Category Archives: Military Housing

Today We Are Stronger

shoygu-and-putin-at-the-mod-collegium-photo-kremlin-ru

Shoygu and Putin at MOD Collegium (photo: Kremlin.ru)

The year-end MOD Collegium fell on December 22.  International news agencies headlined what sounded like bellicose braggadocio from President Vladimir Putin.  “We are stronger now than any potential aggressor,” he said according to AP.

But his remarks were more nuanced than it’s possible to tell from that wire service quote.

His full speech to the assembled Russian brass is available here.

Putin featured Syria prominently, and indicated that Russia will take advantage of the greater demand for its weapons and equipment because of the war.

He listed force development priorities including “precision weapons, modern communications, reconnaissance, command and control, and electronic warfare systems” and strategic non-nuclear forces.

He noted that the SAP will be completed “by 2021,” effectively giving the military and industry all of 2020 (not just until the end of 2019) to reach its 70 percent modernization goal.  But he also mentioned “five years” to complete rearmament which sounds like 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and all of 2021.  The dates on the arms program are increasingly elastic as necessary.

Not surprisingly, Putin described a higher level of threat on Russia’s borders this year.

A complete translation of Putin’s speech follows.

“Respected comrades!”

“Today at the annual Ministry of Defense Collegium we will discuss results of work during the latest period, and determine near- and long-term tasks for the development of Russia’s Armed Forces and strengthening the country’s defense capability.”

“In 2016, the course of modernizing the army and fleet continued, rhythmically, and their reequipping went according to schedule.”

“The condition of the nuclear triad, which plays the key role in preserving strategic parity, was supported at the necessary level.  I note that the share of modern armaments in the nuclear forces is almost 60 percent.”

“The level of combat training of troops rose substantially.  The results of strategic command-staff exercise Kavkaz-2016 convincingly demonstrated this.  Its successful conduct increased the security of Russia’s southern borders, including from terrorist threats, and helped work out the organization of territorial defense in the Southern and North-Caucasus Federal Districts, including questions of supporting troops, for example their financing in wartime, that require coordination from many state organs and elements, including branches of Russia’s Central Bank.”

“I note also that four surprise combat readiness evaluations of troops took place in the course of the year.  They confirmed that units and sub-units could effectively deploy at great distances and in short periods of time to establish groupings in strategic directions. The Defense Ministry needs to analyze the results of the evaluations in detail and consider them in combat training plans for the future, and also in the organization of other measures of a similar type.”

“The potential of the Russian Armed Forces passed a stress test also in combat with international terrorists in the Syrian Republic.  The Syrian Army received tangible support, thanks to which it conducted several successful operations against militants.”

“I also note the great assistance which our Armed Forces renders to peaceful Syrian citizens.  Almost 800 tons of foodstuffs and medicine alone have already been transferred. I want to thank the leadership and personnel of the Armed Forces participating in the operation once more for their professionalism and courage.”

“Respected comrades!”

“In the coming year, the Ministry of Defense needs to concentrate on resolving the following key tasks.”

“First, to support the balanced development of all services and branches of troops, and to continue the assimilation of precision weapons, modern communications, reconnaissance, command and control, and electronic warfare systems.”

“It is necessary to strengthen the combat potential of strategic nuclear forces, primarily missile systems capable of assuredly overcoming existing and future missile defense systems.”

“Strategic non-nuclear forces also need to be brought to a qualitatively new level, allowing them to neutralize any military threats to Russia.”

“Second.  It is important to maintain the tempo achieved in rearming the army and navy.  To control the realization of measures in the State Armaments Program and fulfillment of the state defense order effectively.”

“By 2021 we need to achieve the established indicators of troop equipping with modern weapons and equipment at not less than 70 percent.”

“We need to make note that five years is not such a long period of time for such a large-scale rearmament program.  Any delay in fulfilling its tasks can cause a break in the production chain, which is then highly difficult to reestablish. Therefore sanctions for breaking contracts should be severe to the maximum extent. Meanwhile, it is important to effectively expose causes of violations and expeditiously eliminate them.”

