Monthly Archives: September 2011

The Military’s Most Authoritative

Russkiy reporter published its 2011 list of the 100 “most authoritative” Russian people — ten each in society, business, bureaucracy, academe, education, medicine, law, military, culture, and sports.

Avtoritetnyy, of course, isn’t just a cognate; it can mean influential, competent, trusted, reputable, respected, expert, etc.

You can read about last year’s picks in the military field here.  This year’s military list includes:

  • Deputy Defense Minister Anatoliy Antonov, for knowing how to talk to foreigners.
  • Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Arkadiy Bakhin, for housing officers.
  • Sukhoy test pilot Sergey Bogdan, for testing the fifth generation fighter.
  • General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov, for disbanding the “Arbat Military District.”
  • State Secretary, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov, for reforming military education.
  • President, General Director of RSK MiG, Chairman of the Board of Sukhoy, Mikhail Pogosyan, for developing the latest Russian weaponry.
  • Head of the Veteran-Military Chiefs Club, Marshal of the Soviet Union Sergey Sokolov, for 100 years in the ranks.
  • General Director, “Tactical Missile Armaments” Corporation, Boris Obnosov, for fast, accurate missiles.
  • Air Forces Senior Lieutenant Igor Sulim, for courage.
  • President, Academy of Military Sciences, Army General Makhmut Gareyev, for asserting the results of the Second World War.

It’s an interesting and eclectic list.  Clearly, many would dispute the names.  Some would say Pankov wrecked the military education system; others would say he implemented unavoidable reductions and consolidations.  Picking Makarov for breaking up the “Arbat Military District,” and sending more officers out to serve with the troops is also controversial, but he’s done something essential and long overdue.

Sokolov’s honored for his longevity. 

Obnosov’s interviewed in the lead article.  He talks about attracting and retaining young scientists and engineers in the defense sector, and about the OPK’s attempt to reach an understanding with the Defense Ministry on price formation.

Sulim’s a surprise, and a rather bold choice.

Only Makarov, Pogosyan, and Gareyev repeat from last year’s list.

RR picked Deputy Defense Minister, Army General Dmitriy Bulgakov as its goat of the year for the spate of deadly army arsenal explosions. 

The big “loser” Bulgakov’s in the same boat as some of the “winners.” 

He found himself in charge of a long-neglected and untenable situation, and he’s tried to fix it.  But many people will object and argue about his methods, the results, and consequences.

“Moor” GRU Changes

GRU Headquarters

Yesterday we got diametrically opposed views of the GRU.  Argumenty nedeli  argues the situation inside the GRU is a mess.  Rossiyskaya gazeta, however, defends the GRU’s exiting chief, General-Colonel Shlyakhturov and the reforms made in Russia’s military intelligence agency.

Argumenty writes that the Main Intelligence Directorate is being “optimized” into a simple directorate, and this is evidence that Russian military intelligence simply no longer exists.  To news about Shlyakhturov’s departure, the paper says GRU officers have Schiller’s reaction:  “The Moor has done his work, the Moor can leave.”  

A GRU officer tells Argumenty that the agent operations staff has been completely destroyed, and information “extraction” tasks are no longer levied.  “Radiotechnical” [SIGINT] and space reconnaissance sub-units that remain now take orders from more important armed services and branches.  Central staff and analytical sub-units have been cut to the minimum.  This month the General Staff Chief directed the GRU to dismiss personnel on age grounds where possible [maybe Shlyakhturov included], and rotate others to the military districts. 

And, the officer says, it’s been announced that in the next round of reforms in 2012 the GRU will become a simple directorate [rather than a main directorate] of the Genshtab, and relocate to the Genshtab building on the Arbat.  

President Putin Visiting the New GRU Headquarters in 2006

The officer tells Argumenty only rear support and cleaners will remain, and any of Anatoliy Serdyukov’s former tax inspectorate chiefs can manage them.  He says the majority of “the boys” actually prefer this turn of events, and have already found jobs in the civilian world.  He adds that the new GRU building on Khodynka will be sold, and it’s important not to leave secure comms and secret documents behind.  There were precedents for that, the officer joked bitterly.

If this officer’s version pans out, you can bet the GRU complex, and the Moscow real estate it sits on, will fetch a high price for the controllers of Defense Ministry coffers.

