Russian Military reform moves beyond Soviet legacy

Here’s an Oxford Analytica brief I wrote a few months ago. This was originally published November 19, 2012. There have been a number of new developments since then, but this is still worth reading for my perspective of what worked, what didn’t, and what challenges Shoigu will be facing in the near future…


SUBJECT:Key accomplishments of Russia’s military reform and its mid-term prospects.

SIGNIFICANCE:Russia’s defence industry remains in a fairly decrepit state, plagued by outdated equipment, lack of experienced personnel, inefficient production processes and extensive corruption. Government efforts to revive the industry through restructuring and targeted investment have produced few improvements, creating instead a large number of unwieldy government-controlled monopolies.


  • A mobile and well-equipped military will enable Russia to become a more efficient player in local and regional conflicts.
  • The higher budget allocations could translate into higher salaries for the military, raising the prestige of military service.
  • The defence industry’s difficulties in manufacturing ultramodern equipment will hinder the efforts to improve Russian military capabilities.
  • Recent personnel changes in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) provide an opportunity to assess the state of the Russian military after four years of reforms and the issues that it is facing at the start of the incoming defence minister’s tenure.

Russia’s most successful defence minister?

One of the greatest successes of former Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov was the radical military reform that he launched in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s war with Georgia in August 2008.

More mobility

Working closely with Chief of the General Staff Nikolai Makarov, who masterminded much of the reform, Serdyukov succeeded in dismantling the Soviet-era structure of the Russian military and replacing it with a structure more suited to 21st century warfare. He substituted the unwieldy divisions geared towards fighting large frontal wars with much more mobile and largely self-sufficient brigades.

Faster mobilisation

The reform also ended the Russian military’s dependence on mass mobilisation to fight its wars. During the post-Soviet period, many military units existed mostly on paper and were staffed by only a few officers in charge of warehouses filled with unusable weapons and equipment. It could take up to one year for most of these units to become combat-ready. Under Serdyukov, they were eliminated, and the military began a gradual transition to a structure based on fully staffed units that could mobilise in less than a week. Some of these units should be able to respond to a sudden conflict within 24 hours.

Better inter-service cooperation

The military also made great strides in becoming better coordinated in its operations. Under the previous command structure, inter-service cooperation on the battlefield required coordination from Moscow. This led to numerous incidents of miscommunication that resulted in losses to friendly fire and problems with essential combat requirements, such as the timely provision of air cover for advancing ground forces. The establishment of four regional unified strategic commands allowed local commanders to organise all military elements in their respective region, which greatly enhanced inter-service cooperation.

All of these organisational changes have been made in an effort to enable the Russian military to respond more quickly to unexpected local or regional conflicts. These are the only types of wars that the Russian military has been engaged in since the Afghanistan conflict of the 1980s. Military planners expect this to be the most common form of warfare in the foreseeable future as well.

Failed reforms

Although he did a great deal to rid the Russian military of its Soviet legacy, Serdyukov was far less successful in interpersonal matters: the minister’s lack of military experience and his hard-charging style, which earned him the nickname ‘Bulldozer’, alienated most of the senior and junior officers under his command.

Military continues to face housing crisis

Although military salaries were increased substantially during Serdyukov’s term, the MoD failed to fulfil its long-standing promise to provide its serving and retired officers with acceptable housing. Although the MoD asserted that large numbers of apartments were being constructed, many eventually turned out to be uninhabitable because of poor construction methods. At the same time, a rapid reduction in the number of serving officers resulted in yet more retired personnel on waiting lists for permanent housing.

Corruption remains rampant

Before Serdyukov became head of the MoD, the military was widely known as one of Russia’s most corrupt institutions, with senior officers accumulating large amounts of money by redirecting procurement and construction funding and using conscript labour for personal needs. The circumstances surrounding Serdyukov’s removal suggest that his goal of stamping out corruption in the military during his tenure was far from being achieved.

Challenges ahead

Shoigu, the new minister of defence, has maintained a relatively clean reputation throughout his tenure as minister for emergency situations and as the governor of the Moscow region. He also appears to have the support of senior officers, most of whom despised his predecessor. However, the military he has inherited is still facing a number of serious challenges.

Military remains small and untrained

The most pressing problem is the military’s lack of soldiers. A decline in childbirth in the early 1990s has resulted in a corresponding drop in the number of 18-year-old men available for conscription. At the same time, salary increases and improvements in living conditions have done little to encourage Russians to serve in the military as contract soldiers. As a result, the military is facing significant personnel shortages. Moreover, the military’s inability to attract a sufficient number of contract soldiers also affects its battlefield readiness: conscripts who serve for only a year before demobilisation do not have enough training to handle the modern weapons that the military hopes to acquire by 2020.

Need for more modern equipment

The second major challenge facing the new defence minister is the implementation of a highly ambitious ten-year rearmament programme that is expected to modernise 70% of Russia’s weapons by 2020. Serdyukov and Makarov had made many enemies in the defence industry by insisting that the MoD would not pay inflated prices for substandard, domestically manufactured equipment. Shoigu, at least initially, appears poised to take a softer line with the industry. This may win him friends but is also likely to burden the military with outdated and overpriced weapons systems.

