Tag Archives: Yuriy Baluyevskiy

Would the Army Oppose Siloviki Loyal to Putin?

Medvedev and Putin (photo: Reuters)

An unnamed FSB veteran thinks it would.

Monday New Times published a piece on the state of the tandem and political prospects over the next year leading up to the elections which will determine who will be Russia’s president until 2018.

The article’s authors ask whether Medvedev and Putin, frightened by North African events, might be determined to preserve the status quo by any means.  Or perhaps the president and prime minister face an inevitable clash.  The authors have consulted unnamed experts and present their findings.  Scenario No. 2 is Apocalypse Tomorrow.  The mood of the siloviki – in this case, rank-and-file men with uniforms, ranks, and guns – is key to Scenario No. 2 – the tandem blown up.  The authors ask “how would the siloviki conduct themselves if Medvedev decided to fire the premier and his entire government?  On whom would the experts bet?”

The authors asked former USSR intelligence and special service veterans of coup d’etats to sketch out what we’d see in the event of Apocalypse Tomorrow.  They sketch out some of the things Putin and the government would do in addition to calling for the support of the siloviki.

In the end, the article examines the possibility that Putin might agree to go, with the right personal and financial guarantees in place.  His situation is not, after all, exactly like Mubarak’s or Qaddafi’s.

The article ends like this:

“’Putin can hardly count on the silovik bloc if the matter gets to mass bloodshed,’ even a highly placed employee of the FSB’s Spetsnaz Center, which today joins in its structure Directorate A (formerly Group A) and Directorate V (formerly Group Vympel).  ‘His sole full-blooded reserve capable of entering the fray is the Internal Troops [VV], and mainly the VV Spetsnaz’ – the so-called maroon berets.  ‘They are the ones in 1993, after one of the Vympel groups refused to participate in suppressing the civilian population, who fulfilled the given mission’ (this means preventing the storming of the Ostankino television center – New Times).  ‘As far as the FSB Spetsnaz goes, after so many years of ‘reforming’ silovik sub-units, officers will scarcely be zealous in putting down civilians.  Quite the opposite.  It wasn’t for this that they risked their lives in the Caucasus.’  The weakest link, in the opinion of the same expert, is the army:  ‘Among the troops there’s a lot of negative information and dissatisfaction with the reforms that are being introduced.  Promises that a lieutenant will soon receive 50 thousand rubles just remain promises, the apartment issue isn’t resolved.  After the mass dismissal of officers – just in the past year 140 thousand completely young ‘reservists’ were put out in the streets – they will easily return to the ranks [i.e. Serdyukov’s reversal increasing the officer ranks by 70,000], but now they know who their enemy is.  Plus the disbanding of the GRU Spetsnaz.  As a result, the opposition will have something to oppose the Internal Troops.  So the generals will think a thousand times before giving the order to open fire, and if there is the slightest suspicion about the illegitimacy of the mission received, they’ll do everything to sabotage it.’”

“The experts polled by New Times come together on one thing:  a bloody scenario has a greater than 50% probability in one case:  if the premier and his closest silovik circle seriously fear for their lives and property and don’t get a security guarantee.  And now before their eyes there’s even a living example:  going peacefully into retirement Mubarak has a chance to preserve part of his billions frozen in Switzerland, Qaddafi shooting at his own people no longer has such a chance.”

