Tag Archives: Unified Strategic Command

Russian Military Power

Finland’s National Defense University has published a study entitled Russian Politico-Military Development and Finland.  If the media reporting is accurate, it may read a little like a latter-day Soviet Military Power.

Now few have read the document since there’s only a two-page English precis to go with press accounts of its contents.  Perhaps the entire thing will appear in English soon.

But here’s the gist. 

NATO and other Western countries believe war is an outdated idea, and U.S. power and interest in Europe are waning.  Russia, meanwhile, is seeking to revise the verdict of the Cold War, restore its great power status, and regain the Soviet sphere of influence.

It’s modernizing its crumbling armed forces with increasing investments [i.e. the 19-trillion-ruble State Program of Armaments or GPV 2011-2020].  The formation of the Unified Strategic Command (OSK) West (aka the new Western MD) has shifted the Russian Army’s center of gravity from Western Europe to the Northwest [at Finland].  And:

“The Russian armed forces are being improved by forming high-readiness forces with a capability of achieving operational results directly from peacetime employment.”

Finally, the study’s authors seem to see a Russian military resurgence that needs to be met by reinvigorating Finland’s territorial defense system:

“A large military reserve force is an indication of the will to defend the country, and has a major preventative value.”

It’s worth challenging three central propositions here.

Russia’s “increasing investments” in its military.  The Finnish report is reacting a priori to plans for large outlays for defense procurement that may or may not happen.  They authors are concerned about Russia’s intention to modernize, and what its forces might look like after modernization.  The current GPV could go the way of its predecessors; the first annual state defense order (GOZ) to fulfill the GPV isn’t exactly proceeding smoothly.  It’s important also to consider what’s being modernized.  In many cases, Moscow plans to replace arms and equipment from the 1980s and earlier, and not everything will be a world-class fourth- or fifth-generation weapons system.  Lots of the “new” models will be based on late Soviet-era designs.  

The shift to the Northwest.  To some extent, there may be an effort to get forces closer to their likely theater of operations.  But hysterical assertions of vastly increased Russian forces shouldn’t be taken seriously.  It’s largely the same forces organized differently, and certainly not all opposite Finland.  The creation of OSK West or the Western MD was also an attempt to cut redundant command and staff echelons and get the Ground Troops out of the expensive environs of Moscow and Moscow Oblast.  One could easily argue the Defense Ministry’s placed a higher priority on forces in the Southern or Eastern MDs. 

The formation of high readiness units.  The report’s authors are quoted as saying Russia’s high readiness forces will be ready to leave garrison, and begin offensive operations in an hour, according to Vzglyad’s interpretation of a Russian-language media outlet in Estonia.  In reality, the forces are now more highly ready to depart the garrison and get combat orders.  No one can say what those orders will say.  Any combat missions will have to be carried out by troops who generally have less than six months in the army, and they’ll be lucky to execute a successful defensive operation.  Also, let’s hope the Finnish study says that this high readiness was really more about getting rid of useless, hollow, low readiness cadre units.

But, as Newsru cites a former deputy commander of the OGV(s) in the North Caucasus, it’s hardly possible to talk about Russian efforts to encircle anyone “in the condition which we’re in, and with those obvious army problems which we have.”

No one should misunderstand.  The Finns are to be admired for their perspicacity when it comes to Moscow.  They’re keen observers of what’s happening in Russia.  They have to be. 

But there’s obviously a huge issue of perspective.  Things look very different from Helsinki, Washington, Paris, London, and Berlin.  Russia’s capabilities are somewhat hyped in a public debate about what level of forces and readiness Finland needs to deter Russia.

But, all in all, it doesn’t help anyone in the long-term to inflate [re-inflate?] a Soviet-style military threat.  A realistic assessment of Russian capabilities and intentions will lead to practical, affordable measures to counter them.

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Navy Still Not Moving to Piter (Yet)

A highly placed Defense Ministry source tells RIA Novosti there’s no final decision on moving the Navy Main Staff (NMS) from Moscow to St. Petersburg.  It’s been, of course, 3-1/2 years since the issue was first raised.

