Tag Archives: 138th MRB

Winners and Losers in Organizing New MDs and Armies

Today a Ground Troops spokesman told ITAR-TASS three current Leningrad Military District (MD) brigades will form a 6th Combined Arms Army (CAA) in the new Western MD.  The 200th, 138th, and 25th Motorized Rifle Brigades will comprise the new army, and its headquarters will probably be Agalatovo, just north of St. Petersburg.  The spokesman also said a surface-to-air missile brigade and independent engineering brigade will be added to the Western MD.

These comments came in conjunction with a visit by Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov to the region to check on the formation of the new MD.  The spokesman said Postnikov may be working on peacetime coordination between the district’s Ground Troops, the Northern and Baltic Fleets, and Air Forces units.  He said, in wartime, “everything’s clear – [the district’s] commander directly commands everything deployed within the district’s boundaries.  But there’s still no experience of coordination in peacetime and we need to get it.”

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin also wrote today that the third new CAA will be based in Maykop, Southern MD.  Mukhin says that staffs, commands, formations, and military units in the Far East, Siberian, and Moscow MDs are being liquidated in the shift to four new MDs / OSKs, and, as a result, several thousand officers will be placed outside the TO&E beginning 1 September.  He thinks many of them won’t find vacant posts, and will be discharged from the army.

Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry will also be putting some soon-to-be-vacant properties up for sale, e.g. Moscow MD headquarters (Polina Osipenko Street, Moscow), Far East MD headquarters (Seryshev Street, Khabarovsk).  The initial asking prices for these buildings and land will be several billion U.S. dollars.  As long planned, proceeds from these sales, along with the sale of the Navy Main Staff, military educational institutions, and other military establishments in Moscow, are supposed to fund construction of housing for servicemen as well as military garrison infrastructure in new army deployment locations.

Mukhin talked to General-Lieutenant Yuriy Netkachev about Maykop.  Netkachev says Moscow is resurrecting the army headquarters located there until 1993.  He believes Maykop was chosen to reinforce against threats from Georgia as well as threats to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

In the Central MD, Mukhin says the 67th Spetsnaz Brigade will move yet again, from IVVAIU in Irkutsk to Chita or Transbaykal Kray.  The IVVAIU building will be sold.

Mukhin sees Moscow’s demilitarization and moving forces closer to their likely operational theaters as the right policy, but asks if it’s underpinned with resources.  It has serious impact on servicemen and their families, and they’ve been forgotten in this process.

Mukhin quotes servicemen’s union chief Oleg Shvedkov:

“Continuing steps to transition the troops into a new profile supposes not only a significant cut in professional servicemen, but also their relocation to a new place of service.  And this means new everyday life problems are possible:  transfers, absence of housing, work for spouses, education for children, and the like.  The Defense Ministry is trying to resolve these issues on its own, but it would be more correct for the government to work on them through a special federal program.”

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The Trouble Brigade

Trouble at the Gate (photo: tv100.ru)

Things go from bad to worse for the LenVO’s troubled 138th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, based at Kamenka.  A possibly armed standoff involving Dagestan natives outside one battalion, a suspicious suicide, two noncombat losses in live fire training at night, the list goes on . . .

At mid-day Saturday, 20 men from Dagestan’s diaspora living near the area showed up at the gate of one of the brigade’s battalions in Sapernoye.  They were seeking revenge on a lieutenant, himself a native of Dagestan, for some unidentified reason.  The unit fired warning shots, and local police came and detained some of the men, and dispersed the others.

Newsru.com put the number of men from Dagestan at 40, with 18 detained by police.

A law enforcement source told Gazeta.ru that a dispute between a former contractee from Dagestan, living in area, and the lieutenant from Dagestan was the reason for the incident, but the nature of the dispute between the two men is unclear.

The battalion commander came to the group of men, and tried to talk with them, but after some talking they again tried to get through to the battalion’s barracks.  ITAR-TASS reports he was escorting two of the men to the barracks to try to resolve the situation when the others tried to enter the base.  The commander then raised the unit’s alarm, and warning shots were fired.  The nearest police had to come from Priozersk, 50 kilometers away.  Before the incident at the gate, there was apparently a fight between two groups of Dagestan natives at a school.  The Priozersk police deny reports that the group at the gate was armed.

