Tag Archives: Vladimir Putin

His Greatest Achievement?

Putin chairing Military-Industrial Commission session in Rybinsk on April 25, 2017 (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin chairing Military-Industrial Commission session in Rybinsk on April 25, 2017 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

In the most recent iteration of what is basically an annual poll, Levada asked respondents to select one answer to the following question:  “What would you call the main achievement of Vladimir Putin during his years in power?”

Some 17 percent of those polled picked “Increasing combat capability and reform of the armed forces.”  It was the top response in this year’s poll.

Below find the reaction to this response over time.

Putin's Greatest Achievement The Military.

Positive reaction to this choice scuffled along for years.  Just three percent of those polled picked it in the waning months of Anatoliy Serdyukov’s tenure as minister of defense.  It jumped, however, to 8 percent in August 2014, following the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.  It reached 14 percent a year after Moscow intervened in the Syrian civil war.

External events greatly influence this particular Levada poll.

For instance, in early 2008, 21 percent of respondents said Putin’s greatest achievement was “Economic development of the country.”  Two years later, following the recession of 2008-2009, only 12 percent could agree with this.  And, seven years later, that number is still 12.

Even in mid-2009, 22 percent said Putin’s greatest trick was “Increasing the standard of living of citizens, growth of wages and pensions.”  That number now stands at 8 percent.

Unfortunately, some responses seem eternal.

Typically only 1 percent or less of those polled pick “Defense of democracy and political freedoms of citizens” or “Improving relations between people of different nationalities in Russia.”

In this iteration of the poll, 8 percent indicated that they don’t see any achievements and 4 percent found it hard to say.

The 17 percent response on the military is good news for Putin.  As for many regimes, it’s an easy place to score points with the average citizen.  Other arenas are more complicated.  But the Kremlin has successfully managed a turnaround in the perception of the armed forces.

The problem is events can erode high poll numbers.  For the Russian military, they could include things like a large-scale attack on Russian forces in Syria, widespread arrears in military pay, a submarine sinking, a huge ammo depot fire, or the death of soldiers in a collapsing barracks.  

In isolation, none is enough to dent a prevailing opinion strongly underwritten by the steady drumbeat of a Defense Ministry PR campaign.  But, over time, they accumulate and can change attitudes.  Like everything else, poll numbers that go up usually come down.

Handshake and Photo

Never discount the potential significance of a handshake and photo with the supreme commander-in-chief.

On March 23, Russian President Vladimir Putin received Ministry of Defense general and flag officers (along with some from the FSB, FSO, MVD, etc.) in the Kremlin’s Georgiyevskiy Hall.

The meeting is a regular affair where Putin addresses men in uniform elevated to new positions of responsibility.

Putin starts with the MOD three-stars (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin’s greets MOD three-stars (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Putin started down the row with MOD three-star generals — General-Colonels Sergey Rudskoy, Aleksandr Zhuravlev, and Gennadiy Zibrov.  Rudskoy is Chief of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate.  Zhuravlev commanded Russian forces in Syria in the last half of 2016 while serving as Chief of Staff, First Deputy Commander of the Southern MD.  He’s now a deputy chief of the General Staff. Zibrov heads the Air Force Academy named for Zhukovskiy and Gagarin.

Putin greets General-Lieutenant Zavizon (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin greets General-Lieutenant Zavizon (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Fourth-in-line is General-Lieutenant Mikhail Teplinskiy, the fast-burner replacement for Zhuravlev in the Southern MD.  He’s followed by new LRA Commander General-Lieutenant Sergey Kobylash.  Then General-Lieutenant Aleksey Zavizon who reportedly fought in the Donbas and commands the Central MD’s 41st Army.  Lastly, the MOD’s principal spokesman General-Major Igor Konashenkov who’s in charge of the military’s Information and Mass Communications Department.  He’s been there awhile but the organization was called a directorate until recently.

Putin shakes with Rear-Admiral Yakushev (photo Kremlin.ru)

Putin shakes with Rear-Admiral Yakushev (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Next is Chief of Staff of the Pacific Fleet’s Primorsk Composite Forces Flotilla, Rear-Admiral Vladimir Yakushev.  To his right might be General-Major Denis Lyamin, commander of the Central MD’s new 90th Tank Division.

The full line-up (photo Kremlin.ru)

The full line-up (photo: Kremlin.ru)

After Lyamin is General-Major Tagir Gadzhiyev of the 1st Composite Aviation Division in the Southern MD.

The balance are difficult to identify, excepting the second to last naval officer who is Rear-Admiral Oleg Krivorog of the Black Sea Fleet’s 30th Surface Ship Division.

