Tag Archives: Kaliningrad

Where’s the Logic? (Addendum)

S-400 Launcher (photo: ITAR-TASS)

One shouldn’t ignore what doesn’t make sense . . . last week the Russian press reported again that the Baltic Fleet’s PVO units (Kaliningrad’s 3rd Aerospace Defense Brigade?) will receive their first S-400 launchers before year’s end.  The first report came in August.  ITAR-TASS cited a source this time – Baltic Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov.

Chirkov didn’t say how many the fleet will get, but he said the S-400 will replace old S-200 (SA-5 / Gammon) surface-to-air missiles.  He says his crews are currently conducting “acceptance-handover” launches, presumably at Ashuluk.

It doesn’t seem logical.  SAM brigades around Moscow can’t get S-400s on time and Chirkov is talking about putting them in Kaliningrad.  And his assertion he’ll get them this month seems odd given the loose schedules and passed deadlines associated with the program.

President Medvedev just finished saying one measure against European missile defense would be deploying the S-400 to protect SYaS.  But SYaS aren’t based in the Russian exclave.  It seems Medvedev would’ve announced it if the military intended to put the new SAMs in Kaliningrad.  Are S-400s going to intercept    SM-3s launched from Poland?  Are they going to protect Iskanders in Kaliningrad?

We’re left waiting to see the logic (and truth) in these reports.  Of course, there doesn’t necessarily have to be a logic compelling or sensible to outsiders.

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First Get Some Rockets

Iskander

How do you rattle your rockets?  First get some rockets. 

President Dmitriy Medvedev’s address last week underscored the extent to which Russian foreign and defense policies are hampered by the condition of the OPK and its shortage of production capacity.

Medvedev’s description of Russian steps in response to U.S. and NATO missile defense in Europe certainly didn’t surprise anyone, though it may have forced them to conclude the U.S.-Russian “reset” is wearing thin.

To refresh the memory, the first four were (1) put the Kaliningrad BMEW radar into service; (2) reinforce the defense of SYaS with VVKO; (3) equip strategic ballistic missile warheads with capabilities to overcome MD; and (4) develop measures to disrupt MD command and control.

Then fifth, repeating several previous assertions to this effect, Medvedev said:

“If the enumerated measures are insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy in the country’s west and south modern strike weapons systems which guarantee the destruction of MD’s European component.  One such step will be deployment of the ‘Iskander’ missile system in the Kaliningrad special region.”

And, ultimately, of course, Medvedev also noted the dispute over MD could lead Russia to withdraw from new START.

Russianforces.org was first to write that Medvedev’s enumerated steps represented nothing more militarily than what Moscow already intends to do, with or without U.S. missile defense in Europe.

Kommersant recalled the difficulty of making threats with the Iskanders:

“The problem is by virtue of its limited range (several hundred kilometers) ‘Iskander’ missiles can only threaten [Russia’s] neighboring states, but in no way the U.S. MD system as a whole, and on this plane, they have little influence on the strategic balance as such.  Moreover, the Russian military has promised to begin deploying ‘Iskanders’ massively since 2007, but since then the deadlines for their delivery to the army has been postponed more than once.  The army now has a single brigade of ‘Iskanders’ – the 26th Neman [Brigade], which is deployed near Luga.  This is 12 launchers.  There is also a 630th Independent Battalion in the Southern Military District.  In GPV-2020, ten brigades more are promised.”

So, Iskander deployments, including probably in Kaliningrad, will happen anyway, regardless of MD, when Moscow is able to produce the missiles.

Interfaks-AVN quoted Ruslan Pukhov on the missile production capacity issue.  If Russia wants to deploy Iskander in Kaliningrad or Belarus or Krasnodar Kray as a response to European MD, then:

“. . . it’s essential to build a new factory to produce these missiles since the factory in Votkinsk can’t handle an extra mission.”

“Productivity suffers because of the great ‘heterogeneity’ of missiles [Iskander, Bulava, Topol-M, Yars].  Therefore, if we want our response to MD on our borders to be done expeditiously, and not delayed, we need a new factory.”

Vesti FM also covered his remarks:

“’Iskander’ is produced at the Votkinsk plant.  The ‘Bulava,’ and ‘Topol-M,’ and multi-headed ‘Yars,’ are also produced there.  Therefore, such heterogeneity in missiles leads to the fact that they are produced at an extremely low tempo.”

The 500-km Iskander (SS-26 / STONE), always advertised with significant capabilities to defeat MD, was accepted in 2006.  But the Russian Army didn’t  complete formation of the Western MD Iskander brigade or Southern MD battalion until the middle of last month, according to ITAR-TASS.  The army expects to get a full brigade of 12 launchers each year until 2020. 

But Iskanders still aren’t rolling off the line like sausages.  This spring Prime Minister Putin promised to double missile output, including from Votkinsk, starting in 2013, and pledged billions of rubles to support producers.  In early 2010, Kommersant wrote about Votkinsk overloaded with orders, trying to modernize shops to produce Iskander.

Votkinsk and Iskander are, by the way, not the only defense-industrial problem relative to countering MD.  Nezavisimaya gazeta pointed out VVKO will need lots of new S-400 and S-500 systems (and factories to produce them) to protect Russia’s SYaS.  But we digress . . . .

What do defense commentators think about Medvedev’s statement and Iskanders? 

Vladimir Dvorkin calls them a far-fetched threat:

“There are no scenarios in which they could be used.  If Russia used them in an initial preventative strike, then this would signify the beginning of a war with NATO on which Russia would never embark.”

Aleksey Arbatov says relatively short-range missiles don’t scare the Americans, but could spoil relations with Poland and Romania.

Aleksandr Golts says the slow pace of Iskander production makes it not a very serious threat.  He notes Putin’s restraint on threats over MD:

“Being a rational man, he perfectly understands that an attempt to create such a threat will get an immediate response, which, considering the West’s potential, will create a much bigger problem for Russia.  That is, there’ll be a repetition on another scale of the history with the deployment of Soviet medium-range missiles in Europe.”

One supposes rather than driving a wedge between the U.S. and MD-host countries, Russian threats might reaffirm the wisdom of having a tangible U.S. presence on their territory.

Lastly, Leonid Ivashov reacts to Medvedev’s reminder that Russia could withdraw from new START:

“When President Medvedev says that we will withdraw from SNV [START], the Americans just smile.  They know perfectly well the state of our defense-industrial complex.”

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.'”