Tag Archives: munitions

Exploding Arsenals

Media commentaries on the arsenal explosions were outstanding.  Here are excerpts from some . . .

Viktor Myasnikov in Nezavisimaya gazeta:

“The father of one of 300 conscripts assigned to the arsenal, Andrey Chukavin, said three days before the incident he complained on the Defense Ministry website about safety rule and regulation violations in the loading-unloading work.  In his opinion, the arsenal didn’t figure on the quantity of munitions that arrived in the last month.  ‘Conscripts and civilians had to work in two shifts for loading-unloading.  Work went on from 8:30 until three in the morning or later,’ — he told journalists.”

“However, in past years there hasn’t been a single explosion at a civilian enterprises disarming munitions.  Because automated systems of disassembly are working there, safe techniques of eliminating explosives are employed and safety rules are strictly observed.  But it’s more advantageous for the Defense Ministry to use draftees, old-fashioned manual disassembly and save budget resources on its arsenals.  And then the state will spend billions covering the damage from such economizing.”

“Soon, as punishment, the president will dismiss the next batch of generals and colonels.  But the system remains.  So explosions will rumble in the arsenals again in a year or two, or even earlier.”

Itogi’s Oleg Andreyev:

“. . . they’ve made responsible for the explosion in the artillery depot in the Bashkir village of Urman a conscript whose guilt consists probably of not being trained to work with explosive substances.”

“Really everything that’s happening now under Serdyukov’s administration is absolutely natural.  Specifically, under him, the last professionals who received a classical military education departed the Armed Forces.  In essence, continuity was destroyed, and, as they say, the experience of organizing service, literally paid for with blood, drained away into the sand.  Including also experience in storing and servicing explosive substances, munitions and combat means.  To put it differently, there are still shells and missiles, bombs and torpedoes in the arsenals, but experience and skill is lacking!  Explosions in depots don’t just cause deadly fireworks.  In society’s consciousness, the shock wave will raze all of military reform to the ground.”

In Nasha versiya, Vadim Saranov writes:

“Can it be that in June 2010 [sic] after the explosions at the arsenal in Ulyanovsk, the president dismissed an entire handful of generals, but, as we see, nothing came out of this.  On the other hand, several other Defense Ministry decisions, in the opinion of specialists, are increasing by several times the risk of similar events at depots and ranges.  As ‘Nasha versiya’ already wrote, at the beginning of 2010, Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov issued a directive, according to which the Russian Army should rid itself of all old munitions by the end of 2011.  But no kind of serious investment in this program was foreseen.  It was ordered to get rid of shells either by explosive methods or in army arsenal workshops which have obsolete equipment.  Today, according to our Defense Ministry sources, to fulfill these instructions, dismantlement is taking place in a rush in units.  It isn’t excluded that this hurrying itself could even be the cause of future accidents.  Judge yourself:  according to official statements, the first explosion in the depot in Udmurtia happened on the night of 2-3 June during some ‘loading-unloading’ work.  Ask yourself:  from what kind of panic, really, is loading-unloading work conducting at night in a second-rank arsenal?  Did a war start?  According to regulations, at this time there should only be sentries, duty officers, and orderlies on watch.  Then who was handling shells?  How much time did this soldiers rest in the previous day?  For this reason, it can’t be hoped that the events in Bashkiria and Udmurtia will be the last in the series of bombardments of peaceful Russian towns.  The minister’s order will be fulfilled at any price.”

Lastly for this post, Pavel Felgengauer in Novaya gazeta:

“In every separate instance (according to the results of official investigations) the guilty one is either a negligent officer or soldier (one-year conscript) who somehow didn’t handle shells and artillery powder casings carefully enough or threw down a butt.  And then the negligent chiefs who didn’t ensure supervision, order and discipline.  Even if all this is true, it isn’t possible with just one administrative dressing-down, even if Medvedev removed the minister [Serdyukov] as punishment, to solve universally the problems of masses of unneeded, expired munitions in Russia.  It wasn’t under Serdyukov that ammunition began to burn and explode regularly in Russia, and it won’t stop after him.”