The press agency source says:

“There are two approaches.  The first is the Navy Main Staff remains in Moscow, and here the efficiency of resolving issues and tasks with the RF Defense Ministry wins and the second is the Navy Main Staff, with significantly reduced personnel, transfers to Saint Petersburg, where the scientific and shipbuilding base of the fleet is concentrated.”

According to this source, the pluses and minuses of both approaches are being calculated in the final phase of forming the command and control system of the Armed Forces.  The question of the NMS location is approached from the point of view that even temporary weakening in the command and control system for naval strategic nuclear forces (MSYaS or МСЯС) is unacceptable:

“The focus is placed on the effectiveness of the functioning of this system.  Whether the Navy Main Staff as just one attribute [of this system] transfers authoritative functions to St. Petersburg or remains in Moscow is not so important.  It’s important that the deployment location should be defended in a corresponding manner and not allow confusion in the general system of Armed Forces command and control.”

There is, according to the source, no doubt it’s essential to preserve the unitary structure of strategic nuclear forces command and control in the future:

“It follows that the Navy command in the form of the Navy Main Staff or, let’s say, a Navy department [департамент] is essential for coordinating the strategy of using the Navy in cooperation with the new regional commands [OSKs].”

He adds that, while OSKs West, South, Center, and East are complete, it still remains to distribute precisely the command and control functions for general purpose forces and strategic nuclear forces.

RIA Novosti’s interlocutor makes all this sound like the main issue may be less the move itself, and more one of figuring out the relationship and responsibilities of the now stronger and more significant MDs / OSKs and the somewhat diminished service main commands (Glavkomaty).  Perhaps the Navy Glavkomat is arguing with OSK West and OSK East over what is part of the strategic Navy, or supports strategic naval operations.

And Interfaks also has an item today saying that the Defense Ministry has ordered the NMS to prepare to move to St. Petersburg.  This came from an informed source in the Navy Glavkomat.  The written order contains no precise date for the move, but the source thinks the “active phase” of relocating will begin in July.

Makarov Interview

Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer published an interview with the Chief of the General Staff, Army General Nikolay Makarov last Tuesday.  It’s not exactly a hard-ball interview.  But it’s fairly consistent with his other statements.  Among the priorities, preserving mobilization appears again.  Inter-service C2 in the new OSKs is a big theme.  He can’t explain why the Air Forces aren’t getting more new aircraft, and PVO sounds like it’s destined for joining VKO under the Space Troops. 

VPK asked about the possibility of changes in Russia’s military doctrine following the NATO-Russia summit and more talk of a strategic partnership.  Makarov said the approach of NATO infrastructure to Russia’s borders and the alliance’s continued “open door” policy vis-a-vis Ukraine and Georgia are still factors in Russia’s military doctrine.  Therefore, there’s no need to adjust it.

Makarov expounded on the concept of force and force structure development [строительство] to 2020 adopted by President Medvedev last April 19.  Its main measures include:

  • Establishment of the air-space (aerospace) defense (VKO) system;
  • Formation of the optimal composition of inter-service troop (force) groupings on strategic axes;
  • Supporting mobilization of military formations and troop groupings;
  • Establishing modern command and control systems;
  • Deploying military towns of a new troop basing system;
  • Reequipping formations and units with new and future types of armaments and military equipment;
  • Resolving social protection issues of servicemen.

Asked about military science and operational training, Makarov said the main task of the military-scientific complex is to “support the training and employment of the Armed Forces in their new profile, especially inter-service training of the military command and control organs” of the new MDs / OSKs. 

Makarov admitted that Russia lags behind developed countries in reconnaissance and command and control, and is still using communications systems developed in the 1990s.  He continued:

“Another problem is the fact that every service and troop branch of the Armed Forces developed its own means of automation and communications without looking at the others.  The command and control systems of the Ground Troops, Navy, and Air Forces didn’t interface with each other, that lowered the possibilities for controlling troop groupings on the operational-strategic and operational level.”