CONCLUSION: As Russia’s new defence minister, Sergei Shoigu faces several key challenges: he will need to modernise military equipment, raise the number of well-trained personnel and crack down on widespread corruption. Shoigu will have to walk a fine line between remaining on good terms with the military-industrial lobby and seeing through the reforms initiated by his predecessor.

The firing of Anatoly Serdyukov

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov was fired this morning. The ostensible reason had to do with the corruption scandal that recently engulfed Oboronservis. But we all know that no one in the top echelons of the Russian government gets fired for corruption, unless there’s some other reason for their removal. The subtext here is that Serdyukov had made an enemy of Viktor Zubkov, the powerful former Prime Minister and current chair of Gazprom’s board, and also Serdyukov’s father-in-law and former patron.

The corruption scandal focused on Yevgenia Vasilyeva, the former head of the MOD’s property department. Various sources have indicated that when her apartment was raided as part of the corruption probe at 6am on Oct 25, Serdyukov was there. Furthermore, Vasilyeva’s apartment was in the same building as Serdyukov’s. The building had been requisitioned several years ago to serve as the reception hall for the Defense Ministry but then converted to private apartments for the two of them. It seems that the two of them had been having an affair for some time.

I don’t know why this long-standing situation became intolerable recently. It may be, as implied by today’s New York Times report, that Zubkov only recently became aware of the situation, after Serdyukov and his wife separated. Or it may be that it took time for Zubkov to receive a green light from Putin to launch the attack. In any case, we know that only five months ago, Serdyukov had wanted to leave his position and had to be personally persuaded by Putin to stay on. So whatever happened to change the situation has happened over the summer or fall.

Another interesting aspect of the situation is that two weeks passed between the raid on Vasilyeva’s apartment and Serdyukov’s removal. Initially, it seemed to me that the raid was meant as a signal to Serdyukov to sort out his personal life and that he was not in danger of removal. If he had meant to remove Serdyukov, Putin could have done so without the raid or (if he wanted Serdyukov humiliated) could have done so immediately after the raid. The delay implies either that Serdyukov was unable to come to terms with Zubkov and therefore had to be jettisoned by the ruling clan or that Zubkov was determined to have Serdyukov out despite Putin’s initial reluctance and needed the two weeks to prevail. (The latter point of view is well-expressed by Aleksandr Golts.)

Putin has appointed Sergei Shoigu, the long-standing head of the Emergencies Ministry who had been serving as Moscow Oblast governor for the last few months. This move has implications for both the military and the Russian political system at large. For the political system, it means that Putin has few people left he can trust. Serdyukov was long seen as irreplaceable precisely because there were so few people who combined his qualities of effective managerial ability and personal loyalty to Putin. Shoigu is one such person, which is probably why he was brought in as Serdyukov’s replacement even though he had only recently been appointed to run Moscow Oblast.

The burning question, though, is what happens to the military in general and the reform effort in particular with Shoigu as Defense Minister. Shoigu is in some ways like Sergei Ivanov was — someone with vast experience in the security services, but little connection the military itself. By all accounts, he did an incredible job establishing and running the Emergencies Ministry. If he can combine his managerial abilities with a manner that is less brusque than Serdyukov’s, he might succeed in maintaining momentum on the reform agenda without alienating the officer corps. Of course, this will depend on a continued reaffirmation of support for reform by Putin, but that seems in little doubt given the extent to which Putin is invested in the reform’s success. This will be especially needed to counter those officers who may be emboldened by Serdyukov’s removal and may seek to roll back some of the reform’s achievements.

Shoigu has a reputation as an honest and relatively uncorrupt official. He may end up being far more effective at eliminating entrenched corruption at the MOD than Serdyukov (who seems to have simply had his own people take over the most profitable schemes). We may get an early signal of the future of the reform effort if Chief of the General Staff Nikolai Makarov retires (as expected) in December. If Makarov is replaced by someone who is seen as a strong supporter of reform, then Serdyukov’s reform plan is likely to continue. If he is replaced by a member of the old guard, that may be a sign that the achievements of the last four years are about to be rolled back. Of course, Makarov’s reappointment, though unlikely, would also be a signal that reform remains on track.

Serdyukov’s removal may initially be taken as a victory for the anti-reform forces. But it may turn out that his “bulldozer” methods have done as much as they could. In that case, Shoigu could turn out to be exactly the right person for the job of solidifying the changes enacted over the last four years.




Gareev’s response to Makarov

Friday’s NVO carried Gareev’s response to Makarov’s speech at the Military Science Academy. Or more accurately, it was his response to the reporting about the speech. Most of the text consisted of whining about how journalists have been misreporting the tenor of Makarov’s remarks, that he wasn’t actually criticizing the academy, but simply pointing out the various problems that beset the military and defense industry. What’s more Gareev argued that most of the problems discussed by Makarov do not fall under the purview of military science in any case.

After that start, Gareev pretty much just kow-tows to Makarov, talking about how members of the academy understand that they are to some extent to blame for the deficiencies in military science described by Makarov. It gets better by the end though, with Gareev complaining that the military hasn’t given the academy any assignments for 2011. In the last couple of paragraphs, he’s practically begging for something for the academy to do, promising that if the military were willing to give its members another chance to present their ideas, their experience and creativity would benefit the military’s transformation.

