Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Putin & the Russian Army

Candidate Vladimir Putin’s election manifesto on the military and national security appeared in Rossiyskaya gazeta.  The rambling 6,500-word essay reads like most campaign literature — a series of feel-good sound bites with inconvenient facts, details, and background left out.

But let’s get at it.

Putin says the changing world presents risks of an unpredictable nature.  He insinuates that Russia should expect challenges to its sovereignty over its natural resources.  It can’t tempt others by weakness.  Strategic nuclear deterrence preserved Russia’s sovereignty in the difficult 1990s as it does today.

Putin continues his habit of excoriating the long-ago 1990s but largely ignoring what he did or didn’t do during the 2000s.

He points right off to the GPV’s 19 trillion rubles to modernize the Armed Forces, and the coming FTsP’s 3 trillion for the OPK.  And, he says, he’s convinced the country can afford these expenditures.

Putin then turns to the nature of future war.  He wants the military to “look over the horizon” at the nature of threats in 30-50 years to determine what the army will need.

Deterrence has worked, and Russia keeps its nuclear “powder” dry.  But Putin points to the mass introduction of long-range, precise conventional arms becoming decisive even in a global conflict.

Someone tell Putin this is not news.  But there’s more.

Putin reveals that space and information (or cyber) warfare may be decisive in the future.  Beyond this, he continues, new beam, geophysical, wave, genetic, and even psychophysical weapons may be developed.  Their effects may be comparable to nuclear weapons but more acceptable politically.  So, expect the role of nuclear weapons in deterring aggression to decline.

He then segues wildly to responding quickly and effectively to other new challenges, and how Russia’s ODKB partners will help stabilize the “Eurasian space.”

Putin proceeds to a long-winded explanation of how the army saved Russia in the terrible 1990s.  As mentioned earlier, he doesn’t have a lot to say about the eight years he was Supreme CINC.

Putin claims he rejected a proposal (he attributes to then General Staff Chief Kvashnin) to move SSBNs from the Pacific and consolidate them in the Northern Fleet.  He says permanent readiness units with contractees were formed on all strategic axes, and, he claims, they allowed Russia to “force Georgia to peace” in August 2008.

No mention that the large-scale introduction of contract service failed miserably during this time.  Also no mention of “winning” the Second Chechen War by ceding federal control of that republic to a brutal young warlord.

Putin rightly notes the Soviet Army’s mobilization model made no sense for Russia, and there was no alternative to building a New Army [starting in late 2008 when he was not president, and after things went so well for the army in Georgia].  He admits there were difficulties and mistakes in this process, but goes on to describe his view of what’s been done in the army.

Full-up permanent readiness brigades have replaced old cadre units.  ”Non-core, auxiliary functions” have been moved out of the army to maximize time for training.  And effective Defense Ministry sub-units responsible for the military order have to guarantee the effective formation of technical requirements for the development and production of arms and equipment.

Yes, but that’s not happening yet.

Putin lists other changes in the Russian military.  C2 organs cut by 50 percent.  Four districts with air, air defense, and naval forces subordinate to them.  Seven large air bases established.  Twenty-eight airfields renovated, and 12 more set for this year.  The share of modern ICBMs increased from 13 to 25 percent.  Ten more regiments to be reequipped with Yars or Topol-M.  Putin says Russia has accepted its new strategic ALCM.  Dolgorukiy and Nevskiy will soon enter the fleet.  The Navy’s renewed its presence on the world’s oceans.

Then the Prime Minister turns to tasks for the next ten years — rearmament:  nuclear forces, VKO, comms, recce, C2, EW, UAVs and unmanned strike systems, transport aviation, individual soldier systems and protection, precision weapons and defense against them.  And he reemphasizes, new generation precision weapons need development and a larger place in Russia’s future doctrine.

Putin seems to say Russia’s happier with the capability of defeating any missile defense than trying to develop its own.  He again promises effective, asymmetrical steps to counter any U.S. MD.