Interesting scenarios, but there are a couple things your present author isn’t so sure about.  Firstly, two things not factored in that could be significant are:  the mood of the average militiaman [i.e. cop] who are very numerous and are also being ‘reformed,’ and the unhappiness among military retirees and older vets demonstrated recently in their Moscow assembly and last year on Poklonnaya gora.  One’s not sure, though, if they’re more supportive of Medvedev or Putin.  Given the choice, they’d probably shoot both.  Secondly, is Medvedev really the type to enter that kind of standoff (or any standoff actually) while holding very few, if any, good cards to play?  At the same time, one is cautious about assuming rational actors.  It’s perfectly conceivable the Russians could blunder and miscalculate their way into Apocalypse Tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Ancentr.ru was following a similar tack earlier this week . . . it looked at the recent personnel decisions regarding General-Lieutenant Valeriy Yevnevich which moved him from the GUBP to Deputy Chief of the General Staff and then to Assistant to the Defense Minister (ostensibly, to advise on peacekeeping activities).  The website thinks this interesting since Yevnevich is a ‘political’ general who as Taman division commander supported President Yeltsin in the 1993 battle with his opponents.  And, it says, such a decisive and staunch supporter of ‘democracy’ as Yevnevich could be useful to vlasti in a responsible post given the general growth in political tension in society, including also a “rise in disloyalty in the army.”  For example, he could command special VDV or other sub-units in an emergency to ensure their loyalty to the regime.  Ancentr.ru goes on to detail other reports from NVO’s Vladimir Mukhin about the level of discontent in the army’s ranks as well as ex-General Staff Chief and Security Council staff member Yuriy Baluyevskiy’s possible role as leader of a military backlash against Defense Minister Serdyukov’s reforms.

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Mukhin on the Army’s Protest Mood

According to Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin, Defense Minister Serdyukov has lost the confidence of his bosses, as well as his carte blanche to reform the Armed Forces.  NG’s Kremlin source claims Serdyukov’s initiatives will be vetted at higher levels (i.e. the Sovbez and President) in the future.  But can there really be any initiatives left at this point?  Isn’t it all either implementation or reversal at this point?

President Medvedev’s press-secretary quickly denied that responsibility for military reform is being transferred elsewhere, and insisted it remains with the Supreme Commander-in-Chief and his Defense Minister (but what about Putin?).  She called Mukhin’s report a “lie,” and said only Medvedev and Serdyukov answer for Armed Forces reform, while others just “contribute to it.”

Mukhin covers Putin’s trip to Kaliningrad about military housing where he was told about discontent among military retirees and he promised a 50-70 percent increase in their pensions.  General-Lieutenant Netkachev blames Putin for letting military pensions slip from three times to barely equal to a normal labor pension.

Mukhin’s final interlocutor cites Finance Minister Kudrin on the cost of these political promises to the military increasing Russia’s defense burden from 3 to 4.5 percent of its GDP.

It’s worth including all of Mukhin’s article:

“Election Candy for the Military Electorate.  The Party of Power Struggles for the Votes of Veterans and Servicemen.”

“The fundamental steps connected with reforming the army will now be implemented not by the military department itself, but by the Security Council (SB), where the main director of this work will be the Deputy Secretary of the SB, ex-Chief of the General Staff Yuriy Baluyevskiy.  A Kremlin source has told ‘NG’ such information.  It notes that in its responsibilities, the Sovbez is charged with supervising the general work of the government and power structures in creating a positive image of the main activities of military organizational development, especially in the social sphere for officers and retirees and their family members.”
 
“So it is that the carte blanche given to Anatoliy Serdyukov several years ago by Vladimir Putin for a radical reorganization of the country’s Armed Forces is now canceled.  Further reforms will be agreed at a higher level and, of course, with the participation of Dmitriy Medvedev’s team.  As an SB source notes, Prime Minister and United Russia leader Vladimir Putin agreed to such steps for two reasons.  First, the image of the country’s military-political leadership was recently severely shaken, and the protest mood among a large number of serving military personnel and retirees is growing.  Taking into account the experience of the Arab revolutions, the tandem, apparently, decided to secure itself.  Secondly, the electoral battle has pushed the party of power to correct steps in the army’s reform and especially in social issues.”