“I note that essential measures to resolve problematic issues in the fulfillment of the state defense order have been taken at all levels.  On the whole, we need to keep the situation with the realization of the State Armaments Program and with the state of affairs in the defense-industrial complex under constant control.  You know we discuss these issues twice a year at regular meetings in Sochi.  This has already become a tradition which has been highly useful in practical work.  This year two cycles of such meetings occurred.  They allowed us to determine joint steps in the sphere of rearmament, and to support constant working contact between the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and industry.”

“Third.  We must closely follow any changes in the balance of forces and military-political situation in the world, especially along Russia’s borders, and simultaneously introduce corrections into plans for neutralizing potential threats to our country.”

“I ask you also to synchronize these plans with updated future planning documents.  Just a few weeks ago the new Information Security Doctrine of Russia was approved, and a little earlier the Scientific-Technical Development Strategy.  The milestones given in them concern all organs of authority, including also militarized departments.”

“Fourth.  The introduction of the newest training means and programs should be among the priorities of operational and combat training.”

“And last.  The effectiveness of employing Russian weapons in Syria opens new possibilities for the development of military-technical cooperation.  We need to use them to the maximum extent.  We know what kind of interest foreign partners are showing in modern Russian armaments.”

“Respected collegium participants!”

“One of the most important directions of military organizational development is increasing social support of servicemen.  You know how much has been done in this relation in recent times.  For example, since January 2012 the line for housing in the Defense Ministry system has been reduced 2.8-fold.  In 2016, 27 thousand servicemen were provided service housing,  and almost 20 thousand permanent housing.  Within the mortgage-savings system, 14 thousand servicemen obtained apartments.”

“It is necessary also to remember:  concern about personnel, and strengthening the social guarantees of soldiers and officers is important, the most important investment in the indoctrination of the young generation of defenders of the Motherland, and guarantee of the prestige of military service and the authority of people in uniform.”

“Respected comrades!”

“On the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, and on commanders at all levels, lies the special responsibility for the qualitative modernization of the Armed Forces.  I believe that in the future you will do everything necessary to achieve high results in combat training.”

“I want to thank the leadership and personnel of the Armed Forces for the precise fulfillment of established tasks, and for their conscientious service.”

“Allow me to wish you further successes.”

After Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s lengthy remarks, Putin concluded the session.

“Respected Sergey Kuzhugetovich, respected comrades!”

“In recent years, much has been done to increase the country’s defense capability. But, it stands to reason, much is still not enough.  The minister just spoke about this when he formulated tasks for 2017 and coming years.”

“We need to do much along the lines of strengthening the nuclear triad, perfecting the BMEWS system, in the Aerospace Troops [sic], still more at sea, and in the Ground Troops. We need to perfect reconnaissance and communications systems.  We still have much to do.”

“However today, given a very large number of factors, including not only military ones, but also our history, geography, and the internal condition of Russian society, it is possible with certainty to say:  today we are stronger than any potential aggressor.  Any.”

“At the same time, I would like to turn your attention to the fact that, if we were to allow ourselves for one minute to relax, to allow even one substantive failure in the modernization of the army and navy, or in troop training, the situation could change very quickly given the speed of events transpiring in the world.  We may not even notice.  Therefore, a very great deal depends on the continuation of our work, which began and has been conducted in the course of recent years.”

“I count greatly on you working in a coordinated manner, and being responsible for work assigned to you.  And, working in such a way, we, certainly, will fulfill all tasks which stand before us in the most important sphere of strengthening Russia’s defense capability.”

“I want to thank you again for your service in the past year and wish you success in the coming one.”

“All the best to you.”

“Thank you.”

So Putin wasn’t exactly bragging that Moscow is the biggest bully in the world, but rather claiming that, given Russia’s history and geography as well as its recent military modernization, the Kremlin can now be sure of repulsing any attack on its territory.  Assertions about evil U.S. and NATO intentions notwithstanding, what aggressor has designs on Russia today?  

Putin’s contention is a little abstract, lacking as it does any particular scenario or temporal context.  But it isn’t really as sinister as it sounded in Western media.

More to the point than Putin, however, is Maxim Trudolyubov’s conclusion from his recent op-ed:

“. . . Russia — with its renationalized economy and aging population — is now incapable of competing on equal economic and political terms with other major powers may have led the Kremlin to believe that it can compete only by other means — namely by displaying no hesitation at using force or covert influence to claim Russian greatness again.”