He says the General Staff has given the OPK requirements for high-tech digital reconnaissance and communications systems.  Industry is already developing a fundamentally new, sixth generation radio system with digital signal processing to implement a net organization in radio communications.  He says it’s being built as a unitary, integrated net at all levels, from the General Staff to the individual soldier on the battlefield.  Command and control systems will get 300 billion rubles under GPV-2020, according to Makarov.

Sounding very much the net-centric warfare disciple, Makarov says the main task is to form a unitary information space uniting reconnaissance, navigation, command and control, and new generation weapons.

Makarov doesn’t have a good answer when asked why the Air Forces don’t have a single fully reequipped unit despite increased defense expenditures.  He maintains they are getting new aircraft and their units are now all permanently combat ready and fully equipped and manned.

On aerospace defense, Makarov says PVO, PRO, SPRN, and KKP (space monitoring) will be concentrated in the hands of one commander, but:

“I’d like to note this won’t be a simple, mechanistic merger of different military entities under the leadership of a new strategic command.  Their deep integration and echelonment by mission, information exchange, and interception fire is envisaged.  We’ve already started fulfilling the initial measures on this issue.”

Obviously speaking much prior to last week’s news about reversing cuts in the officer ranks, Makarov addressed the moratorium on inducting new cadets.  He said 78.5 percent of 2010 VVUZ graduates became officers.  Others, he says, who wanted to stay in the service were temporarily placed in lower-ranking [i.e. sergeant] posts, but will participate in command training and form a cadre reserve for filling officer positions.

Lastly, Makarov talked about the new military pay system coming next year.  Military retirees have been especially concerned about its effect on pensions.  Makarov didn’t say much to assuage them.  He said there will be no difference in pensions depending on when servicemen retired, and a commission under Finance Ministry leadership is working on the issue.  That will probably reassure army pensioners.

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.

Makarov’s Year-Ender

On Tuesday, General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov provided his year-end wrap-up on the ‘new profile’ of the Armed Forces in the form of a press-conference featuring a videolink with the four new MD / OSK commanders.

It was pretty much a self-congratulatory celebration of how Makarov and company have turned everything in the Russian military around for the better.  As Moskovskiy komsomolets put it, “Nikolay Makarov told the media how bad it was in the army in the past, and how good it will be in the future.”

Rossiyskaya gazeta paraphrased Makarov’s remarks, giving only a couple direct quotes.  First up was President Medvedev’s call for unified aerospace defense (VKO) before the end of 2011.

RG says Makarov said VKO will be fully operational in 2020 when new reconnaissance and weapons systems have been deployed.  He said its purpose is to defend the state [interestingly the state, not the country] from ballistic and cruise missiles.  It needs to be an umbrella against any kind of threat, including low-altitude ones.

Makarov said different military structures have been occupied with the security of the skies.  Space Troops do orbital reconnaissance and ground-based missile early warning.  The air forces and air defense armies (АВВСиПВО or АВВСПВО) and radar troops monitor air space for approaching hostile aircraft.  The Special Designation Command (КСпН) covers the Moscow air defense zone [didn’t this long ago change its name to the OSK VKO?].  Air defense troops (ЗРВ) and fighter aviation cover other important facilities.  The system was set-up on a service (видовой) basis and that’s why it was uncoordinated.  It needs to be made integrated and put under the command of the General Staff [of course – this sounds like Olga Bozhyeva in MK].  In the Defense Ministry, they understand unification won’t be quick and will require a lot of resources, but there’s simply no other way.

Izvestiya proffered a quotation on this one:

“If we look at how this system was built earlier, then it’s possible to see that it acted separately by services and branches of troops, and also by regions.  So, Space Troops answered for space reconnaissance, the work of missile attack warning stations.  The Ground Troops for the activity of radar units.  Now we are uniting all these separate organizations in a unitary whole.  We need to establish the foundation of this system in 2011.  To finish its formation completely by 2020.”

