Category Archives: Officer Corps

More on the Unwanted Apartments

Microrayon for Ex-Servicemen (photo: Podolsk.ru)

A Defense Ministry source tells Interfaks nearly 800 former officers and generals who served in the military’s central command and control organs are suing the department over its failure to allocate them housing in Moscow.

The news agency’s source says these men have a right to apartments in Moscow and are refusing the Defense Ministry’s offer of housing in the capital’s suburbs.  He says new buildings in Moscow Oblast lack infrastructure, schools, and medical services, and it’s difficult to find work. 

In particular, he notes more than 21,000 apartments are being finished in the close-in suburbs of Podolsk and Balashikha.  But many remain unoccupied.  The military department decided to build housing there in 2008 because the cost per square meter was 35,000 rubles — less than half the prevailing cost in Moscow.

The agency’s interlocutor says, in Podolsk, the military is building an entire microrayon with more than 14,000 apartments, and Balashikha will have more than 7,000.

President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov Toured Podolsk Military Housing in January

Interfaks added that Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova, who holds the housing portfolio, acknowledged in September that there are 8,000 officers awaiting housing in Moscow, and indicated apartment blocks might be erected on Defense Ministry property in the city.  At the time, she also suggested that many of those who wanted apartments sooner were accepting ones in the nearby suburbs. 

Exactly a year ago, Defense Minister Serdyukov said the military could not afford to, and would not provide servicemen permanent apartments in Moscow, according to RIA NovostiMoskovskiy komsomolets at the time noted that the Defense Minister’s order clearly contradicted the Law “On the Status of Servicemen.”  As this NVO editorial indicates, Shevtsova’s September statements on Moscow housing came in the context of the flap over 160 generals and colonels who retired, probably in the hope of privatizing a service apartment, rather than obey orders to rotate to duties outside the capital. 

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Makarov Reports to Public Chamber

Makarov Briefs the Public Chamber

According to Mil.ru, General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov reported to the Public Chamber today as part of its hearings on “The New Profile of the Russian Army:  Results, Problems, Prospects.”  Here’s a sampling of what he discussed.

According to ITAR-TASS, Makarov said there are 186,400 contract servicemen today, and there will be 425,000 in 2016.  Recruiters will work throughout Russia starting next year.  Prospective contractees will train for three months before signing contracts.  Minimum pay will be 23,000 rubles.  Makarov said 2012 will be a test year, and from 2013, 50,000 contractees will be signed up each year.

RIA Novosti printed Makarov’s stark assessment of Russia’s conscript manpower.  The General Staff Chief said, of all men liable to conscription, only 11.7 percent can be called up, and 60 percent of them are excluded for health reasons.  So, he concludes:

“Therefore we are practically faced with the fact that there is almost no one to callup into the Armed Forces.”

He said Russia’s current mobilization reserve consists of 700,000 ex-conscripts. 

Makarov suggested increasing the prestige of military service through a veteran’s preference system.  Former soldiers and officers would enjoy a priority in hiring for government service, according to RIA Novosti.

ITAR-TASS quoted Makarov on cuts in military command and control organs.  He indicated they’ve been cut by a factor of four — from 51,000 to 13,435 personnel, and this process continues.  One-third of C2 organs were disbanded, and the rest reduced in size several times. 

He indicated that, when the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus numbered 51,000, it occupied more than 20 buildings in Moscow.  The apparat is now in a single building.  Other buildings were sold off.  But Makarov assured his audience the effectiveness of C2 hasn’t declined because of the reductions.

Regarding the new pay system for officers, RIA Novosti wrote that Makarov said higher pay basically implements the old Order No. 400 on premium pay, but officers will still have the chance to receive extra “stimulus” pay under the new system.

ITAR-TASS printed Makarov’s figures on efforts to get rid of old ammunition.  According to the General Staff Chief, at the start of the year, Russia had 119.5 million tons of old munitions to destroy, but now only 7 million.  Less than one percent could be dismantled; the vast majority had to be blown up.  Makarov indicated the number of ammunition storage sites will drop from 161 at present to about 30.

