 30 percent this year.

VTsIOM also asked for opinions about Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reforms.

Are you aware of large-scale army reforms affecting various categories of servicemen and aspects of service?

Thirteen percent say they know a lot about this.  Fifty-seven percent have heard about reforms, but don’t know what they’re about.  And 25 percent hadn’t heard about them at all until this poll.

What kind of effect will the reforms have on the army’s capability?

Nineteen percent think “positive, capability will increase.”  Thirteen percent said “negative, capability will decrease.”  Twenty-three percent believe “no effect, capability won’t change.”  And 46 percent found it “difficult to answer” one way or the other.

Levada Defenders’ Day Poll

The widely-respected Levada-Tsentr asked 1,600 Russians in 130 inhabited points in 45 regions its usual slate of Defenders’ Day questions reflecting attitudes toward the military and military service.  Its margin of error is 3.4 percent.

Are there military threats to Russia from other countries?

This one ticked up a bit this year.  “Definitely yes, most likely yes” rose from 47 percent last year to 53 percent this year.  It’s a little higher, but not way off the norm since 2000.

Is the Russian Army capable of defending the country from a real military threat from other countries?

“Definitely yes, most likely yes” ticked down a little from 63 to 59 percent, and “most likely no, definitely no” rose from 22 to 28 percent this year.

To serve or not to serve . . . would you want your son, brother, husband, or other close relative to serve in the army?

Respondents answered 36 percent yes to service, and 54 percent no to service. This was only a slight change from last year’s 34 and 57 percent – within the error margin.

If no, why not?

Interestingly, “dedovshchina, nonregulation relations, and violence in the army” declined from 37 to 29 percent in a year when, by every official account, reported cases of barracks violence increased significantly.

Should a family member serve if called up or look for a way to evade service?

Basically unchanged from last year, 46 percent say serve, and 41 percent say look for a way to avoid it.

Lastly, a question not asked every year . . . .

How widespread is dedovshchina and abuse of young soldiers by officers and older servicemen?

“In the majority of military units” has fallen over time to 39 percent, “everywhere” has declined to 13 percent.  These two answers together in 2006 were 82 percent.  “In a small number of military units” and “isolated instances” have both increased over time and represent 27 and 11 percent respectively this year.

FOM Defenders’ Day Poll

Time for the annual polls about the army.  And Defense Minister Serdyukov faces a sudden jump in the number of Russians who believe the situation in the army’s worsened during the past year.

The Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) conducted this poll on 12-13 February, with 1,500 respondents in 100 populated areas, in 43 of Russia’s regions.  The poll doesn’t list its margin of error.

Is the Day of the Defender of the Fatherland (23 February – Defenders’ Day) a special day? 

The yes and no answers – let’s call them two-thirds to one-third respectively – have changed little over eight years.  But those picking “difficult to answer” have increased from 5 to 14 percent over that time.

How do you evaluate the situation in the army? 

FOM shows data for the last six years, aggregated as “excellent-good,” “satisfactory,” and “poor-very poor.”  The number responding “excellent-good” has stayed low over that period, starting at 6 percent, going as low as 3 percent in 2006, as high as 11 percent in 2010, and resting at 8 percent this year.  All in all, pretty steady over the period.

“Poor-very poor” and “satisfactory” look like mirror images of each other over time.  The greatest gap between them was in 2006 when 71 percent said “poor-very poor” and 17 percent “satisfactory.”  “Satisfactory” has increased, reaching 42 percent last year, while “poor-very poor” was 33 percent.  In this year’s survey, “satisfactory” holds a slight lead at 40 percent to “poor-very poor’s” 35 percent.  This could be within or very close to the survey’s margin of error.

Is the situation in the army improving, worsening, or staying the same? 

In 2007, 31 percent thought “improving” to 11 percent “worsening.”  Four years later [exactly coinciding with Defense Minister Serdyukov’s tenure], the numbers are almost exactly reversed 35 percent say “worsening” and only 19 percent say “improving.”  And the 35 percent who say “worsening” is a real jump over previous years – 18 percent in 2006, 11 percent in 2007, and 16 percent in 2010.  In other words, the past year’s been difficult for Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry.

Respondents were also asked about some [possible] army reforms they would approve or not approve.  A few examples :

  • Extending the draft age to 30 . . . Approve – 18 percent, disapprove – 67 percent.
  • Removing deferments from students . . . Approve – 29 percent, disapprove – 57 percent.
  • Reducing the number of officers . . . Approve – 24 percent, disapprove – 52 percent.
  • Transferring the army to a contract basis, ending the draft . . . Approve – 51 percent, disapprove – 32 percent.