Then, a ten-year acquisition laundry list from candidate Putin:

  • 400 ICBMs and SLBMs.
  • 8 Borey SSBNs.
  • About 20 multipurpose submarines.
  • More than 50 surface ships.
  • Nearly 100 military satellites.
  • More than 600 aircraft.
  • More than 1,000 helicopters.
  • 28 regimental sets of S-400.
  • 38 battalions of Vityaz SAMs.
  • 10 brigades of Iskander-M.
  • More than 2,300 tanks.
  • About 2,000 SP artillery systems.
  • 17,000 military vehicles.

Continuing with Prime Minister Putin’s latest pre-election article on the army . . .Russia Today published a translated version.

Describing the army’s “social dimension,” Putin says a modern army requires well-trained officers and soldiers on whom more demands can be placed.  And they, in turn, deserve pay commensurate with that of specialists and managers elsewhere in the economy.

Hence, the new pay system for officers this year which practically tripled their remuneration.

Putin mentions that military pensions were increased 1.6 times (60 percent), and he promises they will now increase annually by not less than 2 percent over inflation.

Retired or dismissed servicemen will get a “special certificate” good for further education or for retraining.

Then Putin tackles the painful military housing issue.  After recounting its history, he says, in 2008-2011, the army obtained or constructed 140,000 permanent and 46,000 service apartments.  But he admits:

“. . . despite the fact that the program turned out to be larger in scale than earlier planned, the problem still wasn’t resolved.”

He says the accounting of officers needing apartments was conducted poorly,org-shtat measures [dismissals] weren’t coordinated with the presentation of housing, and the situation has to be corrected.

Putin is, of course, alluding to the fact that maybe 30,000 or 80,000 of those 140,000 apartments the Defense Ministry acquired or built remain unoccupied.  But he’s not exactly tackling the problem head-on.

Putin says the “eternal” permanent and service apartment problems will finally be resolved in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

But in mid-December, in his “live broadcast,” Putin said his new deadlines were 2012 and 2013.  So, he’s just given himself an extra year on each.

Putin says the military’s mortgage savings program now has 180,000 participants, and 20,000 apartments have been acquired through it.

He also notes that regions and municipalities won’t have broken down military towns and infrastructure foisted upon them.

Next, manning. 

Putin gives the familiar figures–there are 220,000 officers and 186,000 sergeants and soldiers who now serve on contracts.  Over five years, the army will try to recruit 50,000 professional soldiers each year. 

Selection, Putin says, will be strict, and contractees will be trained in special centers and sergeant schools.

In the reported one-million-man Russian Armed Forces, 700,000 personnel will be professionals by 2017.  Conscripts will be reduced to 145,000 by 2020.

Putin says the mixed contract-conscript system of manning used for quite some time was just a compromise because Russia couldn’t afford an all-volunteer army.

However, politicians and generals always extolled the mixed system because it retained a universal obligation (at least theoretically) and kept the military from becoming “mercenaries.”

Putin endorses military police and priests in the ranks to keep order among remaining conscripts.  He also promises those who serve as draftees assistance with education and preferences in entering the government service.

The Prime Minister admits Russia lacks a concept for its national military reserve system, and developing one is a near-term task.

Although the course is set for a professional contract army, Putin still wants young men to prepare for service.  So don’t forget about military-patriotic indoctrination, military-applied sports, and DOSAAF.

And Putin indicates he supports Deputy PM Dmitriy Rogozin’s proposal for a Volunteer Movement of the National Front in Support of the Army, Navy, and OPK.

Putin gives many non-specific mentions of:

  • “forming S&T capabilities”
  • “developing critical technologies for producing competitive products”
  • “reequipping the RDT&E infrastructure”
  • “investing in training specialists” 
  • “placing the Gosoboronzakaz for three-five, even seven years”
  • “a single organ for controlling ‘defense’ contracts”
  • “fair and sufficient prices”
  • “promoting competition in state purchases”
  • “driving forces of innovation growth”
  • “exchanging S&T information among those who can use it”
  • “streamlining manufacturing processes”
  • “increasing the prestige of defense industry occupations”

Shibboleths without concrete, prioritized, and achievable objectives won’t help the OPK after the election.

Let’s look for more coherent buried messages. 

Putin says up front:

“. . . we also have to talk plainly about [the OPK's] accumulated problems.  It’s a fact that domestic defense centers and enterprises have missed several modernization cycles in the last 30 years.”