“We need, of course, to arrange a reliable, effective and safe system of dismantling old munitions instead of the usual, harmful and dangerous  explosive demolition.  We need to construct reliable storage bases with secondary containment and strong concrete shelters.  Medvedev is right — we have to struggle against sloppiness.”

Felgengauer goes on to note that Russia has had to keep old shells for its old guns and tanks that haven’t been replaced.

“When the chiefs say that the army and navy’s weapons are 90 percent obsolete — this is true, but this isn’t all.  The munitions have become obsolete just the same, if not worse.  That is, old munitions are used and saved, but they from time to time randomly explode, maiming and killing people, destroying buildings.  So here’s the system, because of which it’s impossible to avoid tragedies and accidents.  And in the future, undoubtedly, there will only be more of them since weapons and munitions are getting even older, and discipline in the troops will continue to fall in response to half-baked reforms.”

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Not Utopia

Burned Out Building in Urman Near the 99th Arsenal (photo: Komsomolskaya pravda / Timur Sharipkulov)

Yes, it’s definitely not utopia.

Sometimes it seems Anatoliy Serdyukov resides in a special dystopia reserved for reformers.  In an interview at the very end of last year, Serdyukov said as much.  He admitted his reform of the military isn’t solving every problem.

Addressing munitions dismantlement on December 31, the Defense Minister said:

“The problem is very serious.  For long years, munitions were stockpiled to excess, calculated for a multimillion-man army.  Besides, in the last twenty years, virtually no attention was given to combat training and firings, but the norms of munitions stockpiling remained as before.  As a result, so much ended up in excess that we have work for several years.  To dismantle them by industrial methods is quite complex – there aren’t enough enterprises.  Besides, this is very expensive and not safer than destruction.”

“Therefore, we’re now preparing special teams, certifying equipment, and selecting officers.  They mainly need to be combat engineers.  We’re picking ranges.  We’ve figured where, in what volume, and what we need to blow up, and worked out safe techniques.  We need at a minimum two, maybe three years of such work.  Yes, this will create some temporary discomfort and difficulties.  But it’s impossible to not do this.  If the entire arsenal at Ulyanovsk had blown up, the trouble would have been much more serious.”

Well, he’s right.  It’s a huge problem that has to be resolved. 

There was lots of good (albeit repetitive) news reporting on the two arsenal explosions, and the news analyses and op-eds had a lot of common themes we’ll summarize below.  Many of the same points were made at the time of the 31st Arsenal disaster in 2009.  The major shared ideas are:

  • Russia’s munitions depot problem is enormous, and massive resources are required to resolve it.  The current effort is very belated, and probably grossly underfinanced.  And now the dismantlement and destruction of excess ammunition is being rushed with tragic consequences.
  • Conscripts and crude methods are being employed in place of professional military specialists, civilian experts, and modern equipment.  There’s a willingness to ignore basic safety regulations since draftees are still considered expendable.
  • Military district commanders were not appropriately prepared to supervise storage depots and the dangerous work of eliminating explosives when they took control of them from the Defense Ministry’s Main Missile-Artillery Directorate (GRAU). 
  • The three criticisms above all add to blaming Serdyukov’s reforms for the exploding arsenals.  Critics say he’s rushed the process, forced now sorely-needed ordnance officers out of the army, and taken the situation out of the GRAU’s experienced hands.

Now, to be fair, some of the conditions listed above existed before Serdyukov arrived, and some he created or exacerbated.  And arsenals exploded before.  But these disasters seem to occur more frequently now.

A few other points made by commentators:

  • Trying to destroy munitions on the cheap is leading to even greater losses for the state when it has to compensate injured civilians.
  • Other countries have eliminated huge munitions stockpiles safely, but Russia seems to have a peculiar national tradition of technological carelessness that keeps it from doing the same.
  • The Kremlin and the Defense Ministry won’t find the guilty in these explosions, but some officers and, possibly, officials, will be appointed to fill the role.