TVZvezda’s coverage of the ceremony is in the video below (starting at 1:25).

Today We Are Stronger

shoygu-and-putin-at-the-mod-collegium-photo-kremlin-ru

Shoygu and Putin at MOD Collegium (photo: Kremlin.ru)

The year-end MOD Collegium fell on December 22.  International news agencies headlined what sounded like bellicose braggadocio from President Vladimir Putin.  “We are stronger now than any potential aggressor,” he said according to AP.

But his remarks were more nuanced than it’s possible to tell from that wire service quote.

His full speech to the assembled Russian brass is available here.

Putin featured Syria prominently, and indicated that Russia will take advantage of the greater demand for its weapons and equipment because of the war.

He listed force development priorities including “precision weapons, modern communications, reconnaissance, command and control, and electronic warfare systems” and strategic non-nuclear forces.

He noted that the SAP will be completed “by 2021,” effectively giving the military and industry all of 2020 (not just until the end of 2019) to reach its 70 percent modernization goal.  But he also mentioned “five years” to complete rearmament which sounds like 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and all of 2021.  The dates on the arms program are increasingly elastic as necessary.

Not surprisingly, Putin described a higher level of threat on Russia’s borders this year.

A complete translation of Putin’s speech follows.

“Respected comrades!”

“Today at the annual Ministry of Defense Collegium we will discuss results of work during the latest period, and determine near- and long-term tasks for the development of Russia’s Armed Forces and strengthening the country’s defense capability.”

“In 2016, the course of modernizing the army and fleet continued, rhythmically, and their reequipping went according to schedule.”

“The condition of the nuclear triad, which plays the key role in preserving strategic parity, was supported at the necessary level.  I note that the share of modern armaments in the nuclear forces is almost 60 percent.”

“The level of combat training of troops rose substantially.  The results of strategic command-staff exercise Kavkaz-2016 convincingly demonstrated this.  Its successful conduct increased the security of Russia’s southern borders, including from terrorist threats, and helped work out the organization of territorial defense in the Southern and North-Caucasus Federal Districts, including questions of supporting troops, for example their financing in wartime, that require coordination from many state organs and elements, including branches of Russia’s Central Bank.”

“I note also that four surprise combat readiness evaluations of troops took place in the course of the year.  They confirmed that units and sub-units could effectively deploy at great distances and in short periods of time to establish groupings in strategic directions. The Defense Ministry needs to analyze the results of the evaluations in detail and consider them in combat training plans for the future, and also in the organization of other measures of a similar type.”

“The potential of the Russian Armed Forces passed a stress test also in combat with international terrorists in the Syrian Republic.  The Syrian Army received tangible support, thanks to which it conducted several successful operations against militants.”

“I also note the great assistance which our Armed Forces renders to peaceful Syrian citizens.  Almost 800 tons of foodstuffs and medicine alone have already been transferred. I want to thank the leadership and personnel of the Armed Forces participating in the operation once more for their professionalism and courage.”

“Respected comrades!”

“In the coming year, the Ministry of Defense needs to concentrate on resolving the following key tasks.”

“First, to support the balanced development of all services and branches of troops, and to continue the assimilation of precision weapons, modern communications, reconnaissance, command and control, and electronic warfare systems.”

“It is necessary to strengthen the combat potential of strategic nuclear forces, primarily missile systems capable of assuredly overcoming existing and future missile defense systems.”

“Strategic non-nuclear forces also need to be brought to a qualitatively new level, allowing them to neutralize any military threats to Russia.”

“Second.  It is important to maintain the tempo achieved in rearming the army and navy.  To control the realization of measures in the State Armaments Program and fulfillment of the state defense order effectively.”

“By 2021 we need to achieve the established indicators of troop equipping with modern weapons and equipment at not less than 70 percent.”

“We need to make note that five years is not such a long period of time for such a large-scale rearmament program.  Any delay in fulfilling its tasks can cause a break in the production chain, which is then highly difficult to reestablish. Therefore sanctions for breaking contracts should be severe to the maximum extent. Meanwhile, it is important to effectively expose causes of violations and expeditiously eliminate them.”

“I note that essential measures to resolve problematic issues in the fulfillment of the state defense order have been taken at all levels.  On the whole, we need to keep the situation with the realization of the State Armaments Program and with the state of affairs in the defense-industrial complex under constant control.  You know we discuss these issues twice a year at regular meetings in Sochi.  This has already become a tradition which has been highly useful in practical work.  This year two cycles of such meetings occurred.  They allowed us to determine joint steps in the sphere of rearmament, and to support constant working contact between the leadership of the Ministry of Defense and industry.”