Makarov defended his past criticism of domestic weapons and equipment by giving more examples where foreign systems are superior to Russian ones (i.e. tanks, MLRS, satellites), according to ITAR-TASS.  The general argued for increasing the range and service life of systems as well as providing better protection for soldiers operating them.

RIA Novosti reported Makarov intends to continue pushing for lower prices on arms and equipment the military’s buying.  He intimated there will be a “specialized department” for negotiating with producers.  He claimed shipbuilding contracts with OSK were concluded on the Defense Ministry’s terms.  He added that the military has given Almaz-Antey two years to build two new factories to produce the S-500, according to RIA Novosti.

ITAR-TASS relayed Makarov’s remarks on Russia’s airfields.  Makarov indicated Russia has cut from 357 military airfields down to 26 that he describes as meeting world standards.  Russia has eight air bases. 

He said pilot flight hours are at 90 per year.  He said it’s planned to increase them to 130 next year, and then to 220 at some point.

ITAR-TASS and RIA Novosti carried the General Staff Chief’s comments about threats on Russia’s borders: 

“Under certain conditions, local and regional conflicts can grow into mass ones with the employment of nuclear weapons.”

“The conflict which could occur in connection with the withdrawal of American troops [from Afghanistan] could lead to a local, regional and even large-scale one.  And we have to be ready for it.”

33,000 Unfinished or Unwanted Military Apartments

General-Major Chvarkov

Candor is a quirky thing.  It has a way of showing up in places you expect it least.  So it was yesterday when RIA Novosti covered General-Major Sergey Chvarkov’s meeting with members of the Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee.

Chvarkov is the relatively new head of the relatively new Main Directorate for Personnel Work.  The new name replaced an old one — Main Directorate for Socialization Work, GUVR for short.  Chvarkov and his charges are inheritors of the long tradition of zampolits and the Main Political Directorate.

According to Chvarkov, over the past year, military investigators have initiated 20 criminal cases involving the construction of thousands of unfinished and unwanted apartments intended for Defense Ministry servicemen.  But he declined to give specific details about the cases.

Deputy Committee Chairman Nikolay Sidoryak, however, said at present there are 33,000 apartments in various regions which are unwanted by servicemen.  He called this a “nightmarish figure.”  He wants those who ordered these apartments and financed their construction brought to account.  It’ll be interesting to see when or if this happens.

Early this year, a figure of only 20,000 was cited.

RIA Novosti gives a couple clipped Chvarkov phrases — the housing “isn’t fully ready,” and “a great number of refusals are happening.”  Then:

“I’ve personally seen buildings which stand in an empty field with absolutely no infrastructure.  Servicemen getting notifications that they’ve been granted housing go there, say the housing’s magnificent, good, but we don’t want to live there — we’re tired of garrisons.”

Committee Chairman Viktor Ozerov, for his part, says it’s all just a misunderstanding, and the Defense Ministry’s requirements for builders are just too tough.

RIA Novosti notes former Deputy Defense Minister Grigoriy Naginskiy claimed nearly two years ago that apartment construction was following detailed information on where servicemen want to live.

It would be easy to see the military housing issue as all but over and done with if one listened only to official political or military pronouncements, but reality just keeps coming back.  It smacks of a Soviet approach – fulfilling the plan and meeting the quota is what matters, how [i.e. quality] is secondary.  It makes one ask if this is more broadly indicative of how other decisions and policies are implemented.

Now permanent military apartments are supposed to be provided in 2013 (three years later than Putin’s original deadline).  And Putin himself said not long ago that there are only 77,000 apartments remaining to be built.

These unwanted apartments are exactly why some veterans have gone out for public demonstrations lately.  

It’s been clear for some time that the Defense Ministry builds apartments where it wants to, not where former servicemen want to live.  And it wants to build where it’s less expensive.  Paperwork problems have kept half of new military apartments empty each year.  And the problem of incomplete construction has also been around.  Not much about this situation’s changed in recent years.  But here’s one more recent article detailing the problems of permanent apartments built for the military.