Moreover, the MChS says wildfires already cover an area three times larger than this time last year.  Another terrible fire season might threaten many military facilities, including arsenals.

To sum this all up, it’s worth reprinting how Vladislav Shurygin was recapped on these pages 18 months ago:

“He cites the catastrophic state of Russia’s overflowing arsenals and munitions depots.  This summer Serdyukov transferred responsibility for them from the GRAU to the MDs and fleets who aren’t technically prepared to manage them.  Shurygin notes it was GRAU personnel who were punished for the November blasts at the Navy’s arsenal in Ulyanovsk.  Convenient people are punished rather than those who are truly guilty, according to him.”

Off With Their Pogonies!

Friday's Security Council Session

Dmitriy Medvedev’s asked again for the heads (or pogonies) of the guilty.  A couple weeks after his government delivered several of those allegedly responsible for breaking the GOZ, he’s ordered Defense Minister Serdyukov to tear the pogonies (officer’s shoulderboards or погоны) off those to blame for massive munitions depot explosions in Udmurtia and Bashkortostan.

It is, of course, quite a presidential thing to do.

Let’s look at how the fairly one-sided conversation went.

In the published opening moments of Friday’s Security Council session at Gorki, Medvedev had to forego mentioning anything about the G8, missile defense, and Libya in order to focus instead on the depot explosions:

“. . . I would like to turn the Defense Minister’s attention to the fact that we are for the second time recently experiencing ‘doomsday’:  shells exploding, there are injured, missing.  We conducted a special meeting on this issue the year before last I think.”

“Afterwards the situation was on the whole, in my view, under control:  we succeeded in arranging the work of supervisory structures, naturally, after dismissing a whole row of Defense Ministry colleagues.  But everything’s come loose again, some problems have arisen again.”

“Two times — this is already systemic, Anatoliy Eduardovich.  Prepare a proposal for me on who should answer for this and how.  They still don’t understand well — for two years everything was OK, — this means we have to take somebody’s shoulderboards off again.”

“Conduct an investigation.  Naturally, the Investigative Committee [under the General Prosecutor] and other units [FSB] are conducting an independent investigation, and together present me with proposals and organizational conclusions.”

For its part, the Defense Ministry insists it’s not being hasty.  Its spokesman told ITAR-TASS:

“Aiming for a full and objective investigation of the circumstances which have occurred in the TsVO, a Defense Ministry commission under the leadership of Deputy Chief of the RF VS General Staff, General-Colonel Valeriy Gerasimov has been sent.” 

“Based on the results of the conduct of the entire complex of verification measures by the military department’s commission jointly with investigative organ representatives and the military prosecutor, the causes of what happened will be established and the responsibility of officials will be determined.  Only after the checks are finished will concrete decisions, including personnel ones, regarding the guilty be adopted.”

Explosions at the 102nd Arsenal (photo: NTV)

Of course, today’s papers were full of speculation about who might get the blame and the boot for these disasters.  But, as usual, it’s not likely any dismissals will reach highly-placed officers and officials who are truly responsible for the sloppy, breakneck campaign to destroy Russia’s massive stockpiles of old shells and ammunition.

There’s lots more interesting commentary relevant to these most recent arsenal explosions.  Unfortunately, your patience will be required.

Another Exploding Ammo Dump

Another Depot Burns and Explodes

This time it’s the 99th Artillery Depot in Bashkortostan.  A fire during the decommissioning of 120mm shells caused the conflagration.  Residents of the nearest populated area, Urman, have been evacuated.  Fragments are flying 3-4 kilometers in all directions.  At least it wasn’t a heavily or densely populated zone.

Here’s RIA Novosti video of the scene.  The press service provided handy background on depot explosions over the last ten years.

