Tag Archives: NATO

Defense News

Some Russian defense news from June 8, 2012 . . .

Kremlin.ru and other sites noted several designers of the prefab or modular Voronezh BMEW radar have received a 2011 State Prize for Science and Technology.  The new system can be deployed 3-4 times faster, costs four times less to operate, and requires six times fewer personnel to service than the previous generation of radars, according to press reports.  TsAMTO carried the story as well as a review of the state of Voronezh deployments.

Izvestiya reported details on a consolidation of Russia’s munitions producers.  It’s been predicted for many months.  The country’s 56 producers will be reorganized into 5 holdings, with Bazalt, Pribor, and Mashinostroitel leading three of them.  A Bazalt rep basically admits the sector’s a mess, and it’ll take several years to organize the industry.

But Bloomberg and other media reported U.S. defense firms are actually looking to Rosoboroneksport for the purchase of munitions from Russian producers.

Topwar.ru carried an Interfaks story saying Delta IV-class SSBN Novomoskovsk is nearing the end of a modernization to extend its service life to 2021.  The sub went to sea for some trials last week.  It is, by the way, the newest of the class.  Zvezdochka is also working on Verkhoturye, and both SSBNs will reportedly return to service by the end of 2012.  See this earlier-posted related item.

RIAN reported an OSK source claims the Navy will buy up to ten support ships per year starting in 2013 to rebuild Russia’s naval auxiliary fleet.

General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov addressed the possibility of Finland joining NATO while in Helsinki.  He said this threatens Russia’s security.  But there were Western news service reports saying he said Finland’s military cooperation with NATO by itself is a threat to Moscow.  Voice of Russia covered the negative reactions of Finnish politicians as well as Russian commentators pointing out that the general’s view on another possible broadening of NATO is understandable.  VPK.name highlighted the story.

NVO interviewed new Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Vladimir Chirkin on his plans for army acquisition.  Chirkin said UAVs, reconnaissance systems like Strelets, Rys armored vehicles, S-300V4, Buk-M3, Tor-M2, and Verba SAMs, Iskander-M, Tornado-G (S), Msta-S, and Khrizantema-S missile and artillery systems, comms equipment, T-72B1(2), and BTR-82A will be procured out to 2015.  RIAN carried the abridged version.

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The Russian Threat

DNI James Clapper

Ahhh, the annual testimony . . . and a story based mainly on English sources for a change.  Thanks to VPK.name for picking up the Vzglyad piece which printed a few lines on what Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s unclassified Worldwide Threat Assessment testimony to the SSCI had to say about the state of the Russian military.  Otherwise, this would have been overlooked.

A few preliminaries . . . Clapper is a tall septuagenarian reared professionally in the Cold War who manages to keep on climbing the career ladder.  His bulbous dome once prompted underlings to dub him “the Martian” (although it’s known he’s actually from Remulak).  But analysts liked him (at least long ago) because he really seemed to listen to them.

Now on to his testimony, or statement for the record.  Clapper didn’t write it, nor did his staff.  It’s carefully crafted compromise language melding the views of CIA analysts mostly, and DIA analysts and others a little.  One guesses the text hasn’t changed too much from previous years.  A comparison of changes (especially adverbs) from year to year might be more revealing than what the document says.

Thanks to the Washington Post for printing the DNI’s sanitized testimony.  Unlike the impression you’d get from the Russian media, Clapper’s statement isn’t all about the Russian threat.  It definitely isn’t 25 years ago when the USSR was front and center throughout.  Russia appears first on page 7 as a state-based cyber threat and page 8 as an economic espionage threat.  Then it retires to page 20 where a mainline discussion of the country finally begins.

Domestic politics gets one-third of a page; foreign policy (you can read it yourself) gets two-thirds.  The document boldly predicts “more continuity than change” under once-and-future president Vladimir Putin “at least during the next year.” 

But that’s just the problem, isn’t it?  Putin can’t change his fragile system of rule without toppling the entire shaky edifice.

The reader’s also told (shockingly) that Putin’s unlikely to be an “agent of liberalization,” will continue protecting his wealthy cronies, and will try to placate the masses (though Russia’s moderate economic growth rates won’t support this). 

This straightline type of assessment is easy and safe to stick with, especially for one year.  Continuity is always the baseline scenario with a sufficiently short timeframe.  

Good thing the document didn’t have to judge whether Putin will complete his third term in office, the conditions under which he could be forced out, or who might take his place. 