Medvedev Signs Pay Law

Medvedev's Meeting on Pay Law

Monday President Medvedev met an unusual group — the Defense Minister, General Staff Chief, and MD / OSK commanders (but no service CINCs or branch commanders) — to announce he signed the long-discussed law on military pay that becomes effective on January 1, 2012.

The increased military pay in this law was a key goal for Anatoliy Serdyukov when he arrived at the Defense Ministry nearly five years ago.  Premium pay was just a stopgap.  So this is a success for his reform program.  His idea was to cut half (or more) of the officer corps and raise the pay of those remaining.  Of course, he had to back off somewhat on cutting down to 150,000 officers.

Why did it take so long to enact an increase in military pay?  Was it hard to find the money?  Maybe, given the global financial crisis of the late 2000s.  Was it hard to overcome former Finance Minister Kudrin’s resistance to higher defense outlays?  

Newsru.com, Svpressa.ru, and others see the pay increase as timed to coincide with Duma and presidential elections, and designed to engender the military’s goodwill toward the current leadership at the ballot box.  It’s worth noting the reduction in conscription from two years to one came in the context of the last national elections in 2008.

According to Kremlin.ru’s account, Medvedev indicated he wanted to congratulate those assembled on their long, hard effort to raise military pay to its new level, on average 2.5 or 3 times above today’s pay.  RIA Novosti provides the standard example of lieutenants rising from 19 to 50 thousand a month. 

In addition to higher base pay, the usual supplements will remain in effect, including additional pay for special duties, class qualifications, and difficult service conditions.  Premiums of up to three times base pay for outstanding performance will also continue.  Military pensions will increase at least 50 percent to 17,000 on average.  Read more about pay calculations here.

Addressing his small audience, Medvedev said:

“In such a way, servicemen have a very serious stimulus to carry out their service duties well and improve their professional training.”

He was careful to say those without duty posts (the so-called распоряженцы) won’t be left behind:

“It also includes important provisions, which, in principle, allow us to prevent worsening of the material situation of different categories of servicemen, citizens, dismissed from military service, their family members, if the amount of pay given them is reduced in connection with introducing the new system, then here there is an established mechanism of compensation and balancing out of these payments that is also an important guarantee of financial stability for our servicemen.”

Not reassuring.  But those guys won’t vote for United Russia and Putin anyway. 

The president continued:

“I won’t conceal that many drafts were ripped up around it, there were many discussions about whether we were prepared to raise pay to such a degree, whether the state had the resources for this, whether this wouldn’t drain our budget, wouldn’t create some kind of problems in the future?”

“I want to tell those present and, naturally, all servicemen of the Armed Force to hear me:  it won’t drain us, everything will be normal, and all required payments by the government will be made because this is the most important guarantee of raising the professional preparation of servicemen and improving the quality and effectiveness of the Armed Forces.  Therefore, the decisions, proposed several years ago, are being executed and put into action by this law.”

Thanking Medvedev, Serdyukov said:

“For us, in a complete sense, this resolves all earlier problems:  this is manning with both officers and contractees; this is serving; this is the attractiveness of military service, the fact is this is the entire complex of issues which weren’t practically resolved for us.”

Medvedev completed his remarks with this:

“But the main thing the state, by adopting this law, its signing and, accordingly, its entry into force, shows is that decisions once given voice are subject to unconditional fulfillment, whether someone likes them or not, if depending on them is the social condition of a huge number of people:  these are servicemen and their family members.”

“And further, we will do this so that our Armed Forces will be highly effective, and service in them will be prestigious and highly professional.”

So Medvedev declared it a test of governmental capability, and swiped at dear departed Kudrin who opposed the extent of defense budget increases in view of priorities like education and health (not to mention the pension fund).

It takes capability to implement a decision, yes, but it takes even more to stick with it over the long term.  Will the Russian government be able to continue the new level of military pay when the elections are over, economic conditions less favorable, oil prices and revenues lower, and budgets tighter?  That’ll be the true test of capability.