“Vladimir Putin’s 23 February trip to Kaliningrad, where he, along with General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov, Deputy Defense Minister Grigoriy Naginskiy, and other government officials met about the housing problems of servicemen and where he met with residents as UR leader, was evidently connected to these factors.  These meetings happened at the same moment when on Poklonnaya Gora in the capital, the Union of Airborne of Russia (SDR) demanded the Defense Minister’s resignation, when on the Arbat [location of the Defense Ministry’s buildings] under the flags of [the political party] ‘Yabloko,’ military retirees demonstrated demanding doubled pensions, when on Pushkin Square in Moscow and Lenin Square in St. Petersburg communist-veterans demanded a solution to the housing problems of servicemen.  Television didn’t show these and other protest actions, occurring in many regions, at all.  On the other hand, all central television channels broadcast Putin’s visit to Kaliningrad.”

“Against this background, ‘Finans’ magazine published its latest list of [ruble] billionaires in Russia, where under number 163 current Deputy Defense Minister and United Russia activist Gregoriy Naginskiy was noted.  On the list, he is noted as founder of the engineering firm ‘Titan-2’ which is involved in construction.  His personal wealth is estimated at 20.7 billion rubles.  We note that in the Defense Ministry Naginskiy is also in charge of construction issues.”

“At a meeting with Putin, one of the leaders of the Kaliningrad veterans movement, former chief of the 11th Army’s political department, General-Major Boris Kosenkov handed the Premier a ‘little extremist manifesto’ being disseminated among veterans in Kaliningrad.  At the same time, talking about low pensions for retirees, the general stressed that ‘a very tense situation is being created in our veterans’ organization structures and political parties are even using this problem in the election campaign.’  As is well-known, there’s no such thing as a former political worker, and the veteran precisely seized the moment to enlighten the Premier about the mood among military pensioners.  Vladimir Putin had no choice but to agree with the fact that ‘really the situation with pension support for servicemen doesn’t correspond to the principles on which it was formed in previous years.  And according to recent data, for about 40% of military pensioners (or, maybe, even a little more), the pension is already either equal, or even a little less than a labor pension.’  Putin immediately promised that the ‘increase in military pensions will be substantial.  It will be an increase of about 1.5 times, about in the range of 70%.’”

“‘Let them, of course, raise pensions.  But now this looks like pure PR,’ believes General-Lieutenant Yuriy Netkachev, advisor to the Association of Social Defense for Veterans of ‘Rus’ Special Sub-Units.  ‘In 2000, when Vladimir Putin became President, military pensions were on average three times more than civilian ones.  Now they are much lower.  Who stopped the current authorities from keeping our pensions at the previous level?'”

“Academy of Military Sciences Correspondent-Member Colonel Eduard Rodyukov draws attention to another fact.  ‘In Kaliningrad, Putin promised to allocate another 150 billion rubles to solve all the housing problems of servicemen and military pensioners.  President Dmitriy Medvedev has once again pledged that from 2012 the salaries of officers will increase several times. In Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin’s opinion, all these transformations, as well as realization of rearmament programs, which the President and Prime Minister proudly proclaim, will require increased defense spending of at least 1.5% of the country’s gross domestic product.  That is the total expenditures in the military budget next year will be 4.5% of GDP.  For comparison:  in the U.S. about 3.5% of GDP is spent on defense.’  Rodyukov draws attention to the fact that in Russia wars are not foreseen in the near future.  But spending on defense will be very great.  ‘This will lead to increased problems in the economy.  Or is there a possibility that militarization simply won’t occur, and this means the military’s negative attitude in society will exacerbate further.’ Rodyukov supposes.”

Will the Genshtab and OSKs Replace the Glavkomaty?

Writing in Vremya novostey yesterday, Nikolay Khorunzhiy claims the recently-concluded, largest post-Soviet exercise – Vostok-2010 – was intended to test the establishment of four operational-strategic commands (OSK or ОСК) in place of Russia’s six military districts, as well as the establishment of structural sub-units of the General Staff in place of the Main Commands (Glavkomaty or Главкоматы) of the Ground Troops, Air Forces, and Navy.

Khorunzhiy continues:

“It’s proposed that the army’s new structure will allow a sharp cut in the steps in passing commands from 16 levels to three, and increase their precision and reliability.  On 6 July, President Dmitriy Medvedev signed a decree establishing OSKs.  Part of the authority of central command and control organs, but also that earlier entrusted to the Glavkomaty, are going to the OSKs.”