“Third.  We must closely follow any changes in the balance of forces and military-political situation in the world, especially along Russia’s borders, and simultaneously introduce corrections into plans for neutralizing potential threats to our country.”

“I ask you also to synchronize these plans with updated future planning documents.  Just a few weeks ago the new Information Security Doctrine of Russia was approved, and a little earlier the Scientific-Technical Development Strategy.  The milestones given in them concern all organs of authority, including also militarized departments.”

“Fourth.  The introduction of the newest training means and programs should be among the priorities of operational and combat training.”

“And last.  The effectiveness of employing Russian weapons in Syria opens new possibilities for the development of military-technical cooperation.  We need to use them to the maximum extent.  We know what kind of interest foreign partners are showing in modern Russian armaments.”

“Respected collegium participants!”

“One of the most important directions of military organizational development is increasing social support of servicemen.  You know how much has been done in this relation in recent times.  For example, since January 2012 the line for housing in the Defense Ministry system has been reduced 2.8-fold.  In 2016, 27 thousand servicemen were provided service housing,  and almost 20 thousand permanent housing.  Within the mortgage-savings system, 14 thousand servicemen obtained apartments.”

“It is necessary also to remember:  concern about personnel, and strengthening the social guarantees of soldiers and officers is important, the most important investment in the indoctrination of the young generation of defenders of the Motherland, and guarantee of the prestige of military service and the authority of people in uniform.”

“Respected comrades!”

“On the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, and on commanders at all levels, lies the special responsibility for the qualitative modernization of the Armed Forces.  I believe that in the future you will do everything necessary to achieve high results in combat training.”

“I want to thank the leadership and personnel of the Armed Forces for the precise fulfillment of established tasks, and for their conscientious service.”

“Allow me to wish you further successes.”

After Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s lengthy remarks, Putin concluded the session.

“Respected Sergey Kuzhugetovich, respected comrades!”

“In recent years, much has been done to increase the country’s defense capability. But, it stands to reason, much is still not enough.  The minister just spoke about this when he formulated tasks for 2017 and coming years.”

“We need to do much along the lines of strengthening the nuclear triad, perfecting the BMEWS system, in the Aerospace Troops [sic], still more at sea, and in the Ground Troops. We need to perfect reconnaissance and communications systems.  We still have much to do.”

“However today, given a very large number of factors, including not only military ones, but also our history, geography, and the internal condition of Russian society, it is possible with certainty to say:  today we are stronger than any potential aggressor.  Any.”

“At the same time, I would like to turn your attention to the fact that, if we were to allow ourselves for one minute to relax, to allow even one substantive failure in the modernization of the army and navy, or in troop training, the situation could change very quickly given the speed of events transpiring in the world.  We may not even notice.  Therefore, a very great deal depends on the continuation of our work, which began and has been conducted in the course of recent years.”

“I count greatly on you working in a coordinated manner, and being responsible for work assigned to you.  And, working in such a way, we, certainly, will fulfill all tasks which stand before us in the most important sphere of strengthening Russia’s defense capability.”

“I want to thank you again for your service in the past year and wish you success in the coming one.”

“All the best to you.”

“Thank you.”

So Putin wasn’t exactly bragging that Moscow is the biggest bully in the world, but rather claiming that, given Russia’s history and geography as well as its recent military modernization, the Kremlin can now be sure of repulsing any attack on its territory.  Assertions about evil U.S. and NATO intentions notwithstanding, what aggressor has designs on Russia today?  

Putin’s contention is a little abstract, lacking as it does any particular scenario or temporal context.  But it isn’t really as sinister as it sounded in Western media.

More to the point than Putin, however, is Maxim Trudolyubov’s conclusion from his recent op-ed:

“. . . Russia — with its renationalized economy and aging population — is now incapable of competing on equal economic and political terms with other major powers may have led the Kremlin to believe that it can compete only by other means — namely by displaying no hesitation at using force or covert influence to claim Russian greatness again.”

Dizzy with Success

On Topwar.ru on 15 September, Aleksandr Staver and Roman Skomorokhov asked whether President Vladimir Putin, like his predecessor Stalin, has decided to curb (at least temporarily) his key program.  Today it’s rearmament rather than collectivization.

The authors assess the program and its problems from a conservative viewpoint.

They assert the arms program is not being fulfilled and the MOD budget is being cut (whether admitted or not).  In particular, they contend, it is new weapons programs that are suffering, so they argue for cheaper modernization of existing armaments.

Debate over rearmament is a constant.  Staver and Skomorokhov don’t even mention that the start of the next arms program was delayed, or that the MOD and Finance Ministry are far apart on funding it.