RG offers a more positive spin on what’s happening in the GRU.  Firstly, it says there’s no intrigue in Shlyakhturov’s exit.  It’s simply on age grounds.  The paper says the soon-to-be ex-GRU chief was well-respected, and implemented the reforms required of him. 

The fact is, it contends, the agency managed to avoid most of the changes that shook the rest of the country and Armed Forces in the past two decades.  It was organized in same way as when it was established in Soviet times [i.e. it was organized for the Cold War and World War III], and was naturally somewhat out-of-step with the state’s new “social-political structure” and needed to be changed.  And Shlyakhturov implemented changes that other chiefs [i.e. there was only one–Korabelnikov] couldn’t.

Instead of more than 100 GRU generals, according to RG, there are now only 20.  Spetsnaz brigades were cut and given over to Ground Troops reconnaissance.  And there were other changes either secret or understandable only to professionals [so much for civilian control].

Not all the transformations were palatable, RG writes:

“But the majority of cadre military intelligence men are sure that Aleksandr Vasilyevich conducted a completely unavoidable reform in the softest and most optimal form.  No one would have coped better with this mission than him.

RG indicates Shlyakhturov is in good health, and will likely take a post in a big business or serve as an advisor to the Defense Minister.

For good measure, the paper concludes:

“Intelligence men are sure that a competent reform of the Genshtab’s Main Directorate will be only beneficial, giving the GRU more mobility, and providing technical intelligence monitoring systems with the most modern equipment.”

All in all, it seems quite an apology for Shlyakhturov and the state of the GRU. 

GRU Turnover Coming

Izvestiya’s Denis Telmanov reported yesterday that 64-year-old General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Shlyakhturov is set to retire from his post as Deputy Chief of the General Staff, and Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).

Shlyakhturov went to the hospital at the end of last month [probably for his military discharge exam], and hasn’t returned to his office.

Genshtab sources tell Izvestiya that Shlyakhturov did his job – making “severe” cuts in the GRU, dismissing 1,000 officers, cutting from eight Spetsnaz brigades to five and resubordinating them to MD commanders, and making other cadre changes that can’t be discussed publicly.

In short, according to the paper’s source, Shlyakhturov implemented the reorganization his predecessor Valentin Korabelnikov reportedly wouldn’t two years ago.

One military official called Shlyakhturov a taciturn executive, who never once argued with Defense Minister Serdyukov and fulfilled all his orders.

The GRU Chief was also allegedly given his third star to up his pension as a reward at the end of August.

Ex-GRU Colonel Vitaliy Shlykov told Izvestiya the GRU needs a fresh face for its leadership:

“If the military leadership wants serious reforms in the GRU, it has to attract a person from outside.  But I still don’t see real contenders for this duty.  They’ve already searched several years for a worthy candidate.”

Typically, at this point, the press usually raises the possibility that the GRU might be headed by someone from the SVR, or even subsumed in the civilian foreign intelligence agency.  But Serdyukov was willing to appoint a caretaker from inside to replace Korabelnikov in 2009.  And the GRU falls on the uniformed side of the Defense Ministry where Serdyukov hasn’t replaced generals with his cronies from the tax service.

But let’s return to Izvestiya . . .

An unnamed GRU veteran told the paper the situation in the agency is close to critical:   

“The collapse of military intelligence, which has long since been the eyes and ears of the military command, is occurring.  The Spetsnaz brigades were cut, new equipment isn’t arriving, experienced specialists are being dismissed, only the young who clearly don’t know how to do anything remain.  Therefore, the new head of the directorate will have a lot of work.”

Surprisingly, the wire services got General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov to react to the Shlyakhturov retirement story.  He did little to damp it down.  He said:

“I still can’t say anything about this.  Shlyakhturov is our chief of the intel directorate and remains so.”

“We’re all old, and I can’t foretell anything.”

“There are still no decisions.  The president makes the decision.”

It may be, in fact, that President Medvedev hasn’t signed the papers yet.  He’s just a little busy after all.