It all seems quite pathetic, really. Gareev had an illustrious career in the Soviet military. He is considered to be Russia’s greatest living military theoretician and has headed the academy since its founding in 1995. But he’s 87 years old. His formative years were during World War II and network-centric warfare didn’t come into existence until he was well into his sixties. So it’s not surprising that he’s not up on the latest in war-fighting theory. Perhaps it would be best if he were to retire and let someone younger and more familiar with the state of the art in military science run the academy?

Makarov takes down Gareev and the military’s old guard

By now, there have been a number of articles analyzing Nikolai Makarov’s speech at the General Assembly of the Russian Academy of Military Sciences. At the risk of repetition, let me add my two cents to the discussion.

A fundamental critique of the military’s academic establishment

It seems to me that the most important part of the speech is Makarov’s clear statement that Russian military science had failed to provide the Russian military with methods for adapting to the new forms of warfare being used by the armies of all other major world powers. Between the advent of network-centric warfare in the early 1990s and the announcement of Serdiukov’s miltiary reforms in 2008, there was no effort to introduce modern information management systems into the Russian military. Instead, the various military academies and institutes continued studying the old wars, assuming that in the future, the Russian military would be called upon to fight World War II yet again, and what’s more, do it with World War II era technology and tactics.

In the speech, Makarov took several digs at the head of the Military Academy, 87 year old General Makhmud Gareev. In particular, he arrived late, missing Gareev’s opening speech. In other circumstances, this might be seen as a symptom of his tight schedule, or could even be blamed on Moscow traffic. But given that the bulk of Makarov’s speech was focused on criticizing the Academy’s performance under Gareev’s leadership, there can be no doubt that this was a deliberate snub. Furthermore, Makarov made a snide comment about the Academy continuing to conduct research on topics such as guerrilla warfare during World War II, which he argued had been studied sufficiently and could not contribute to the future development of the Russian military. Makarov went on to note that the problems weren’t limited to the Academy, but were common to most military academic institutes.

The result of this academic failure was seen in the Russian military’s performance in the 2008 war with Georgia. As he has in the past, Makarov argues that this was the proximate cause of the start of radical military reform. In this speech, he notes that the problems made evident by Russian performance in this conflict required drastic measures even though the military’s academic establishment had failed to provide a theoretical basis for the reform. The result was a rather explicit confirmation that the leadership is seeking to transform the Russian military into a modern army that will use highly trained forces and the latest technology to engage potential enemies. Of course, the road from here to there will be long and potentially uneven, but as I’ve argued before, at least the will is there.

To this end, I have to disagree somewhat with Aleksandr Golts’ skepticism on this account. While he is happy with Makarov’s speech, he argues that until this speech, he was not sure that Makarov supported the new approach. It seems to me that Makarov has all along been the chief proponent of radical reform among the military’s senior ranks. This is why Serdiukov appointed him to be essentially his right-hand man, and why he is one of the few senior officers who were not retired during Serdiukov’s house cleaning.

New training for new technology

The second key point made by Makarov in his speech related to the introduction of advanced information technology into the Russian military and into its training regimen. Makarov pointed out that currently, if the staff is prepared, it takes 5-6 hours for a brigade commander to make a plan on how to conduct combat operations and to send out orders to his subordinates. It then takes another 5 hours for the field officers to make their decisions on the basis of these orders and pass them on to their subordinates. Using digital technology and modern information management systems, he argued that it takes Chinese commanders just 20 minutes to do what Russian commanders require 10 hours to accomplish.

In order to train Russian officers to use such methods, the Ministry of Defense purchased two simulator training systems that are able to simultaneously train 3000 soldiers each. These systems will be based in Nizhny Novgorod oblast and will allow the military to train an entire brigade, from commanders all the way to infantry soldiers. The actions of each soldier will be videotaped and analyzed, with the goal of examining the extent to which soldiers are able to take initiative and use creative thinking to carry out their orders and achieve their individual and group goals. In the German system, soldiers are only allowed to train on actual equipment after they have passed the simulator training. Makarov noted that the goal of the Russian army is to have all ground forces brigades pass through such training.

Makarov’s arguments on this topic lead to a couple of thoughts. First of all, the purchase of training systems from Germany indicates yet another potential avenue for cooperation with NATO. While Makarov went out of his way to note that the software and training programs used at this facility will be purely Russian, the shift to a German-designed simulator-based training system will undoubtedly help promote interoperability between Russian and NATO forces, potentially pointing toward greater cooperation at some point in the future.

Second, note the comparison to China. Russian military types may have gotten used to comparisons to advanced NATO countries, but arguing that China is much better at warfighting than Russia is a calculated move designed to show just how backward Russia is in network-centric warfare.

Finally, if the Russian military is going to get serious about shifting to high-tech network centric warfare, it’s going to need to have soldiers and officers that have the know-how to make use of such technology. And that means getting away from conscripting the dregs of society. Which brings us to Makarov’s final key point.

The contract soldiers strike back

Makarov made two important statements about manpower in this speech. First of all, he argued that the recent announcement that the number of officers in the military will be increased from 150,000 to 220,000 does not mean that the army will simply hire back 70,000 of the recently retired officers. That had been the assumption when Serdiukov first made the announcement about the increase in the total number of officers a few weeks ago. Makarov, instead, argued that the new officers will primarily be technical specialists and will not be those who were recently laid off.