One might have even settled for the simple conclusion (that many Russians are making):  Putin’s regime has exhausted its potential after 12+ years.  It’s unlikely to last another six, let alone another 12, even if it’s impossible to foresee exactly what Putin’s undoing will be.

Maybe the real answers are in the classified testimony.  No, not likely.

The next page has 3 paragraphs, two-thirds of the page, at last, on the Russian military.  The first is lost to a largely factual effort to explain the military’s reforms since late 2008.  The second sensibly concludes that:

“. . . funding, bureaucratic, and cultural hurdles—coupled with the challenge of reinvigorating a military industrial base that deteriorated for more than a decade after the Soviet collapse—will complicate Russian [rearmament and force modernization] efforts.”

One could say deteriorated for nearly two decades, and there are many Russian observers who believe it can’t be revived.  Surprising nothing’s said about buying weapons and arms technologies abroad.  Again, perhaps in the secret version. 

But at least this testimony doesn’t assume the military and OPK will automatically and absolutely get every ruble and every system talked about in the context of GPV 2011-2020.

The third paragraph tries to say what all this means.  Russia will have the military might to dominate the post-Soviet space (already largely true for the past 20 years) but not to threaten NATO collectively. 

Which raises an interesting point.  Is this document insinuating  Moscow might try to threaten one NATO member individually to test the alliance’s reaction and cohesion?

But, in the end, the text says until improvements in conventional capabilities really reach Russian troops, the Kremlin will continue looking to its nuclear forces to offset its weaknesses vis-a-vis potential opponents with stronger militaries.

You can read on yourself for more on Central Asia, the Caucasus, Ukraine, and Belarus.

Guns and Money (Part I)

Ruslan Pukhov

What does Russia need to spend on defense?  Komsomolskaya pravda’s Viktor Baranets engaged Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Director Ruslan Pukhov on the issue recently.

It takes a bit, but the interview gets interesting, and it’s worth hearing, one thinks.

Baranets asks, do military expenditures depend first and foremost on the economy?  On government policy?  On the treasury?  On the military power of one’s enemies?  Pukhov replies:

“In the first place, on the requirements for guaranteeing national security, and secondly on economic possibilities.  But if the country faces serious threats, then maintaining adequate military power becomes an absolute priority.  And then the resources for these purposes are allocated without looking at the economy.”

OK, that’s standard, but the big question is if . . . if it faces threats and if those threats are really serious.  And one might quibble, you can’t allocate what you don’t have (at least most countries can’t).

Baranets probes further.  People want to understand the 30% jump in military spending.  Have external threats grown?  Pukhov answers: 

“We have to maintain large Armed Forces because of the country’s huge size and its borders with military giants, like NATO and China.  Here the correlation of our military potentials has significance first and foremost.  That’s one.”

“And two.  The most important mission for Russia will remain the preservation of powerful, but expensive strategic nuclear forces and advisably — nuclear parity with the U.S.  It’s clear nuclear arms are the main guarantee of our security.  They make a big war between contemporary world powers impossible.  I’m convinced that, if not for the nuclear shield, the fate of Yugoslavia would have awaited Russia in the 1990s.  That is forcible dismemberment with the support of a NATO intervention.”

“Yet another factor:  Russia is faced with real threats to its security in the form of terrorism in the North Caucasus where an ethnic separatist rebellion has transformed into a general Caucasus Salafist underground, but also in the post-Soviet space — in the first place, in view of Georgia’s aggressive actions.”

“Going further:  our Armed Forces are extremely obsolete technically, they lag the current level of military technology development and need renewal.  For almost two decades after 1991 our Armed Forces were totally and chronically underfinanced, didn’t receive new armaments.  After this almost 20-year ‘buying holiday’ it’s necessary now to pay up, trying in the most compressed time to overcome the accumulated lag.”

“And, finally, everything enumerated above has to be overcome in conditions of the fact, unpleasant for the national self-consciousness, but, alas, indisputable, that Russia is a poor country.”

Baranets asks, how can Russia be poor?  Pukhov’s answer:

“We actually have many natural resources.  And this, incidentally, is yet another argument for having effective Armed Forces.  Natural riches have to be protected.  But by the size of the economy we aren’t even in the top five countries in the world, and the main thing is we seriously lag behind developed states.”

“So we have to conduct military organizational development under conditions of a shortage of resources and significantly bowing before many other countries of the world according to our level of economic development and national wealth.”