Fact is, Shlyakhturov’s been beyond statutory retirement age for a two-star general (60) for some time.  This isn’t just a routine retirement on reaching the service age limit.  There are a few possibilities:  (a) Shlyakhturov has asked to be dismissed; (b) Shlyakhturov has to be dismissed for health reasons; or (c) the leadership is dismissing Shlyakhturov because it’s got a replacement. 

Unlike (c), (a) and (b) imply that (as the well-connected Shlykov intimated above) the leadership may not have a good candidate ready.  But another short-timer can always be found.

More Cadre Changes

President Medvedev’s decree on Armed Forces personnel from September 15.  Now we know he won’t be signing out many more. 

Appoint:

  • Rear-Admiral Valeriy Ivanovich Miron, Deputy Commander for Material-Technical Support, Pacific Fleet, relieved as Chief, Military Training-Scientific Center of the Navy “Naval Academy” Branch (St. Petersburg-Petrodvorets).

Relieve:

  • Colonel Andrey Vladimirovich Kuzmenko, Commander, 17th Guards Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, North Caucasus MD.
  • Mr. Nikolay Ivanovich Ludchenko, Chief, Military Academy of Rear Services and Transport Branch (St. Petersburg).
  • Colonel Yevgeniy Viktorovich Tubol, Commander, 59th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, 5th Army.
  • General-Major Sergey Valeryevich Chebotarev, Deputy Commander, 29th Army.
  • Colonel Roman Valeryevich Sheremet, Commander, 8th Aerospace Defense (VKO) Brigade.

Dismiss from military service:

  • Rear-Admiral Sergey Nikolayevich Barannikov.
  • Vice-Admiral Fedor Savelyevich Smuglin.

Rossiyskaya gazeta covered these changes.  Among other things, the paper noted Smuglin will head the external relations directorate of the Central Electoral Commission.  This had already been reported by ITAR-TASS in mid-August.

A Kick On the Way Out

We may see more stories of this type, the kind you see when the president is a lame duck.

Novoye vremya has an article  this week about what various observers expect from Putin III — reformer or dictator.  Military men see the question as a little off-the-mark for them.  The magazine quotes two of them. 

A General-Major S. from the staff of the Ground Troops CINC says: 

“We don’t discuss it in categories of dictator-reformer.  It’s important for us to know who is tsar in the country!  Putin is clarity.”

General-Lieutenant N. from the Genshtab agrees that Medvedev couldn’t be such a tsar:

“Personally, I always knew that we have one Commander-in-Chief.  And it wasn’t Dmitriy Anatolyevich.  In the midst of the Georgian events I tried to report to the president on the situation in South Ossetia.  So he interrupted me, he says, this isn’t for me.  Go report to the Chief.  From that point, in the Genshtab there was never confusion over subordination:  the VPK and Defense Ministry churn in a triangle Serdyukov — Chemezov — Putin.  The name Medvedev wasn’t discussed here and isn’t discussed.”

Interesting vignettes, especially the latter.  Such a state of affairs was generally suspected.  Then again, it’s safer and easier to say such a thing this week than last.

Su-34 Completes State Testing

Su-34

This week an aviation industry source told Interfaks-AVN that the Su-34 fighter-bomber completed state joint testing, and Air Forces CINC, General-Colonel Zelin signed off recommending state acceptance of the aircraft.  The Russian government is preparing the paperwork to this effect for release in 2012.

AVN also said the Su-34 will undergo additional special testing “conducted with the goal of broadening the Su-34’s combat potential.”  The report noted, in testing thus far, the aircraft employed 20 different weapons – including practically all Russian laser-, television-, and satellite-guided precision munitions.

One wonders if this “broadening combat potential” relates to outfitting the Su-34 with cruise missiles.  Lenta.ru’s Vasiliy Sychev recalled General-Colonel Zelin’s words:

“In its maneuver capabilities and missions it can conduct, it is close to Long-Range Aviation’s aircraft inventory.  If it carries a cruise missile, it belongs in a different class.”

According to Izvestiya’s Ilya Kramnik, there are 16 Su-34s in the inventory at present.  They first arrived in 2006.  The VVS are supposed to add six in 2011, get 12 in 2012, and reach 70 in 2015 and 120 by 2020, according to Zelin’s announcement at MAKS in August. 