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More on the “New” Divisions

On October 21, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu announced that Russia’s three “new” divisions in the Western and Southern MDs will be the 3rd, 144th, and 150th Motorized Rifle Divisions.  The 3rd will be part of the 20th CAA and the 150th will be subordinate to a new army in the Southern MD.  The situation of the 144th isn’t as clear.  Some reports indicate it will come under the 1st TA, others say the 20th CAA.

In any event, recent press reports have forced the MOD to show the process of building troop facilities at Boguchar is under control.

Housing and other facilities for the 3rd and 150th MRDs will be completely ready by May 2017, according to Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov.  RIA Novosti reported on his recent inspection of Boguchar.  A civilian wearing two-star rank, Ivanov is responsible for military housing and base-related construction.

As noted previously, the 9th IMRB recently relocated to Boguchar from near Nizhegorod. Its transition to the west hasn’t been easy.  The 9th will become the 3rd MRD. It was the 3rd MRD between 1997 and 2008 before it was reduced to brigade status.

deputy-defense-minister-ivanov-in-boguchar-photo-mil-ru

Deputy Defense Minister Ivanov in Boguchar (photo: Mil.ru)

The MOD’s website provided a more detailed account of Ivanov’s visit to Boguchar.  It reported that, having seen the situation for himself, he demanded that the builders deliver three 5-story housing blocks for military families by spring 2017.  He continued:

“According to the contract, the construction of seven 250-apartment buildings by the end of 2017 is stipulated.  Now the readiness of the first three of them is 50%, the rest even less.  It’s essential to follow the work schedule strictly and complete the construction of these three buildings in the spring of next year.”

For their part, the builders assured that they would, and that they would finish kindergartens and sports complexes too.

Mil.ru’s version of Ivanov’s remarks is far less categorical than RIA’s simple assertion that everything will be ready next spring.

construction-at-boguchar-photo-mil-ru

Construction at Boguchar (photo: Mil.ru)

Neither RIA nor Mil.ru had as much news on the 150th Motorized Rifle Division. The former said it will be garrisoned in Millerovo, Kuzminskiy, and Kadamovskiy.  The latter reported its 5,000 troops would inhabit four unspecified garrison towns.

Big Stories of 2014

Just before Christmas, RIA Novosti took a cut at identifying the big military stories of 2014.

A daunting, but intriguing task.  Here’s what it came up with:

  1. Acceptance of proyekt 955 Borey-class SSBN Vladimir Monomakh.  That’s unit three.  RIAN also puts five pending Bulava SLBM launches, including from Monomakh, on its list.
  2. Acceptance of the lead unit of proyekt 885 Yasen-class SSN Severodvinsk.
  3. Construction of a new National Command and Control Center for State Defense.
  4. Acceptance of the Ratnik future soldier system.
  5. One-Time Monetary Payments (or YeDV) for servicemen owed permanent apartments.  It’s supposed to end the housing line forever.
  6. Flexible pricing in the State Defense Order.  Starting in 2014, some contracts may be for a fixed price while others will be figured on what was actually spent to produce end items.
  7. Formation of an aerobatic flying group with new Yak-130 trainers.
  8. State acceptance testing for the T-50 / PAK FA.
  9. Continued, gradual rearmament to the level of 30 percent modern weapons and equipment in all forces.
  10. Formation of 16 new medical companies (to expand to 50 over the next 18 months).  A special mobile medical (medevac) brigade will be formed in each military district.
  11. Conscripts from reestablished sports companies slated to compete in the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.

By way of context, here’s what RIAN predicted for the big stories of 2013:  end of explosive destruction of old munitions, Bulava / Borey / Yasen, Vikramaditya [ex-Gorshkov] handover, Putin’s promise to end the military’s housing problem, Shoygu’s pledge to turn MOD property matters over to Rosimushchestvo, Armata tank and related platforms, T-50 / PAK FA testing, creation of Concern “Kalashnikov” and the new AK-12, the Russian DARPA — Fund for Future Research, Oboronservis criminal cases in court, and Zapad-2013.