“All types of resources enumerated by you [Baranets] are in short supply for us.  Industry requires serious modernization, the scientific-technical base, established in the USSR, is practically used up, the quality of human resources is also not at a high point — the technical training school system has collapsed, so finding qualified workers is an integral problem.  Now we can already talk even about the collapse of secondary education — more often illiterate conscripts are coming into the army, and how can you trust them with complex equipment?”

Baranets says some experts think 1.5 or 2 trillion rubles as foreseen for defense in 2012 is too much when compared with what will be spent on science, education, and health.  One can even hear pronouncements like “the army is stripping the people.”  Pukhov reacts:

“I repeat:  Russia’s in a situation where it’s forced to hurry to catch up and reestablish that which dissipated, was squandered and left adrift in the area of national defense in the 1990s.  Essentially, we didn’t develop, but, to the contrary, we collapsed the army.  Now we need to reestablish the army, buy new equipment and armaments.  This isn’t the army ‘stripping the people.’  This is them ‘stripping’ the army for long years.  But there is generally an old true formula — people who don’t want to feed their own army will feed a foreign one.  Education, medicine and other sectors can be self-financed to a significant degree.  The Armed Forces can’t be self-financed in principle.”

Pukhov covers a lot of ground.  And he makes sense of some stuff.  But some points are debatable.  He’s one who wants to blame the 1990s for everything when then-President Putin was also guilty of neglecting the army in the 2000s.  Yugoslavia did a good job of “dismembering” itself before NATO and Russia intervened.  Instruments other than force exist for managing Russia’s problems in the North Caucasus and Georgia.  Is there a realistic threat of having to feed someone else’s army?  Wouldn’t a slower paced military build-up be more sustainable?   

Part II tomorrow.

Farewell Russian Arms and Russian Army

Does it matter what old soldiers think?  It doesn’t seem to right now.  Maybe they’re just bitter old dudes whose time has passed. 

But they certainly provide interesting and frank commentary on the state of the OPK, the Armed Forces, and Serdyukov’s reforms at odds with official pronouncements from the Kremlin, White House, and Defense Ministry.

Former 58th Army Commander, retired General-Lieutenant Viktor Sobolev wrote recently for Pravda.  He reacted to a program on the army on NTV from October 9.  It apparently wasn’t posted on NTV’s site. 

Sobolev says this right up front:

“On the eve of elections, our president and Supreme Commander-in-Chief Dmitriy Medvedev and ‘national leader’ Vladimir Putin have been worried in turn by the condition of the country’s army and military-industrial complex and are assuring gullible Russian citizens that they will do everything so that our Armed Forces meet modern requirements and receive new types of armaments and military equipment in a timely manner.”

“The Russian mass media [SMI] under the government’s and president’s control have been actively used in making these assurances.”

The ex-general-lieutenant is critical of just about everyone:  Serdyukov and his “effective” managers, people who haven’t served in the army, former First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin who wanted to buy more arms abroad, his successor Sukhorukov who dares insist that defense enterprises substantiate their prices, independent defense commentators like Litovkin and Pukhov, interest-hungry banks, corrupt middlemen.

He points only to Tactical Missile Armaments Corporation General Director Boris Obnosov in a positive light for recognizing that other countries won’t sell Russia their best weaponry. 

Still, Sobolev’s under a bit of a misimpression thinking that Moscow is really buying lots abroad.  In fact, a cynical observer might conclude the whole situation over the last year was designed to let Putin be the champion of the domestic defense sector vs. Medvedev the Westernizer.  But we digress . . . 

For Sobolev, this all sums to an OPK with a broken GOZ, that’s chronically underfinanced and losing its capability to produce modern arms and equipment. 

Again, the cynic might say this was already lost a number of years ago.

But, says Sobolev, when compared with the OPK:

“Even worse is the situation in the Armed Forces.  It’s believed we have a million-man army which Mr. Sukhorukov recalled on this program.  Let’s calculate it together.  According to TO&E, there are 150 thousand officers in the army, no warrants at all, they were liquidated.  According to civilian [but he still wears his uniform] GOMU Chief V. Smirnov, 184 thousand contractees are serving in the army and navy.  In all 334 thousand, the remaining 666 thousand are conscript servicemen.  But they simply couldn’t have called up so many.  Moreover, conscripts serve not only in the army and navy, of the number called up, up to 30% serve in the Internal Troops, Border Guards, MChS units, presidential regiment, and so forth.  This means in the army and navy huge undermanning exists, and it will only get bigger.  It’s planned to reduce the fall callup by 2 times.  More than 200 thousand citizens, according to Smirnov, are evading military service.  The spring callup stretches out to September, and the fall until March.  In the troops, they’re occupied with it constantly, in the course of the entire year, they take young soldiers into their ranks in small groups, organize individual training for them and try to man sub-units.  At the same time, the process of dismissal also goes on without interruption.  In these conditions, you can’t talk about any kind of quality manning of sub-units.  What kind of units of permanent combat readiness are these?”

