Tag Archives: Vladimir Komoyedov

Keep Close to Shore

“In essence, after many years of interruption, we are beginning a large shipbuilding program:  by 2020, 4.7 trillion rubles will be directed at reequipping Russia’s Navy.  The aim is clear — it is creating a modern fleet, capable of carrying out all missions — from nuclear deterrence to presence on the world’s oceans, to the security of our economic interests and Russia’s bioresources.”

That’s how Prime Minister Putin put it at Monday’s party conference in Cherepovets.  But Nezavisimaya gazeta and Vedomosti had sharp and pithy criticism for him and for the naval construction program.

NG concluded military voters might be cheered up, but the paper wants to know what the naval construction program is exactly.  Is it the one that’s buying Mistrals that may not be needed from France?  With what and how will the Navy be equipped?

Apparently not aircraft carriers.  And not other large warships either.  They’re built in Russia, but for sale to India and China.  NG continues:

“Our own fleet is being populated piecemeal.  And, as a rule, we’re talking about a mosquito fleet.  Which, of course, is not capable of completing missions ‘from nuclear deterrence to presence on the world’s oceans.'”

The editorial cites former Black Sea Fleet Commander Vladimir Komoyedov who complains about the retirement of the Kara-class CG Ochakov, and claims nothing new is being developed.  It quotes Aleksandr Pokrovskiy who says the Baltic Fleet’s new Steregushchiy and Soobrazitelnyy corvettes are not participating in exercises because they’re only 50 percent combat ready.

So, asks NG, what kind of modern fleet are we talking about?  About past shipbuilding programs, it says:

“They were concrete and understandable — how many and what types of ships must be built.  Today politicians prefer to talk not about this, but about large-scale financial investment in the future fleet.  And in the very distant future at that.  From the point of view of the 2011 and 2012 election campaigns, it could be, that this is correct.  But from the point of view of the country’s security — hardly.”

Vedomosti takes its turn:

“. . . the idea of turning Russia into a great naval power has agitated the minds of the leaders of the Russian state for more than 300 years already.  The question is how acute this mission is in the 21st century and how Putin’s new slogans correspond to programs already adopted.”
 
“But the thing is not just the quality of the state program [of armaments], but also its strategic aims, which the government’s leader lays out.  We’d like the prime minister to formulate precisely what level of Navy presence in the world’s oceans and what he has in mind for its participation in the defense of bioresources.  Security of mineral and biological resources is an affair for civilian services and maritime border guards . . . .”
The business daily goes on to say corvettes, frigates, and landing ships are capable of completing “understandable and necessary missions.”  Still, it
says:
 
“Many experts consider extravagant the purchase of the Mistrals (four ships cost 2.35 billion euros), intended to support amphibious operations at a great distance from native shores.  Some admirals and VPK directors called for development of aircraft carrier groups.  Similar projects, the cost of which stretches to tens of billions of euros, will cause curtailment of construction of ships needed for the fleet, overloading and technological breakdowns in Russian shipyards.  In any case, Russia’s main problems have to be resolved on land.”
Sound advice given that the procurement problems of the Ground Troops and Air Forces, not to mention the RVSN, are just as serious and urgent as the Navy’s (if not more so).
 
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Russia Not Likely to Buy Ukraina

Slava-class CG Ukraina

Will Russia buy the aging, semi-finished Slava-class CG Ukraina?  Probably not, unless the price is really right, i.e. basically zero.  It’s unlikely Russia will pay Ukraine to complete the cruiser because Russian shipyards have suggested towing it to Russia, refurbishing, and updating there. 

The questions are compelling only because of a recent video, varying reports about the ship and a possible deal, and what this all says about Moscow’s military procurement.

Military parity highlighted Podrobnosti.ua’s video.  Like the photo above, the video shows a major combatant in declining condition.

Nevertheless, according to recent ITAR-TASS, Ukraine’s Defense Minister is optimistic Kyiv and Moscow will finish Ukraina together.  And he claims the ship is 95 percent complete.

By way of review, Ukraina is a 1970s- or 1980s-vintage design being constructed as Fleet Admiral Lobov at Nikolayev’s [Mykolayiv’s] 61 Communards Shipbuilding Plant when the USSR collapsed.  Kyiv failed to find a foreign buyer for the ship, and reportedly spends $1 million every year maintaining it.  So that doesn’t mean a plethora of options or a very strong negotiating position for the Ukrainian side.