The 6 July decree still hasn’t appeared publicly. 

Khorunzhiy notes that then-General Staff Chief Yuriy Baluyevskiy tested the transition to regional commands during Baykal-2006:

“Then he didn’t manage to break the resistance of district commanders who didn’t want to share their authority with OSK commanders.”

Khorunzhiy digresses to the precursors of OSKs, without calling them High Commands of Forces.  Former General Staff Chief Nikolay Ogarkov set out to reform the army’s command and control:

“The instrument of such a reform he considered main commands on strategic directions (theaters of military operations, in modern terminology) which would improve coordination between services and troop branches and would strengthen the unity of command in combat units (permanent readiness units).”

Ogarkov viewed the Soviet North-Western, Western, and South-Western main commands of troops from World War II as prototypes, but these Glavkomaty were only intermediate links between the Headquarters,  Supreme High Command [Stavka VGK] and the fronts, but received no authority, troops, or communications.  Khorunzhiy contrasts this to Vasilevskiy being sent to fight the Japanese in 1945; he had authority and troops.

Then, in 1978, Army General Vasiliy Petrov was sent out to establish the Main Command of Troops of the Far East, and he had authority up to appoint regiment commanders and arrange cooperation with neighboring states.  The situation of troops in the Far East sharply improved.

Ogarkov set off then to establish main commands on strategic directions, and improve command and control and readiness in yearly exercises (West, East, Autumn).  But in 1984, Ogarkov himself was sent off to be CINC of the Western direction in Legnica.  He failed to get enough authority for these commanders from the CPSU or Defense Ministry, and these main commands were eliminated in 1991.

But Khorunzhiy goes on to describe today’s OSK as an ultimate victory for Ogarkov over the ‘parochial interests of the army elite.’  He doesn’t seem to wonder whether it might be too soon to declare victory.

He finishes by looking at the KPRF’s call for a parliamentary investigation and special Duma session on how Serdyukov’s reforms are ‘disarming Russia.’  In particular, Khorunzhiy quotes the KPRF press-service:

“The system of military districts which has existed for centuries has just been eliminated.  In place of them incomprehensible strategic commands have been established according to an American template.  It’s obvious that this endless modernization of military structures is leading unavoidably to the loss of troop controllability.”

What’s it all mean . . . ?

The possible elimination of the Main Commands — the service headquarters — would be a big deal (no one mentioned what might happen to VDV, Space Troops, or RVSN branch commands).   

This would obviously greatly strengthen General Staff Chief Makarov, and really make him lord and master of the uniformed military.  It would strengthen the General Staff (except Serdyukov’s been cutting its personnel, like the rest of the Central Apparatus).

Would it give Makarov too much power?  Maybe, or maybe not if Serdyukov thinks he can fire him and get another general whenever necessary.

The possibility of eliminating service headquarters makes Navy CINC Vysotskiy’s reticence to talk about moving to St. Petersburg in the midst of a command and control reorganization make more sense.  Maybe he was telling us there’s a much bigger issue at work than just OSKs.

Perhaps in the most objective sense, getting rid of the Glavkomaty would reduce personnel and some resistance to new ideas.  But wouldn’t it also throw away yet another place where the regime should seek good alternative ideas, counterarguments, and feedback on its plans?

More on OSKs, and ASU TZ

On Monday, Olga Bozhyeva reminded readers the proposed OSKs were former Genshtab Chief Baluyevskiy’s idea, and she called them part of a command reorganization along an American model.  She contends Baluyevskiy lost his job for pushing the change from military districts (MDs) to operational-strategic commands (OSKs).  And now the OSK will apparently win out, even though Baluyevskiy’s long gone. 

