Tag Archives: VVUZy

The Results of Reform

Trud’s Mikhail Lukanin offered an interesting one last Wednesday . . . with help from other frequent commentators, he takes a swag at describing the results of Anatoliy Serdyukov’s nearly 4-year tenure as Defense Minister.

It’s interesting because it’s unclear if Lukanin’s article is intended to damn by faint praise, to be sarcastic, or was ordered by someone.  Maybe he intends to say these are just results, the good and the bad.

It’s easy to see some good in Lukanin’s first five, but his final three are pretty much unleavened.

The Army’s Become More Mobile

Lukanin quotes Vitaliy Shlykov:

“Until 2008, our army looked like fragments of the old, Soviet one, weighed down with heavy weapons, oriented toward global nuclear war with practically the entire world.”

He says even in the August war against Georgia the army was still “Soviet” — slow to stand up, with an archaic command and control structure.  But now the situation’s changed with mobile brigades that can answer an alert in 1 hour instead of days.

The Army’s Rid Itself of the Spirit of the Barracks

Valentina Melnikova tells Lukanin that the soldier’s life has changed cardinally under Serdyukov.  She says, until recently, one-third of soldiers were typically involved in nonmilitary work every day.  Now soldiers are gradually being freed from such duties as commercial firms take them on.

New Equipment Has Come to the Troops

Lukanin writes that finally a start’s been given to the largest rearmament of the army in post-Soviet times.  One that will take new weapons and equipment from about 10 percent of today’s inventory to 90-100 percent [official sources only claim 70 percent] by 2020.

Lukanin quotes Ruslan Pukhov:

“The Navy alone will receive 40 submarines and 36 new ships, and the Air Forces 1,500 aircraft in the next decade.”

Officer Pay Has Grown

Lukanin says lieutenants and majors made 14 and 20 thousand rubles per month respectively before Serdyukov’s reform,  but now 50 and 70 thousand if they receive premium pay for outstanding combat training results.  And from 2012, premium payments will be included in their permanent duty pay, and 50 thousand rubles will be the minimum base pay for officers.

Lukanin quotes Aleksandr Khramchikhin: 

“The officers of our army are actually comparable with the armies of developed countries in pay levels. “

They Didn’t Talk Reform to Death

Lukanin says experts think it’s good Serdyukov’s reform was pursued energetically, without lengthy discussion and debate.  Pukhov gives the cut from 6 to 4 military districts as an example:

“At one time, it would have taken years to transfer a huge quantity of officers and generals from place to place, but the Defense Ministry did this in just 4-5 months.”

They Stopped Training Officers

Lukanin refers to Serdyukov’s halt to inducting new cadets into officer commissioning schools until at least 2012.  He says 2010 graduates were either released or accepted sergeant positions.  This led to the departure of experienced instructors, and their replacement with younger officers lacking the necessary experience.

Sergeants Almost Ceased to Exist

Contract sergeants were dispersed in 2009-2010.  The Defense Ministry considers them poorly trained, and in no way superior to ordinary [conscript] soldiers.  Now it’s counting completely on conscripts with an even lower level of training.

There’s Nothing to Defend Against China

Here Lukanin notes that some results of reform have put people on guard.  Anatoliy Tsyganok tells him tank units have been practically eliminated: 

“Now only 2,000 tanks, old models at that, remain in the army.”

In Tsyganok’s opinion, tanks are still very relevant for the defense of Russia’s border with China.

What do we make of all this?