For his part, Putin routinely says the current GPV will not be cut, and the armed forces will have 70 percent modern arms and equipment in 2020.

But 70 percent, according to the authors of this op-ed, is not enough.  More is needed.

Then they turn to corruption.  They allege that the ones who are “dizzy with the success” of the arms program are the ones who are stealing from it.  They say a return to 1937 would put an end to this, and to other problems with rearmament.

Recall that even Putin and United Russia once talked about bringing treason charges for non-fulfillment of the GOZ, but nothing came of it.

So much for preamble.

“Dizzy with Success, or ‘Alarm’ in the Russian Army”

“We are so used to the fact that our army is powerful that we almost don’t notice, or more precisely, don’t wish to notice that light ‘clouds’ threatening to turn into bad storms have appeared over Russia’s VS [Armed Forces].  We talk and write with satisfaction about our aircraft which, at a minimum, don’t lag behind Western ones. We ‘procrastinate’ with Armata and its offshoots, comparing it to the best models of Western armies.  We discuss the advantages of our new missiles and systems.”

“And now, today exactly, heard here and there are announcements by various government bureaucrats and army chiefs about delaying arms procurement to another time, so to speak.  About delayed launches of ships.  About adjusting the schedule for delivering something to the troops.”

“So what’s with this.  Why is this happening?  Recently all officials, including the president and the prime minister, together talked about fulfilling the defense order almost as a matter of honor for Russia. Don’t many remember Putin’s April statement about the unconditional fulfillment of the state defense order?  And can’t many say exactly how much it is fulfilled and whether it is fulfilled?”

“The entire thing is that the necessary money is not in the budget!  The crisis, which we are ‘successfully overcoming,’ still has us in its claws.  We’ve talked a lot about the fact that sanctions hurt Europe and the USA, and how they [sanctions] are going to benefit us.  We are developing, increasing output, winning markets…  On any analytical program on our TV it’s possible to hear a full assortment of such pronouncements.”

“The support of the president and the real successes of our servicemen in Syria inspire hope in us that all this will come true.  The government will find money both for us and for the army.  Industry will begin to work not only well, but both quickly and cheaply.  New ideas of [arms] designers will be realized in the shortest time.”

“Prime Minister Medvedev’s decision, signed on 5 September, to adjust the GOZ for 2016 was only the first call.  It is understood that today there’s no clear data on this question.  Naturally, it’s possible to suppose that defense sector enterprises won’t receive some part of the promised resources.  And this, in its turn, means that GOZ plans for next year will be ruined.  A snowball of corrections will accumulate gradually from the details.”

“And not hiding the fact, by the way, does him credit, Putin himself already talks about the fact that by 2018 our army will be rearmed at 70%, and the state order will be reduced.  And he talks about what is needed to take the place of the defense order, but not pots and pans.”

“From the one side, one who is forewarned is forearmed.  But from the other?  It’s hard to guess with what enterprises will be occupied, with a miracle which drags them out of the debt hole.  And where will workers who turn out to be redundant go at this moment?  But we have already passed through such a scenario.”

“However, certain specifics have already ‘hatched.’ The Ministry of Defense plans to make the famous “Armata” the main battle tank by 2020.  With this aim, the purchase of more than 2,000 of such vehicles for military units has been proposed. According to the tank producer’s data, the order was already for 2,300 tanks.  But not long ago on the Ministry of Defense website an altogether different figure appeared: there is a plan to buy up to 70 “Armatas” in 2017-2019.”

“Naturally, the reasons for changing the [state defense] order aren’t named.  I think over some time versions about some shortcomings, about the modernization of what we already have, [and] some others.  Actually, the reason is banal.  They are cutting the military budget and will cut it.  It’s completely logical, you can’t take money from the shelf if there’s nothing on it.  So folks say.”

“The navy’s situation looks even more confused.  Even the blind see the necessity for modernizing the Russian fleet.  Ships, just like people, age, lose their striking power, and turn into respected veterans.  But we need warriors.  And these ‘warriors’ need to be built.  A lot of them.  The Soviet legacy can no longer guarantee a worthy answer to an aggressor.”

“It seems as though construction began from 2007.  Missile boats, small ships and even submarines began to leave the docks for testing.  New submarines, frigates were laid down at the wharves.  The rebirth had begun.”

“Our excessive belief in the ‘love and friendship of fraternal peoples’ became the first ‘obstacle.’  When construction was stopped by the Ukrainian side [sic].  They stopped supplying Ukrainian engines to us.  Actually, the question of ‘their’ components in combat equipment and armaments arose already in the last century.  And they successfully solved it in the USSR.  But in Russia they put it off ‘for later.'”