The LenVO Commander reportedly came to Sapernoye and talked to local elders from Dagestan.  Locally registered residents originally from Dagestan apparently tried to stop this group of men who are reportedly unregistered ‘transients.’

In Sapernoye, they say the men beat battalion commander Andrey Myshyakov; he declined to comment, but said everything was fine with him.  Newsru.com reported that he suffered moderate head injuries after the beating.  ITAR-TASS also says he was beaten and hospitalized in stable condition.  Its source is the press service of the Military Investigative Directorate (VSU) of the RF SKP.

Gazeta.ru says that police and FSB military counterintelligence officers are on the streets of Sapernoye.  The investigation into this incident continues.

There was an earlier incident, in August 2005, in which two lieutenants found a conscript from Dagestan dressed in civilian clothes in a local bar.  When they ordered him back to the barracks, the situation escalated into nearly three nights of fights at the bar.  Four lieutenants were beaten, and the Dagestan natives apparently called for reinforcements from their kinsmen in St. Petersburg.

Also over the weekend, the 138th Brigade revealed the reported suicide of a conscript who was working as a bookkeeper for the brigade.  He had an honors degree from the Kaluga Budget and Finance Academy.

Investigators have reliably determined that he didn’t kill himself because of poor relations with other servicemen, and his family and friends say there’s no way he’d have hung himself.  St. Petersburg’s ‘Soldiers’ Mothers’ believe his ‘suicide’ could be connected with his work in the brigade’s finance section, where nothing happens without machinations.  They believe he may have learned about irregularies in the formation’s finances.

On the night of 8-9 April, two 138th brigade lieutenants were killed in a tank fire accident on its Bobochinskiy Range.  Apparently, a junior sergeant commanding a tank lost orientation and fired into the rear part of the range, directly hitting its central fire control point and killing the two officers.  A host of investigators continues to examine the circumstances.  The press noted a September 2008 incident in which an MRL fired off range, putting one rocket within 50 meters of a highway, damaging a vehicle but not harming its occupants.

Finally, the aftermath of sergeants beating conscripts in the brigade this fall . . . recall that the Defense Ministry did a vertical stroke on the brigade’s leadership for this, 8 officers were dismissed, but that’s not all.

It’s come to light since that, on his way out, the soon-to-be ex-brigade commander and other dismissed officers managed to receive hefty bonuses of 2-3 million rubles.  Officers who kept their posts got nothing.  For his misuse of his soon-to-be ex-post and the brigade’s finances, the former brigade commander could get 4 years in prison.

Winter War 2010

The Russian press has noted the 6 March article in leading Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat describing how a Russo-Finnish war might play out in 2010.  With the conveniently provided English, one can read for oneself.  But here’s a capsule version.

The imaginary war scenario begins with a Russian cruise missile strike on the Finnish Broadcasting Company compound.  Under the State of Defense Law, mobilization begins and the Chief of Defense becomes Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Defense Forces.  Russian fighter aircraft engage Finnish F/A-18 Hornets around Helsinki.  Finnish government entities evacuate to safer locations.  Russia’s motorized offensive presses across the Karelian isthmus, trying to reach the Finnish capital in two days.  The Finns respond with antitank weapons and German-made Leopard tanks.  Russian airborne are dropped in Helsinki to disrupt rear areas; fierce urban warfare ensues. Civilian casualties mount and noncombatants flee for Sweden.  The Russians and Finns are engage each other on the electronic front [but few details are fleshed out].

The war is decided in the air.  Russian air power overwhelms Finland’s 100 combat-capable aircraft.  But it’s no quick victory for Moscow, and the Finns receive lots of international support [it makes them feel much better to be sure].

There’s obviously a lot to question in the conjecture above.

Rossiyskaya gazeta from 19 March indicated that there’s buzz about the article in Russia and Finland, and people mostly want to know why such a ‘provocation’ has been published.  So RG asked the Finnish paper’s editor to comment, and he replied:

“In the last two months we’ve written a lot about the Winter War and its results.  And this article was part of that series of publications.  I want to note that in this material a fictional war scenario is presented.  Its purpose was to show how such a situation would develop if such a conflict broke out like at the start of the Winter War.”

“I’m not prepared to talk about what kind of war scenarios exist in the Finnish military.  This is exclusively their business.  We just published our view of an imaginary war.”