And the Defense Ministry had just finished announcing that 20,000 rail cars’ worth of old stocks of munitions for World War III were destroyed during the last year.  But apparently not quickly or safely enough.

Such is the fate of a military reformer . . . Defense Minister Serdyukov’s doing the right thing, getting rid of this old Cold War-era excess, but stockpiles keep blowing up in the very process of trying to eliminate them.  And, as noted before, Serdyukov isn’t making any friends in localties near the demolition work.

Destroying old ammo is necessary, but the Russian military also needs to move faster on the effort to move depots away from cities and towns, and to construct more secure storage facilities.  Both more costly than just blowing up old stuff.

Meanwhile, managers and workers in Russia’s munitions industry have been pretty upset this year that their orders were drastically cut.  They’d obviously prefer to continue working and adding to the stockpile.  See Vladimir Mukhin’s article on this from March.

Serdyukov’s Year-Ender

Anatoliy Serdyukov (photo: Izvestiya / Vladimir Suvorov)

ДОРОГИЕ ЧИТАТЕЛИ ! ! !

С НОВЫМ ГОДОМ ! ! !

Thanks for reading and commenting this year.

This one could have been entitled, The Army’s Great Scourge or Reform Isn’t Utopia or We Straightened Them Out.  Great quotes, but you’ll have to read to the bottom.

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s year-ending interview in Monday’s Izvestiya is a good read.  The paper asked some harder-hitting questions than Serdyukov normally gets.  And, though they aren’t necessarily new, his answers are pretty direct and revealing.  There are problems with a lot of them though.

Let’s look first at what Serdyukov said, then we’ll look at the deeper meaning of his answers.

Asked about this year’s command and control changes, the Defense Minister says:

“The most important thing is that we already changed the entire troop command and control system.  From one side, we tried to minimize the command and control levels; from the other side, to equip them technically.  Now the next task is before us – to tie it all into a single system so that every district commander answers not just for the ground, but also for the air, and air defense, and naval component.  The next step is we are trying to conduct exercises in such coordination between districts.  I think 2011 is key for us on this plane.”

On the decision to move to four unified strategic commands (OSKs) and cutting levels of command, Serdyukov said:

“This is the General Staff’s idea.  Before going to the president with such a proposal, we discussed this initiative since the end of 2007.  At the same time, we had conferences at various levels, consulted with experts, important military leaders, and studied international experience again – both American and NATO.  We tried to analyze the situation from every angle and arrived at the fact that this is really useful for various reasons.” 

“First and foremost, the transition to the OSK should be reflected in the controllability of the army.  A simple example:  at the beginning of the transformations, an order from me to a battalion commander had to go through 17 levels.  So you understand this influenced the speed of their transmission, and the content of the information itself.  Now we have three levels in all. If one wanted, it would be possible to calculate how much was saved both on communications nodes, and on communications systems themselves, and in speed.  And as a result – the army’s combat capability rose 50 percent.”

Asked about what will happen in combat situations now that more civilians occupy military support jobs, the Defense Minister says:

“Several factors converge into one point here, therefore, we came to the conclusion that we could and should divide directions of responsibilities – operational and support.  It’s not an accident that the Defense Minister has a first deputy – the Chief of the General Staff and a first deputy – a civilian who handles the direction connected with supporting the operational component.  Everything’s been thought out, and there won’t be any kind of failures.  Neither peacetime, nor wartime frightens us.”