Interesting to consider how much (or how little) movement occurred on these issues last year.

Wind Blows Hard Across Iturup

Recently saw a compelling piece in Smartnews.ru.

Had not heard of the site, but its text and photos vividly convey the plight of the inhabitants of Russia’s unneeded military towns.

Military Settlement Gornyy on Iturup (photo: ovsiasha.livejournal.com)

Military Settlement Gornyy on Iturup (photo: ovsiasha.livejournal.com)

Five hundred residents of Gornyy, a military settlement on Iturup in the Kuril chain, have appealed for help to resettle them or fix their broken down homes.  Iturup is the northernmost of the four southern Kuril islands which Japan  claims as its Northern Territories.

Gornyy on Iturup Island

Gornyy on Iturup Island

Smartnews writes that the Ministry of Defense still controls Gornyy, but only in a formal sense.  In reality, it has “thrown away” these former colleagues.

Local authorities want to help, but don’t have a legal right.  They can’t spend money on territory still belonging to the MOD.  They aren’t allowed to replace drafty old windows in buildings under a regional initiative called “Warm Windows.”  The Sakhalin Oblast Duma has appealed to Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu on Gornyy’s behalf.

Forces deployed here, units of the 18th Machine Gun-Artillery Division, were withdrawn from the area, but residents remained with no one to maintain their apartment buildings.

A Building in Gornyy (photo:  ovsiasha.livejournal.com)

A Building in Gornyy (photo: ovsiasha.livejournal.com)

Those who could left.  Those not expecting an apartment elsewhere from the MOD, or with nowhere to go otherwise, mostly military pensioners and their families, stayed behind.  Those with jobs work mainly at nearby Burevestnik airfield, built when the Japanese still controlled Iturup.  They will probably become unemployed when a new airport opens on the Sea of Okhotsk side of the island in the not-too-distant future.

One retiree says the once thriving settlement is now like a cemetery.  Some buildings are completely empty.  Their broken windows look like eyes.  The wind blows through neighboring apartments.  He continues:

“. . . we don’t have street cleaning or trash collection.  But mainly, there’s no future.  It’s hard on the morale, it’s simply dying — the feeling that you served at the very edge of the country, protected it, and now no one needs you.”

Officials don’t even come to Gornyy because you can’t pass through it.  It’s the most remote populated place on Iturup.  It’s 50 km to the rayon center (Kurilsk) and the MOD owns the road and isn’t in a hurry to maintain it.

An oblast Duma deputy says:

“It’s not easy living there for the military, I have complaints from several:  the boys have left, there is no one to register them [as legal residents in internal passports], no one can get medical insurance, or even vote in elections.  So people live, although there is some infrastructure there — a school, kindergarten, stores, but they don’t want to live there.”

Local authorities do what they can, arranging traveling medical care for people in Gornyy.

But ultimately, Smartnews writes, neither Gornyy nor Sakhalin can decide anything, the MOD needs to make a final determination on its property and clarify the fate of those living in the settlement.

Some former military in Gornyy, however, still hope the MOD will deploy an S-400 unit near their settlement and revitalize it.

Gornyy is an extreme case, but still similar to that of thousands of other military towns as well as many neglected and forgotten civilian settlements.

Another Housing Deadline Missed

Or about to be missed.

Recall some background on Russia’s military housing issue.

In 2012, President Vladimir Putin publicly set his latest deadlines for resolving the military’s housing problems:  2013 for permanent apartments and 2014 for service apartments.  He just awarded himself an extra year on each.  They had been 2012 and 2013.  And 2012 and 2013 weren’t even his original deadlines.

When Sergey Shoygu came to the Defense Ministry last November, he faced at least 80,000 men, officers and former officers, in line for permanent apartments owed them on retirement.

The MOD says there were approximately 60,000 needing them at the beginning of 2013.

The Defense Ministry’s Chief of the Housing Support Department (DZhO or ДЖО) Sergey Pirogov has only been on the job about a month.  Previously DZhO’s deputy chief, he replaced his boss — Galina Semina — a Serdyukov appointee.