“Therefore NATO’s military analysts note with satisfaction that, as a result of the reforms conducted, Russia’s Armed Forces aren’t capable of completing missions even in local conflicts, ‘The Russian Army does not have a sufficient quantity of transport resources for redeploying troops over great distances, does not have a sufficient quantity of aircraft and pilots who know how to fly in any weather, no unified information system.  There are not enough soldiers in the army . . .’”

“In NATO, they understand the Russian Army’s fallen apart, but how about our country’s leadership?”

Whoa. 

Sobolev’s no crank, and he’s not to be taken lightly.  Born and schooled in southern Russia, he probably has combat experience whereas the current General Staff Chief and Ground Troops CINC probably don’t.  Sobolev served as Deputy Commander of the OGV(s) in Chechnya in 2002, before taking over the NCMD’s 58th Army in 2003.  He ended his career as the chief military advisor in Russia’s Indian embassy in late 2010.

General-Lieutenant Sobolev

A more recent photo shows him looking just about as fit in retirement at age 61.

One wonders if a conservative like Sobolev realizes how much his thinking coincides with that of more liberal critics he seems to detest.

Cadre Changes

President Medvedev’s decree yesterday dismissed Russia’s senior military representative to NATO, Army General Aleksey Maslov, who was once Ground Troops CINC.  Fifty-eight-year-old Maslov leaves a little early for a four-star general.  No word on whether he requested to retire.  At any rate, other generals might be shuffled about to fill the NATO milrep spot, or it might be gapped for a time.

But on to the decree.

Appoint:

  • Captain 1st Rank Igor Valentinovich Grachev, Chief, Missile-Artillery Armaments Directorate, Northern Fleet.
  • Colonel Sergey Semenovich Nyrkov, Commander, 9th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade.

Relieve:

  • Colonel Sergey Faatovich Akhmetshin, Deputy Chief, Main Staff, Air Forces.
  • Colonel Dmitriy Valeryevich Laptev, Commander, 9th Aerospace Defense Brigade.

Relieve and dismiss from military service:

  • Rear-Admiral Yuriy Prokopyevich Yeremin, Chief, Navy Military Training-Scientific Center “Naval Academy” (1st Branch, St. Petersburg).
  • General-Major Aleksandr Viktorovich Shapekin, Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander, Operational-Strategic Command of Aerospace Defense.

Dismiss from military service:

  • Army General Aleksey Fedorovich Maslov.

After the Pact

Twenty years after the Warsaw Pact, VTsIOM asked Russians what they think, looking back, about the former Soviet glacis in Eastern Europe.

The poll was done 18-19 June with 1,600 respondents in 138 populated areas of 46 RF subjects, and a margin of error not exceeding 3.4%.

First and foremost, two-thirds (66%) of those surveyed didn’t know or remember why the Warsaw Pact existed.

Asked which time period was most secure, calm, and stable internationally, 55% said the 1960s-1980s, 4% said the 1990s, the Yeltsin era, and only 28% said the present day.  Four years ago, the numbers were 47%, 5%, and 34% respectively.

According to VTsIOM, those groups most likely to think the Soviet era most secure are Communists, pensioners, the poorly-educated, and non-Internet users.  Those most likely to see today as more stable are United Russia members, young people, the well-educated, and Internet users.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents look back on the Pact as a defensive, peaceloving, and stabilizing force.  Only 6% say it was militaristic, or held Eastern European countries in an unfree condition.

Eighty percent think Russia lost more than it won when the Pact dissolved twenty years ago.  Ten years ago, 78 percent thought Russia lost more.

Finally, those surveyed were asked if Russia needs, or doesn’t need, to create an international military-political bloc like the Warsaw Pact or NATO.  Overall, 51% of respondents said it’s needed, 23% said it’s not, and 26% found it difficult to answer.  This question was broken out some along the political spectrum without many significant variations.

VTsIOM missed the chance to ask if respondents know Russia already has an international military-political alliance.  Their answers to a question about the Collective Security Treaty Organization would be fascinating, to be sure.

The answers to the questions that were asked are a little surprising and disturbing.  Some of them can be attributed simply to feckless nostalgia or the persistence of Cold War propaganda.  Some are due to a tendency to equate (or confuse) domestic or internal well-being with the country’s external security situation.  Finally, some may come from genuinely perceived threats and insecurities Russians feel today.