Second, he reiterated Serdiukov’s recent announcement that the number of contract soldiers will be increased to 425,000. The type of contract soldiers the military will seek to attract will be fundamentally different than in the past. Rather than trying to press conscripts to sign a contract to stay on for another three years, they will focus on hiring soldiers who are capable of mastering the complex technology with which Makarov hopes to equip the Russian military. To this end, salaries for contract soldiers will be 2-3 times higher than in the past (25,000 rubles/month).

Makarov noted that the General Staff has studied the experience of East European states such as Poland, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic in shifting from conscription to a contract force. Soldiers in these countries receive $1100-1200/month in salary and housing allowance. The Russian military hopes to reach this level of pay in the foreseeable future as well. (Note the use of East European states as a model. This is yet another calculated effort to provoke the more hidebound generals.)

Furthermore, he made it clear that the contract soldiers will form the core of the Russian military, with conscripts making up no more than 10-15% of the total force. This is a very interesting statement that has not gotten the attention it deserves. If there are 425,000 contract soldiers and 220,000 officers, and 15% of the total force is made up of conscripts, some simple arithmetic indicates that the total force will consist of 760,000 soldiers and officers, of whom 115,000 would be conscripts. In other words, Makarov was implicitly indicating that the Russian military is going to a) give up on the million man army and b) drop its target of having 200,000+ conscripts. Both of these developments are inevitable given Russia’s demographic situation for the coming decade, but so far the military leadership has stuck to its manpower goals despite the obvious impossibility of reaching them in the near future.

So what we have is a slightly oblique statement of a fairly radical vision of reform. Makarov is betting on a smaller, more high tech military. Furthermore, his presentation was calculated to put down the military’s old guard, as symbolized by the Military Academy’s 87-year old director. In the coming months and years, we shall see to what extent he is able to implement this vision.

Text of Makarov’s speech at the Academy of Military Sciences

Originally published in Russian in Voenno-Promyshlennyi Kur’er, March 30, 2011.

On 26 March, a general reporting-election session of the Academy of the Military Sciences took place. The title of the agenda was: “Results of the Work of the Academy of the Military Sciences in the Period 2005-2010 and the Tasks for the Subsequent Period”. Leaders of the Ministry of Defense of Russia participated in the session. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and central organs of military command and control participated. The actual problems of military construction in Russia at the present stage was reviewed along with the summary of the results of the work of the academy. General of the Army Nikolay Makarov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, gave a speech at the session. VPK is publishing a brief summary of his report:

The most important tasks at the present time are the elaboration of a concept of non-traditional wars and armed conflicts, forms and methods for armed warfare, a theory for command and control of the troops, taking the new look of the Armed Forces into consideration, and the everyday practice of combat and operational preparation of automated systems of command and control, as well as communications systems built on the basis of computer networks.

Gaps in military science.

Meanwhile, for some reason, the classic ratio of forces is still being used by us in all calculations. But, for a long time, this has not corresponded to the real state of affairs. For some reason, the information component and the information-management system, which function in many of the leading armies of the world, are not being taken into account. In this respect, over a period of two years, we have not been able to move from a deadlock. There have been no scientific developments on how to make a transition to new methods and technologies with a calculation of the correlation of forces, taking the latest methods for armed combat and arms into consideration. There have been certain achievements but they are so primitive that they do not reflect the real state of affairs. After the campaign in Iraq in 2003, our military science and our military leadership did not make the appropriate conclusions.

For the sake of fairness, I will mention the following: Back in the 1980s, some of our military scientists tried to substantiate a new view, including the theory of non-contact wars. But, for a number of reasons, the results of this research were not realized. That is, a kind of gap formed up. Consequently, figuratively speaking, we danced in place for a long period of time. Science was ripped away from the troops and the troops were ripped away from science.

At the present time, the Odyssey Dawn operation of a coalition grouping is taking place in Libya. As before, the leading role has been given to high-precision weapons. But it is not just necessary to know how to use them. It is also necessary to have them. As is the case with all systems for reconnaissance, guidance, adjustment, and target-indication, without which it is not possible to conduct combat operations. A priority of the coalition is to take critically important facilities out of commission, including air defense components, aviation bases, communications, and the system for state and military command and control. Strikes are being carried out on the troops who are supporting Kaddafi and 203 Tomahawk cruise missiles have already been used, not counting high-precision aviation bombs, including self-guiding aviation bombs.

“In the past twenty years, we were not able to bring military art up to a modern level and we continued to live with obsolete concepts about the nature of modern wars.”

At the present time, we still have little of this equipment. Most importantly, there has been no full answer to the question: How are the priorities to be set in the construction of the Armed Forces? In the past twenty years, we were not able to bring military art up to a modern level and we continued to live with obsolete concepts about the nature of modern wars. This is at a time when the whole world developed critical technologies and information-management systems and began to produce high-precision weapons. As before, we were focused on having a massive army and purchasing obsolete armaments from industry. We missed out on the development of the latest methods and, after that, the means for armed combat. We approached August 2008, when conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia broke out, in such a state.

