Streetwise Professor

November 16, 2007

More on That Report on the Russian Military

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 9:34 am

More coverage of the report on the Russian military I discussed yesterday; I haven’t been able to find an English translation of the report online, so I have to rely on news accounts. From Gazeta (via JRL):

The report argues that the Russian media and most of the Western media are mistaken in their evaluation of the Russian Armed Forces. [Not if you read SWP!] Remilitarization is not happening. The widespread opinion that the Armed Forces have almost regained their Soviet-era strength in the course of the Putin era is not true, and problems like corruption, dedovshchina (abuse of new conscripts by older soldiers), and social insecurity are not just background issues. In reality, the Armed Forces are in deep systemic crisis, manifested in all aspects – from arms procurement to officer employment (75% of officers are moonlighting as security guards or drivers). . . .

Equally unjust, according to Remizov, is the fact that an ordinary soldier serving under contract in a permanent combat readiness unit earns as much as an officer in a regular unit. In fact, the report condemns the whole idea of a contract-based military system, arguing that it attracts unstable elements and people who are unable to earn a living in the civilian workforce.
The report says: “There is reason to believe that in the near future the core of the Armed Forces will consist of infantry mercenaries whose main task will be fighting their own people rather than external threats.”

From WindowOnEurasia:

despite Russia being “awash in oil money,” the Russian government under Putin has increased spending on the military only 15 percent as of 2006 from the low average of the 1990s. As a result, the report’s authors say, the Russian military is increasingly far beyond in the deployment of new strategic and conventional weaponry.

Since Putin came to power, they note, the Russian military has put into service only 27 new rockets, one-third fewer than his predecessor Boris Yeltsin did, and the armed forces have suffered if anything even more in the conventional area because the government has not replaced equipment lost in the fighting in the North Caucasus.

And third, the Russian military faces a crisis in personnel. In the past, the report suggests, Russian officers and men have often behaved heroically even when they have not had equipment equivalent to what their opponents did. But now, the likelihood they would do so in the future is reduced because of their sad conditions.

Some of the problems in the officer corps they call attention to – the aging of Russian pilots and the departure of top officers for civilian life — have been widely reported in the past. But others, which may have an even greater impact, have not been the object of as much attention, at least when presented together as in this report.

Draft resistance is increasing, they report, because of the low status and bad conditions soldiers in the ranks face. And
consequently, the report notes, the military has been forced to induct people whose health, mental state, or criminal background would have kept them out before. . . .

Indeed, they say, the condition to which Putin has reduced the military likely means that the only enemy the Russian armed services will be able to take on is the people of the Russian Federation. But that, they imply, may be the most dangerous opponent the current Russian president now faces.

I have read some other things that Khramchikhin has written. He strikes me as being fond of making very strong, and almost outlandish, statements, some of which seem to be quite sensible, but others of which seem to be very wrong. The report’s authors’ apparent animus to a “contract” (i.e., volunteer) force, and its strong support for universal conscription is something of a puzzler. Some of the coverage I have read states that the report is very critical of Russian military doctrine for being too wedded to the past, but at the same time it embraces maintaining a very traditional approach to manning the RF’s armed forces. If the report is right, the implementation of the contract soldier program in Russia leaves much to be desired (go figure), but this does not mean that the idea of a volunteer military is inherently flawed–especially given the serious problems Russia is facing with obtaining qualified soldiers through the draft. The poor implementation of the contract program may well reflect the fact that the Russian military establishment doesn’t think much of the idea of a volunteer force; the report’s authors may share that view.

The most provocative conclusion that appears in the press coverage is that the Russian military is incapable of fighting any external enemy, and that it only provides a credible threat to opponents of the government. So, remind me again as to why any foreign government–outside, perhaps, Georgia and the Baltics–responds to Putin’s bluster with anything but disdain? (And even with respect to Georgia and the Baltics, why don’t they get more support from the West?)

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