Tag Archives: Draft Evasion

The Sociological Center

Is the Russian Army's Combat Capability Increasing?

A nice find on Mil.ru . . . the Defense Ministry website has the Internet poll above on its front page.  If you click on Voting Results, you go to the results of all surveys conducted by the Defense Ministry’s Sociological Center.

To this particular question, 78 percent of respondents said its combat capability is decreasing.

Stepping back a bit, clicking on Sociological Center goes to a narrative explaining a little about it.  Its purpose is monitoring social processes in the military to work out scientifically-founded proposals on the morale-psychological support of military organizational development, training, and employment of the Armed Forces.  It also provides information support to commanders, staffs, and personnel officers.  The Center is charged with collecting data about the socio-economic circumstances of servicemen and their families.

The military opinion surveying effort has been around for a while.  During the first big push for contract service beginning in 2003, Defense Ministry pollsters actively asked contractees, or prospective ones, what attracted or discouraged them from signing up.

We’re not told how or when these survey questions were asked.  They’re likely Internet polls rather than more scientific random sampling. 

But one still admires the brutal honesty of publishing these results.  They don’t accord with what Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov wants to see or hear three years after launching military reform.  They indicate how far the Russians have to go to turn around the perception, if not the reality, of life in the Armed Forces.  At the same time, getting feedback is a critical step in correcting their problems.

Your author has regrouped the survey results on various questions thematically.  In the interests of brevity, only the answer with the highest percentage is shown.

Let’s start with other combat capability-related questions:

  • How do you evaluate the Russian Army’s current combat capability?  72 percent said low.
  • Is three months sufficient to train a military specialist?  82 percent said no.
  • What effect is the humanization of service having on combat readiness?  71 percent said it is causing it to decline.
  • Are you satisfied by the media’s presentation of Armed Forces exercises?  75 percent said no.
  • How do you evaluate the present level of combat training?  74 percent said poor.
  • Can the Armed Forces reliably guarantee Russia’s security?  81 percent said no.
  • Is there now a military threat to Russia from other countries?  79 percent said yes.

Some very general questions:

  • Do you approve of the Russian Army’s activity?  62 percent said no.
  • How do you feel when you talk about the Armed Forces?  52 percent said negative.
  • Is it necessary for the media to discuss negative events in the Armed Forces?  75 percent said yes.
  • How does the media portray the activities of the Armed Forces?  64 percent said not objectively.
  • Do you agree that “A powerful army is a powerful Russia?”  80 percent said yes.

On conscription:

  • Should draft evaders be punished?  68 percent said yes.
  • How do you feel about draft evasion?  59 percent said negative.
  • Does military service promote striving for a healthy way of life?  56 percent said yes.
  • Would you want a close relative to serve in the army?  68 percent said no.

On law and order in the ranks:

  • Who should control the military police?  52 percent said the Defense Ministry.
  • Do officers have enough powers to keep order?  84 percent said no.
  • How do you assess measures to counter corruption in the army?  66 percent said they have little effect.
  • Is “dedovshchina” an acute problem?  62 percent said yes.

On personnel, pay, and benefits:

  • Should Order No. 400 premium pay continue or be discontinued?  80 percent said discontinue it.
  • How do you feel about rotating officers’ duty stations?  51 percent are negative.
  • How has Order No. 400 affected corruption in the army?  88 percent said it’s caused it to grow.
  • Is there a “cadre famine” in the Armed Forces?  83 percent said yes.
  • How do you evaluate the consequences of Order No. 400?  89 percent are negative.
  • Where should priests be located?  42 percent said in battalions.
  • Will priests help in forming healthy moral relations in the military collective?  55 percent said no.
  • How do you evaluate the effect of the military mortgage system?  74 percent said low.
  • Will higher pay in 2012 raise the social status of servicemen?  58 percent said no.
  • Will requalifying military arsenal workers increase safety?  65 percent said no.
  • Do military families live better or worse than people in your region?  77 percent said worse.
  • Are social guarantees for servicemen sufficient?  86 percent said no.
  • Has the prestige of the Armed Forces increased in the course of military reform?  59 percent said it remains at the previous level.

The responses on the army’s capabilities weren’t new.  One is surprised, however, at how negative respondents were on premium pay, how little they expect from higher officer pay, and the lack of any improved perception of the prestige of military service.

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Second Half of General Staff Chief’s Interview

General Staff Chief Makarov (photo: Viktor Vasenin)

Rossiyskaya gazeta published the second, less substantial, half of Nikolay Makarov’s interview yesterday.

On speculation that the one-year conscription term will be raised, Makarov said:

“No one intends to increase the conscript service term.  But in the Defense Ministry they are thinking of measures to tighten accountability for evading military service.  Today no serious sanctions are applied against evaders.”

Regarding the supply of young men for the army:

“. . . after the transition to 12-month conscript service the callup increased about two times.  But from 2012 the complex demographic situation in the country will add to the problem of manning the armed forces.”

So this is why the military is thinking about clamping down on evasion, which Makarov puts at about 200,000 for all draft-age men.

Asked about measures to make the life of military school and institute cadets more like that of other students, Makarov said changes in the order of the day will have cadets go to classes and exercises in the mornings, and they will be free in the afternoons.  He continues:

“Why do we have to lock cadets in the barracks?  We understand if a person consciously picked the military profession, this means he will study.  If he’s not sure of his choice, he’ll simply get filtered out.”

Makarov indicated the Defense Ministry is looking at having its new state-owned rear services corporation Oboronservis supply militarized security guards for garrisons.  Privatized security companies would relieve servicemen of all guard duty functions and allow them to stop taking personnel away from combat training.  He cites U.S. and Israeli experience in using hired security for these purposes.

Makarov reaffirmed that only professional contract soldiers will serve in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  He added:

“Even brigades in immediate proximity to the borders will be manned by professional soldiers to the greatest degree.”

That’s a lot of confidence to express in a professional contract service program that he’s deemed a failure.

Makarov indicated the ranks of generals have been trimmed from 1,200 to about 700, but he insisted all combined arms brigades with 3,000 personnel would be led by general-majors, not colonels.  He said generals had been cut in the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus, its main and central directorates, including the Genshtab, and the main commands of the services.  He concluded, “Now to become general, you need to serve with the troops.”

Makarov discussed the evolving training and promotion system for officers:

“Now a system has been built out where an officer after [commissioning] school can occupy at most a company commander position without supplementary training.  They can only be appointed higher through specialized courses.  Candidates for promotion need to complete them, take corresponding examinations.  And then they will pick the best on a competitive basis.  They will appoint them to higher positions.”

Under the old Soviet and Russian system, mid-career education and training didn’t usually come into play until an officer had commanded a battalion and was preparing to move into regimental command or staff positions.

Makarov said the new specialized courses might run 3 weeks for battalion chief of staff positions, or maybe several months for other positions.  He said the army would not be looking at keeping officers in certain posts for obligatory periods.  Some might master their duties in one year, others might not in five, he said.

Asked about whether Russia would accept French helicopter carrier Mistral as a ‘shell’ without weapons and electronics, Makarov said:

“The country’s leadership and the Defense Ministry have an absolutely clear position on this subject.  If a final decision on Mistral is made, then we’ll accept this ship only in a fully equipped form–with all command and control systems, navigation, and armaments.  The only exception is helicopters.  They will be ours.  Everything else must be done to their standards in full form.”

Asked whether the army would conduct reservist assemblies and even callup reservists for short periods, Makarov said no, conscripts are covering Russia’s manpower requirements, and reservist training assemblies would be kept at the level of about 10-15,000 men for the whole country.