Monthly Archives: December 2011

Medvedev Talks Bulava Acceptance

Medvedev Shakes Korolev's Hand

This post is admittedly as much about using a good photo and video as relaying something you haven’t heard.  But the visuals bring the subject to life a little.  At any rate, the lengthy Russian holiday season is upon us, so any post (even one with fluff) is better than none. 

Tuesday Russia’s lame duck President and Supreme CINC Dmitriy Medvedev greeted a group of military men — Armed Forces, MVD, FSB, SVR, and MChS officers — in the Grand Kremlin Palace’s St. George’s Hall to congratulate them on their new command positions or promotions to higher ranks.

Shown above are (from right) Southern MD Commander Aleksandr Galkin, Central MD Commander Vladimir Chirkin, Northern Fleet Commander Vladimir Korolev, Black Sea Fleet Commander Aleksandr Fedotenkov, and VVKO Commander Oleg Ostapenko.

Galkin and Chirkin are apparently there to mark their elevation to three-star general-colonel rank, while the latter three are now at new posts.  And Ostapenko’s sporting a blue uniform.  Didn’t the ex-Space Troops wear green reflecting their RVSN roots?

Kremlin.ru published some of Medvedev’s remarks to his senior officer audience:

“In recent years, we have modernized the Armed Forces in the most substantial way, optimized the structure and manning of the army and navy, improved the combat command and control system, and strengthened the strategic nuclear deterrent forces.  From 1 December of this year, new troops –Aerospace Defense Troops began combat duty, and in November a new radar station for monitoring air space in the western direction was brought into operation.”

“The army and navy have to resolve an entire series of missions relative to supporting the national development strategy and, accordingly, military organizational development during the period of the coming 10 years.  One of the most important goals is the technical reequipping of troops.  Our key priority remains further reequipping of the troops, and weapons and equipment of the most modern and next generation.  And of course, this task also demands the preparation of specialists, demands the preparation of personnel who will be fully capable of using this equipment as intended.  Therefore, it is important to guarantee the proper level of professional knowledge in cadets and young officers.”

“We are continuing the improvement of our armament, and our equipment.  In this context, I would like to note specifically that despite the problems currently remaining in the missile-space sector, nevertheless, we have just made a very important step:  we completed the flight testing cycle of a naval strategic nuclear forces system, I have ‘Bulava’ in mind.  This cycle, I remind you, was not simple, and went forward with certain problems.  Still our industry proved it can develop new, modern, and highly efficient types of strategic weapons.  One of them is the ‘Bulava’ system, which now, after all this testing, will be accepted into the arms inventory.”

Pervyy kanal covered the ceremony, showing Medvedev, three VVKO and/or Air Forces general-majors, a Bulava launch, and assorted siloviki, including Sergey Ivanov, Nikolay Patrushev, Rashid Nurgaliyev, and Aleksandr Bortnikov.

The first general-major wearing the blue uniform is Sergey Popov, late chief of air defense for VVS, now Commander of VVKO’s Air and Missile Defense Command.  The second couldn’t be identified by your author.  The third is Igor Makushev, Commander, 1st Air Forces and Air Defense Command (perhaps just the 1st Air Forces Command since the advent of VVKO).

But returning to Medvedev and Bulava . . . the Supreme CINC’s words unleashed minor euphoria about the SLBM’s imminent acceptance. 

For example, on December 28, RIA Novosti reported its highly-placed Defense Ministry source claimed a decision on accepting the Bulava-Borey weapons system is before the country’s political leadership.

But Medvedev didn’t say the missile is now ready to be accepted.  He just said it would be, and we already knew that.  Also, he never mentioned Borey-class SSBN Yuriy Dolgorukiy which must be accepted in tandem with Bulava for this strategic weapons system to achieve IOC.

Vedomosti’s Defense Ministry source was more on the mark saying Bulava “practice” launches could continue for some time. 

Going slow would seem to track with Defense Minister Serdyukov’s apparently unhurried approach toward Bulava at this point.  There have been reports that Dolgorukiy isn’t ready, and launches next spring and summer could come from Borey unit 2 Aleksandr Nevskiy by then.

At any rate, the Bulava program’s come a long way from the nadir of its December 2009 failure.  But this isn’t exactly the end of the road either.  Moscow still has to work out a reliable and well-controlled production run of some 128 missiles (and 768 warheads) plus spares.  Not to mention ramping up construction and completion of eight Borey-class boats.