  • It’s good that the Russian Army was restructured into smaller, more combat ready formations, i.e. brigades, and sub-units. 
  • We really have no clear picture of the extent and success of outsourcing nonmilitary tasks in the army.  Meanwhile, the “spirit of the barracks” is alive and well when it comes to dedovshchina and violence in the ranks. 
  • The promise of another rearmament program shimmers on the horizon, but it’s not delivering much yet, and there are plenty of serious obstacles to completing it. 
  • The officer pay picture has improved, but the Defense Ministry has real work to do this year to implement a fully new pay system next year.  Meanwhile, several years of premium pay have caused divisions and disaffection in the officer corps. 
  • Moving out smartly on reform was a change over endless talk, but there are areas where more circumspection might have served Serdyukov well. 
  • The Defense Ministry definitely had to stop feeding more officers into an army with a 1:1 officer-conscript ratio.  We’ll have to see what kind of officers the remaining VVUZy produce when the induction of cadets restarts. 
  • Aborting contract service cut the army’s losses on the failed centerpiece military personnel policy of the 2000s.  But something will have to take its place eventually to produce more professional NCOs and soldiers. 
  • Russia is probably right to deemphasize its heavy armor.  It doesn’t appear to have much of a place in the coming rearmament plan.  And tanks really aren’t the answer to Moscow’s largely unstated security concerns vis-a-vis China anyway.

So what’s Serdyukov’s scorecard?  A mixed bag.  Probably more good than bad, but we’ll have to wait to see which results stand and prove positive over the long term.  Definitely superior to his predecessor’s tenure.  Expect more Serdyukov anniversary articles as 15 February approaches.

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Khaki-Colored Narcomania

FSKN Chief Viktor Ivanov and Russia's Narco-Apocalypse

On 2 December, Rossiyskaya gazeta covered a “coordinating conference” of the Federal Narcotics Control Service (FSKN) held the previous day in Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Oblast.  At the meeting, FSKN Director Viktor Ivanov reported:

“The preliminary results of our investigation attest to the apocalyptic scale of the country’s narco-tragedy.  More than 100,000 of those dying [from illegal narcotics use] every year in Russia are young people from 15 to 30.”

Newsru.com said the FSKN previously acknowledged only 30,000 deaths annually from narcotics in this age group.  The media outlet also noted that the FSKN said Russia currently has 2.5 million heroin addicts, and 3 million other illegal drug users.  Russia alone represents the world’s second leading region for heroin consumption, according to a recent U.N. study.  It consumes 21 percent of the world’s supply, while Europe is number one at 26 percent.

Main Military Prosecutor Fridinskiy

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy participated in the FSKN meeting.  He said:

“Growth in the number of narcotics crimes among servicemen is notable in the course of the last five years.  In 2009, the number of serious and very serious crimes connected with narcotics almost doubled.”  

Izvestiya indicated Fridinskiy said 1.7 times, to be exact.

According to Krasnaya zvezda, Fridinskiy said all drug-related crime increased by four times.

The “most complex” situation with illegal narcotics in the army, according to Fridinskiy, is found in the Southern and Eastern MDs.  In the first nine months of this year, 345 crimes involving narcotics trafficking were registered in the armed forces.  Fridinskiy also said more than two-thirds of narcotics trafficking crimes are committed by contract servicemen, and one-fifth by officers.

But he said narcotics crimes represent only three percent of all army crime, according to Krasnaya zvezda.  Still, he noted that the relatively small number of narcotics crimes in the army and medical statistics do not reflect “how much this problem has grown.”

The Defense Ministry daily quoted him:

“Despite the fact that these figures aren’t so large, the problem of narcotics distribution in the troops is significantly broader.  It’s essential to develop coordinated measures to provide warning of illegal narcotics trafficking in the troops and military formations.  If we don’t take any action now, the situation will only worsen in the future.”

Fridinskiy also said the danger of narcotics use is greater in the military than in the civilian world, given the availability of vehicles, combat equipment, and weapons.

ITAR-TASS reported Fridinskiy’s statement that 3,000 young man are declared unfit for army service each year due to narcotics use. 

Krasnaya zvezda provided more Fridinskiy remarks:

“The facts of the discovery of the use of narcotics in training institutions [VVUZy] and, unfortunately, in elite units and sub-units are a graphic example.”

In such places, “even a group of several people using narcotics is quite a serious problem.”

Komsomolskaya pravda focused on this first-time admission of narcotics use and narcotics crimes among Spetsnaz troops, in the special designation sub-units of the “power” ministries [i.e. not just the Defense Ministry].  It also repeated ITAR-TASS saying, “in some Defense Ministry units officers even organized ‘shooting galleries’ where narcotics are prepared and used, including by conscript soldiers.”