“Then the ‘rockslide’ of announcements by military and government bureaucrats on cutbacks in the needs of the fleet began.  I remind the readers about the project 11711 BDK [i.e. an LST].  A large assault ship which was needed to replace Soviet BDKs.  In 2004, a requirement for 6 of such ships for the navy was announced.  Then they decided to review the project.”

“Today we see two ships.  Two instead of six.  It’s been decided to shut down the project.  ‘Ivan Gren’ and ‘Petr Morgunov’ — that’s all that the fleet will receive after testing.”

“It’s possible to talk endlessly about the submarine fleet.  About new missile submarines.  But even they, alas, for the most part remain only projects.  The construction of boats of such a class is a very expensive undertaking.  And this means still unmanageable.”

“Even the Rocket Troops of Strategic Designation [RVSN] will not receive everything promised.  Although, for all times the priority was always right on these troops.  No, ‘Yars’ and similar systems will be supplied.  But land-based ‘Sarmat’ systems most probably won’t be deployed to the original plan.”

“I recall it was planned to replace by 2020 the already aged ‘Voyevod’ missiles (known to most by the NATO ‘nickname’ ‘Satan’) which have served out their time.  Today it’s understood that these plans aren’t being fulfilled.  Today already.  In the best case, such a replacement will occur in 2021.  Or a little later.”

“So where’s the way out of the situation which has been created?  Is there one generally?  I believe there is.  And today the way out is to use those developments which exist and have already been tested in combat.”

“When the VDV [Airborne Troops] commander announced the establishment of tank and BMP companies in units subordinate to him, what kind of vehicles did he mention?  He talked about T-72B3 tanks and BMP-2s.  I hope no one will chide General Shamanov for stupidity and a lack of desire to have the most powerful and modern weaponry?  So why exactly these vehicles?”

“Simply because both the tank and the combat vehicle have huge modernization potential.  And in the coming decades this potential will be used.  And mass serial production has reduced the cost of this equipment in the extreme.  And long use in the troops has revealed practically all ‘minuses’ of these vehicles.”

“Modernization of the T-72 to the T-72B3 level costs a bit more than 50 million rubles.  In other words, for one ‘Armata’ we can have several T-72B3s right away.   Naturally, the T-90 would be more desirable, but it is cost prohibitive.”

“It’s exactly the same situation with the famous T-50 system.  The aircraft is ready. Moreover, it’s been put in series production.  And in the plans it’s supposed to be the main fighter.  This ‘hulk’ looks impressive in our plans.  In 2020 we should already have 60 fighters in the force.  And in the future their production should increase.”

“In reality we’ll get exactly the same as ‘Armata.’  We want to do a ‘split,’ but our britches get in the way…  It will be good if we have a regiment of such aircraft in 2020.”

“But we have the fully combat capable, even compared to the American F-22 and F-35, Su-30MK.  And, according to the assertions of its builders, the potential of these aircraft is far from used up.”

“And what’s the result?  As a result, we see the famous ‘half-full glass.’  Part of the readers are now sighing sadly.  The army is ‘penned up.’  Another part thinks that the Russian Army, in the shape which we have it, can really confront the enemy.  The third part giggles happily.  They have failed to modernize.  Oafs.  We told them…”

“It’s not for nothing that I called this article by a Stalinist name.  This isn’t a greatness mania or a wish to show off knowledge of the works of the ‘leader of peoples.’  We truly have become a little ‘dizzy.’  Not everything has succeeded right away.”

“I generally believe that the right way to move is walking or running.  But not ‘leapfrog’ jumps.  Movement should be measured and in one direction.  Therefore, the modernization of the army should continue.  Continue, no matter what.  But not by busting a gut.”

“I would be wary of talking about our weapons and combat equipment like junk.  Particularly after what this equipment showed in Syrian battles.  Just the same to talk also about the superiority of Western armies in some components.  But if we view the army like the world, a ‘gap’ will always be found.  But this gap is always ‘plugged’ by something else.”

“The dizziness quickly passes if you leave the centrifuge or wheel.  If, of course, you have a properly functioning outer office staff.  I think healthy people serve in our Ministry of Defense.”

“But just one moment.  No one needs to have the fact that our bureaucrats are not simply greedily stealing everything possible explained to them.  It’s a rare day when the Internet and television don’t report about the latest stuff that’s ‘flown off.'”