On General Staff Chief Makarov’s assessment that the commander’s slovenliness caused 150 conscripts to get ill in Kemerovo, Serdyukov takes the opportunity to describe the pains he’s taken in establishing systems to monitor the implementation of military reform:

“Unfortunately, we are getting started.  Actually, when we launch any process, we try to organize the monitoring system and incentive system in the final result.  But this doesn’t always work.  We’ve established a series of structures for monitoring.  They are, for example, the financial inspectorate, which checks the use of budget resources.  Then the personnel inspectorate – occupied with the activity of every officer and civilian specialist.  There is the military inspectorate, which checks those measures which should go on in this or any military institution.  There is an organizational-inspector directorate occupied with checking fulfillment of all directives, orders, decrees, laws, etc.  This is that system of monitoring which gives the capability to influence internal army processes, and to move them.  Naturally, an entire system of regulations exists where the duties of every colleague, every sub-unit are strictly prescribed as is the corresponding period for fulfilling the orders.”

Asked about indicators of the fulfillment rate for Defense Ministry orders:

“All orders are being fulfilled.  The question is different:  are they on schedule?  And for the last half year, the picture generally doesn’t look bad.  The schedules we are establishing are holding on the whole.  Inside the ministry, we changed our entire workflow, accordingly this entailed a cut in signatories on this or that issue or project.  We are introducing electronic workflow which allows us at any stage to check how this or that directive or order is being fulfilled.”

“But there are also breakdowns.  Recently we had a collegium in Khabarovsk.  We listened to the report of an army commander who should have implemented 87 different measures, but implemented all of two.  What kind of combat readiness and discipline can you speak of if an officer doesn’t fulfill his own duties?”

“When we embarked on reform, both I personally, and many of my colleagues strove to understand:  what kind of problems really could be blocking the army’s development – housing, lack of money, lack of equipment, of soldiers?  Now there’s everything.  If you serve, then according to order 400 the money is very respectable.  We are providing housing.  There’s one hundred percent in equipment.  Almost one hundred percent – give or take one-two percent – in servicemen.  There you have it:  if you chose this profession, then serve.  But here we are stumbling over weak managerial discipline – the army’s great scourge.  And even here we’re trying, from one side, to stimulate work, and from the other – to severely demand fulfillment of service duties.”

Is Russia buying weapons abroad because the systems are really needed or is it being done out of political considerations:

“There is a certain requirement for foreign military equipment, because in a series of types of armaments, we, unfortunately, will fall behind.  Our models don’t meet the demands presented by the times.  It’s important also to understand how to formulate the tactical-technical tasks and characteristics of this or that essential production.  Therefore, we’re also trying to familiarize ourselves with those modern models of equipment and armaments which our partners have.  For this, in fact, we are buying equipment in small amounts – as in the case of UAVs.”

“However, besides equipment, it’s also necessary to have trained personnel, and a command and control system.  We don’t have many models of armaments, but to work on their development, spend time and money on their adoption is simply irrational, it’s simpler to buy, to study, and later begin to develop our own production.  Those Israeli drones gave a serious impetus to developing domestic industry.  Not long ago, the president was at the test range and there we showed him Russian models that are sufficiently reliable.  They are fully suited to us.”

“We don’t have ships like the Mistral.  We never built them.  But to try to catch up now is senseless.  We plan to buy the license and technical documentation for their production.  Moreover, there’s an agreement that, starting with the third ship, we’ll build the helicopter carriers in Russia.”

Doesn’t such an approach hurt Russia’s defense industry?  Wouldn’t it be better to finance and support our own enterprises:

“In the new state program of armaments, for four years, we laid out 600 billion rubles which will be allocated according to a new credit system for enterprises under a government guarantee.  Now  discussion is going quite actively on the subject of how this should happen, with what credit requirements and conditions.  This is one of the forms of financing which has a relationship not so much to support of enterprises as to the system of paying the state defense order itself.  It allows for transferring the load from the second half of the GPV to the first and vice versa.  Or to take off the peak load, meanwhile working out forms of active participation in financing by the Ministry of Finance and the banking system.  Incidentally, the reaction is fully positive, we already have trials with the largest banks – with Sberbank and VTB.”

