Valdai Club 4: A conversation with General Tretyak

On Friday May 27th, the Valdai military section had the opportunity to meet with General Andrei Tretyak, the Chief of the Main Operations Directorate of the Defense Ministry. We were originally scheduled to meet with Defense Minister Anatoly Serdiukov and Chief of the General Staff Nikolai Makarov, but neither was available when the time came. General Tretyak spoke about the achievements and remaining goals of the military reform, and then answered questions from the group.

General Andrei Tretyak, Head of the Armed Forces General Staff Main Operations Directorate

General Tretyak’s statement

General Tretyak began with a discussion of the reasons why the reform was started three years ago. At that point, he argued, the Russian military was a shard of the Soviet army, not adapted to the new conditions that it faced. If the government had waited any longer, it would have been even more difficult to carry out all the necessary reforms. In terms of equipment, the army had less than 5 percent modern technology, and troops were scattered around the whole country at 22,000 sites. Russia’s military doctrine was designed for a big war, not for the types of conflicts Russia was actually likely to face in the coming years. The military suffered from poor social conditions, low salaries, a lack of housing, and low prestige in society.

The general then turned to what has been accomplished so far to address these problems. In 2009-2010, the military created combat ready troops that can be ready to fight in one day. Before, it took weeks or months. He argued that although the army is now more compact, all the troops can be ready in hours. The four unified strategic commands control all the forces on their territory except airborne, space and nuclear forces, in both peacetime and wartime. Each command now has 2-3 strategic directions that it focuses on. This reform has thus reduced reaction time and increased the army’s combat potential. Brigades’ readiness and control coefficients are much higher now, even though their forces are less numerous than when they were divisions.

At the end of his talk, General Tretyak addressed what he saw as the five main tasks remaining for the reform effort:

  1. Creating a single supply system. He noted that while this is difficult to establish, the MOD understands that the old division between armaments and supply is outdated so they’re starting to create a single supply chain. Though they face some difficulties, he argued that there has been progress.
  2. Improvements in combat training. There was a 30 percent increase in the number of exercises from 2009 to 2010, though more progress needs to be made in performance quality.
  3. Establishing a new basing system. The military is building 184 modern military bases with full amenities for the soldiers, their families and civilian support staff. As part of this task, they are outsourcing for basic tasks such as cleaning and cooking in order to free soldiers for military training. Though it is more expensive than the old system, they believe it’s worth the extra expense.
  4. Re-equipment and weapons modernization. This is the most difficult task. The government has allocated 20 trillion rubles to accomplish this task over the next ten years. He mentioned the two frequently noted targets – 30 percent modern equipment by 2016 and 70 percent by 2020. He went on to note that they don’t just mean physically new equipment; the equipment has to be truly modern —  they want to have the best of each type of equipment. He noted that the MOD had already developed requirements for these weapons.
  5. Developing a new educational system for the military. The first step was shrinking the number of military educational institutions from 64 to 16. Now they are setting up a system of continuous professional military education. They’re also working on solving the start-up problems for preparing sergeants; General Tretyak believes that they will have fully qualified new sergeants in 1-2 years. At the same time, they will start paying more money to military pensioners and will solve the housing problem retired officers. Continue reading