Thank you for reading this meandering post, as well as others this year.  Your author wishes you a happy 2012.

С новым годом!

A Promise That Can’t Be Kept

Shevtsova Holds the Military Housing Portfolio

Yesterday a number of media sources picked up an Interfaks story in which a Defense Ministry source alleges the military’s program of permanent housing construction for servicemen has broken down because a whopping 78,000 new apartments remain unoccupied. 

Yes, that’s not 33,000 as announced a couple weeks ago, but a reported 78,000.

Moreover, the Interfaks source says 30,000 service apartments are currently in a dilapidated condition.

The source concludes:

“It’s possible to state that the program to provide service housing to servicemen before the end of 2012 will collapse.”

The Interfaks interlocutor adds that inside the Defense Ministry they’re currently trying to determine who’s to blame for the housing mess.

Actually, the service housing deadline is now the end of 2013 according to Prime Minister Putin.  The permanent apartment suspense is the end of 2012.  But perhaps these are mere details.  The larger point is that the entire effort to furnish servicemen — active and retired — with apartments owed them under the law looks like it’s set to fail next year.

On the heels of yesterday’s very significant stat, Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova talked to ITAR-TASS today about putting off permanent apartments for servicemen and retirees until 2013.  She also said the 134,000 apartments (that both Putin and Defense Minister Serdyukov have cited) acquired between 2009 and 2011 is actually 116,000 plus 18,000 to be acquired in the next three days (by the end of 2011)!

Bottom line:  The political leadership’s 2010 and 2012 military housing promises weren’t kept.  The 2012 and 2013 promises can’t be kept given severe problems with apartments already built and rejected by military men.  In sum, the military apartment imbroglio may introduce its share of complications into Prime Minister Putin’s plan to return to the Kremlin in the spring. 

Sergun Replaces Shlyakhturov

Press sources report 52-year-old General-Major (one-star) Igor Sergun has replaced General-Colonel Aleksandr Shlyakhturov as GRU Chief.  Not surprisingly, little is known about Sergun.

Izvestiya reports Shlyakhturov’s departure was in the works for some time, and Sergun took over the job on December 22.  The paper’s Genshtab source says Sergun headed an unidentified GRU directorate prior to relieving his predecessor.  Knowledgable outside observers who spoke with Izvestiya believe Sergun arrives at a difficult time, following reforms and personnel cuts implemented by Shlyakhturov.

While not necessarily a “youth movement,” Sergun’s appointment follows a trend of putting lower-ranking officers and generals in charge of key Defense Ministry and General Staff directorates.

Komsomolskaya’s Viktor Baranets claims Sergun is the first to head the military intelligence agency at such a low rank.

Novyy region added a bit, saying Sergun is 54 (born in 1957) and was a colonel serving as military attache in Albania in 1998, according to press from that time.

Serdyukov Year-Ender (Part II)

After talking GOZ-2011 and contracting with OPK enterprises, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov fielded Rossiyskaya gazeta questions on pay, military sanatorium-resort (i.e. vacation) benefits, apartments, contractees, opposition to reforms, and MPs.

He said increased pay will more than offset the loss of vacation benefits.

The military will have acquired 135,000 apartments by the end of 2011.  It will obtain another 25,000 next year according to Serdyukov.

He rejected any suggestion officers were deceived or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “set up” when it came to the original 2010 and 2012 deadlines for solving permanent and service apartment problems:

“No one was deceived.  You know the number of those without apartments in the army sharply increased after the transition of the Armed Forces to a new profile began.  The dismissal of servicemen accompanied this process.  Unfortunately, the registration of those needing housing was conducted badly.”

“Precisely because of this, the lists for the receipt of housing rose from 70 thousand to 170 thousand.  It’s understandable that a hundred thousand increase could in no way be “inserted” into the bounds of 2010.”

On contractees, Serdyukov said there will be 180,000 in 2012, and 50,000 will be added each year until the number reaches 425,000 in 2017.  He added the optimal ratio, in his view, is 80 percent contractees to 20 percent conscripts.  But, if financing allowed, he’d go to 90-10.  Conscripts will serve primarily as infantrymen in motorized rifle brigades where less technical skill is required.

Asked the usual question on resistance to his steps to renew the army, Serdyukov said reforms weren’t all to his credit; they were devised mainly in the Defense Ministry by uniformed officers.  He said he can’t say there was strong resistance but rather misunderstanding about changes being made.  Without prompting, Serdyukov identified personnel downsizing, dismissals, and officers placed outside the shtat [TO&E] as sources of opposition to his work.