Sergey Pirogov

Sergey Pirogov

On 1 October, Pirogov told the RF Public Chamber that 41,400 servicemen will receive permanent apartments in 2013.  He claimed 16,200 already have this year, and 25,200 will receive them in November and December.

There is simply no way the MOD can put more than 25,000 in apartments during the balance of this year.  Despite Pirogov’s statement, there is probably no one who believes him.

Pirogov has called permanent housing a continually “flowing” problem; 24,700 new men joined the line in 2012 and 9,900 this year.

The MOD grapples with its housing problem using two instruments — apartments in their “natural form” or generally despised GZhS, State Housing Certificates.  It also hopes soon to make the One-Time Monetary Payment (YeDV or ЕДВ) a possibility.

If the Finance Ministry will agree on an amount, and the Duma approves some legislation this fall, the YeDV might start on 1 January.  It would be figured on the cost of a square meter of housing, years served, and household size, and presumably won’t be less than 3 million rubles and military men hope it’s a lot, lot more.

In mid-September, Pirogov effectively admitted the military department came to the idea of the YeDV in order to get around the problem of massive corruption in military housing construction.

He also appeared on Ekho Moskvy’s Voyennyy sovet program, and said:

“It’s perfectly obvious that the one-time payment to receive apartments is needed to resolve the issue at once.  Moreover, some universalism is necessary here, a universal mechanism should develop equal rights for all servicemen.  In our opinion, an exit from the difficult situation could be the transition to presenting one-time monetary payments, to acquire or build housing for servicemen, the so-called YeDV.  On what is this based?  Well, look here, according to those figures which the MOD leadership has more than once voiced.  Annually we are paying servicemen, at the disposition [of their commanding officers], a huge amount…  We can’t dismiss a serviceman before providing him housing, and are forced to put him in so-called disposition, and in this case the serviceman receives [rank] pay, he can use sanitorium-resort support, other privileges, given to servicemen, but he can’t be dismissed from the armed forces if he doesn’t have housing.  And in this instance, the MOD will spend up to 30 billion rubles a year supporting our servicemen.  It’s bitter to have to say that the problem of providing housing is long-running enough, and a serviceman can be at the disposition 5 or more years.  And here about that sum which I named, if we multiply it by a quantity of years, we get a simply enormous sum, which the MOD pays out fulfilling its obligations, this is the first conclusion.  The second conclusion is the resources which the MOD actually spends on construction are also enormous.  By any evaluation, it’s on the order of 30 billion rubles a year.  But consider that on average it takes 2-2.5 years to build an apartment block, half a year goes to the necessity of drawing up documents.  And it turns out that 3 years properly here this money is here, it’s hung up, it’s not realized so to say.  Yes, they spent it, on building apartments, they so to say laid it out in such a way.  But even the optimization of additional expenditures, particularly with apartment upkeep.  I also would like to introduce an example, in 2012 we had more than 10 thousand frozen for various reasons, not occupied by servicemen.  It’s natural so to say that these apartments require their upkeep.  But in this case, if we didn’t turn off or didn’t turn on the heat properly, this in turn means correspondingly then already essential repair to newly-built, but not allocated apartments.  And this sum here — it becomes in principle very large and very significant for the MOD.  And more than this, even the colossal expended amounts, about which I already actually spoke, deciding the question with housing construction, we aren’t resolving the problem.”

Lots interesting here . . . Pirogov talks pretty clinically about those left “at the disposition,” but it’s a difficult life for an officer living in his garrison on a fourth of the pay he had when he had a duty post.  And, Pirogov says, the situation goes on a long time and costs up to 30 billion rubles per year. 

Pirogov says the MOD has also been spending 30 billion on housing construction, including on 10,000 unoccupied apartments.  But construction hasn’t solved the housing dilemma.

Maybe the housing situation has improved somewhat, but, as Pirogov admits, it’s still a long way from solved.  And Putin’s deadlines come and go and come again.

Shoygu’s Inherited Dilemmas

Shoygu and Serdyukov

Shoygu and Serdyukov

Before Russia’s holiday topor fully enshrouded military commentators, Gazeta’s Sergey Smirnov published an interesting piece on the situation in which Defense Minister Shoygu finds himself.  There isn’t a lot of great comment on Shoygu yet, but it might be cranking up.  Smirnov looks at how the popular Shoygu could mar his well-regarded career while tackling the same accumulated military structural problems that faced his predecessor.  He writes about possible bureaucratic and personal conflicts with Sergey Ivanov, Sergey Chemezov, and Dmitriy Rogozin.