According to RG, Makarov said a modern army would be useless without a new command and control system for the Armed Forces.  Russia’s move to a unified information environment will cost 300 billion rubles, and will be phased, with the initial phase being the replacement of all analog equipment with digital systems by 2012.  Command and control systems will be developed and produced in Russia, but other weapons will be bought abroad.  This is when he broke the news about Mistral winning the amphibious command ship tender.

RG concludes Makarov called for a fully professional Armed Forces, but the words it quoted aren’t particularly convincing:

“Now we can’t do them like this.  But year by year we’ll increase the selection of contract servicemen with commensurate pay.”

However, Moskovskiy komsomolets quoted the General Staff Chief this way:

“We are aiming for a contract army.  Now we can’t make it so instantly, but year by year the number of contract servicemen, with commensurate pay, will increase.”

Olga Bozhyeva viewed this as a total reversal of Makarov’s earlier rejection of contractees and insistence on conscripts as the backbone of the army.

Makarov also talked about efforts to create ‘human’ service and living conditions.  He referred, as always, to outsourcing and civilianizing mess hall and other housekeeping duties.  He repeated that, starting in 2012, officer pay will increase by several times.  According to Krasnaya zvezda, Makarov said 50 percent of officers now receive higher pay through premiums and incentives.  Officers and their families will be moved from remote garrison towns to oblast centers where their children can get a better education and wives can find work.  About the large cut in military towns, he said:

“We had about 22 thousand of them, approximately 5,500 remain, but in all, we’re taking the number of military towns to 180.”

Of course, he didn’t mention who will take care of large numbers of retirees left behind in that archipelago of abandoned military towns.

KZ gave its own recap of Makarov’s press-conference, and it’s interesting to hear his rehash of why the army needed a ‘new profile.’  His remarks blow up any lingering myth about the 2000s, at least the Putin years, as the time of the Russian military’s rejuvenation.  He said:

“Before 2009, 87 percent of the Armed Forces consisted of formations and military units with abbreviated personnel and cadres, practically not having personnel.  They almost didn’t conduct operational and combat training.  The army didn’t just degrade.  During this time, we grew an entire generation of officers and generals who ceased to understand the very essence of military service, they didn’t have experience in training and educating personnel.”

KZ paraphrases more of Makarov.  The personnel training system caused complaints.  VVUZy were teaching the Great Patriotic War.  Low pay and poor prospects for housing made the officer’s profession a low-prestige one.  In units, personnel weren’t occupied with combat training, but serving themselves, and military discipline fell as a result.  On the whole, the Armed Forces stopped fulfilling the missions for which they are intended, and could scarcely react to threats and challenges beyond the state’s borders and inside the country.

Makarov addressed how the MDs were changed to meet future threats and challenges:

“Planning and troop employment happened with significant difficulties, since each of six military districts had a series of missions where one often contradicted another.  Moreover, four air forces and air defense armies were established, as a result, the zones of responsibility of the military districts and these armies didn’t coincide at all.  This led to confusion in employing air defense forces.  At the same time, experience showed that military actions in recent decades are conducted, as a rule, by unified force groupings and forces under a unitary command.  Each of our districts and each of our four fleets existed independently. Each had its own zone of responsibility, not matching the others.  In order to organize any kind of joint actions, it was necessary to establish temporary commands, temporary structures, which, as a rule, were poorly prepared, didn’t have corresponding experience.  All this led to unsatisfactory results.”

Izvestiya quoted him:

“In the bounds of the ongoing transformations, full-blooded troop groupings have been established on all strategic axes.  Four full-blooded commands have appeared for us which, having in their composition and immediately subordinate to them all forces and means, can react adequately to all challenges and threats to the borders of our districts.  Changes in the Armed Forces command and control structure are a necessary occurrence since the old administrative-territorial division had stopped answering the challenges and threats of the time.”