Bozhyeva says Baluyevskiy and the shift to OSKs were defeated in the past by MD commanders [and their powerful patrons] who stood to lose out in the process.  She claims Baluyevskiy’s opposition to the  Navy Main Staff transfer from Moscow to St. Petersburg was a pretext for his dismissal when the OSK was the real issue.  And his OSK experiment in the Far East was quietly dismantled after his departure. 

Actually, it’s more likely Baluyevskiy went down for opposing–rightly or wrongly–the whole range of ideas pushed by Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov.  By contrast, Baluyevskiy’s replacement has been a veritable extension of Serdyukov on policy issues.

With Baluyevskiy gone, according to Bozhyeva, the MD commanders bent the OSK idea to their way of thinking, proposing to make every MD an OSK, without cutting or consolidating MDs, and duplicating efforts in the process.  She says this reflected the MDs as ‘sacred cows’ upon which no one would encroach, and this tracked with new Genshtab Chief Makarov’s background as an MD commander.  Recall that Baluyevskiy was a career Genshtabist.

Bozhyeva continues, saying this year Makarov has begun to think about how to command the ‘new profile’ army.  And wars of the future will hardly accommodate a command structure like the MD.  But Bozhyeva reports a rumor that the name Military District could be retained to appease opponents of merging MDs in favor of modern OSKs.  She concludes, if the OSKs are realized, it’ll be possible to talk of a really ‘new profile’ army.

Dmitriy Litovkin also had his say on the OSK story last Friday.  He describes the possible move to OSKs in terms of more responsive command and control, reducing the transmission of orders from 16 to 3 steps.  But, he cautions, the OSKs are still just a proposal at this point.

Litovkin says the military hasn’t tried to hide the fact that the OSK is borrowed from the U.S. concept.  The main thing achieved in such an approach, he continues, is responsiveness in issuing and receiving combat orders.  The Defense Ministry says this new OSK structure will be tightly tied to the new automated battlefield command and control system ASU TZ (АСУ ТЗ).

Litovkin mentions how Prime Minister Putin saw ASU TZ at Voronezh, and how the system is supposed to centralize command and control down to the ‘electronic soldier’ on the battlefield.  This fall brigade exercises are supposed to employ ASU TZ with the aim of controlling several hundred ‘objects’ in battle simultaneously.  This summer the OSK model will be tried as part of the Vostok-2010 exercise in the Far East.

Litovkin’s source says:

“Developing ASU TZ without trying it in the new armed forces structure is impossible.  We need to understand in practice not just how this works, but also, possibly, that we are developing something unnecessary or, conversely, we aren’t making anything.”

Not a big vote of confidence for the new system.

Litovkin concludes by saying the possibility of unit and even garrison relocations might be a limitation on the OSK scheme.  Forces would need to be better balanced among the four strategic directions.  For example, the Western OSK would have too many motorized rifle units and the Eastern too few.

Idea of OSKs Waxes Again

In Russian defense policymaking, ideas never die; they wax and wane, and wax again.  Andrey Nikolskiy in Thursday’s Vedomosti reported a source in the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus claims the idea of establishing four regional Operational-Strategic Commands (OSKs) in place of Russia’s current military districts and fleets is waxing again.  This is hardly a new story.

The West reportedly would combine the Moscow Military District (MD) and Leningrad MD, and the Baltic Fleet, under a headquarters located in St. Petersburg.  The East would combine the Far East MD with part of the Siberian MD, and the Pacific Fleet, with its headquarters in Khabarovsk.  The North would combine the remainder of the Siberian MD with part of the Volga-Ural MD, and the Northern Fleet, with Yekaterinburg as the headquarters.  Finally, the South would put the North Caucasus MD with the remainder of the Volga-Ural MD, and the Black Sea Fleet and Caspian Flotilla, with Rostov-on-Don as the headquarters.

Vedomosti  is circumspect on the four OSKs.  It maintains that no decision has been taken yet, and the possibility of creating them is being studied.  Interfaks was quick to claim they’ll be established before the end of the year.  Putting the West headquarters in Piter would track with the apparently continuing effort to relocate the Navy Main Staff to the country’s ‘northern capital.’