“It’s necessary to stop those who ‘have become dizzy with success.’  With the methods of the person I quoted.  Severe and long-term.  Take that Zakharchenko.  9 billion rubles — that’s a great deal.  The T-90, for example, today costs about 120 million rubles.  That is 75 tanks laid in the brute’s hidey-holes.  Two battalions.  Not bad…”

“And this is one of the deputies…”

[Colonel Dmitriy Zakharchenko is, or was, deputy chief of Directorate T in the MVD’s Main Directorate of Economic Security and Countering Corruption until his arrest in early September.  The foreign currency equivalent of 8 billion rubles was found in his apartment.  See RIA Novosti for an early report on his case.]

“And if they search his relatives, it’s certain it would be possible to scrape together a brigade easily and without effort.”

“‘Effective managers’ of our times have shown that they can only steal effectively.  From the budget just the same as from the GOZ.”

“It’s necessary to change the situation really at the root.  And tear this root with a crunch and snap on the image and likeness of ’37.  With the confiscation of everything that’s possible.”

“Only then will the state defense order be fulfilled on time and without problems.  And the president won’t have to shuffle, talking about how 70 percent is sufficient so we should relax.”

“So isn’t it?”

MOD Collegium on 2015

Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed a year-ending expanded meeting of the MOD Collegium.  Below are highlights from his speech, and from Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s.  Putin also met separately with Russia’s Military District (MD) commanders, but no transcript was made available.

Putin Addresses the Expanded Meeting (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Putin Addresses the Expanded Meeting (photo: Kremlin.ru)

According to Kremlin.ru, Putin told the Collegium that Russia’s intervention in Syria was prompted not by “incomprehensible abstract geopolitical interests,” nor by the “desire to train [military forces] and test new weapons systems,” although he called the latter “important.”  Rather Putin insisted Russian operations in Syria aim to stop the immediate threat ISIL terrorists pose to the Russian Federation.

Putin told his audience Russian assistance has enabled Damascus to take the offensive in several regions.  As far as other claims of success, the Supreme CINC said only:

“. . . the systematic employment of the forces of the VKS [Aerospace Forces] and Navy, and the use of the newest highly-accurate weapons systems has enabled us to deliver serious damage to the infrastructure of the terrorists, and therefore qualitatively change the situation in Syria.”

He vowed to protect Russian troops saying, “Any targets threatening the Russian grouping or our ground infrastructure will be destroyed immediately.”

Putin then turned to Russian Armed Forces developments and training.  He urged the military not to consider this year’s wartime preparation training by civilian authorities in 14 Russian Federation subjects to be a “secondary” mission.  He mentioned five (not surprising) points of emphasis about this year and next:

  • The updated five-year defense plan (2016-2020);
  • Rearmament and the effective use of the budget;
  • Strategic nuclear forces and aerospace defense;
  • Increasing the intensity of operational and tactical training;
  • Greater cooperation with allies, the CSTO in particular.

Again, he paused to note the need to eliminate shortcomings in territorial defense training in Russia’s regions.

Before turning the mic over to Shoygu, the president stated that the MOD has provided permanent or service housing to 146,000 servicemen over the last four years.

Defense Minister Shoygu outlined first the threat to Russia from an expanding NATO, then from ISIL.  He made the following significant points about 2015:

  • Russia’s armed forces are manned at 92 percent of their authorized level, including 352,000 contractees (i.e. more than the number of conscripts).
  • Six RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2) regiments were put into service.
  • The share of modern armaments in the RVSN is 51 percent.
  • Two Tu-160, three Tu-95MS, and five Tu-22M3 bombers were modernized.
  • SSBNs carry 56 percent modern weapons.
  • Overall, Russian strategic forces are 55 percent modern.
  • Eight new brigades of various types were formed in the Ground Troops.
  • The Ground Troops acquired 1,772 tanks and armored vehicles, 148 missile and artillery systems, 2,292 vehicles, and two brigade sets of Iskander-M.
  • Ground Troops’ arms and equipment are 35 percent modern.
  • The VKS acquired 243 aircraft of various types, 90 SAM and 208 radar systems.
  • The VKS are 52 percent modern.
  • The VKS operate 1,720 UAV systems against only 180 in 2011.
  • The Navy received two submarines and eight surface ships.
  • The Navy’s modern equipment constitutes 39 percent of its inventory.
  • The VDV’s modern arms are 41 percent of its total.
  • Overall, the armed forces now have 47 percent modern weapons and other equipment, surpassing the goal of 30 percent by 2015.
  • The in-service rate of equipment is 89 percent.
  • There were nine candidates for every seat in MOD VVUZy this year.

Shoygu’s annual report contained many other details summarizing the MOD’s activities this year.