New MDs (photo: ITAR-TASS)

Then Makarov brought in MD commanders over the video so they could attest to how it’s going.  They remarked on how cutting intermediate, redundant command levels has made their jobs easier.  Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Arkadiy Bakhin said 40 percent of his formations and units have outsourced some support functions. 

KZ says earlier MD commanders answered only for Ground Troops, and when they needed forces from another service or branch, they had to get permission from above.  Southern MD Commander, General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Galkin claims making these requests cost the commander time, but now all forces and means are in one command, the fundamentally new unified strategic command (OSK).  Galkin also says freeing soldiers from support tasks means there are now 20-22 training days per month instead of 15-16.

Goodbye GRU Spetsnaz, Hello Army Spetsnaz

Writing in last Friday’s Stoletiye.ru, Rossiyskaya gazeta correspondent Sergey Ptichkin says that, practically on its 60th anniversary, GRU Spetsnaz have landed in a most unexpected place – the Ground Troops.  His piece is full of bitter sarcasm.

Ptichkin concludes:

“The GRU Spetsnaz brigades have transferred into the Ground Troops structure.  Several units have disbanded altogether.  Ranks for duties have been lowered.  Now a senior lieutenant will command a reconnaissance group, and that’s the ceiling.  All warrant officers have been dismissed – there’s no longer such a rank in the army.  And it’s strange that professional sergeants haven’t magically appeared in place of full-grown warrants.  The issue of halting parachute training for reconnaissance men is on the agenda.  Really, why parachutes if they’ve become ‘pure infantrymen?’  They can deliver them to any rebellious village in the mountains or forests on trains or in KamAZes.”

According to Ptichkin, professional Spetsnaz believe:

“. . . it’s simply impossible to train an eighteen-year-old boy into a genuine reconnaissance man-saboteur in one year.  In Afghanistan, Spetsnaz soldiers were sent out only after a year of intensive combat training.  That is real service, when a professional military reconnaissance man was born even at the very lowest level, began a year after callup, but now they’re dismissed into the reserves where they forget everything they learned after a few months.”

Ptichkin recalls the GRU Spetsnaz’ anniversary ten years ago.  Even though their relations with the Spetsnaz were tense, the Defense Minister and General Staff Chief came and paid their respects.

But this year:

“Neither the Defense Minister, nor the Chief of the General Staff, not even their current chief – the Ground Troops CINC came.”

“Many veterans and even serving officers consider this day a quiet farewell to the GRU Spetsnaz, born 60 years ago.  It’s possible something more mobile, combat ready, and effective will take its place.”

So he’s thrown Putin and Medvedev’s own description of the kind of army they want back at them.  Of course, the Spetsnaz have always considered themselves the ultimate fighting force.

Ptichkin says the Defense Minister didn’t even issue a traditional order of recognition for the day of Spetsnaz troops.

“There is still the symbol of military reconnaissance – the bat [literally, ‘flying mouse’].  But very soon it’ll be possible to boldly replace this silent night hunter on the emblem with a grey field mouse.  A sweet and inoffensive ground-pounder.”

ITAR-TASS’ coverage of the Spetsnaz anniversary also clearly identified them as subordinate to the Ground Troops, CINC General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov, and his Chief of Reconnaissance, Deputy Chief of Staff for Reconnaissance, Colonel Vladimir Mardusin.

The press service said Mardusin indicated that:

“. . . at present, army Spetsnaz are organized in independent brigades of special designation, which exist in every military district, and battalions in several combined arms formations of the Southern Military District.  Within the formation of the new profile of the armed forces, independent brigades of special designation were transferred to the Ground Troops and are in direct subordination to military district commanders / unified strategic commands.”

Izvestiya’s Dmitriy Litovkin predicted the GRU Spetsnaz’ transfer from the General Staff’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) to the Ground Troops last November on the day of military intelligence (6 November).  This was after the 67th, 12th, and 3rd Spetsnaz brigades were disbanded, and even the 16th was in danger of the same.