The FSKN and Fridinskiy information appeared a week after ITAR-TASS reported that the RVSN will start drug screening for its personnel in 2011.  The RVSN said it would use testing systems that can detect the presence or traces of narcotics even a year after the fact.  It said “security sub-units” would be checked twice a year, and all others once.  Testing might be extended to cover the RVSN’s civilian workers as well.

News items on drug busts in the Russian military are not really frequent or rare.  There are occasional stories.  Just a casual look shows investigators broke up two drug rings in the Moscow MD in August.  They reported investigating 60 drug trafficking cases in 2009.  There were drug busts in both Baltic and Pacific Fleets back in March of this year.

And it’s worth noting that surveys of conscripts typically show that 10 percent or less of new draftees fall into the undesirable category of “drug and alcohol abusers or those who have a police record.”  Drug users are some portion of that 10 percent, and that seems to track roughly with what Fridinskiy says about the fairly low profile of narcotics in the army.  But, as said above, he’s concerned that it’s growing.

Serdyukov’s Duma Session

ITAR-TASS reported a few tidbits from Defense Minister Serdyukov’s closed session before the Duma yesterday.  Not surprisingly, Serdyukov told Duma deputies:

“We fulfilled those tasks which the President gave to conduct the Armed Forces to a new profile in 2010.  The Armed Forces’ combat readiness increased 1.5 times.  We believe that the combat readiness of the army and navy will grow 3-3.5 times toward 2020.”

RIA Novosti reported that Serdyukov said combat capability, not combat readiness.  Combat capability seems to make more sense.

ITAR-TASS says Serdyukov familiarized deputies with the basic tasks of transitioning to the new profile, and the completion of reforms planned for 2010.  Attention was given mainly to implementing the State Program of Armaments and social issues for servicemen.  He said:

“I familiarized deputies with the transformation of the military districts, changes in army corps and brigades, and military command and control at all levels.”

Corps?  Did he really say that?

Answering a question about housing for servicemen, Serdyukov said the Defense Ministry has fulfilled the government’s order about this:

“In 2009, we obtained 45,500, and in 2010 55,000 apartments from all sources.  This attests to the fact that the government’s order has been fulfilled and is being fulfilled.”

As usual, the official news sources turned to Duma Defense Committee Chairman Viktor Zavarzin for comment, and he said:

“I give high marks to today’s meeting of the chief of the defense department and deputies.  We have established tight coordination with the Defense Ministry on legislative support of military reform, and bringing the Armed Forces to a new profile. “

“We are certain we will decide all issues concerning the rearmament of the army and navy, and social support of servicemen with the Defense Ministry leadership.  I say that we need to preserve this pace which exists in the Defense Ministry and with us next year to take the work to the intended results.”

Regarding rearmament, Zavarzin said:

“Besides, in ten years, the share of modern weapons in the army should be not less than 70 percent, for which unprecedented sums have been allocated.  For this, not only a principled position of the Defense Ministry, but also readiness by OPK enterprises for serial deliveries of modern types of armaments is required.”   

Zavarzin said Serdyukov didn’t have much to say on the Mistral purchase, but Zavarzin said:

“In our view, we don’t need to acquire a hunk of metal, but we need the documentation and understanding of those ideas and developments abroad which will enable us to realize the possibilities of our industry.”

Is Russian shipbuilding really going to learn that much from Mistral?

Zavarzin expressed the opinion of the deputies who think:

“We need to give the Defense Minister great credit because he is deeply involved in these issues and, as the one ordering, aiming to supply the army and navy modern armaments and military equipment. Our convictions are that we should create a competitive environment and competitive structures which would push Russia’s defense-industrial complex to the development and creation of the newest weapons systems, including for the Navy.”

At the same time, Zavarzin credited the Defense Ministry for understanding that military social issues deserve special attention too:

“We are talking about creating attractive conditions for those who are serving, but also providing all stipulated benefits to those who are dismissed from military service.  And this is the guarantee of permanent and service housing for servicemen and their family members, but also increasing pay to servicemen and military pensioners.  By 2012, the new pay system for servicemen should be functioning.”

