Tag Archives: Aleksandr Kolmakov

Disappearing Deputy Defense Minister Portfolios

Or who will answer for what?

On Tuesday, Kommersant and Rossiyskaya gazeta described, even if they can’t explain, Deputy Defense Minister portfolio changes.  The shuffling began in early July, when Grigoriy Naginskiy was ‘freed’ from his responsibilities as Chief of Housing and Construction but remained a Deputy Defense Minister.

According to a decree known, but not published, Medvedev removed General-Colonel Dmitriy Bulgakov from his post as Chief of Rear Services, while retaining him as a Deputy Defense Minister without specific duties.  It’s widely believed, of course, Bulgakov has taken charge of a new Material-Technical Support (MTO) empire that will encompass not only logistics but also arms and equipment supplies.

For his part, Defense Ministry Apparatus Chief Mikhail Mokretsov formally became a Deputy Defense Minister (no longer holding just informal ‘Deputy Minister status’).

Kommersant points out there are still eight Deputy Ministers (six are civilians).  A Defense Ministry source told the paper, however, that Bulgakov might be civilianized.  And his MTO organization will be part of the Defense Ministry’s ‘civilian component’ as opposed to its ‘military component.’  Kommersant says the ‘military component’ (planning and operational troop command and control) will just be the General Staff when the current Defense Ministry reorganization is complete.

Bulgakov has apparently indicated that MTO will have a planning and coordination department, a resource and transportation support department, Main Automotive-Armor Directorate (GABTU), and also repair-refurbishment and metrological directorates.  As announced elsewhere, ten new MTO brigades are to be established in the four new OSKs.  Recall that, in the same presidential decree on Naginskiy, Bulgakov’s rear services chief of staff Sergey Zhirov became Chief of the Planning and Coordination Department (read staff).

One should really look at Mil.ru’s ‘Leadership Structure’ page here.  In it, you’ll see Vera Chistova retains her clear responsibility for finance-economic work.  Bulgakov’s biography notes he became simply Deputy Defense Minister in July.  Naginskiy’s contains no similar notation though it could.  Then comes the oft-forgotten Dmitriy Chushkin who followed Defense Minister Serdyukov from the Federal Tax Service in late 2008.  He has no portfolio spelled out in his title, but his bio reads:

“Responsible for forming and conducting the Defense Ministry’s united military-technical policy in the information and telecommunications technology area which aims to increase the effectiveness of the command and control system, as well as supporting and developing its foundations.”

Mokretsov’s bio has a note that he added Deputy Defense Minister to his title in July.

The ultimate plan behind these moves isn’t clear yet.  But it does seem to go back to late June’s replacement of Kolmakov with Popovkin in one of the Defense Ministry’s two First Deputy slots.  More support functions were and are being consolidated under civilians, while purely military training, planning, and operations may now be more solidly under General Staff Chief, First Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Makarov.

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Popovkin for Kolmakov

A long-swirling rumor that First Deputy Defense Minister, General-Colonel Aleksandr Kolmakov would be forced into retirement became a fact this week.  Talk of this dated to March.  Defense Minister Serdyukov didn’t want both of his first deputies [Kolmakov and General Staff Chief Makarov] occupied with combat training and readiness, reportedly wanting to end this unnecessary division and competition.  More recently, Aleksandr Golts said Kolmakov’s and Makarov’s activities with operational troops intersected, even though nothing was ever heard about tensions between the two generals. 

Argumenty nedeli indicates Kolmakov more than once firmly, but tactfully, expressed his disagreement with Serdyukov’s reforms, specifically the elimination of warrant officers and the posting of excess officers in sergeant’s duties.

It’s not precisely clear who will benefit from Kolmakov’s departure.  The press largely assumes it’s the Genshtab and the main commands of the armed services and branches, but it’s no longer as easy as that.  Golts linked the Kolmakov change with the move to 4 military districts or operational-strategic commands (OSK or ОСК).  He argues that putting all ground, air, and naval forces under 4 operational commands would weaken all central supervisory organs, including the Genshtab and main commands.  As for Kolmakov’s Main Combat Training Directorate, it might move somewhere else, morph into something else, or simply disband.

Deputy Defense Minister and Armaments Chief Vladimir Popovkin takes his old portfolio and responsibilities to his new post as First Deputy Defense Minister.  So as much of the Russian media has noted, rearmament is an entirely new priority and job description for the First Deputy.  One wonders if Popovkin will even have a successor in his old position. 

All observers seem to agree, however, that the swap of Popovkin for Kolmakov and rearmament for troop training focuses the Defense Ministry on providing the troops what they need and the Genshtab and uniformed commanders on training them.  Read Kommersant and Rossiyskaya gazeta for more on this.

Popovkin himself told Rossiyskaya gazeta

“We decided to divide the Defense Ministry’s administrative and operational functions.  A civilian  channel is being created which will support the troops.  A second channel will conduct combat training, all troop activities connected with the operation and use of armaments and military equipment.  It’s been decided to withdraw purchases of armaments and everything else from the duties of the Chief of Rear Services and the Chief of Armaments and to appoint a responsible person who will order and purchase all this.”

This would all seem to connect in the person of Nadezhda Sinikova, whom Medvedev and Serdyukov recently appointed to head and invigorate Rosoboronpostavka.  Military men will continue to make their own orders and requests, but Sinikova’s organization will deal directly with suppliers.

Here’s what President Dmitriy Medvedev said to Popovkin on 22 June:

“Naturally I wish you success and hope that the sector you will coordinate, – this is, first of all, the armaments sector and military equipment and the resolution of a series of issues connected with the civilian component  in the Defense Ministry, – will develop successfully, and we will be able to realize this state armaments program which we are now coordinating.”