Talk of Russia buying Ukraina peaked last year in the wake of the base agreement extension between Moscow and Kyiv.  News outlets noted that the acting chief of the Russian Navy’s Technical Directorate inspected the cruiser and declared it 50 percent ready.  He said Ukraina would need 15 billion rubles for repairs and 35 billion for modernization — $1.7 billion in all.  The Navy’s 50 percent sounds a lot more like the 70 or 75 percent we’ve been hearing for many years than the Ukrainian Defense Minister’s 95 percent.

Reported pricetags for Ukraina, in its current shape, start at $70 or $80 million and run to ridiculous numbers.  In January, Argumenti.ru reported the Russian Defense Ministry would not pay scrap metal prices for Ukraina, but commented that Moscow would accept the ship as a gift.

Then there’s also the issue of whether the Russian Navy really needs it.  It’s an issue often forgotten in procurement debates.  Granted Ukraina is a something of a special case.  But it should also be a pretty easy decision.

Novyy region quoted a couple opinions last May.  Former Black Sea Fleet Commander Vladimir Komoyedov said:

“The ship hasn’t aged 15-20 years yet according to its capabilities.  However, it needs, of course, to be deployed in the ocean, in open theaters, and not in the Black Sea, not in the Baltic — there just isn’t sufficient space for it there.  The ships [Slava-class] are very good, not at all badly designed.  It can’t be said this cruiser belongs just to Ukraine alone.  Ukraine’s share of it, as far as I remember, is 17, a maximum of 20 percent.  Therefore the question’s about the purchase not of a full ship, but of a share — all the rest belongs to Russia.  The purchase issue has stood for a long time, and it needs to be resolved once and for all.  If such a decision is made, it’ll be the right one.  It’s better than the tin can Mistral by a factor of two.”

Defense analyst Aleksandr Khramchikhin, on the other hand, said:

“It’s very hard to understand who needs this ship now.  Undoubtedly, for our fleet which is shrinking into nothing, now such a cruiser has already become pointless.  We have to begin, so to speak, from below, and not from above, not with cruisers, but with frigates at least.  Moreover, these cruisers have a very narrow anti-aircraft carrier mission.  They were built exclusively for war with American carrier battle groups.  It doesn’t seem to me that this mission is all that acute for us now.  Therefore, it’s hard for me to comprehend why we need this ship, and where to put it if it is finished.”

All that said, the Russians might buy Ukraina anyway.  If they do, it’ll indicate a new State Program of Armaments gone awry in its first year.

Oil on a Fire?

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin recently pointed out that Russian soldiers are still busy performing ‘noncore’ tasks [i.e. essential housekeeping chores unrelated to combat training].  And this is happening despite frequent Defense Ministry trumpeting about success in eliminating ‘nonmilitary’ work from the troops’ daily regimen.

Helping out during the recent snow and ice storms is just the most recent example.  Mukhin says the army was pressed into this municipal task in Khabarovsk, Nizhniy Tagil, and Chelyabinsk.  Suburban Moscow air defenders in the OSK VKO fueled mobile power generators and operated field kitchens during the bad weather.  Reservists were called up to cope with heavy snow in Tatarstan.  Military units were also pressed into service against forest fires this summer. 

None of this is particularly surprising.  Many governments would turn to the army in similar circumstances.  But it shows that Russia’s local and regional governments lack the depth of resources to provide the services customarily expected at those levels of administration in most countries.  And, of course, they don’t have part-time soldiers in a national guard structure that can be mobilized by the governor in an emergency.

More interesting, however — to return to Mukhin’s article — a Kremlin source told his paper that an unpublicized order had gone out from the PA to the Defense Ministry on the eve of the New Year’s holidays saying that troops should prepare for “active participation” in resolving any kind of “emergency situations” (ChS) arising in the country.  And the order implied both natural and “social”  [i.e. man-made] emergencies.

Ready to Help the Police (photo: Nezavisimaya gazeta / Aleksandr Shalgin)

An NG source in the Defense Ministry said VDV unit and formations throughout Russia were in “full” combat readiness, and at “hour X” were ready to come to the assistance of police and the MVD’s Internal Troops (VV) in the event of disturbances in the capital or other major cities.

