Walking Back Serdyukov’s Personnel Policies (Part II)

Medvedev in Meeting on Military Pay (photo: Kremlin.ru)

So officers were cut too drastically, and their numbers are going to be increased.

One recalls Ilya Kramnik saying officer cuts were causing serious tension in the ranks.  As if to prove the point, on Wednesday, near Novosibirsk, a drunken major living outside the “shtat” threatened to blow up his room in the unit’s dormitory.  This summer Aleksey Nikolskiy said halving officers caused trouble for brigades in the Vostok-2010 exercise.

But it’s not just an officer shortage that’s led to this policy reversal.  Difficulties with conscription and sergeants have forced the Defense Ministry to plug holes with more officers. 

Aleksandr Sharavin talked to BFM.ru about the situation:

“I think this is connected with the fact that now the situation in the army is very tense.  They cut officers from 450 thousand [sic] to 150.  They cut warrant officers completely, and professional sergeants aren’t appearing, we didn’t train them, and still can’t do this.  What we’ve got is a lot of conscript soldiers, few contractees, generally no professional sergeants, and a triple load laid on the remaining officers.  Now we have to compensate by increasing the number of officers.”  

Increasing the officer ranks wasn’t the only personnel policy reversal announced on 2 February.  A preliminary decision to increase contractees in the Armed Forces was also discussed.  Serdyukov said:

“This issue isn’t finally decided, but we have a proposal for an increase.  The Security Council was ordered to review this issue, in the course of the month a concrete figure – how much the number of contractees will be increased from 2012 – will be determined.”     

Utro.ru entitled it’s coverage of this story “Army Reform Reversed,” and reminded readers that army contract service was curtailed last winter because the military couldn’t afford it.  And now apparently it can?

We don’t know how many contract sergeants might be added starting next year.  In fact, no one seems to know how many there are now.  Newsru.com claims the army currently has 180,000 contract soldiers, sergeants, and warrants.  If that’s true, the Armed Forces are about 900,000.  But if there are fewer contractees, and conscripts are less than 560,000, then the Armed Forces are that much below 900,000.

Can an about-face on the elimination of warrant officers be far behind?

As early as 27 January, Rossiyskaya gazeta reported Deputy Defense Minister Pankov said some cadets might be inducted into VVUZy in 2011.  It was just back in the fall that the Defense Ministry put a two-year moratorium on them.  As it is, VVUZy now have about 45,000 cadets in the classes of 2011, 2012, and 2013.

But the Defense Ministry is looking at having these would-be officers join 5,000 other former cadets as sergeants.  The Defense Ministry is talking about salaries as high as 40,000 rubles a month for professional NCOs.  But current NCO training efforts in VVUZy are going very slowly, and the army wants 250,000 of them, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta.

Let’s return for a bit to Medvedev’s Tuesday session on raising pay for servicemen and law enforcement.  We’re talking Defense Ministry, MVD, MChS, FSB, FSO, and SVR here.  Men with ranks, badges, and guns.  Medvedev called higher pay for them:

“. . . an issue of state importance.  In the last analysis, our efforts to reform the Armed Forces, create a new profile of the Armed Forces and, of course, reform the system of law enforcement organs, including reforming the Internal Affairs Ministry and creating police depend on it.”

The Defense Ministry is talking median pay of 50,000 rubles a month for lieutenants starting in 2012.  Just a sampling . . . a cadet would get 18,200, a contract soldier 24,800, a squad sergeant 34,600, and a brigade commander 93,800 rubles per month.

NG’s Vladimir Mukhin reports the Finance Ministry believes the new military pay plan will cost another 1 percent of Russia’s GDP, taking the defense budget from nearly 3 to nearly 4 percent of GDP.  All this while the government wonders whether outyear budgets will be in deficit or not.

The last couple days represent the first major defeat for Serdyukov.  His military personnel policies are a complete and utter shambles.  Political analyst Aleksey Mukhin commented to BFM.ru on Defense Minister Serdyukov’s prospects: 

“ It’s fully possible that soon they’ll call him enemy No. 1 for the reform which is being conducted.”

If they don’t already.  One guesses he’ll keep his post though.

So after flirting briefly with paying relatively few officers more money, the Defense Ministry’s going to pay more officers more money instead.  And this is more officers at the same time President Medvedev’s ordered a 20 percent cut in government bureaucracy.

The fact is military reform’s gone beyond the military now and become more of a factor in domestic politics.  Vlasti are just a bit nervous about social stability in the runup to elections this year and next, and are also a little worried about the guys with the guns.  For the regime, the extra money is worth keeping 70,000 potential ex-officer opponents out of the streets.  It may feel this provides some insurance that the guys with guns will do as they’re told.

As BFM.ru concludes, the Tunisian [or Egyptian] “virus” could spread.  And the terrorist threat is high.  So Russia’s leadership has to think about an effective and combat capable army.

Commentator Sergey Markov told BFM.ru that the regime wants to increase the number of officers who can fight, but it will continue cutting those in support functions and replacing them with civilians:

“But everyone understands perfectly that you can’t do without a real combat force.”

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One response to “Walking Back Serdyukov’s Personnel Policies (Part II)

  1. Fantastic piece! As far as I can tell, you’re the first and only one to call it (accurately, I think): Serdyukov’s personnel reforms have failed.

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