“It’s understood that the level of pay and military pensions today is far from what’s really needed.  Here it’s necessary to change the situation in a cardinal way.”

ITAR-TASS also talked to members of the three other factions in the Duma. 

The KPRF’s Gennadiy Zyuganov negatively evaluated the army’s combat capability saying:

“The state of preconscription training is zero, and mobilization reserves have disappeared.  The general condition is such that today the army is not in a state to defend the country reliably in the event of a small conflict.”

Zyuganov claimed that defense is spending every third RF ruble, and “spending it absolutely ineffectively.”

He complained that outsourcing support functions to civilian companies has doubled the cost of maintaining each soldier.  Zyuganov also said that, “Switching to expensive cars is a luxury in hard times.”

The Just Russia spokesman supported Serdyukov’s formation of a single queue for military apartments, saying:

“We all know that earlier this was a very corrupt sphere where there was a great deal of injustice and complaints.”

Just Russia supported publishing the apartment queue on the Internet, as well as Serdyukov’s ‘humanization’ of conscript service (an extra day off, ability to communicate with family, service near home, and weekend passes), though nothing was said about the extent to which any of these have been implemented in units.

But the Just Russia faction leader also said:

“Today we raised the issue of material support for civilian workers serving the RF Armed Forces.  Today their wages are so low that a whole row of military commanders complains that they can’t fill vacant positions:  simply no one comes for such pay.”

According to RIA Novosti, Just Russia also supports giving military retirees the option of civilianizing their pensions, a move also advocated by the Defense Ministry, but opposed by the Finance Ministry.  The move would spare the Defense Ministry from choosing between paying more in pensions as active pay rises, or breaking the sacred link between active pay and pensions.  For its part, the Finance Ministry doesn’t want pay out for more expensive civilian pensions.

The LDPR was skeptical of Serdyukov.  Its spokesman said:

“We didn’t hear any news that would surprise us.  And the points of this endless reforming, they are all mainly well-known.  It feels like the man [Serdyukov] is in the flow of what’s happening, but our faction doesn’t always share those methods with which this is happening, particularly cuts, civilianization.”

Sounds like he’s tired of sound bytes too.

Igor Barinov, Deputy Chairman of the Defense Committee from United Russia, expressed concern that Serdyukov’s VVUZ reductions have cut military education to the bone:

“Of course, optimization on this level was essential.  But I think it was clearly a mistaken decision to stop induction [of new cadets] into military VUZy altogether this year and next.”

Mikhail Grishankov, also from United Russia, said there have been failures in the program of providing housing to servicemen.

Bad News for Would-Be Officers

Future Officer, or Sergeant? (photo: RIA Novosti / Valeriy Titiyevskiy)

There’s no better time for bad news about changes in military education than the beginning of Russia’s academic year.

The Defense Ministry said Monday it’s stopping induction of cadets into military higher educational institutions (VVUZy or ВВУЗы).  And new students will not matriculate next year either.

There’s no doubt there’s lots of excess capacity that needs to be cut from Russia’s military education system, but, as usual, there seems to be more angst about the way the process is being managed than about the need for some kind of change itself.  The Defense Ministry is trying to ram many young men who signed up to be officers into sergeant’s billets, and generally changing the rules in the middle of the game.  There’s no doubt large numbers of VVUZ professors and other teaching staff will be pushed out of the service, but the Defense Ministry is denying this for now.  Perhaps most interesting, RIA Novosti elected to editorialize on this issue, saying it exemplifies the Defense Ministry’s, and the Defense Minister’s, poor way of dealing with the public and presenting its initiatives.

Deputy Chief of the Defense Ministry’s Main Personnel Directorate (GUK or ГУК), Tamara Fraltsova (who doubles as Chief of the Military Education Directorate) made the announcement during a video conference marking the opening of the Presidential Cadet Corps in Orenburg.  Specifically, she said:

“In the course of this year and next, the Defense Ministry is refraining from selecting cadets for its VUZy.”

“This is connected to an overabundance of officer personnel and a deficit of officer positions in the Armed Forces.”

“At present, graduation of cadets exceeds the officer positions we have in the Armed Forces by four times.”