On inter-ethnic conflicts in units and the possibility of creating nationality-based units:

“This isn’t today’s or yesterday’s problem.  If the commander fulfills his duties completely, then time and energy for conflicts simply won’t remain.  If they’re occupied with physical training for a minimum of four hours a day in every unit , and the remaining time is combat training, as it’s stipulated, then no kind of misunderstandings will arise.  It’s not important where you’re from, which nationality, and religion, if you just fall in your rack after exercises.  The problem again is in the commanders.  Some of them are simply estranged from working with personnel – they see that there are many physically strong, willful guys in the unit, and give over control of the barracks to them.  But those ones become abusers.”

What happens with commanders like these:

“We’ll dismiss them, get others.  An officer must be physically and morally very well prepared and engender only respect.”

Has the army rid itself of dedovshchina with the move to one-year service:

“We now are trying to get away from this term.  There is no longer such a phenomenon.  There is simply hooliganism, crude violation of the law.  If a man served three months, what kind of ‘ded’ is he?  The roots of dedovshchina are much deeper than commonly believed.  In Soviet times, when people served three-five years, then it was the rule:  a man just called up, and a man looking at demob in six months, have different training.  Here then is this phenomenon, really, and its origin.  Now this is pure hooliganism, legally punishable crime which we have fought and will fight without compromise.  Here it’s important that the commander in the sub-unit should fulfill his duties completely.  Then there can’t be any kind of conflicts by definition.”

Asked about accidents with munitions dismantlement over the last year, and how is the problem being resolved now, Serdyukov says:

“The problem is very serious.  For long years, munitions were stockpiled to excess, calculated for a multimillion-man army.  Besides, in the last twenty years, virtually no attention was given to combat training and firings, but the norms of munitions stockpiling remained as before.  As a result, so much ended up in excess that we have work for several years.  To dismantle them by industrial methods is quite complex – there aren’t enough enterprises.  Besides, this is very expensive and not safer than destruction.”

“Therefore, we’re now preparing special teams, certifying equipment, and selecting officers.  They mainly need to be combat engineers.  We’re picking ranges.  We’ve figured where, in what volume, and what we need to blow up, and worked out safe techniques.  We need at a minimum two, maybe three years of such work.  Yes, this will create some temporary discomfort and difficulties.  But it’s impossible to not do this.  If the entire arsenal at Ulyanovsk had blown up, the trouble would have been much more serious.”

Asked about demographic problems, a potential shortage of conscripts, and possibly cutting more deferments, the Defense Minister answered:

“We won’t revoke anything.  As far as demographic problems go, it goes without saying that they exist and we will take them into account.  How do we solve this problem?  I think if the country’s financial situation allows, then we will still try to return the issue of a contract army.  No one has revoked this program, we didn’t realize it because of a lack of resources.  We haven’t  rejected the idea itself.”

Serdyukov tells his interviewers flat out, there’s no longer opposition to his reforms in the army.  What happened to his opponents:

“We straightened them out.  Of course, this was difficult, especially at first.  Now a team of like-minded people has been laid down which itself is generating reform ideas.  Something’s already started to come from it.  People see this and understand:  reform is not utopia, but completely concrete matters.”

After four difficult years in the Defense Ministry, where does Serdyukov see himself:

“I still haven’t finished my service, so I can’t begin to talk about what’s been achieved and what hasn’t.  We’re now in a transitional phase.  There’s not a single direction of the ministry’s activity that modernization, the transition to a new profile wouldn’t affect.  We are working everywhere – in all spheres:  armaments, scientific-research activity, education, organization of daily service, military-technical cooperation.  I can’t say now what we’ll succeed in, and in which direction we’ll lag.  It seems to me that everything’s going pretty well.  We’re on schedule, there’s no deviating.”

Let’s deconstruct some of this shall we? 

Serdyukov and company seem to be obsessed with eliminating layers.  You know sometimes redundancy is good, and prevents making mistakes.  In a net-centric army, every layer sees the picture, but doesn’t necessarily have it for action.  It’s very hard to believe Serdyukov’s claim that just cutting command levels increased combat capability 50 percent when you look at everything that’s factored into the Russian definition of combat capability. 