So, a little about what would happen if this idea were implemented . . . clear losers are the LenVO, SibVO, and PUrVO, which all disappear.  The VMF won’t like the idea and the VVS is perhaps more ambivalent since its air forces and air defense armies (AVVSPVOs) pretty much exist within the current MD structure anyway.  The East would have 14 active maneuver brigades instead of the DVO’s 10.  The West would have 9 instead of 6.  And the North might be created with 6 brigades.  Of course, the OSKs would also have greater territory to cover than the MDs.

In retrospect, new Ground Troops CINC General-Colonel Aleksandr Postnikov foreshadowed renewed talk of OSKs replacing MDs when he arrived in March mentioning the possibility of an MVO-LenVO merger.

Former Genshtab Chief Yuriy Baluyevskiy’s one-year experiment with an Eastern Regional Command at Ulan Ude headed by General-Lieutenant Nikolay Tkachev was euthanized by his successor, Nikolay Makarov, in October 2008.  Theoretically, it might have been one regional command alongside analogous western and southern structures.  Baluyevskiy’s initiative probably dated back to 2005 discussions about a new command structure in the RF Security Council.  But it’s not clear what kind of regional commands were considered.  Were they to overlay the MDs and fleets like the High Commands of Forces of late Soviet days or replace them in a more radical restructuring?

This winter, then Ground Troops CINC, Army General Boldyrev said that each MD would become an OSK, and the MD-OSK commander would have operational control over all military units on its territory–Navy, Air Forces, MVD Internal Troops (VV), etc.  Boldyrev said:

“The operational-strategic command is a military district.  Such is its function and standing.  The legal status of the OSK has been drafted, its approval is planned in the very near future, this will possibly happen before the end of this year.  The district commander has been declared the commander of the operational-strategic command.”

Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye has been predicting the MD’s replacement for some time, writing in September last year: 

“. . . the leadership of the country and of the Armed Forces are returning to the idea that was proposed several years ago by former RF Armed Forces General Staff Chief, Army General Yuriy Baluyevskiy, who attempted to create Operational-Strategic Commands in theaters of operations, but not on the basis of individual districts, but rather by unifying several districts and fleets under the command of the OSK.” 

The MD is still more part of the administrative, training, and mobilization system for the paradigmatic ‘large-scale war’ of Soviet planning.  The OSK would have to become a combatant command for fighting regional or local wars here and now.  Consolidating three MDs and possibly downgrading fleet commands somewhat might save a few hundred senior officer positions.

As Vedomosti describes it, if the four OSKs actually stand up, they will include armed forces units, not other militarized forces like the VV or FSB Border Guards.  This isn’t surprising since these OSKs would be permanent, not just wartime, command structures. 

The control of strategic nuclear forces is always an issue in debating structures like the OSK.  Would OSK commanders really control and operate the RVSN, SSBNs, and long-range bombers on their territory?  If not, how would the OSK’s general purpose forces support strategic operations?  

Abolishing 6 MDs and especially 4 fleets and their long histories would be a politically daunting task, sure to raise lots of opposition in the ranks and among the publicly vocal ex-military.

Finally, it might be argued that the military has experienced near ‘permanent revolution’ over the last 18 months, and doesn’t need another major organizational innovation while the situation settles out from previous changes.

In any event, the replacement of MDs with OSKs still remains a rumor at this point.

Navy Main Staff Move to Piter Back On

Admiralty

Unnamed Navy sources told the media this week that the Navy Main Staff’s postponed transfer to Admiralty in St. Petersburg is back on, and will begin in July.  But the Navy has not commented officially.  

The Leningrad Naval Base left Admiralty for Kronshtadt, leaving space for the Navy Main Staff in the former.  The Naval Engineering Institute may or may not have left Admiralty for Pushkin. 