KPRF Duma Deputy and former Black Sea Fleet Commander, Vladimir Komoyedov put it in this context:

“There’s nothing bad about the army coming to help people, to help clean up disasters.  In the days of the USSR, soldiers also harvested crops, cleaned up man-made disasters, and separated ethnic groups who were fighting.  But our leaders have proclaimed the principle that the army is outside politics.  The troops should be occupied with their business — combat training, ensuring military security — and that’s all.  But it isn’t happening like this…  Now once again signs of instability are appearing — and no longer just in Russia’s south, but also in the entire country.  And we no longer have an army at all.”

The VDV spokesman felt compelled to respond right away to this story.  He told RIA Novosti the VDV is not in “full,” but rather “permanent” combat readiness for any missions assigned by its command.  And he noted that VDV sub-units are not specially trained for the mission of securing law and order.

But he didn’t say they couldn’t or wouldn’t give it a try.

RIA Novosti reminded readers of mid-December riots in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Rostov-na-Donu.  About 5,000 took part in an unsanctioned nationalist rally on Manezh Square adjacent to the Kremlin to protest the reported murder of an ethnic Russian by a man from Kabardino-Balkaria. 

The use of the VDV for an internal contingency is unlikely, but certainly conceivable.  It would probably be a last-resort measure.  And its effect on any situation might be unpredictable. 

In the right circumstances, the VDV might handle themselves professionally.  In the wrong circumstances, they might be like oil on a fire.

Makarov Talks to Duma Defense Committee

Nikolay Makarov (photo: Rossiyskaya gazeta)

Last Thursday, General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov spoke to a closed session of the Duma’s Defense Committee about the situation in the armed forces.  A few committee members were kind enough to inform the press about some of the discussion.

Rossiyskaya gazeta said it’s no secret the Defense Ministry wants more money in its 2011 budget.  And the generals’ arguments are well-known — the army needs to reequip, relocate, and raise officer pay.  Additional financial means are needed for this.  Makarov didn’t avoid this issue, and he had a lot of supporters.  Deputy committee chairman Yuriy Savenko had this to say on the issue of budget and rearmament:

“Today there isn’t just not enough money for this.  We have to recognize that our military industry has sagged a lot over the last two decades.”

Makarov apparently commented on Bulava, seeing the recent successful launch as opening the way for its quickest acceptance into the Navy arsenal.  But he said first it has to complete three [not two] more tests.  The next won’t come earlier than November, and the first from Yuriy Dolgorukiy possibly before year’s end.

The General Staff Chief talked about the country’s new military-administrative divisions, claiming the reduction to 4 MDs isn’t causing major troop relocations, but rather allowing the army to stand-up additional combined arms, reconnaissance, and airborne brigades on its strategic axes.

He apparently mentioned the introduction of information management systems into the troops is a priority.

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Viktor Litovkin reports Makarov said Russia will hold just one operational-strategic exercise, Tsentr-2011, next year, and, after it, the focus will be on tactical platoon and company exercises.  Litovkin says the issue isn’t money, but the time it takes to train units from platoon to brigade in what they need to demonstrate in a big exercise.  And training time is too short with one-year soldiers.  He reports the army’s decided to put all officers from new lieutenants to generals through tactical retraining and improvement courses.

KPRF Deputy, Vladimir Komoyedov — former Black Sea Fleet commander — commented a little on what he heard.  He said Makarov mainly touted what’s been achieved the last two years.  Komoyedov said he heard about conventional forces, but not much about strategic ones, and when he asked specifically about naval strategic forces, Makarov’s answer didn’t satisfy him.  Komoyedov spoke to Tverskaya, 13, but he quickly spun off into his own commentary, rather than Makarov’s.

Perhaps the most press went to Makarov’s announcement that the Defense Ministry will go forward with military police units in the armed forces after all.  They’ll reportedly number about 20,000 personnel.  MP sub-units will be present from brigade to military district, and they could be manned by servicemen dismissed in the course of Serdyukov’s reforms.