In other words, the military educational system is still too big, and needs more cuts.  There are 56 teaching institutions in all – VVUZy and their branches (filialy). 

The ‘overabundance’ of officers is part and parcel of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s ‘new profile’ reforms in which officers are being reduced to 150,000 from well in excess of 300,000 in late 2008. 

Fraltsova has previously indicated VVUZy would be cut further and unified into ten ‘inter-service scientific-training centers.’  Duplicative or overlapping specialty training will also be eliminated.

Izvestiya reported that Fraltsova said the military education system is still configured to support a 4-million-man, rather than a 1-million-man, army.

Nevertheless, Fraltsova maintained that all 15,000 VVUZ graduates were placed in military billets last year.  But she didn’t say what kind of billets.

Krasnaya zvezda quoted her:

“. . . there is a chance for higher quality manning of the Armed Forces.  So, the requirements for future officers must be stricter.”

“There is a need for a review and selection of military specialties, according to which education in military VUZy is provided.  Part of [these specialties] will be transferred to the civilian ranks, part will go into to the duty category of sergeant personnel.”

There’s been media reporting for months that any cadet receiving even a single ‘2’ – an unsatisfactory mark – is now drummed out.  But this doesn’t eliminate many – 70 percent of cadets graduate without ever getting even a ‘3,’ according to the Defense Ministry.

Writing in Komsomolskaya pravda, Viktor Baranets indicated that only 100 of 600 lieutenants who arrived in the Pacific Fleet got officer jobs, and, in Voronezh, only the very top-ranked graduates found officer posts in the Air Forces.  About 20 percent of cadets normally graduate ‘with distinction.’  So the remaining 80 percent either accepted a sergeant position, or immediate dismissal into the reserves and the civilian world.  

Grani.ru reported that most graduates of the Defense Ministry’s Military University – a social sciences institution located in Moscow – got a ‘free diploma’ and an immediate discharge.   

According to Izvestiya, Fraltsova said there are only 5,000 command positions in the Armed Forces against an influx of 15,000 newly-commissioned junior officers.  The paper quotes her:

“Let them compete for what they will get.  The rest simply received a free higher education.  In my opinion, this is fair.”

She claims these changes are improving student performance, and she wants to use competitive ratings to make initial officer assignments.

She dismisses worries about the impact of cadet reductions on VVUZy teaching staffs because, in many cases, they’ll be busy teaching noncommissioned officers.  Some will be one-year conscript sergeants, and others three-year contractees getting nearly 3 years of post-secondary schooling.

Fraltsova revealed that 60 percent of VVUZy already teach on a ‘for-profit’ basis, and this will fully employ their instructors.

The effects of officer corps cuts, and VVUZy cuts, have rippled down to Russia’s venerable Suvorov and Nakhimov schools.  Without places in VVUZy, these young men will have to seek spots in other power ministry academies, if they want to be officers.  Premilitary Suvorov and Nakhimov schools now have to compete for students with the new Presidential Cadet Corps, which are supposed to train youth for the civil service in each federal district.

Forum.msk’s Anatoliy Baranov remarked that Fraltsova and her ilk “will suddenly observe in 10-15 years that everyone in higher military institutions has died, and there is no one and no way to teach new officers.”  Leonid Ivashov told Gzt.ru simply, “We are witnessing the destruction of Russian military education.”

RIA Novosti published surprisingly stark criticism of Fraltsova’s (and Serdyukov’s) performance. 

First, it quoted her:

“. . . not everyone in Russian society is sympathetic to this initiative.  Yes, these are very severe measures, not many like them, and we are being subjected to criticism for this decision.”

The news agency said Fraltsova’s press conference left the media with the impression that the Defense Ministry still doesn’t know what to do about the military education system.

It called the halt in VVUZ induction a ‘radical step,’ which calls attention to the Defense Ministry’s secretiveness in making important decisions.  The agency complains that, since 2008, when the ‘new profile’ started, the media and society have learned about most changes after the fact.  Veterans and other social groups have written to Serdyukov asking to give input, but it’s not clear their letters are even answered.  RIA Novosti concludes, in this case, the military department has once again ‘stepped on a rake.’