Leftover Problem One:  Contract Service

According to Smirnov, Russia’s military added virtually no contractees in 2012, but still has to recruit 50,000 of them every year until 2017 to reach its assigned target of 425,000.  The obstacles are the same.  Eighty percent of them don’t sign a second contract because the army doesn’t offer living conditions more attractive than barracks.  Undermanning is a related problem.  Smirnov says the military’s manpower is certainly below 800,000.  And Shoygu may have to acknowledge this problem.

Leftover Problem Two:  Bureaucratic Competitors

Smirnov describes Serdyukov’s conflict with Rogozin over the OPK and its production for the military.  He claims the “Petersburg group” of Sergey Ivanov, Chemezov, and Viktor Ivanov wanted one of its guys to take Serdyukov’s place at the Defense Ministry.  But Putin didn’t want to strengthen them, so he took the neutral figure Shoygu.

According to Smirnov, Serdyukov wanted out, and wanted to head a new arms exporting corporation to replace Rosoboroneksport.  That, of course, conflicted directly with Chemezov and the interests of the “Petersburgers.”  And Smirnov makes the interesting comment:

“But that appointment [Serdyukov to head a new arms exporter] didn’t happen precisely because of the big criminal cases which arose not by accident.”

Was Serdyukov done in for overreaching rather than for corruption scandals in the Defense Ministry?

Shoygu, writes Smirnov, was not thrilled at the prospect of continuing the “not very popular” army reforms.  Smirnov is left at the same point as everyone else:  will it be a “serious revision” of Serdyukov’s reforms or a “course correction?”

There’s lots of talk to indicate the former rather than the latter.  The new VVS CINC has bloviated about returning to one regiment per airfield instead of large, consolidated air bases.  He claims the Krasnodar, Syzran, and Chelyabinsk Aviation Schools will be reestablished.  He babbles about going to a three-service structure and retaking VVKO.  Shoygu will allow Suvorov and Nakhimov cadets to march in the May 9 Victory Parade.  He stopped the Military-Medical Academy’s move out of the center of Piter.  Other commonly mentioned possible revisions are returning to six MDs and transferring the Main Navy Staff back to Moscow.

Leftover Problem Three:  Outsourcing

Serdyukov’s outsourcing policy led to scandals, and didn’t work for the Russian military’s remote bases.  Gazeta’s Defense Ministry sources say the structure and activity of Oboronservis will likely be greatly modified or, less likely, Oboronservis will be completely disbanded if some workable entity can take its place.

Leftover Problem Four:  Military Towns

The military wants municipal authorities to take over the vast majority (70-90 percent) of a huge number of old military towns (that once numbered 23,000) no longer needed by Armed Forces units.  The army only wants some 200 of them now.

The local government wants the military to provide compensation to restore and support these towns, but the latter doesn’t have the funds.  The army is laying out billions of rubles in the next three years, but only to outfit 100 military towns it wants to use.  There is also the problem of who gets, or has the power to give away, legal title to this military property.

Leftover Problem Five:  Officer Housing

Shoygu, says Smirnov, has to solve the unresolved problem of officer housing, especially for officers “left at disposition” of their commanders (i.e. not retired but lacking duty posts and apartments).  The Defense Ministry still doesn’t know how many need housing.  Smirnov writes:

“Despite the fact that the military department daily reports on the handover of apartments, the line of officers retired from the army who are awaiting receipt of living space is not becoming smaller.  At present from 80 to 150 [thousand] former officers are awaiting the presentation of housing.”

More than enough lingering headaches for one Defense Minister.

Defense Policy Reset?

RF President Vladimir Putin last week held the first meeting of his third term to discuss military priorities with senior uniformed officers.

President Putin

He looked less impressive, and less in command of his brief in the video of his introductory remarks than on similar past occasions.