In 2016, he expects the following:

  • Steps to strengthen groupings in the western, south-western, and Arctic strategic directions.
  • Five RVSN missile regiments will go on duty with modern missiles.
  • Two Tu-160 and seven Tu-95MS bombers will be modernized.
  • Two brigade sets each of Iskander-M and Tornado-S MLRS, and one of Buk-3M SAMs will reach the Ground Troops.
  • Six battalions will receive new tanks and BMPs.
  • VKS and Navy will get more than 200 new or modernized aircraft.
  • Five regiments will receive S-400 SAMs.
  • Three Voronezh-DM and Voronezh-M radars will enter service.
  • The Navy will get two submarines and seven surface ships.
  • The armed forces will conduct strategic CSX Kavkaz-2016.

The reader may wish to look back to this 2014 year-ender to make some year-on-year comparisons.

Turning to Putin’s meeting with his top regional commanders, we don’t know what was discussed, but it’s a good pic and a chance to update the lineup and face recce.

Putin's Meeting with MD Commanders (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Putin’s Meeting with MD Commanders (photo: Kremlin.ru)

From the extreme left around the table with Putin in the center, attendees included Unified Strategic Command North Commander Admiral Vladimir Korolev, Southern MD Commander General-Colonel Aleksandr Galkin, Eastern MD Commander General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin, Defense Minister Shoygu, Putin, General Staff Chief Army General Valeriy Gerasimov, Central MD Commander General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy, and new Western MD Commander General-Colonel Andrey Kartapolov.

But We Make Rockets

Yes, Russia is making rockets now.

Vladimir Putin came to power on the eve of the 21st century promising (among other things) to remake Russian military power.  But progress was slow.  The economy struggled to emerge from the default and devaluation of 1998.  A poor, unready army found itself mired for several years in the Second Chechen War.

Not until after an uneven military performance in the August 2008 five-day war with Georgia — and not until after the 2009 economic crisis, perhaps in 2012 or 2013 — did the funding necessary for significant improvements in combat readiness and larger procurement of weapons and equipment reach the Russian Armed Forces.

Then came war in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and Syria.  Blowback from Syria could make Central Asia or the North Caucasus Russia’s next front. But questions about recent Kremlin bellicosity already bear close to home — on Russia’s domestic political and economic circumstances.

Consider a Gazeta.ru editorial from October 26.

“But we make rockets”

“Can the army and navy replace everything else for citizens”

RS-24 Yars ICBMs on Parade (photo: AP / Ivan Sekretarev)

RS-24 Yars ICBMs on Parade (photo: AP / Ivan Sekretarev)

“Often it’s easier for people to accept growing financial hopelessness to the sound of bold military marches.  Not for the first time in Russian history the army is beginning to replace the nation’s economy, life, general human values, and becoming the new old national idea and practically the only effective state institution.”

“Not everywhere in Russian industry are orders shrinking and demand falling.  There is production that is very much in demand.  In the ‘Tactical Missile Weapons’ corporation, for example, they’ve gone to three shifts of missile production for the Syrian front, a source in the defense-industrial complex has told the publication ‘Kommersant-Vlast.’  Against this backdrop, an article appeared in The Independent newspaper about how in Russia, after the events in Crimea and Syria, the army is again becoming the ‘departure point of Russian ideology’ — that very national idea for which they searched so long and unsuccessfully in post-Perestroika Russia and here now, finally, have found.”

“‘Russia has only two reliable allies — the army and navy.’  These famous words of Emperor Aleksandr III (who, incidentally, went down in history we would say now under the nickname Peacemaker) have once again in our history acquired a literal meaning. Other reliable allies of whom Russia was evidently sure over the last year-and-a-half or two years clearly no longer remain with us.”

“In a time of economic crisis, the temptation among Russian authorities to make the army one of the leading state institutions grows even greater.  The remaining institutions are emasculated or work as badly as ever.  In the end, to do this is sometimes simply useless:  the impoverished voter will say — why are your institutions here, is my life improving?  The expenditures are great, but the effect will be, probably, negative.”

“How much better the army is:  there is discipline, and pay, and achievements, and a plan of development.  The share of military expenditures in the budget is growing, but a cut in its absolute size has affected it to a lesser degree than civilian sectors like education and health care.”

“All hope is now on defense — as in ‘peace time’ we placed hope on oil and gas.”

“The army again is a lovely testing ground for demonstrating one more innovation — import substitution.  Not all Russians can understand why it’s necessary to burn up high quality foreign goods. But hardly anyone would object that Russia didn’t buy any aircraft, tanks or missiles abroad.  The president at a session of the Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation Issues announced that thanks to import substitution the country’s defense industrial enterprises are ‘becoming more independent of foreign component supplies.’”