Serdyukov claimed there would be fewer inquiries from Duma deputies if they visited units instead of relying on newspaper articles and information from the Internet.

Finally, for the first half of his interview, Serdyukov talked about launching Russia’s military police.  First, the MP garrison service will stand up, followed by disciplinary battalions and the military automobile inspectorate.  Troops from line units will no longer guard cargoes or bases, he said.  MPs will be responsible for order in garrisons.  He concluded:

“In my view, this will bring real changes in barracks life, it will fight barracks hooliganism.”

Serdyukov would say dedovshchina doesn’t exist, and he wouldn’t bring himself to say simply barracks violence.  But, in essence, he acknowledges that “real changes” in the barracks are needed. 

He said a Main Directorate of Military Police has been created and General-Lieutenant Surovikin will head it.  The MPs will have several thousand specially trained personnel, including possibly some officers now outside the shtat.

Serdyukov Year-Ender (Part I)

Serdyukov Watches Troops with President Medvedev

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov gave a two-part interview to Rossiyskaya gazeta this week.  It covers some contentious issues, but the questions aren’t exactly hard-hitters, and there’s no follow-up on his answers.  Nevertheless, Serdyukov as always puts out a steady and consistent message on what he, the government, and military are trying to accomplish.  Much of the first part of his interview concerned this year’s GOZ problems and the Defense Ministry’s difficulties coming to terms with defense sector enterprises.

Serdyukov says he’s been occupied for two years with reaching agreement on prices, deadlines, and quality for arms and other military equipment.  But, he says, now producers have no reason to complain because they’re receiving 80-100 percent advance payments for their work.  Some contracts for ships, aircraft, and strategic missiles are long-term ones extending to 2017-2020.  He adds:

“The fact is we are completely forecasting the entire future activity of a company for many years to come.  This allows for planning for expenses and receipts, training personnel, introducing new technologies, reequipping the production base.”

Regarding the tussle over OPK prices, Serdyukov says he’s told enterprises to give the Defense Ministry their production cost [себестоимость], and the military department will make production profitable for them.  Producers can have a profit margin of 20-25 or even 30-35 percent, but, he says, component suppliers will be limited to a one-percent mark-up.

Many producers (Sevmash for one) blame their suppliers for their own high costs, but it seems likely that limiting sub-contractors to a 1 percent profit is a formula for failure.

But Serdyukov has one condition for profits of 30-35 percent over the cost of production:

“The difference [10 percent?] has to go toward the technical reequipping of the enterprise, the purchase of new technologies and licenses.  And this will lead to lower costs or improved technical characteristics and combat potential of this or that weapon in the future.”

Later Serdyukov noted the Defense Ministry will compensate producers for annual inflation but production cost and timeframe will remain fixed. 

Then questions turned to the issue of foreign weapons.  Serdyukov said the Defense Ministry can’t buy Russian arms that aren’t up to world standards in price and quality.  Russia, he said, is interested in foreign systems so it can understand where it lags or has already fallen behind.  He described cooperative ties with foreign producers, buying licenses, and organizing joint production of entire systems or components in Russia as a way to get domestic industry up to date.  Serdyukov said foreign characteristics and prices are always part of the discussion of price formation with OPK enterprises.

Serdyukov told RG he doesn’t believe the Russian defense sector’s potential has dissipated despite the economic and financial difficulties of the last 15 years.  But now, with a 10-year GPV in hand, Russia has to restore the volume of defense production to the level of the 1980s.

He said foreign purchases were mainly small numbers of samples for the Defense Ministry to investigate.  It bought Iveco armored vehicles for explosive testing, after which Russia proposed to produce them jointly with Italy in Voronezh.

BSF Gets an Unsat

A BSF Be-12

Kommersant reported Saturday that Defense Minister Serdyukov presided over an unscheduled collegium at which the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) commander received a month and a half to rectify problems identified during an inspection this fall.

The inspection — conducted by Chief Military Inspector, General-Lieutenant Gennadiy Borisov — focused on the state of operational and combat training, the weapons and equipment inventory, logistical and medical support, and fire safety.  Kommersant’s source said the results were unfavorable, and there were deficiencies in many areas.  Serdyukov received the inspection report, and wanted to hear the BSF commander speak about it at the collegium.