Finally, Komsomolskaya pravda says Makarov has told it about various changes in the army coming in the next five years.  Some are not all together surprising, but there are new twists on others:

  1. A two-pipe Defense Ministry — military and civilian, with the latter handling money, personnel, and support.
  2. Hired cleaners, maintenance people, and security guards for the barracks.
  3. Military pay via bank cards to make it more difficult for older soldiers to extort money from new conscripts.
  4. Contractees will get 30-35 thousand rubles per month.
  5. Conscription will stay at one year (there are 156,000 men with deferments and 130,000 evaders).
  6. Specialty training time for soldiers needs to be cut from 6 to 2-3 months.
  7. Tsentr-2011 will occur, but other exercises will focus on the company-level and lower.
  8. There will be 8 aviation centers [bases?], but 4 would be ideal.  Air defense aviation will have 2 months on duty, and 2 months at home.
  9. Glavkomaty of services and branches will be cut from 1,000 personnel to about 150 or 200.  Generals’ duties will go out to the new MDs.  All the ‘glavki’ will relocate into the Ground Troop headquarters on the Frunzenskaya embankment.
  10. The Genshtab will keep its hands on strategic submarines, bombers, and the RVSN.
  11. The VDV will not be cut, and will continue to report through the Genshtab.  They are likely to be reinforced with new brigades.
  12. The Navy will get 1-2 nuclear-powered submarines each year.  New aircraft carriers are in development.  The fleet gets 23% of the defense budget, the RVSN 25%.

Return to Cam Ranh?

Russia Departs Cam Ranh in 2002 (photo: ITAR-TASS)

The Russian Navy’s possible return to Vietnam became the latest military rumor floated in the media last week.  If it happens, it won’t have exactly the same purposes as in 1979, and it probably won’t be on the same scale.  But it will be part and parcel of the issue of being, or wanting to remain, a naval power.  Moscow might have to ask itself if it still is one, or will be one in the future.

On Wednesday, former Navy Main Staff Chief, Admiral Viktor Kravchenko told Interfaks the Navy is proposing to reestablish a material-technical support base (PMTO or ПМТО) at Cam Ranh.

The news service quotes Kravchenko:

“Without a system of bases for deployment, full support of Navy ships in distant waters is problematic.  Navy surface ships and submarines need repair, resupply, and crew rest to fulfill a wide range of missions on the world’s oceans.  If as before Russia considers itself a naval power, the reestablishment and creation of basing points like Cam Ranh is unavoidable.”

A Defense Ministry source told Nezavisimaya gazeta that:

“The [Navy] Glavkomat has finished work on the documents considering and substantiating the need to reestablish a basing point to support Russian ships in the Asia-Pacific region.  If there is a political decision, then the Navy is prepared to reestablish a working base in three years.”

The base would support ships on antipiracy missions in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, according to the source.

The Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee’s Subcommittee on Military-Technical Cooperation, former Captain First Rank Mikhail Nenashev told Interfaks:

“The rent for a naval base at Cam Ranh, in the end, would cost Russia less than regular support of combatants on the world’s oceans using auxiliary ships, tankers, and repair ships.”

And:

“Reestablishing a base at Cam Ranh would help strengthen and develop cooperation with Vietnam and the Asia-Pacific region countries not only in military, but in many others spheres of activity.”

Izvestiya says, Moscow doesn’t intend to return to a Cold War-style global military confrontation with Washington – it has not the forces, means, or desire for it – but the ‘Cam Ranh initiative’ shows that a gradual reanimation of specific military bases abroad could happen.

According to Newsru.com and Vremya novostey, in 1979, Moscow and Hanoi signed a 25-year agreement by which the Soviet Pacific Fleet’s 17th Squadron gained access to Cam Ranh.  Vietnam allowed the Soviet Navy to base 10 surface ships, 8 submarines with a submarine support ship, and 6 auxiliaries at the port.  Later, the 922nd PMTO was established at the Vietnamese port.  The Soviets had POL storage, an ASW and missile armaments base and technical service unit, a Naval Infantry sub-unit, and an air regiment at Cam Ranh.

The base was initially free, but Hanoi asked for $300 million in rent in 1998.  In 2001, Moscow decided not to extend its agreement with Vietnam, and the last Russian elements departed Cam Ranh in mid-2002.  The decisionmaking around the Cam Ranh withdrawal (likewise for Lourdes, Cuba) is anything but clear-cut.  But then President Putin probably made the decision, reportedly against the advice of many senior uniformed officers, in an effort to save money for the military at home, and to make nice with Washington.  Former high-ranking General Staff officer Leonid Ivashov claims the $300 million rent, at least, shouldn’t have been an issue since it could have been written off against Vietnam’s $10 billion debt to Moscow.