“In general, we found by experience that we didn’t quite succeed in finding any other nation-binding idea over 25 years of not very consistent attempts to draw close to the Western world.  The simple national idea ‘state for the sake of man’ didn’t take root, including, alas, because man somehow didn’t value it very much; attempts to raise free citizens and form a civic nation, bound by common human values, failed.  There were neither citizens, nor values…”

“Being that there wasn’t demand for a free citizen not only above, but even below.  It is precisely therefore that we don’t have normal trade unions, strong nongovernmental organizations, and independent civil initiatives.  It’s not just the state that doesn’t need ‘all this.’  It’s society too.”

“Therefore one year before State Duma elections there isn’t even opposition in political parties to the openly military-oriented budget.”

“Distinct from this is that America which we love to accuse of aggressiveness, but in which military expenditures and their share in the budget are steadily falling in recent years.  In fact, legislative control over the military budget is one of the main forms of civilian society’s control over the army in the USA.  Though in America there were times when the military tried to decide both for society and for politicians.  Considerable force and time was required to put the military under control, but the States succeeded in this.”

“In Russia the easiest and quickest means of unifying the nation turned out to be the bloodless victory in Crimea and the somewhat bloody events in the Donbass.  The idea of abstract imperial power, and the image of ‘the country rising from its knees’ were substantiated, as the man in the street perceived it, and they were near and comprehensible to him.  Like, we lead a miserable life ourselves (when was it otherwise?), but we are a ‘great power’ again.”

“Polite green people, capable quickly without noise and dust of ‘deciding questions,’ create in the multimillion-person army in front of the television an illusion of their own significance.”

“It’s not only the missile corporation that’s working ‘in three shifts’ now, but also the factory of national pride, based exclusively on military victories.”

“Firstly, we are proud of past victories, in which, besides the live heroes of that war, there is no one alive today who isn’t, in essence, a participant:  St. George’s banners and inscriptions on foreign-made cars ‘To Berlin!,’ ‘Thanks granddad for Victory,’ ‘Descendant of a Victor’ flash at every step.  Secondly, they actively urge us to pride in new military victories.”

“Meanwhile the war in distant Syria works for such military-patriotic PR even better than the war in Ukraine.  And further from the borders, pictures of Russian aircraft bombing terrorists a world away inspire the people more than the sullen ‘militiamen’ of which the masses have had enough already.”

“What’s fashionable in war and militancy also enters official political discourse.  Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has firmly become the second most popular politician and most successful top-manager in the country.  And the president not without some internal pride calls himself the ‘dove with iron wings,’ telling foreign guests directly at a Valday Club session that he was still in the Leningrad courtyard when he learned to ‘strike first’ if a fight is inevitable.”

“And it’s still necessary to remember:  even a war far from the borders, if it’s protracted, requires not  only military, but also great financial resources.”

“So if the economic collapse in Russia continues, pride in the army still cannot fully make up for people the absence of conditions for a normal life.  But for now — in a situation where the authorities live by tactics and not by strategy, — the army and military mobilization of the nation really look like a national idea, and a panacea for the crisis, and a means of supporting a high rating.”

“Polite green people are already capable of becoming not simply a symbol of the Crimean operation, but a symbol of an entire epoch. But they usually don’t solve all the accumulated social, economic, and human problems of a large country.”

Day of Russia Promotion List

On the eve of the Russia Day holiday, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree promoting 29 senior MOD officers:  2 to three-star general-colonel, 5 to two-star general-lieutenant and vice-admiral, and the balance to one-star general-major.

The three-star promotions included Andrey Kartapolov, Chief of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate and Andrey Serdyukov, Deputy Commander, Southern MD.  Both were quick promotes with only three and two years respectively at their former rank.

The two-star promotions included GOMU First Deputy Chief Yevgeniy Burdinskiy, Deputy Commander of the Eastern MD for Material-Technical Support Anatoliy Lbov, Deputy CINC of the Navy for Armaments Viktor Bursuk, Northern Fleet Commander of Submarine Forces Aleksandr Moiseyev, and Baltic Fleet Chief of Staff Sergey Popov.

Other promotees included:

  • two RVSN missile division commanders (both have the RS-24 / Yars ICBM in their formations);
  • a new commander of Troops and Forces in the North-East;
  • one motorized rifle brigade commander;
  • deputy commanders for material-technical support in several services and branches;
  • chiefs, deputy chiefs, or department heads for several military-educational institutions;
  • the strategic nuclear forces directorate chief in the NTsUO.

You’ll find the updated promotion list here.