Igor Korotchenko told Litovkin:

“It’s possible to judge what’s happening in the GRU only through open information.  For example, one of the results of the reform is taking the force component from the GRU and resubordinating Spetsnaz to the military district commanders.  Only space, radioelectronic, and agent reconnaissance, and also the analytic service remain in today’s ‘Aquarium.’”

Just a reminder, this would mean they were taken even before the six old MDs were reformed into 4 MDs / OSKs.  The poor performance of the GRU generally and the Spetsnaz specifically in the 2008 Georgian conflict may have provided impetus for the change.  Litovkin and others have reported that the GRU and Spetsnaz received an ‘unsatisfactory’ for their efforts in that brief war.   Meanwhile, subordinating Spetsnaz to warfighting MD CINCs on different strategic directions would seem to make sense, the angst of the GRU, its officers, and veterans notwithstanding.

We should, however, get back to the original Ptichkin article.  It has a lot of interesting stuff you might want to peruse.  Some is hyperbolic though, so take it with a grain of salt . . .

He describes all details of their formation from 24 October 1950.  The Spetsnaz were subordinate to the General Staff (GRU) because they were first and foremost strategic, and strategic nuclear, warfighting assets designed to disrupt U.S. and NATO capabilities – nuclear weapons, logistics, transport, communications, etc. – in deep rear areas, including even North America.

And, according to Ptichkin, they were supermen capable of singly accomplishing missions not even combined arms sub-units could handle.  And the Spetsnaz were more secret than Soviet nuclear weapons; not even all generals or marshals knew about more than their general outlines.

Everything changed with Afghanistan and glasnost.  Every power structure wanted its own special forces.  And the GRU Spetsnaz were thrust into the forefront of a war they weren’t created for.  But through the skill of their commanders they adapted and were successful.  Ptichkin claims a single Spetsnaz detachment could pacify an entire province.  And, according to him, if the Spetsnaz had been unleashed fully, the Afghan war would have been won and the country under Soviet control by the mid-1980s.

He says Tajikistan in 1992 proves this isn’t a fantasy.  The 15th Spetsnaz brigade under Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, one of the accused in the Chubays’ assassination attempt, was given a free hand there and pacified the country. 

Ptichkin says Spetsnaz weren’t so involved in the First Chechen War, and the results were bad of course.  But they were used more extensively in the Second Chechen.  And he claims the Chechen Spetsnaz battalion under Sulim Yamadayev prevented Georgian saboteurs from blowing the Roki tunnel in August 2008.

And so, says Ptichkin, for 30 years, Spetsnaz have fought in places they weren’t intended to be, but have fought beautifully anyway.  Instead of landing in he main enemy’s rear areas, they are sitting on their own territory prepared, in extreme circumstances, to be sent to the next hot spot in the CIS, and not further afield.

As proof of how they’ve been used, it’s interesting to note the holiday press which says 8 Spetsnaz became Heroes of the Soviet Union in 40 years, but 44 have become Heroes of the Russian Federation in less than 20 years.

Western MD Opens for Business

According to ITAR-TASS, General-Colonel Valeriy Gerasimov told journalists yesterday that the new Western Military District (MD) was fully formed and functional on 1 September.  Gerasimov said:

“The Western Military District started functioning on 1 September.  Command and control organs of the former Leningrad and Moscow Military Districts, Northern and Baltic Fleets, and also the 1st Air Forces and Air Defense Command went into the composition of the staff located in St. Petersburg.”

Gerasimov said the majority of Moscow MD staff officers:

“. . . were appointed to positions in the staff of the Western Military District and other organs of military command and control.  Part of the officers, having served out their prescribed terms, were dismissed, but those who have a half-year to a year remaining to serve are at the disposition [of their commanding officers].”

Gerasimov himself went from Commander, Moscow MD to become a deputy chief of the General Staff.

The Defense Ministry now wants the other three new MDs / OSKs to be functional by 1 October.