“We must fully overcome this lag in the next decade.”

The once-and-future President takes pains to stress that Russia’s OPK and scientific base, not those of other countries, will rearm the country’s forces.  While military-technical cooperation with partners is fine, Putin says Russia can’t depend on foreign arms or abandon self-reliance.  To the contrary, it needs to increase and support its own military-technological and scientific independence.

He writes:

“I am convinced that no amount of ‘pin-point’ purchases of military and scientific equipment can replace the production of our own weapons; these purchases can only serve as a source of technology and knowledge.”

Still, he warns:

“To increase the country’s defense capability in reality, we need the most modern, best equipment in the world, and not ‘absorbed’ billions and trillions.  It’s unacceptable for the Army to become a market for pawning off obsolete types of armaments, technologies, and RDT&E paid for at government expense.”

So Putin steers a path between those who say Russia can only rely on domestic arms producers, and those who say Russia’s defense sector is too decrepit and corrupt to supply the Armed Forces, so the military has to shop abroad.  But he definitely leans more toward the former view.

The once-and-future President sets a high bar for the OPK, probably ridiculously high considering how neglected the defense sector has been for 20 years:

“The activities of defense industry enterprises should concentrate on the mass production of high-quality weapons with the highest performance characteristics to meet both current and projected defense challenges.  Moreover, it’s only the latest weapons and military equipment that will enable Russia to strengthen and expand its foothold in the world arms markets, where the winner is the one who can offer the most advanced designs.”

“Reacting to present threats and challenges alone means being doomed to the role of someone who is always playing catch-up.  We must do our best to gain a technological and organizational edge over any potential adversary.  Such a stringent requirement should become the key criterion for us as we set targets for the defense industry.”

“The defense industry is in no position to calmly try to catch up with the latest developments.  We must facilitate breakthroughs and become leading innovators and manufacturers.”

So again, however realistic this goal may or may not be, Putin places a priority on Russia’s ability to export weapons and earn dollars.

He is sure rebuilding defense industry won’t be a back-breaking, Soviet-type burden on the country.  Still, he cautions:

“We must not repeat our past mistakes here.  The huge resources invested in the renewal of the defense industry and in the rearmament program must facilitate the modernization of the entire Russian economy.”

Another high bar.  A civilian economy of free, competitive, and self-sustaining industries can take good advantage of defense sector technology spin-offs.  It’s less clear how defense industry investments can help lagging sectors of Russia’s civilian economy.

Putin ominously warns corruption in the national security sphere is tantamount to state treason.  It’ll be interesting to see how the OPK reacts, and if or how he effects this declaration.

Despite years of state-controlled integration, the PM somewhat oddly says defense industry should be open to larger numbers of private enterprises and contractors.

And he opines that OPK pay should be equivalent to new higher pay in the Armed Forces.  This is probably true but it’s another costly promise.

He concludes the entire article saying Russia cannot fall behind and become vulnerable even if it costs a lot.  But the goal, he claims, is an army and defense industry that strengthens rather than exhausts the national economy.

Putin is many days late and many rubles short in fixing the OPK’s problems.  They should have been addressed before the current state armaments program (GPV) was launched.  The GPV cart was placed before the OPK horse for political reasons.

It’ll be interesting to see if this article serves as any kind of blueprint for the years that Putin serves, once again, as Russia’s chief executive.

It’s also interesting to see Putin return to the weakness theme.  And how avoiding real or perceived weakness is such a powerful motivation for him:

“. . . we should not tempt anyone by allowing ourselves to be weak.”

To reiterate, Putin says what needs defending are Russia’s natural resources.

One’s reminded of his address the day after Beslan more than seven years ago.  He said:

“We showed weakness.”

“And the weak get beaten.”

“Some want to rip ‘juicy’ pieces off us, others to help them.”

It’s basically what Stalin concluded about industrialization 81 years ago almost to the day:

“To slacken the tempo would mean falling behind.  And those who fall behind get beaten.”

“One feature of the history of old Russia was the continual beatings she suffered because of her backwardness.” 

“They beat her because it was profitable and could be done with impunity.”

“They beat her, saying:  ‘You are abundant,’ so one can enrich oneself at your expense.”

What Putin says is not so different.


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