Medvedev’s year-end assessment and Rogozin’s arrival

Yesterday, President Medvedev gave his annual state of the country address to the Federation Council. He spoke for a fair bit about the military, although there was little new information in what he said. Mostly, he just talked about how everything was getting better all the time and according to the government’s plan. But along the way, little facts crept in that paint a somewhat different picture.

First of all, Medvedev mentions that next year, there will be 220,000 officers and 180,000 contract soldiers (including professional sergeants) serving in the military. That’s the same number of contract soldiers as were mentioned as serving at the beginning of this year. What happened to the plan to recruit 50,000 new contract soldiers every year? Furthermore, a bit of simple arithmetic will show that the supposed 1 million man Russian army is a fiction. The total number of conscripts serving right now is approximately 350,000. That means the total strength of the military is 750,000, not 1 million. Or am I missing something? And given that the fall call-up was only 136,000 (compared to 218,000 last spring), if the spring call-up is about the same, by next summer we’ll be looking at a military where over 30 percent of all posts are actually vacant. Unless an extra 100,000 contract soldiers materialize between now and then because of the coming salary increase. Somehow I don’t see this as very likely.

Medvedev’s second point had to do with progress in the modernization of military equipment and weapons. I covered this in my last post, so I don’t think there any more to say on the problems facing that direction of reform.

Next came two areas where some progress has actually been made — making the military more mobile and compact and increasing salaries and social protection for people serving in the military. While there is still much left to be desired in both areas, at least there is movement in the right direction on both counts. The military’s reorganization over the last couple of years has increased mobility and (at least theoretically) improved combat readiness. Changes in training and exercises are also positive, especially in terms of the scenarios being exercised, though more can be done on that score. Salaries and pensions are increasing substantially, starting in January.

Medvedev concluded his discussion of the military by addressing problems with housing. He mentioned progress in building apartments for those on waiting lists, though not the problems that have surrounded the actual construction of the apartments. Furthermore, and not at all surprisingly, the deadlines have continued to slip, this time to 2014. The complete resolution of the housing problems always seems to be about 3-4 years in the future, ever since Sergei Ivanov’s claim in 2006 that everyone on the waiting list will have an apartment by 2010. Of course the mass forced retirements significantly added to the queue, but nevertheless, and especially given the problems with some of the construction, I would wager that 2016 is a more realistic estimate.

Finally, in addition to Medvedev’s statement, there were also some important personnel changes announced today. In conjunction with the game of musical chairs being carried out in the aftermath of the post-election protests that began earlier this month, Sergei Ivanov was appointed to be Chief of Staff in the Presidential Administration. This freed up his previous position — deputy prime minister in charge of the defense industry and military procurement, a position that has now been given to Dmitry Rogozin, who was previously Russia’s ambassador to NATO.

This appointment serves two purposes. First of all, it will (if only temporarily) quell the rumors that Rogozin was about to replace Defense Minister Serdiukov. Second, it will give Rogozin an opportunity to show his managerial qualities (if he has any). Ivanov was about as bad at the military procurement position as he was at being defense minister, so it may be that Rogozin’s penchant for strong language comes in useful in pushing for defense industrial reform. Though it’s far more likely that Rogozin will continue his tendency to make big controversial statements that generate a lot of publicity, without actually doing much of anything.



2 thoughts on “Medvedev’s year-end assessment and Rogozin’s arrival

  1. Rogozin certainly is a strong voice for Russia, but he has neither a miltary track record (and thus no good insight on what the military really needs), nor any formal higher military education. He is a politician, not a trained military subject matter expert. That disqualifies him for this job and it will mean the end of his career. Perhaps that is exactly what the Putinists have in mind since he has the potential of becoming a very popular opposition leader/critical voice within the government circle, though he had his chance with Rodina but failed to deliver. Thatswhy he got promoted away to the NATO ambassadorship in the first place. Putin is the smartest realist-politician in Russia: if you cant effectively eliminate the opposition, neutralise it by absorbing it into your own ranks. Just like the ancient Romans did. Though I like Rogozin alot, I seriously doubt he is equipped for this task. Yes, he holds a degree in economics (which he obtained during the Soviet era…), but the military industry is a whole other field and requires at least a decade of professional military service experience with lots nd lots of time spent downrange (which cannot be obtained in the Russian military) and/or higher education because one needs specific insights. Russia really needs to get its act together and speed up the reform proces. Current reform is being conducted in the wrong order. Russia is focussing on trying to reequip, while training standards, service conditions etcetera do not come even close to those of NATO. Focus on that first. Start by producing excellent people. That is well-trained, fed, payed and housed people. Hire a few decent Western PMC’s for the ‘training and shaping’ of personnel, like Georgia did (they took a beating in 2008 because of Russia’s sheer numbers and mass firepower, but their military is in fact excellent since it was trained by companies like Prime Defense). The second step is force planning. Doing it the other way around is just a huge waste of time and recourses. What possible good could a military that is reasonably well equipped but made up of ill-trained, underfed, underpayed and hazed conscripts do? A military is built around it’s people, not equipment. You need a personnel cadre first. Russia is heading in the wrong direction. Everything is far from ‘fine and going well’.

  2. Pingback: The million man army does not exist « Russian Military Reform

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