What Kind of Army?

Not again . . . but yes, Wednesday Trud asked what kind of army does Russia need in the future? 

It’s almost 20 years since the army ceased to be Soviet, and the paper asked five relatively independent experts the same question that’s been asked since 1991 –what is to be done about Russia’s Armed Forces?

Yes, it’s repetitive . . . it’s rare we hear something new, the problem is not ideas and initiatives, it’s implementing them.

At the same time, these commentaries are short and pithy.  They cover a lot of ground, and might be handy.

Korotchenko supports the Defense Ministry’s swerve back toward contractees, since there aren’t enough conscripts.  And he doubts conscripts are up to the task of handling modern weapons.  But he points to the need to end dedovshchina and other barracks violence to attract professional enlisted. 

Sharavin believes the big mobilization army is still needed, and conscription will continue alongside contract service for some time.  He wants more benefits for conscripts who’ve served, and he wants the sons of the bureaucratic elite to serve. 

Belozerov agrees recruiting 425,000 professional soldiers won’t be easy or fast.

Litovkin is harsher; he says there’s no reform, just back and forth on contract service.  He lampoons the current small-scale effort to train professional NCOs.  He ridicules thoughts of a serious mobilization reserve because of the lack of reserve training.

Makiyenko thinks a contract army is cost prohibitive, and the army numbers only about 800,000.  He likes the fighting spirit of soldiers from the Caucasus, opposes segregating them, but hopes Muslim clergymen in the ranks can restrain them. 

Igor Korotchenko:

“Of the million servicemen, ideally we should have 220 thousand officers, 425 thousand contractees and 355 thousand conscripts.   It’s true, not now, but in 10 years.  On the one hand, this is due to the physical impossibility of calling up more — there is simply no one to put under arms according to demographic indicators.  In the last call-up, the army took in 70 thousand fewer conscripts than in the preceding campaigns.  On the other hand, it’s simply scary to entrust those weapons systems, which should be purchased in the coming decade according to the state armaments program (and this is 20 trillion rubles by 2020), to people who were just driven out of the  sticks and into the army for a year.  Whether the Armed Forces want it or not, they are doomed to a certain intellectualization.  However, this is impossible if existing nonregulation relations between servicemen are preserved.  It seems that the Armed Forces leadership has started to understand this.  A program for the humanization of  service which also aims to remove the problem of dodging service (about 200 thousand men) has appeared.  Now in the Ryazan VDV School the first graduating class of professional sergeants is finishing the three-year course of study.  The eradication of nonregulation relations is connected directly with them.”

Aleksandr Sharavin:

“What kind of army to have is determined primarily by the country’s geographic situation.  If there is a potential threat to its territory from neighboring countries, we need a conscript army, through which a large mass of young men pass and allows for having a great mobilization reserve as a result.  If there is no threat, we can limit ourselves to professionals.  Russia has such threats — look closely at the map!”

“Is the transition to a professional army possible in Russia?  I suggest it’s possible, but not necessary. According to the Supreme CINC, we will transition to a new profile of the Armed Forces in 10-15 years.  For this or an even more extended period, conscription will remain.  Possibly in a much easier form — they will serve, not a year, or will call-up not 200 and some thousand, as now, but only 170 thousand men.  In the future, it would do to reduce even this number.  Moreover, reducing it will allow a certain selection and thereby improve the quality of the young men conscripted into the army.”

“In my view, a serving citizen [conscript] can’t receive the current 500 rubles [per month].  Hard military work should be well-paid, otherwise it is objectively devalued.  The rate — not lower than the country’s minimum wage!  We also need to think about other stimuli:  free higher education for those who’ve served, some kind of favorable mortgage credit, and, most importantly, we should only accept those young men who’ve fulfilled their duty to the Homeland into state service.  No references to health conditions can be taken into account.  If there’s strength to be a bureaucrat — get well and find the strength to serve in yourself!  If we need to amend the Constitution for this, we’ll amend it.  Our neighbors in Kazakhstan went this way and got a double benefit:  improved quality of the army contingent and bureaucrats who are not so divorced from the people, as in Russia.”

Vasiliy Belozerov:

“If the political decision is made, it’s possible even now, undoubtedly, to establish a fully volunteer army in Russia.  But do we need this?  I suggest it will be correct and justified if the share of professional sergeants and contractees in the army will be raised gradually.  Since it’s unclear from where a quantity of 425 thousand professionals can be gotten all at once.  They won’t fall from the sky.  We have to remind ourselves that the contingent of both current conscripts and potential professionals is one and the same:  young men 18-28.  This means we have to  create such conditions that it’s not the lumpen who go into the army, but normal men.  And worthy people need worthy conditions.  And there’s one more figure:  based on world experience it’s possible to say that in a professional army in the year for various reasons (health, age, contract termination, etc.) 5 percent of personnel are dismissed.  This means that in a 425,000-man professional corps in a year we have to recruit an additional 20 thousand men.  They also need to be gotten from somewhere.”

Viktor Litovkin:

“As is well-known, the army should know only two states:  either fighting, or preparing for war.  For us, it is either reforming or preparing to reform.  Meanwhile, there’s still no clear presentation of ​​what kind of army we want and what government resources we are prepared to give for this army.”

“In Russia, there is no coherent policy on establishing new Armed Forces.  The fact is the Chief of the Genshtab says we made a monstrous mistake and the Federal Targeted Program for Forming Professional Units failed, therefore we’ll get rid of contractees.  A half year goes by, the very same Genshtab Chief comes to the podium with the words that the country, it turns out, again needs 425 thousand professionals.  Make the basic calculations:  for this number of soldiers we need to have 65 thousand professional junior commanders [NCOs].  And now in Ryazan we have 250 men studying to be sergeants, they’ll graduate next year.  Meanwhile, there’s no data that they’ve selected the next course.  Has anyone thought about this?  And one more thing.  When we say that we need the call-up to create a trained reserve, this is self-deception.  The reserves are so unprepared!  Suppose we trained a soldiers for a year to drive a tank.  What next?  Once or twice a week after work this mechanic-driver has to work on the trainer at the voyenkomat, and every six months — drive a real tank on the range.  Otherwise, in case of war, we get not a trained reserve, but several million 40-year-old guys with beer guts who’ve forgotten which end the machine gun fires from.”

Konstantin Makiyenko:

“In my opinion, the transition to a professional army in Russia is desirable, but absolutely impossible.  A contract army is actually substantially more expensive than a conscript one.  Another thing, our announced one-million-man [army], in my view, likely doesn’t number 800 thousand men.  We have to talk about yet another problem — the coexistence of conscripts from the Caucasus and other regions in the army. Everyone remembers the wild incident, when these guys laid out the word ‘Kavkaz’ using conscripts of other nationalities.  But, on the other hand, conscripts from Dagestan, Chechnya or Kabardino-Balkaria, as a rule, stand-out for the best physical preparation and desire to learn about weapons.  Once the idea was floated to have Caucasians serve in some units, and Russians in others.  At the last session of the Defense Ministry’s Public Council, it was announced that this won’t be.  It was decided to refrain from creating monoethnic military formations of the ‘wild division’ type from the Tsarist Army.  Contradictions between conscripts called up from the Caucasus and other regions of the country will be removed by introducing the institution of military clergy of the Islamic persuasion.”

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