Yes, we know operational and support stovepipes have been created.  But Serdyukov completely dodges the question of what happens when the combat tooth depends on a civilian tail.  There are obviously answers to this, but the Russians aren’t accustomed to this.  He brushes it off saying there just simply won’t be any failures.  That’s reassuring.

 On the soldiers in Kemerovo and slovenliness, Serdyukov goes a bit non-sequitur.  It’s great hearing about his monitoring system and the implementation of orders, etc.  One wonders, however, if electronic workflow in the Defense Ministry was as important as many things that needed to happen in the troops this year.  But then it gets really interesting.  We start to hear in Serdyukov’s words some of the animus he has for officers.  Why did he ever have such an army commander as the one he vilifies?  He really lays into officers, saying he’s given them everything they need now, they just need to do their jobs.

Serdyukov really avoids the question on buying arms abroad and hurting domestic producers.  He monologues about some convoluted credit provision scheme for paying out the GOZ.  This issue of real money for producers to make weapons and equipment is significant.  Even with the GOZ and a new GPV in place, all anyone can talk about is extending credit to the OPK in 2011.  Hmmm, interesting.

He blames commanders again for inter-ethnic conflicts in the army.  If they were doing their jobs, it couldn’t happen.  If they just wore the boys out properly, it wouldn’t occur.  There is some truth in this, yes, but it’s more complex than just that.  But saying any more might have taken the Defense Minister into a social and political minefield.

On dedovshchina, again Serdyukov blames officers for not taking care of the problem.  Serdyukov’s insistence on just talking about hooliganism makes some sense, yes, but there is still dedovshchina going on.  And, by the way, dedovshchina was never just purely hazing, making the juniors do the crappy jobs; it always had more violence, abuse, and crime in it than Serdyukov is willing to allow.

Serdyukov doesn’t say how he’s addressing the real civil-military relations problem he’s got in Chelyabinsk with regard to the explosions at Chebarkul.  But at least it’s a little like the problems his counterparts face in normal countries, and one has to credit him for taking on a lingering military problem all his predecessors simply ignored.

Wow, is Serdyukov cocky on vanquishing his opponents in the military!  He ought to watch it, it could come back on him.  But as we’ve seen, large-scale, public political demonstrations are going to come from other sources (i.e. the soccer fan bunt or pogrom).  The purely military ones (i.e. the Russian Airborne Union, etc.) tend to be more farcical.  But veterans and even serving officers could provide critical mass in a bigger social protest.  And there’s always the chance that some disaffected Kvachkov could fire a grenade at the Defense Minister’s limo.  Yes, yes, I can hear you — this is just by way of playing out one scenario on what could happen in the future.

One has to respect Serdyukov’s reticence to judge his legacy right now.  It may be possible he’ll leave the big marble building on the Arbat one day thinking how much he’s changed everything, thinking he’s a 21st century Dmitriy Milyutin.  And he may be, at least in comparison with any other choice.  He is making essential changes, and some progress.  More than this analyst thought he would back in early 2007.  But, on close inspection of the military, we may discover that less will actually have changed and improved than we think right now.

How much longer will Serdyukov continue in this burn-out job?  He’s pretty stoic, but he’s definitely more frayed than 4 years ago.  The issue probably comes down to the larger context of the Putin-Medvedev tandem and team — changes in high-level personnel could be more difficult now with every passing day.  Perhaps Serdyukov will remain through a fifth year, and the seating of the next Russian president.

It’s a great interview.  We got some real insight into the Defense Minister’s thinking.  Never could have gotten this 20 or 30 years ago.

Rastopshin on OPK’s Problems

In yesterday’s Vremya novostey, Mikhail Rastopshin recalled how President Medvedev reproached the OPK last year for lagging in the production of new types of weapons to rearm Russia’s military. Medvedev said, if Moscow’s enemies possess superior weapons, no strategy or tactics will help Russia.