P.S.  We shouldn’t forget that the Defense Ministry has also semi-obligated itself to paying 425,000 professional enlisted contractees 25,000 rubles or more a month in the future.  That will probably equal the bill for paying officers.  Let’s estimate this total cost at 500 billion rubles a year.  The non-procurement defense budget in 2009 was only 670 billion.

Not Proud

Another telling, albeit unscientific, Internet poll from Krasnaya zvezda . . . the Defense Ministry daily asks, “Are you proud of the Russian Army?”

Not Proud

The results current as of today:

  • Proud, or most likely proud — 24%.
  • Yes and no — 9%.
  • Most likely no, or not proud — 64%.

Based on more than 1,300 responses.

It’d be really interesting to see the results of an open question on what exactly leaves respondents feeling proud or not proud of the armed forces.
 
We can only guess who answers KZ’s electronic surveys.  They could be serving military men, ex-servicemen, or dependents who want to gripe, and clicking the appropriate radio button allows them to record their unhappiness.  But it’s particularly interesting that KZ and the Defense Ministry are either unconscious of these somewhat embarrassing results, or are willing to leave them out there as is.  It’d be pretty easy for them to stuff this virtual ballot box.
 

Army’s Protest Mood (Follow Up)

You may recall Prime Minister Putin’s February trip to Kaliningrad, where he heard complaints about the lack of apartments and low pensions for ex-servicemen.  Today Besttoday.ru publicized video of the once-and-future president’s meeting with Kaliningrad veterans’ organization representative General-Major Kosenkov. 

Who knows where this clip’s been until now.  But, at the time, Putin’s handlers apparently decided it wouldn’t be good PR, and kept it under wraps.

The video’s become a minor sensation because it shows Putin dismissively ripping an appeal from former officers and soldiers.  Besttoday shows both a more inflammatory short clip, ending with Putin tearing the paper, and the longer clip above where Putin talks about raising pensions this year. 

As one blogger sees it:

“For the edification of those still expecting something from Putin.  You think someone is reading your complaint letters, petitions, etc.?  Then watch the video closely once more.”

“Enough with sitting by the TV and listening to cheap stories!!!”

A little context is needed . . . Kosenkov doesn’t associate himself with the paper he shows Putin.  It’s just an example, a warning about what’s being said and circulated.  We don’t even know exactly what it said.

Kosenkov represents a domesticated, acceptable group deserving of an audience with the prime minister.  Hence, the former general-major doesn’t bat an eye when Putin tears the paper.  But perhaps Putin’s just a little too quick to take offense at this appeal.  He didn’t have to look at it, or he could’ve just put it down without reacting.

At any rate, the Russian blogosphere is abuzz today because tearing the paper exemplifies and personifies Putin’s disdain for his uncontrolled, noncompliant opponents who are impudent enough to offend him with their manifestoes, placards, demonstrations, and disobedience.

But back to the army writ large . . . yes, parts of it are oozing some discontent, but they still generally don’t fall into the same category as political opponents of Putin’s quasi-authoritarian regime.  They just don’t have much in common with anti-Putin forces.

And Putin’s delivering on his promise to raise military pensions.  The new pay law just passed its third Duma reading.  It reportedly contains, on average, a 60 percent increase for retired servicemen.  This is supposed to take the average military pension from about 10,000 rubles per month (about the same as the average labor pension) to about 17,000.  And retirees have been promised semiannual indexation for inflation in the new pay law.

But one could point out that the new pay system will increase active duty pay by 200 and 300 percent, and will divide former and current servicemen financially, socially, and politically.  But suffice it to say that Vladimir Mukhin’s original article on “candy for the military electorate” was on-the-money.  

Parts of a couple quotes he provided bear repeating:

“‘In 2000, when Vladimir Putin became President, military pensions were on average three times more than civilian ones.  Now they are much lower.  Who stopped the current authorities from keeping our pensions at the previous level?'”

“‘[Increased defense expenditures] will lead to increased problems in the economy.  Or is there a possibility that militarization [i.e. rearmament] simply won’t occur, and this means the military’s negative attitude in society will exacerbate further.'”

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.