That conflict stimulated us to do a lot. We attentively studied the experience of military construction in the leading western states and the vectors of the development of the Armed Forces presented by our military chiefs and military scientists. I analyzed a mass of documents and various ways for the reformation of the Armed Forces. For example, it was proposed that the Armed Forces be reduced to a million servicemen, as requested by the Security Council of the Russian Federation. At the same time, to reduce a bulky mobilized component of formations and military units of a reduced complement and reduced personnel, which, according to documents of 2008, it would require months for deployment. Why? Because the equipment in the units with a reduced complement and reduced personnel was practically completely out of order. Or there was another way—to establish one army of permanent readiness in each district and let the rest have reduced complements and personnel.

Such were the options. But the conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia also revealed a considerable number of other deep-seated problems. Consequently, we proceeded to make a major transformation even in the absence of an adequate scientific-theoretical basis.

Several tasks were set, the resolution of which was not possible without the participation of military science. For example, the development of new forms and methods for the conducting of combat operations and, on the basis on them, the reworking of program and regulation documents in order to optimize the training process. At the present time, we are not ruling out traditional, large-scale wars. We will not reject the operational art that exists. It evoked and continues to evoke respect. But forms and methods for conducting wars of the future will be different. It is necessary to know how to foresee them. Consequently, the task of military science is to work for making advances and the equipping of the army with the most modern devices for the conducting of war, primarily war against an enemy who possesses high technology.

At the present time, in order for a commander of an army to make a decision on the conducting of combat operations, determine a plan, and make other calculations, it takes the preparatory apparatus 5-6 hours. And it takes just about as much time to make a final decision. Altogether, about 10 hours. But, due to the introduction of computer technologies, information-management systems, and elaborate computer programming, this time can be significantly reduced. At recent training exercises conducted in China, the commander required only 20 minutes for this.

At times, we simply do not grasp such factors, we do not understand them. But it is necessary to grasp them and understand them in order not to put our army in unfavorable conditions beforehand.

The reorganization of the military-scientific complex has been conducted. However, that still has not brought about the necessary results in full measure. We are putting the available achievements into practice in the Armed Forces and we are breaking in new measures for operational and combat training. But, without a systematic scientific approach, the General Staff sometimes has to proceed by trial and error. There are very few serious scientific developments which could serve as a basis, including during the writing of program-regulation documents. But, indeed, we have a mass of scientific workers. In the higher military educational institutes of Russia, 1,200 doctors [of the sciences] and more than 10,000 candidates of the sciences are serving. And, unfortunately, projects, which we have been working out for two years already, are mainly written by officers of the General Staff, with the involvement of some academies and the Center for Military-Strategic Research. In particular, we are not observing any help from the military scientists. As a result, the work is dragging along.

A clear example is the elaboration of the main document for the Ground Troops—the Field Manual for a Brigade. There was an attempt to formulate some new provisions, primarily those based on old normative requirements, But without a study of the changing capabilities of our troops and foreign troops in defense and offense and a study or armaments and military equipment for striking an enemy and areas at long range, etc., this was not done.

It is necessary to make real calculations and to prepare proposals on their basis. At the present time, unfortunately, this is lacking even in the reports of the commanders. In the Academy [of the General Staff], they taught me to set forth my decision “on the basis of calculations that had been made”. But now you do not hear that anywhere. Everybody is just making reports, but there are no calculations whatsoever. Evidential motivation has sharply decreased and it is urgently necessary to correct that.

With a template for initiative.

The problem with the system for command and control has also not been resolved. Unfortunately, it developed like gun barrel construction [Russian: stvolovaya konstruktsiya.]. Each branch of the Armed Forces and each combat arm has its own system. The Navy has the More [Sea] Automated Control System, The Ground Troops have the Akatsiya [Acacia] Automatic Control System. They do not interface with each other. The situation is the same in the Air Force and Strategic Missile Troops. At the present time, we are trying to make a break-through in resolving this difficult problem.

In 2010, full-fledged inter-branch organs for command and control were formed—joint strategic commands as an organized system for command and control in a theater of military operations. At the same time, the development of a technical basis for a prospective information-management system for the Armed Forces continues to be a problem. It must be based on the use of a common information space, in which subsystems for reconnaissance, observation, navigation, identification, target-indication, guidance, combat command and control, and a number of others are integrated. At the present time, we have started work on the development of a model for a common information space.

The development of computer software support makes it possible to carry out the collection, analysis, and evaluation of a situation and the depiction of it on an electronic map with the instantaneous coordination of all of the facilities and targets, as well as the conducting of calculations and the making of well-founded decisions by the commanders. But this process is also proceeding with difficulty. The problem is not with the absence of an element bases, as we often say, or the poor skills of the computer programmers. The problem is that, in many departments of the military institutions of higher education, the understanding of the meaning of the work of a commander and the goals and tasks of this work and the understanding of the necessity to make calculations have been lost. If one reads a plan for a defensive or an offensive operation, it turns out that it has not changed much from plans made several years ago. The orientation is not on a creative approach but on hackneyed operations.

At the present time, we are assigning a task to the commanders. They are to make a plan that does not include more than five proposals. The essence [of the plan] is most important. And then the details and the decision. Here, it is important to overcome stereotypes in thinking. It is important to optimize an algorithm for the work of any official on the basis of scientific analysis. It is only possible to set to work on the process of automation after that. And, in essence, we still have nothing to automate.