But he clearly laid out his main concerns for Russia’s top Armed Forces leaders:  training, Aerospace Defense Troops, rearmament, contract manning, pay, and housing.

He seemed confounded by the Defense Ministry’s failure to pay new, higher military salaries on time, and by the continuing lag in providing housing to servicemen.  He said his Control Directorate is investigating both situations.

Taking it from the top, Putin said the state of military training and exercises today is completely changed from past years when the Armed Forces were rarely active.  The president twice emphasized conducting joint exercises with Russia’s allies in the CSTO, CIS, and SCO.

His second priority is developing the newly created and reformed Aerospace Defense Troops.

His third is rearmament.  He repeated the familiar goal of replacing 30 percent of weapons and equipment with new generation systems over the next three years (2015), and 70, or in some cases 100, percent five years after that (2020).  And he added:

“I ask you to report promptly about all instances of breakdowns or incomplete deliveries, if you identify them.  Everyone participating in Gosoboronzakaz work must bear personal responsibility.”

The fourth priority is manning, and the earlier announced effort to increase professional soldiers in the ranks to 425,000.  This, he says, would increase their numbers two and a half times, reportedly from 170,000 today.  Putin made the customary comments about carefully screening and selecting enlisted troops, and giving them incentives to serve well.

Fifth and finally, Putin emphasized efforts to provide better social support for servicemen, specifically, this year’s increase raising military pay by up to three times, and his attempt to provide all military men permanent housing in 2013 and service housing by 2014.  He said:

“Sufficient resources have been allocated for this, the necessary amount has been reserved.”

“But I have to note that, to this point, there are many problems in the provision of housing and calculation of pay, unacceptable breakdowns and procrastination, open professional negligence by officials.  And even if on paper and in reports everything is normal, in fact in real life servicemen and their families at times encounter various kinds of bureaucratic procrastination, often with a formalistic indifferent approach.”

“I’ve directed the Russian Federation President’s Control Directorate to conduct a corresponding check in all these areas.  Unacceptable facts are being encountered, already in the first stages of this check this is clear:  this is both delays in the transmission of pay, and the impossibility of normally finalizing the paperwork for an apartment.  Fitting conclusions will be drawn according to the results of the check, and instructions will be formulated.  But today already I’m asking Defense Ministry representatives to report what measures are being adopted to correct the situation.  May is ending, and normal work with pay still hasn’t been smoothed out.  We already talked about these issues more than once.”

Where are outside observers left?

  • Training and exercises have increased as a function of more budget and fuel, but this didn’t happen until the late 2000s.
  • Aerospace Defense Troops are another structural reorganization, potentially a good one, not unlike other reorganizations since the 1990s.
  • Rearmament is a serious downfall.  Despite the Putin factor, nothing really happened on this score until late 2009.  It’s complicated by the difficulties of fixing a dilapidated OPK.  And, although there may be some favorable signs, success here remains to be seen.
  • Contract service is a second serious downfall.  Putin’s first effort to professionalize the army started in 2002.  The General Staff Chief declared it a dismal failure eight years later.  The Defense Minister revived it on an enlarged scale one year after that.  Demographic reality and draft problems leave Moscow no other choice.
  • Low military pay is a downfall.  It became more of a realistic priority with Serdyukov’s arrival in the Defense Ministry, but it was still five long years before the new, higher pay system was implemented.  And Putin admits how poorly it’s functioning.
  • Housing is also a downfall.  Despite progress since Putin first really addressed the issue in 2005, it’s still problematic.  And the president publicly moved back his timetable for a solution.

The downfall areas are problems requiring a long-term, sustained commitment to resolve.  Putin 2.0 is wrestling with the same military issues he identified back in 2000.  It’s still far from certain he can or will bring them to a successful conclusion.

This author believes there’s been progress on Russia’s military issues during the 12 years of Putin’s time as national leader.  But future economic or political challenges could derail progress toward rebuilding the country as a full-scope military power.

Is Putin resetting or rebooting defense policy?  Yes, at least jumpstarting it on key issues.  But a restarted or jumpstarted computer, car, or policy usually works (or doesn’t work) the same way it did before it stalled.  So this isn’t necessarily the path to a successful finish.  But no one ever said making and implementing policy was easy.