Let’s recall a couple past promises . . . when Sergey Ivanov was Defense Minister, there were supposed to be 50 Su-34s by 2010, and 200 by 2015.

Kramnik writes that 120 Su-34s will be 70 percent of the fighter-bomber inventory, and some 50 modernized Su-24s will make up the balance.  Right now, there are about 160 Su-24M and 40 Su-24M2 in the force with their average ages in the 25-27 year range.  It sounds like about 10 of these aircraft can be modernized each year.

Lenta reviewed a little Su-34 history.  Conceived in the 1980s as a generation 4+ modification of the Su-27, it had its first prototype flight in 1990 as the T-10V-1.  It’s survived to this day, and been through many convolutions.

Henceforth the Su-34 will have a modernized AL-31F engine, the AL-31FM1 or AL-31F-M1.  See Aviaport.ru on it.  The Su-34 will carry new air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles on its 12 hardpoints.  It has new electronics, a Sh141 phased array radar, aerial refueling capability, and an updated L-150 “Pastel” radar warning system.  It also features an auxiliary power unit so it can use airfields without ground support equipment.

Lenta says the factory in Novosibirsk (NAPO) is modernizing its production lines to the tune of 2 billion rubles with some of the money reportedly coming from the state program of OPK modernization, about which we’ve heard little.  Putin talked about 3 trillion rubles for this over 2011-2020 back in April.

NAPO will give half its capacity to the Su-34, and will allegedly be capable of assembling 20 of them simultaneously, while cutting the time for repairs on other aircraft in half.

The news outlet lauds the Su-34 (rather obviously) as a new aircraft rather than a modernization of an aged one.  But then again one could argue it’s not completely new given that it’s been around, in one form or another, since the 1980s.

Kramnik, citing Konstantin Makiyenko, writes that a multirole fighter like the  Su-30 could perform the Su-34’s missions, but there’s some desire to send NAPO orders.  And the VVS, for their part, will take everything new that the aviation industry can give them.

Military Prestige

Russia experienced a drastic decline in the prestige of military service in the 1990s.  Generals, officers, and politicians have debated efforts and initiatives to resurrect it ever since.

The military’s prestige is represented or reflected in many things:  pay,  living conditions, budget resources, political emphasis, applications for VVUZ admission, etc.  But it’s still a slippery notion not easy to quantify.  One even occasionally reads that, in Soviet times, every girl wanted to marry an officer.  Not so today.

On February 23, 2000 [Defenders Day], acting RF President Vladimir Putin saw it this way:

“The prestige of military service has started to be reestablished.  The confidence and personal worth of people in shoulderboards has been reborn.”

“It’s not simple for our army today.  Perhaps harder than for other state structures.  Much depends today on the understanding and patience, on the continued patience of soldiers and officers.  And their wives.  On the feeling of responsibility for the state inherent in the military man from time immemorial.”

“I am absolutely convinced of the fact that we together will without fail restore the prestige of the Armed Forces, the prestige of the Armed Forces as civic-mindedness and patriotism!”

“I very much would like for our boys just as in former times to begin dreaming again of the profession of military pilot, military engineer, tanker, artilleryman, missileman, and for their parents to be sure that their sons made the correct choice.”

In late 2011, we’ve found out how Krasnaya zvezda’s readers see it.  The homepage of the Defense Ministry daily’s website has been asking its visitors about the prestige of the military for some time now. 

Is the Profession of Officer Prestigious in Russia?

And the results . . .

It's Not

Only 8 percent of 1,260 respondents say yes.  Only 12 percent say yes or probably yes.  Fifty-four percent say no, and 77 percent — three of every four — say no or probably no.

Not much progress in rebuilding the military’s prestige over the last 11 years.

Of course, it’s an Internet poll, it’s not random sampling, and it wouldn’t stand scientific scrutiny.  Nevertheless, it’s very revealing because it’s right on the [electronic] front page of the Defense Ministry’s newspaper.

Levada’s reported for some time on sagging esteem for the officer’s profession.  Last month only 6 percent of respondents picked army officer as the most respected profession in society.  Five percent picked criminal авторитет.  Only 2 percent considered army officer the most profitable career.

If it’s this difficult to make officer a prestigious profession, imagine how hard it is to make professional enlisted service in the Russian military a respected job.