“It’s not possible here to say that we, in any case, wanted somehow to harm the relations of Finns toward Russia with our publication.  I don’t think it’s possible to do this with one article.  Or just the same draw Finland closer to NATO membership.  Therefore I ask you not to find any kind of secret designs in our publication.”

“I want to note that our material cannot be put in the same row with reporting on a Russian attack on Georgia from Georgian television station ‘Imedi.’  The aim of the story of our Caucasian colleagues was to shake up the country’s population.  In our material, we immediately indicated that the published war scenario was completely fictional.”

On 17 March, Argumenty nedeli criticized the author of the war scenario for not explaining why Russia and Finland would end up in a war.  Even in the Cold War, Finland was a better friend to Moscow than some of its socialist allies.

According to Argumenty nedeli’s defense correspondent Yaroslav Vyatkin, Helsinki lived pretty well off trade with the USSR from the 1950s to the 1980s.  But in the 1990s, an anti-Russian mood came over Finnish society.  Finland forgot about its role as bridge between East and West, and reoriented its economy toward the EU.  Some social movements actively agitated for Finland to join NATO.  Vyatkin believes the U.S. has stoked these sentiments in hopes of broadening NATO’s northern flank.

But, according to Vyatkin, Finns who want NATO membership don’t understand that the alliance can’t defend them, whatever it promises.  But he has confidence in the rational and calm Finns to make the right choice when it comes to Russia and NATO.

Then Vyatkin takes a closer look at the article’s military propositions and Finnish forces–about 90 Leopard and 65 T-72 tanks, about 200 BMPs and 800 BTRs.  BUK-M1 air defense systems around Helsinki (which it stopped procuring due to reported unhappiness with their poor resistance to jamming).  Vyatkin says the Finns’ F/A-18s and Hawk trainers would just meet a glorious death in close combat with A-50 controlled Su-27, MiG-29, and MiG-31B fighters. He thinks, though not strong, the Baltic Fleet is more than a match for the Finnish Navy.  However, he acknowledges that only the 138th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade and 76th Airborne-Assault Division are adjacent and immediately available for action against Finland.

Vyatkin tails off by noting that, although brave, and not badly trained and equipped, the Finns lose, but Russians and Finns won’t be fighting anyway.

Vyatkin’s assessment seems a bit overconfident.  Russia’s Genshtab surely wouldn’t be this sure of easily subduing the Finns, especially or hopefully not after what was nearly, in many ways, a debacle against the Georgians in South Ossetia two years ago.

Svobodnaya pressa talked to Leonid Ivashov’s assistant at the ‘Academy of Geopolitical Problems,’ Konstantin Sivkov, about the new Winter War scenario.  Sivkov calls it nonsense, saying it sounds like someone confused Russia with the U.S., since backward Russia’s not capable of such operations. He adds that he really doesn’t want to comment on such stupidity.  Sivkov’s hard-pressed to come up with any conceivable reason why Moscow would want to go to war with Helsinki.  So, he chalks this all, like the ‘Imedi’ incident, up to an effort to cast Russia in the role of an enemy, and to prepare for Western aggression against Moscow.

In early March, Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer published an article on northern Europe and NATO written by a candidate of military sciences, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Rocket and Artillery Sciences and the chief of the scientific-research department of the Defense Ministry’s Military History Institute.  The authors examined the possible negative consequences of Sweden and Finland joining NATO.  They concluded that Finland has been a true military neutral, but domestic political debate and swings in public opinion on joining NATO have become more pronounced since the late 1990s.  Some Finnish leaders have favored NATO, while others have argued for orienting more toward the U.N. or EU instead of joining NATO, which would, in their view, only add to international tension.  The authors note that, despite its formal military neutrality, Helsinki has taken practical steps toward more integration with NATO, including going over to NATO arms standards, conducting joint maneuvers with NATO, and using Partnership for Peace to promote military compatibility.

Regarding the ‘Atlanticization’ of northern Europe, they conclude that the region’s military-political configuration and balance of forces would change radically if Sweden and Finland joined NATO.  For Moscow, they recommend not only following the situation closely, but adopting a more clearly ‘multivariate and weighted’ line in relation to these countries.  It is noted that, even if they joined NATO, they might not agree to host foreign troops.

Finally, the authors say that Finnish military policy could have particular significance for northern European security in coming years.