Prime Minister Putin’s December 2009 Hanoi visit and major arms deal, including six proyekt 636 diesel submarines, with Vietnam may have started movement on a return to Cam Ranh.  Defense Minister Serdyukov went to Hanoi in February and told Rossiyskaya gazeta the Vietnamese were very interested in constructing a Navy repair plant and Russian help with naval logistics.  However, Serdyukov claimed the Vietnamese didn’t propose anything about Cam Ranh.  But NG’s Vladimir Mukhin speculates a deal for a renewed Russian presence at the base might be inked during President Medvedev’s late October trip to Vietnam.

Izvestiya quotes independent military analyst Aleksandr Khramchikhin:

“Theoretically, I welcome the reestablishment of a Navy base at Cam Ranh.  For Russia, it is a very composite and most useful facility abroad. Without it, the operations of the Pacific Fleet are impeded.  Also very little remains of the Pacific Fleet.  This fact, however, doesn’t change the usefulness of the base at Cam Ranh.  Such a step could, of course, create certain foreign policy difficulties for Russia.  I suppose the U.S. and China will express dissatisfaction, but this will hardly have any real effect.  As concerns Vietnam, it would pay to view it as our most important ally.  Russia largely cast it aside after the collapse of the USSR.  This was a gross mistake worth correcting.”

It’s worth recalling Khramchikhin may view Vietnam through a slightly Sinophobic prism.

Talking to NG, Duma Deputy, and former Black Sea Fleet commander, Vladimir Komoyedov worries there won’t be anything to deploy at Cam Ranh:

“The Pacific Fleet, whose ships need to control the waters of South-East Asia, has hardly received any new units for the last two decades.  And what will we deploy to Cam Ranh?”

18-Month Conscription or More Money for Contract Service

Vladimir Mukhin’s report on General Staff Chief Makarov denouncing  contract service has not received much attention.  See Monday’s Nezavisimaya gazeta

Mukhin concludes the military leadership has decided the longstanding effort to transfer some troops to a professional basis and reduce the length of conscript service has been a total fiasco.  And contractees will be reduced, and conscripts increased. 

Mukhin says, with this, Makarov touched the very painful issue of increasing conscript service back to 1.5 years.  He says such a plan is allegedly with the country’s leadership right now [this will really add to Medvedev’s popularity, won’t it?]. 

Duma Deputy Vladimir Komoyedov

Mukhin cites former Black Sea Fleet Commander, Admiral Komoyedov, now a KPRF Duma deputy and member of the Duma’s Defense Committee, who says the issue of raising the draft term is under discussion among generals as well as among legislators. 

Mukhin says all this is perfectly logical to military leaders.  A longer draft term will allow conscripts to be better trained and more knowledgeable and to compensate for the absence of professionals.  But this approach in no way  connects with the political statements of the country’s leadership which assures society there won’t be any increase in conscript service time. 

Komoyedov says: 

“The situation here is complicated.  The idea of increasing the military service term to 1.5 years is written into our, the KPRF, program.  We understand well that in current conditions it’s almost impossible to train a skilled and knowledgeable specialist in the troops in a year.  They’ve begun, apparently, to understand this in the Genshtab also.  It seems to me that military leaders know how to convince the president and prime minister to take unpopular steps on questions of changing to the side of increasing the military service term.  Otherwise the army expects significant undermanning–because of the demographic hole, losses on health grounds, and the like.”  

Mukhin turns next to the Chairman of the All-Russian Professional Servicemen’s Union (OPSV or ОПСВ) Oleg Shvedkov who says:   

“It seems to me that the idea of increasing the conscript military service term to a year and a half, even if it today it’s actively lobbied for by someone in military circles, neither the Kremlin nor Okhotnyy Ryad (the Duma) will support it.  Our leaders have already made so many mistakes including in questions of military reform.  Changes in the conscription and troop manning system will cause significant agitation in society.  The authorities of course won’t allow this.  More likely a decision on increasing military budget parameters for use in selecting and training contractees will be taken.” 

Valentina Melnikova, Secretary of the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers (СКСМ) of Russia, told Mukhin she still thinks a complete transition to contract service could be made. 

She and Shvedkov are right of course.  Theoretically, Russia could shift to all professional enlisted, but it would take political will lacking heretofore.  After what Makarov and Postnikov said (and knowing the generalitet’s predilections anyway), an effort to reinforce a badly, badly sagging contract service effort seems very unlikely.  And it would seem Makarov and his protege would have to resign too.