The first elements to move could be administrative elements not bearing on the fleet’s combat readiness, while the Navy’s ‘operational services’ remain on Bolshoy Kozlovskiy Lane providing uninterrupted command and control of the fleet, and naval strategic forces in particular.  Some press pieces have said the transfer process could stretch out into 2012. 

A radical ‘optimization’ [i.e. personnel cut] in the Navy’s command and control structures, beginning 1 March, will reportedly precede the move to Admiralty.  Some press sources say the cut will focus on the Navy’s Central Command Post (ЦКП).   

Cutting Navy headquarters personnel may not be all that hard.  Izvestiya notes that, according to some sources, 300 Navy staff officers came out against the transfer to Petersburg when the story first broke in 2007.  Nezavisimaya gazeta has repeated the rumor that  only 10-15 percent of current staff officers will move to Piter and Grani.ru claims most are already looking for other work in Moscow. 

Recall that Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov first ‘suggested’ the move to Defense Minister Serdyukov in fall 2007, saying that the Navy should return to Russia’s ‘naval capital’ already replete with naval educational institutions and shipbuilding enterprises, and lighten Moscow’s heavy load of governmental organs.  

The plan called forth the late 2007 protest letter signed by many retired admirals, asserting that moving the Navy Main Staff  would “not only lack common sense, but actually undermine the country’s defense capability.”  

Former General Staff Chief Yuriy Baluyevskiy was publicly ambivalent about the wisdom of the transfer.  In early 2009, Navy CINC Vysotskiy told the press he had no orders on the move.  However, new General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov was quick to remind Vysotskiy: 

“Now command and control organs of the armed forces can be located anywhere.  The main thing is a reliable command and control system should be created which allows for carrying out missions in peace and wartime.” 

But can it really be located anywhere?  

Retired General-Major Vladimir Belous of IMEMO’s International Security Center has been quoted everywhere saying that, in St. Petersburg, the Navy headquarters could come under a devastating enemy air attack in as little as 15-20 minutes. 

Some have guessed the price tag for relocating to Piter at between 26 and 50 billion rubles, Grani.ru guesses 80 billion, and still others say completely rebuilding the Navy’s Moscow infrastructure in the country’s second capital would cost up to 1 trillion rubles.  In any event, a gigantic sum forcing the Defense Ministry to forego lots of other good uses for its money.   

Many experts believe the Navy’s command posts, comms, and underground bunkers will remain in Moscow and Moscow suburbs, since relocating them to Piter will be physically or financially impossible.  Former First Deputy Navy CINC Igor Kasatonov has been widely quoted saying that Piter will be no more than an alternate headquarters for the Navy CINC, from which it will be possible only to exert tactical control over the fleet. 

IA Regnum concludes that, although military experts unanimously believe a Moscow-to-Petersburg move will undermine the Navy’s combat readiness, it’s not clear it matters given the other things [i.e. political considerations, business interests] that are in play. 

Vladimir Temnyy writing for Grani.ru makes the point that old admirals’ alarmist rumblings about disrupting the Navy’s command and control are unimportant to those who want to build a business center and expensive apartments in place of the Navy Main Staff building near the Krasnyye Vorota metro station. 

In Stoletie.ru, Sergey Ptichkin calls the possible move ‘administrative caprice,’ adding that there’s profit motive in this caprice since the Navy headquarter’s building is valuable central Moscow property.  He says not a single expert or Navy leader can justify the move, and brands Gryzlov’s talk of returning the Navy to Russia’s ‘naval capital’ the height of naivete.  He makes the point that the Navy was only in Piter because Piter was the capital of the Russian Empire.  Otherwise, the Navy’s headquarters should be with the rest of the nation’s leadership.  Ptichkin concludes the modern Russian Navy can only be commanded from Moscow’s infrastructure and to replicate it in Piter is, if not impossible, then insanely expensive, especially at a time when there are questions about what kind of Navy will remains to be commanded.

An editorial in Friday’s Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye concluded that the “ambitions of the powers-that-be trump common sense” and “the fact that arguments ‘against’ are clearly superior doesn’t bother them.”