And this task is mainly being resolved by military officers. Although it should be fulfilled in the military academies and scientific-research organizations. But, in the main department of the Academy of the General Staff, for example, a number of scientific themes have been elaborated which have little relation to what I am talking about. For example, the theme, “The Main Problems of the Organization of Guerrilla Warfare and Ways for the Resolution of Them in the Years of the Great Patriotic War”, has already been repeatedly researched and hardly has any meaning at the present time.

Unfortunately, that is the state of affairs in many military institutions of higher education. The dissertations turned out in them absolutely do not correspond to modern requirements. Such dissertations do little for the development of military science and the construction of the Armed Forces. But now not only they but the [dissertation] abstracts, courses, and diplomas must have practical applications. We made such a decision. All themes of examination papers related to the military will be coordinated in a Military-Scientific Committee and approved by the chief of the General Staff. And the doctoral candidates will first defend their dissertations in the General Staff, where the feasibility and worthwhileness of the dissertation themes will be taken into account.

We rightfully expect an increase in the effectiveness and productivity of the Academy of Military Sciences as well. We also have a Russian Academy of Missile and Artillery Sciences. There are also many problems for it. Although the most authoritative scientists work in these scientific institutions. We expect real help from them. But, for that, the academic specialists must know the problems of the troops and compare their proposals with them.

I think it would be expedient to increase the interaction of the scientific research organizations, military institutions of higher education, and the Academy of Military Sciences, with the Military-Scientific Committee of the Armed Forces playing a coordinating role. I foresee the possibility for the involvement of the Academy of Military Sciences as an executor of scientific-research work within the framework of a general contribution to scientific developments for the Armed Forces. I repeat: We need concrete, scientifically based proposals and recommendations right now, in 2011.

Corresponding measures were taken with respect to the Military-Scientific Committee of the General Staff, including measures affecting the personnel. Everybody in that committee was a doctor of sciences but that was in no way reflected in the results of the work. We transformed the Military-Scientific Council of the General Staff into the Military-Scientific Committee of the Armed Forces and it must work in the interests of the Armed Forces. As for the Center for Military-Strategic Research, it is now reports to theAcademy of the General Staff. Almost the entire bloc of scientific operational-strategic developments will be concentrated right there.

We have a concept for the establishment of an aerospace defense system up to 2012. It describes what is to be done and when and how it is to be done. We do not have the right to make mistakes in this matter, which is most important for the country and the state. Consequently, some provisions of the concept are now under review. An organ for the command and control of aerospace defense is being formed up in the General Staff and the General Staff will also control it. It must be understood that the Space Troops are only one element in the aerospace defense system. The aerospace defense system must be multi-layered with respect to altitudes and ranges and integrated with forces and systems that are already existing. At the present time, there are still very few of them. We are counting on products turned out by the defense-industrial complex, products that will be coming out starting next year.

As for the air defense systems which were transferred to the districts, nobody is intending to take them away. They will be organized into the army air defense system.

Contract soldiers plus officers.

On the transition to one year of military service. That was not an initiative of the Ministry of Defense. But it required a revision of the entire system for combat training. Because it is extremely difficult to master a specialty in one year. And, at times, it is impossible. Everybody understands that very well. The new structure of the Armed Forces was established on the principle of contract service. In correspondence with the latest decision of [President Medvedev], Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, we have the right to have 425,000 contract soldiers and 220,000 officers in the Armed Forces. But the problem with the contract soldiers remains, since we had to reject the services of many of them.

Indeed, who mainly became a contract soldier up until 2008? It was mainly a soldier who had served for six months and who, through persuasion, coercion, and threats, was made to sign a contract. And he supposedly served out his remaining time as a contract soldier, after which he calmly left the service and went home, not having lived up to his contract. Although it did not matter to him, we paid him from 7 to 13,000 rubles, we clothed him, and we shod him. That is, we spent an enormous amount of money. Unfortunately, we did not turn these citizens into trained specialists. Consequently, we honestly acknowledged that such an approach to the organization of contract service was a mistake.

The new contract soldiers will receive very different pay. They will be carefully selected and they will undergo appropriate training in the training centers. But only the person who passes the exams and is not screened out in the selection process will receive the right to sign a contract. We need intellectually developed people who will be able to master the complex new armament models. And 450,000 contract soldiers are only the first step. In the future, we intend to increase their number.

Let’s look at the experience of the armed forces of Poland and the Czech Republic. There, a contract soldier intensively engages in combat training from 8 A. M. to 4 P. M. But, after 4 P.M. he is free until 8 A.M. He can live in the barracks or rent housing, for which he receives 400 dollars per month. On the whole, the monetary allowance of a Polish contract soldier is 1,100 dollars (we are now trying to arrange [such monetary allowances] for our contract soldiers).

This system made it possible for both the Czech Republic and Poland to have high-quality soldiers and it resolves the problem of non-regulation interactions among the soldiers [that is, it did away with the hazing and bullying of new recruits by older soldiers]. Parents no longer have to worry about their sons in the armed forces. At the present time, 15 persons compete for each vacancy as a contract soldier in the Czech Republic and 25 persons compete for each vacancy as a contract soldier in Poland.

Why such a cost?

Nikolay Makarov also gave answers to a number of pressing questions from people participating in the session of the Academy of Military Sciences.