“This is a large-scale program, complex, intense, however, at this time, it is directed at establishing on the current foundation a modern, effective armaments system for our army, to reequip, and fully supply it in the framework of those priorities on which we agreed and which must create the basis for the development of our Armed Forces in the future to 2020 and even to 2030.”

“This is a large, complex task.  I hope we have forever gone away from the situation of patching holes in the Armed Forces, which was characteristic in the 1990s and the beginning of this century, and we have set out on a different basis of work.”

“But here methodical, scrupulous work is needed especially with military equipment suppliers because they are sometimes pampered and don’t provide quality, and very unpleasant price increases appear for us.  Therefore we have to hold everything taut, but at the same time acquire everything our Armed Forces need to be combat capable and well trained.”

Gazeta.ru asked to Deputy Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee Igor Barinov to explain what Medvedev was saying about the Defense Ministry’s suppliers:

“Prices on VPK products are growing out of proportion with the growth of inflation and taxes.  For example, the ‘Topol-M’ increased 2.5 times in 3 years, and a sniper rifle cost less than 30 thousand rubles at the beginning of the 2000s, but now the Defense Ministry buys them for 400 thousand.”

“Enterprises don’t want to reduce defects, they place incomprehensible prices on their own products—some places because of corruption, some places because of a lack of restraint.  It’s impossible to allocate money if a process of systematizing price formation doesn’t occur.”

In Vremya novostey, Pavel Felgengauer describes Popovkin as one of the drivers of the current military reforms:

“Popovkin was the first to begin publicly saying that the problems of the Russian VPK are connected with a large lag behind the West.  And he was first to acknowledge that Russian space system use large amounts of Western components.  Before him no one publicly talked about this.  And in 2008 Popovkin was first to announce that Russia will buy foreign military equipment, and not just components.”

An informed, anonymous source also told Vremya novostey that Popovkin is an “old acquaintance” of Medvedev and Putin.  And he will be the Defense Ministry’s real number two man, pushing Army General Makarov lower in the de facto hierarchy [of course, this overlooks the very good likelihood that Serdyukov maintains his own hierarchy based on his own team of trusties and it probably doesn’t include any ex-generals like Popovkin].

Popovkin’s official bio can be found here.

Karakayev Replaces Shvaychenko as RVSN Commander

Lots of action near the top of the Russian military pyramid today . . . 

General-Lieutenant Andrey Shvaychenko’s exceptionally brief tenure as RVSN Commander came to an abrupt and unexpected end.  He just turned 57 on June 18, and only commanded Russia’s land-based strategic forces for a little over 10 months.  His predecessor—Nikolay Solovtsov—served for 8 years. 

Already past retirement age for his two-star rank, President Medvedev and Defense Minister Serdyukov apparently decided to replace rather than promote him. 

The timing of Shvaychenko’s replacement is interesting and most likely not accidental, to say the least.  The Russians have swapped out a key figure just as they enter the process of ratifying a new strategic arms treaty with the United States. 

General-Lieutenant Sergey Viktorovich Karakayev replaces Shvaychenko.  Like his predecessor, he’s a two-star general, but 8 years younger.  He served as Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the RVSN just since last October.  He occupied RVSN command positions up to and including missile division commander and Vladimir Missile Army commander in 2006-2008.  

General-Lieutenant Karakayev

Somewhat atypically, he served some time as a department chief in the Defense Ministry’s Main Personnel Directorate.  He completed studies in the civilian North-Western State Service Academy before finishing the General Staff Academy.  He holds a doctorate in military science.  His full biography is here

Kremlin.ru provided the following excerpt from today’s Gorki meeting between Medvedev, Serdyukov, and Karakayev: 

“This is a serious position.  The functioning of our nuclear shield depends on work in these duties.  And of course, I hope that you will do everything necessary, everything dependent on you to apply your knowledge, your experience for the good of the country, to create the right RVSN command and control system.” 

“Despite the fact that we are reducing our nuclear arsenal, this must not affect the combat core within the limits of that agreement which is currently operative for us, and within the limits of that agreement which is in ratification.” 

“Generally, it’s necessary to do everything so that our Rocket Troops of Strategic Designation will be fully combat ready and can fulfill their established missions.” 

Karakayev gave a customarily brief response: 

“Comrade Supreme Commander-in-Chief, I will not fail.” 

Pervyy kanal covered also covered the Gorki meeting, if you’d like some video.  

The change in the RVSN may be a result of the bumps and bruises of reaching internal agreement to go forward with the new strategic offensive arms treaty.  Or maybe not.  But something’s clearly wrong; a ten-month tenure is clearly far off the norm.  Medvedev’s short comments aren’t much to go on, but they seem to say (a) Shvaychenko wasn’t doing the job the way his masters wanted; (b) the masters want an improved strategic nuclear command and control system; (c) the new arms treaty doesn’t threaten Russia’s nuclear deterrence capability and, therefore, is a good deal for Moscow; and (d) the RVSN Commander needs to focus his attention on the optimal operation of whatever weapons systems provided him by the country’s leadership.  And Karakayev indicated in front of the cameras that he’s on-board with all this. 

Armaments Chief Vladimir Popovkin also replaced First Deputy Defense Minister, General-Colonel  Aleksandr Kolmakov.  Popovkin seems to have accommodated Serdyukov, and fit well into the Defense Minister’s ‘new profile.’  The ex-Space Troops general seems to be the type of official the civilian leadership wants in its more civilian Defense Ministry.  He will keep charge of the weapons portfolio, and training and readiness accounts overseen by Kolmakov will probably go back to the Genshtab.  But more on this one tomorrow.