Rastopshin asks why the rearmament tasks laid down in documents like the National Security Concept and Military Doctrine remain unfulfilled? These documents seem like they did nothing to slow the degradation of the OPK and the army.

Among other basic state documents, Rastopshin mentions the Federal Goal Program (FTsP or ФЦП) Reform and Development of the Defense-Industrial Complex (2002-2006), but it didn’t bring the desired results. The first Russian State Armaments Program for 1996-2005 (GPV-2005) was in ruins a year after it was adopted. The second, the GPV for 2001-2010 (GPV-2010), and the current GPV for 2007-2015 (GVP-2015) are coming to naught.

According to Rastopshin, this attests to an inability to forecast arms and equipment development tens year out. There’s not only a lag of technological generations in traditional armaments, but an absence of entire classes of new weapons based on different physical principles.

After the Georgian war, Medvedev apparently ordered Serdyukov to prepared proposals on outfitting the army with modern combat support equipment. This amounted to ‘reloading’ the GVP. One can suppose that serious proposals didn’t ensue since Medvedev had to return to this problem in late 2009.

Weapons from yesterday are not infrequently put forth as our modern armaments. But there’s no other place to get them since military science and design bureaus are in a steep decline. The insolvency of the domestic defense system can be followed in the munitions sector, which hasn’t produced artillery shells since 2005. Russia lacks war reserves of ammunition, and an army without munitions is no longer an army. The sector has been producing poor quality powder, making it likely that fragmentation shells won’t reach their targets and armor-piercing ones will lose their penetration capability.

Taken as a whole, the existing armaments development system can’t provide a high tempo of rearmament, nor quality which continues to drop in both domestic and export orders. Complaints from foreign buyers are increasing, but domestic complaints are concealed. The fall in quality places doubt over future weapons. And there’s a huge divergence between the army’s demand for new weapons and the OPK’s ability to provide them, according to Rastopshin.

The quality problem won’t be resolved because OPK management is so complicated. The OPK has been reformed 8 times in the past 15 years. The lack of quality restructuring at the top exacerbated problems at the bottom. Management could not bring order to NIIs, KBs, or factories, failure above gave birth to technical breakdowns below. Rastopshin says in today’s RF Government, the Department for OPK Industries has the same status as the Communal Services Department, a situation tantamount to simply ignoring the country’s defense capability.

The creation of industrial holdings was chosen as the path to improved OPK management. Uniting in these holdings enterprises that use old production equipment, lack sufficiently qualified personnel, have eliminated quality control, testing, standardization, and military acceptance offices cannot bring the desired results.  It results only in old weapons unsuited for combat in today’s conflicts.  Rastopshin recommends returning to a Ministry of Defense Industry [sounds a little like one more reform at the top that doesn’t influence the situation below].

Rastopshin sees a gulf between the army’s ‘new profile’ structure and supplying it with new arms.  For this reason, he says, the combat readiness of the new TO&E brigade with old armaments remains extremely low.

He points to NATO’s superiority in conventional arms to say that Russia couldn’t hold out two weeks.  Russia would have to resort not only to strategic, but also tactical nuclear weapons.  So Rastopshin concludes Russia needs to revisit the issue of producing nuclear-armed intermediate and shorter range missiles, and leaving the INF Treaty.  He sees Moscow as having little choice since it’s left choosing between conventional defeat or strategic nuclear conflict.

Rastopshin sums up, it’s time to stop giving the army old, ‘modernized’ weapons, the life cycle of which was long ago used up.  Medvedev himself has said this more than once.

Sadly, Rastopshin offers more criticism than solid answers (except for seeing an INF withdrawal as one path for Russia).  Science and applied science need to be improved as does personnel training for the OPK.  New requirements need to be put on the OPK.  He’d also like to see some of those who have reorganized the OPK punished for irresponsible actions that have damaged the country’s defense capability.