Yesterday Deputy Defense Minister, State Secretary Nikolay Pankov went on TV in damage control mode, saying these changes are intended to improve military education as well as to save money.  He intimated there will be lots more pain in going from 56 to 10 institutions.  Pankov said 20 percent of this year’s 10,000 VVUZ graduates will become sergeants instead of officers, but the Defense Ministry will keep these reluctant NCOs in mind if officer billets come open.

Shurygin Critiques Military Reform (Part 2)

Continuing on with Reform or Lie, Shurygin describes today’s efforts against officers perceived as disloyal to the Defense Ministry leadership as comparable to Stalin’s repression of the officer corps.  Alluding to the FSB’s monitoring of the army, he says the constant search for leaks includes the use of wiretaps and the compilation of names of officers’ “undesirable” acquaintances and contacts.

In the SibVO, the officer corps has been cut in half.  4,000 dismissed outright, and 2,500 were placed outside the TO&E, i.e. left without a duty post.  According to Shurygin, they’ll get their base pay, but only for six months.  So there are 37,000 officers deprived of a way to make a living.  But he says some have been offered vacant sergeant positions.

Young officers coming out of VVUZy have also been surprised.  Military linguists from the Military University in 2009 were either put out of the service immediately or offered posts in the rear services.  Forty thousand of 142,000 warrant officers found a place in the ‘new profile’ and the rest were dismissed.

Shurygin suggests the High Command has been bought off by the Defense Minister.  He says “loyal” military district commanders are getting 300-400,000 rubles per month, deputy chiefs of the General Staff 500,000, and Makarov himself more than 800,000 rubles every month.

He believes Serdyukov and Makarov’s underlings have to deceive them about the real state of affairs, and report what they want to hear.  There are currently no structures to check up on the reformers, according to Shurygin.  Lapses and failures are presented like victories and successes.

He turns to the contract army.  There are so few contractees now, less than 79,000, that they barely cover the minimal need for them.  One-fourth are women.  The remainder barely cover a fourth of the manning needed for ‘new profile’ brigades.  So all services and branches are 75 percent manned by conscript soldiers.  Of the 300,000 men called up every six months, fully 100,000 are needed simply to cover the deficit in professional contractees.

The professional sergeants program was delayed because the majority of possible candidates couldn’t pass secondary school-style entrance exams.  When finally launched in one location–Ryazan, the sergeants’ training center has less than one-third the trainees intended.

Shurygin describes the closure of the 47th Independent Reconnaissance Aviation Regiment in Shatalovo.  According to him, they flew aircraft to their new base in Voronezh, and transported their engines back to Shatalovo, so that other aircraft could fly into Voronezh. 

Shurygin says Serdyukov has already signed off on a decision to scrap 1,000 aircraft requiring capital repairs.  This will shrink Russia’s aircraft inventory by one-third.  The tank inventory will be cut by a factor of four if only operational tanks are left in the force.  Shurygin asks what will happen in the next five years when another 1,000 aircraft use up their service lives.  Russia will have an air force about the size of Israel’s, according to him.  Only 70 future fixed-wing and helicopter pilots entered training in Krasnodar this year.

Shurygin criticizes Makarov for his less than savvy comments, for instance, about deploying the S-400 to the Far East against North Korean missiles or moving Bulava production to another factory.  He says the degradation of the army has continued for two years under Serdyukov, but he and Makarov don’t have to answer for anything.  They were forced to acknowledge that the infamous Order 400 on premium pay was a mistake that divided officers, and now they’ll be giving it to entire units.

In the future, officers from platoon to division will be earning 75,000-220,000 rubles per month and bonuses and supplements will disappear in favor of a higher pay scale.  But Shurygin complains that Serdyukov intends to ‘reform’ military pensions to decouple them from the new pay scale.

Lastly, Shurygin describes the Black Sea Fleet as on the verge of an explosion.  Officers have been put out.  They can’t keep their service apartments and they can’t get apartments in Russia.  They can’t work in Ukraine and live like bums.  And the situation gets worse every month.

The last part of Shurygin’s hasn’t been published.