Question: How does the military-administrative division of the territory of Russia and the establishment of four joint strategic commands correlate with the deployment of the Internal Troops, the Border Troops, and the subunits and military units of the other militarized structures?

Makarov: I still cannot speak about other militarized structures, although the General Staff must coordinate their activities. We are taking a firm approach to this question, since, in the past 10-12 years, much has changed in this respect, and not for the best. Now each department is trying to develop independently. The Internal troops, for example, are buying their own communications systems. The Armed Forces are buying their own communications systems. As a result, money is being spent irrationally. That is hardly good for the state and defense.

As for the joint strategic commands, their locations were approved by the leadership of the country. We cannot move the districts and we cannot move the territories. However, if necessary, the headquarters of the joint strategic commands can be expediently airlifted to any place. But the question is a natural one: Can the other militarized structures make a transition to this administrative division? Time will tell how this question will be answered.

Question: At the present time, do front line aviation assets meet the requirements of the tasks that lie ahead?

Makarov: Aviation must carry out strikes without entering the air defense zone of an enemy. But show me even one aircraft in Russia that can do that. The strike range of our Su-25 is only 600-800 meters, not 60 or 100  kilometers. Otherwise, it simply will not hit the target. The same for the Su-24. We have good achievements. We know how to use aviation and how to operate. But we do not have much with which to operate. Our task just consists in making it possible for the Air Force, Air Defense, and the Navy to have the means to implement our latest developments and meet the latest requirements. This is a serious problem. The flight tasks and the summary data must take into consideration the entire structure of the existing weaponry and the possibility for the use of it. Sometimes we cannot do this not because we do not want to do it but for objective reasons.

Question: Why have the attacks of the leadership of the Armed Forces on the defense-industrial complex become more frequent? Hasn’t the time come to establish an organ within the framework of the Ministry of Defense which would integrate the problems of the construction of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the defense industry?

Makarov: Recently, two persons made incorrect assertions against our defense-industrial complex. Vladimir Popovkin, Deputy Minister of Defense, and Colonel General Aleksandr Postnikov, Commander of the Ground Troops. A serious discussion in the Ministry of Defense took place on this account.

What is the problem? We have projected how wars and conflicts may take place in 2020-2025. The General Staff conducted this work. And we understood what kind of troops, equipment, and weaponry will be necessary for this. Their characteristics were described in the form of tactical-technical requirements of our industry and they were distributed in February 2010. It was directly said that a number of the products of the defense industry do not support the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in fulfilling the tasks that have been set for them. There and then a collapse occurred. Many producers do not want or are not able to produce prospective weaponry and military equipment. They are turning out products that the Armed Forces do not need. But the General Staff will no longer buy what the Armed Forces do not need, no matter how much the defense industry enterprises try to persuade us to do so. Whether they like it or not.

In order to counter this situation, our defense-industrial complex must modernize. Incidentally, [President Medvedev}, Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, raised this issue at a recent session of the Collegium of the Ministry of Defense. He pointed out the non-transparency of the costs of products of the defense-industrial complex and other abnormalities. For example, three years ago a T-90 tank cost 42 million rubles. Now it costs over a 100 million rubles. Why such a cost? Nobody can explain it. We are ready to pay even more but the cost must be objective and realistic!

We are now working with the defense industry enterprises to resolve this problem. There is an organ which is coordinating this work. The Military-Industrial Commission. It is headed by a vice prime minister of the government.

Question: It is known that a training center has been established at the Gorokhovets Training Ground. Germany will work out the logistics and tasks for it. What does this mean? The incapability of our military science and the defense industry enterprises? Or are we already preparing to fight according to the patterns and standards of NATO?

Makarov: Germany has the Magdeburg Training Ground. It is an integrated center for the training of troops of the Bundeswehr. It can be used fully to train a motorized rifle brigade—from combat subunits to rear support subunits. The decision of a combat commander is put into the program software of the complex. After that, the entire brigade sits in simulators and conducts combat operations. The work of each soldier and officer is recorded by a video camera, which is linked up with the computer. And that is the way it is in the course of all of the training exercises. On the screen, the commander sees what decision a hypothetical enemy makes and how he counteracts it in real time. The computer battles against the brigade commander, the soldier, and the mechanic-driver and gives out an objective evaluation. This is a quite effective training support system and I will not conceal the fact that we bought it. We will install it at the Mulina Training Ground. At the same time, the computer software for the simulators will be ours. It will be Russian.

Vostok-2010: Another step forward for the Russian military

The recently concluded Vostok-2010 exercises showed that the Russian military is making progress in achieving its goals of major structural reform. This was the first major Russian military exercise in recent memory that did not involve a scenario consisting of a major frontal battle. As Alexandr Golts pointed out in his analysis, this sort of scenario is very convenient for public relations purposes, but does not contribute much to improving military preparedness. Instead, the exercises consisted of a number of smaller episodes, consistent with the announced scenario of fighting irregular armed formations, counter-terrorism and (for the Navy) anti-piracy operations. The exercises focused on mobility, with a particular emphasis on ensuring success in the logistical sphere. According to General Nikolai Makarov, the Chief of the General Staff, the location of the exercise in Siberia and Russia’s Far East was selected specifically in order to make the transport of troops and their resupply relatively difficult, due to the large distances, sparse population, difficult climate, and poor state of transportation in the region.