A Main Navy Staff source told the paper two of three formations inspected at Novorossiysk Naval Base got unsatisfactories in artillery, missile, and torpedo firing, and mine warfare.  The 11th Independent Coastal Missile-Artillery Brigade and 184th Ship Brigade received comments, and General-Lieutenant Borisov also noted problems in the Naval Infantry battalions at Temryuk.

But no one got fired.  Serdyukov gave BSF Commander, Vice-Admiral Aleksandr Fedotenko, and Navy CINC, Admiral Vysotskiy, until February to remedy all defects before a repeat inspection.

On a related note, Monday the Defense Ministry announced BSF Naval Aviation bases at Gvardeyskoye and Kacha will consolidate into the 7057th Aviation Base.  The unified base will have ground attack, ASW, and transport airplanes and helicopters.  Press reports weren’t explict, but Kacha is the 7057th.  So Gvardeyskoye — the 7058th — will apparently close.

Somebody Finally Went There

Komsomolskaya pravda's Viktor Baranets

Yes, somebody finally went to a very obvious place — during this week’s “live broadcast,” Viktor Baranets called Vladimir Putin on his failure to solve the military housing problem.  You may recall this recent post lamented Putin’s “free pass” on the unfulfilled promise of apartments for servicemen.

Gov.ru printed the transcript of Putin’s on-air session with reporters.  In a friendly manner, Baranets warned Putin he was about to ask an uncomfortable question.  And he couched his question like this:

“Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin many times said to the army and Russia that the housing problem for dismissed servicemen would be resolved by 2010.  The problem is not resolved.  Not one minister has apologized to the dozens of essentially deceived people, and you have not apologized.”

“Don’t you believe it’s necessary to give some apologies to the people and tell them the honest, objective time when this problem will really be resolved?”

Baranets continues:

“I’m addressing you as a candidate for Russian Federation President.”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, it’s perfectly obvious that a number of ministers have failed in their work in strategic areas.  This concerns the economy, and health care, and the army.  Nevertheless, Vladimir Vladimirovich, you still to this time haven’t given a very sharp critical evaluation of the work of these ministers.  Why are you afraid to replace them?”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, if you will dispose of the untalented and throw talented, principled ministers into the battle, you can believe, the people will be drawn to you, reforms will go forward.”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, I am finishing my long speech and I want to tell you, you’ve already been told many times, why don’t you replace talentless, unprincipled ministers, who, by the way, are deceiving you.  They have really set you up when you talked about how the problem for housing the dismissed would be resolved.  They set you up.  This is a state crime, not just a crime against you, Vladimir Vladimirovich.  You need to make conclusions from this.”

“But if you have problems with selecting personnel, turn to us, we will help, including even me.”

Vladimir Putin Answers Baranets

After a little banter, Putin got to his answer.
 
Putin said his predecessor didn’t deal with the military housing problem, and, starting with those dismissed in the 1990s, the line for apartments just grew. 
 
His administration counted 70,000 ex-servicemen in need of housing, and handed out 111,000 apartments in 2008-2010.  But, said Putin, the Defense Ministry undercounted, and there were actually 150,000 men in the housing queue.
 
According to the Prime Minister, even though funds were available, the construction industry just didn’t have the capacity to build faster. 
 
In 2008, the dismissal of excess officers from the Armed Forces and the global financial crisis made housing military men more difficult.
 
But Putin concluded he still thinks the permanent apartment problem will be resolved by the end of 2012, and service apartment problem a year later.  He noted, however, that the line may get longer since there’s an issue of servicemen still waiting in municipal housing queues.
 
Then Putin turned to Baranets’ point about ministers.  Putin said he didn’t want to make them scapegoats since he is ultimately responsible, and cadre reshuffles mean lost months of work.  He said he prefers to straighten ministers out so they avoid mistakes.  Putin ended his answer by saying a time for renewing the government line-up is coming, and this will happen.
 
KP’s video of the Q and A is hereTV Zvezda’s is on Mil.ru.
 
So Putin’s defense against Baranets’ accusations of failure on the military housing problem boils down to claiming it’s a hard issue.  If able to follow up, Baranets might have asked why the Defense Ministry didn’t accurately figure the number of apartments needed or investigate the chances of getting them from Russia’s housing market.  Ultimately, this little repartee between once-and-future president and military correspondent is a small sign of how fear of Vladimir Putin has diminished.  It’s hard to imagine the same exchange five years ago.  Perhaps even five months ago.