Postnikov on the Army and OPK (Part I)

Ground Troops CINC, General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov really stirred up the hornet’s nest on Tuesday.  Russia’s defense sector – its OPK or oboronki – feeling offended recently, is abuzz about his comments.  Postnikov told a session of the Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee:

“Those models of weapons that industry produces, including armor, artillery and infantry weapons, don’t correspond to NATO’s or even China’s models in their characteristics.”

The military hadn’t criticized the domestic OPK’s heavy armor and artillery systems to this point.

Insulting Russian tanks is the particular point here.  According to Newsru.com, Postnikov apparently called the much-praised, newest T-90 in actuality just the 17th modification of the Soviet T-72.  And, at the current cost of 118 million rubles per tank, he suggested:

“It would be simpler for us to buy three ‘Leopards’ [German tanks] for this money.”

Newsru.com counters that Rosoboroneksport is proud of the T-90, its sales, and continued interest abroad, but admits it is weak against third generation ATGMs, modern sub-munitions, and “top attack” weapons.  The news outlet also notes that the Russian Defense Ministry has eschewed procurement of the T-95 and BMPT.

In its editorial entitled “Import Generals,” Vedomosti takes Postnikov to task, saying it’s not sure whether he means new or used Leopards, but the German tanks probably come in at $7.5 million a piece at least, against the T-90 at $4 million [i.e. only part of one Leopard for 118 million rubles].  And, says Vedomosti, comparing Russian tanks to Chinese ones is lamer still on Postnikov’s part.

According to the business daily, these criticisms of Russian armaments usually come with calls to buy the same systems abroad.  But the 2008 war with Georgia showed Russia’s deficiencies lay in soldier systems, comms, recce, C2, and some types of infantry weapons rather than in armor.  When Russia doesn’t make something like Mistral or it has inferior technology like UAVs, it’s understandable to buy foreign, but when it’s something like armor, it raises a lot of issues, according to Vedomosti.  Uralvagonzavod certainly needs tank orders.  The idea of large-scale foreign purchases is utopian, says Mikhail Barabanov.  The paper believes thoughts of buying Leopard tanks and Mistral mean Russia’s generalitet has plans beyond local wars.

BFM.ru says Postnikov put the Ground Troops’ modern arms and equipment at only 12 percent of its inventory at present with, again, the goal of 70 percent in 2020.  At the end of this year, the army will get its first brigade complement of the newest automated C2 (ASU) system [i.e. presumably YeSU TZ]:

“In November of this year, we plan to conduct research on the newest  ASU and hand down our verdict.”

According to BFM.ru, he said NATO and China already have analogous systems:

“But for us it is still the future.”

Nezavisimaya gazeta focused on Postnikov’s comments on Ground Troops brigades.  He said he now has 70, but plans for 109 by 2020, including “future type” brigades:

“There will be 42 brigades of the future type, in all there will be 47 military formations of the future type, including military bases abroad which will be built on the same principle.”

The Glavkom didn’t say how the new brigades will be different from the old.

Parsing what he’s talking about is a little tough.  At the end of 2008, the army talked about having 39 combined arms, 21 missile and artillery, 12 signal, 7 air defense, and 2 EW brigades for a total of 81, rather than Postnikov’s current 70.  One might guess a dozen arms storage bases in Siberia and the Far East could be fleshed out into maneuver brigades.  But where does the manpower come from?  Maybe some of the 70,000 officers cut and now being returned to the ranks by Defense Minister Serdyukov. 

Postnikov elaborated some on heavy, medium, and light brigades.  Heavy will have tanks and tracked armor.  NG concludes there won’t be a new tank.  Tanks in storage will get new electronics and Arena active defense systems.  According to Postnikov, medium brigades will get [among other things?] the Bumerang amphibious BTR now in development.  This, says NG, is the first time anyone’s heard Bumerang.  But if it isn’t successfully developed or produced in sufficient numbers by 2020, the army will just buy armored vehicles abroad since there’s already ample precedent for this.

Light brigades will have vehicles like the Tigr or the Italian LMV (Lynx), licensed production of which could begin in Russia this year.  One special Arctic brigade will be created at Pechenga. 

Several media outlets quoted Postnikov to the effect that there’s no plan to change 1-year conscription, but he noted:

“In the transition to one year military service, military men received only a headache.”

There’s lots more reaction to Postnikov’s statements, but it’s too much for one day.