Testing a Force Projection Capability

The exercises showed that the Russian military is capable of projecting force over long distances relatively quickly. For this purpose, a large number of bomber (SU-24) and fighter-bomber (SU-34) aircraft were sent directly from central Russia to the Far East on what was supposedly the longest non-stop flight for these types of planes. This was made possible through multiple in-flight refueling operations. Furthermore, an infantry brigade was sent from Ekaterinburg to Primorskii Krai, though it was transported without heavy weaponry, such as tanks and artillery, all of which it received from a local base upon arrival.  Golts notes that this was the first time in his memory that the Russian army had conducted such an operation.

It was carried out successfully and in the assigned time period, though Golts also points out that the weapons provided for the brigade had been selected in recent months especially for this purpose. Had this been a real emergency and the brigade forced to make do with randomly chosen stored equipment, they would have almost certainly faced severe problems due to mechanical failures. But this is a known problem for the Russian military, and one that is to be addressed over the coming decade through a rearmament program. The important takeaway from this exercise is that Russian military planners are seriously preparing for contingencies that require the rapid transfer of troops from one region to another. Golts is right in arguing that if this capability becomes widely developed, there will be no need for the military to maintain a million-man army in order to protect Russia’s gigantic territory. Instead, planners will simply need to make sure that they have well-maintained supply depots located in all likely zones of potential conflict and be prepared to send brigades to those regions in the event a conflict suddenly broke out.

Simplifying the Command Structure

The new simplified command structure was the second aspect of the reform that was tested by Vostok-2010. The replacement of divisions by brigades was the first step of this effort, and it was successfully completed last year and tested to some extent in last falls major exercises. The current exercises went further, examining the possibilities provided by the recently announced transition to a joint command system, where four geographically-based strategic operational commands (SOCs) control all of the troops on their territory, including ground forces, the air force, the navy, and assorted support staff. The goal is to reduce the levels of command from 13 to three. In the previous system, in addition to the command system “center-military district-army-division-regiment,” troops also received commands from their service headquarters and various central General Staff commands. The current system will consist of three levels — SOC – operational command – brigade. This reform will lead to the elimination of thousands of officer positions in various headquarters in Moscow and around the country. According to General Makarov, this transition will be completed in early 2011 and will mark the end of the military’s structural transformation.

The new system received a preliminary test in Vostok-2010, with a single SOC commanding troops from the Siberian and Far Eastern military districts, as well as the Pacific Fleet and assorted air force units, including those from other districts brought in specifically for this exercise. Initial reports indicate that the system performed according to expectations. At least, there have been no indications so far of problems with the command system during the exercises. Furthermore, whereas electronic command systems were present only for show during Zapad-2009 and the other major exercises last fall, this year for the first time such systems started to play a role (though still only limited) in the actual conduct of the exercise. These included (according to media reports about the exercise) videoconferencing equipment used in decision-making, computer modeling used in targeting anti-aircraft missile systems, and digital analytical systems.

Not a big deal for most armed forces, but certainly an advance for a military that is still not able to provide each soldier with his own analog radio, much less any kind of modern electronic communications system.

A Step in the Right Direction

One item that was noted repeatedly by generals discussing the conduct of the exercise was that conscripts who had only been in the service for 1-2 months exceeded all expectations of their performance. It was made clear that they did not do as well as contract soldiers or those conscripts who had been inducted last summer, but it was clear that the military leadership was trying to emphasize that the army could continue to function despite its problems with attracting a sufficient number of contract soldiers to fill the new brigades.

Overall, the Vostok-2010 exercise made it clear that the leadership of the Russian military has a clear vision of the kind of army they would like to build and that they are making progress in achieving that vision. One aspect of that vision is a significantly reformed logistics and supply system, a topic I will discuss in detail in my next post. Once this system is restructured and the new Strategic Operational Commands are stood up next year, we will likely see the end of the constant organizational changes that have marked the first two years of reform. The period of structural reorganization appears to be drawing to a close and the next steps are likely to be focused primarily on solving the manpower problem and endowing the newly restructured military with new weapons and equipment.

New attack on General Staff and military reform

It seems that opponents of Russian military reform have launched another effort to derail it. Over the last week, a number of articles in generally even handed newspapers such as Nezavisimaia Gazeta have focused on the continuing problems with the implementation of reform. What’s more, these articles have been quite direct in blaming General Makarov, the chief of the General Staff. Given his close ties to Anatolii Serdiukov, this seems to be a direct attack on the defense minister himself.

The key figure in these reports is Mikhail Babich, the deputy chairman of the State Duma’s committee on defense. He has done two interviews in recent days, one on the subject of the recent housecleaning in the military’s top ranks and another on the subject of the state of preparedness of troops in the Russian Far East and the Pacific Fleet.

In mid-January, an MOD review commission found that the state of the Far Eastern Military District and the Pacific Fleet is poor. It didn’t help that on the last day of the review, a Su-27 fighter aircraft crashed in Khabarovsk during training. (The Air Force subsequently suspended all Su-27 flights until the cause of the crash is determined.) The goal of the review was to determine how prepared the region’s military forces were to work in the new command system implemented last year. While the final report of the review has not yet been issued, General Makarov publicly announced that the state of region’s armed forces was not satisfactory. Continue reading