Streetwise Professor

January 6, 2012

Billions of Rubles for Hardware: Mere Kopecs for the Software

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 10:54 am

Putin is planning a defense hardware splurge, spending $60 billion/year on new equipment over the coming years, this despite the near exhaustion of the reserve fund, and more crucially, the fact that the software to operate these shiny new weapons is plummeting in numbers and quality.  That is, Russian manpower issues are becoming increasingly fraught, and in typical Russian fashion, reforms announced with much fanfare are fading away.

The demographic collapse of the 1980s and 1990s is now wreaking havoc on Russia’s ability to man its armed forces.  Chief of Staff Makarov admits “there is no one left to draft.”  Russia will take in only about 180K conscripts, pretend to train them, subject them to abuse, and then turn them loose just about when they might know enough to be more dangerous to an enemy than themselves.

But no worries! There are plans–plans, always plans–to have 425,000 contract soldiers (h/t R).  Just where these kontraktniki are supposed to come from is quite a puzzle.  If Mother Russia’s mothers were not bearing enough sons in the 1990s to produce conscripts, they weren’t producing enough sons to serve as volunteer soldiers and sailors either: volunteers or conscripts have to be found in the same barren pool of men born in 1994, 1995, etc.  If there is “no one left to draft” there’s also “no one left to recruit.” And if you really thought that Russia would pay market rates to get soldiers they could get for free (to the state, anyways), I have a bridge to sell you.

And “free”, by the way, is only a slight exaggeration.  Dmitry Gorenburg provides data on the new, improved, increased pay scale for conscripts:

Position Monthly pay (rubles)
Petty officer (starshina) 1800
Assistant duty officer at command post, translator 1700
Deputy platoon commander, head of medical clinic 1600
Head of firing range, checkpoint or fuel depot 1500
Squad commander, head of coding post, sanitation or cooking instructor 1400
Artillery weapon firing commander, driver-mechanic of self-propelled strategic missiles 1300
Driver-mechanic, senior driver, senior communications operator, recon, nurse, senior rescue personnel, student at professional military school 1200
Driver, communications operator, rescue personnel, grenade-thrower, sniper, machine-gunner 1100
Rifleman, camoufleur, road builder, electrician, student at technical school or at military school (incl cadets at Nakhimov and Suvorov schools) 1000

That’s between about $35 and $60 a month, boys and girls.  And these rates are double the 2011 rates.  Yes, there are possible pay enhancements, but as Gorenburg notes, at most that gets you to $200/month: most conscripts are being paid $35/month. But they get free food and board, you might retort. Uhm, have you heard about the food? The barracks?

No, a movement towards a volunteer military is not about numbers, because it is not a magic wayback machine that can go back to 1994 and produce more babies.  It would be about quality.

But the experience with other “reforms” intended to improve quality suggest that this is a faint hope as well.  First, actual kontraktniki numbers have always trailed promises badly.  Second, the volunteer soldiers have not made much of a dent in the brutality of the barracks.  Third, another major announced reform–the creation of a cadre of professional NCOs–is also fading:

There was no glowing report concerning the planned new generation of Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), now largely consigned to an ongoing small-scale experiment in Ryazan to train NCOs in courses lasting two years and ten months, instead Serdyukov turned to the imminent appearance of Military Police.

The new Military Police is intended to address “hooliganism”–because dedovshchina has been decreed out of existence:

The Main Directorate of the Military Police has been established, their training, pay and jurisdiction worked out, and their task it seems is to tackle “hooliganism” in the barracks. The minister prefers this euphemism due to his conviction that dedovshchina no longer exists, having apparently evaporated after reducing the terms of conscript service to twelve months. Evidently, Serdyukov fails to appreciate how central dedovshchina remains to life in the Russian barracks, but this “hooliganism” needs to be somehow controlled; and Military Police will be expected to perform this role (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, December 21).

It is open to question as to how successful this initiative may prove in offsetting the sharper end of dedovshchina, though there are rather puzzling elements to the proposed recruitment policy. By his own admission, among the more controversial aspects of the reform was the officer downsizing, which originally aimed at reaching 150,000 in the scarcely believable manpower total of “one million,” but was later adjusted to 220,000. Part of that rapid downsizing involved the novelty of placing thousands of officers at the disposal of their commander, a type of limbo that meant they were not in the table of organization and equipment, but neither fully out. Some Military Police will be recruited from among these limbo officers. Consequently, Serdyukov’s vision for dealing with “hooligans” is to partly police them with the disaffected (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, December 21).

That is, the new MPs are to be staffed with po’d supernumerary officers.  I’m sure it will work out swell, given (a) the likely attitude problems of those shuffled off into this duty, (b) the fact that these officers are the products of the very system in which barracks abuse was rampant, (c) the likelihood that training for these officers will be slapdash at best, and especially (d) in Russia, police criminality is rampant, and indeed, police are among the worst predators in society.  Meaning that making more of them is hardly guaranteed to reduce criminality.

I remain agog and aghast at the spectacle of spending billions on hardware when the manpower problems are so extreme.  The likely explanations for this disconnect?  Politics: splurging on defense is politically popular.  Economic: it’s a way of propping up enterprises, especially in single industry towns.  And the topper, IMO: corruption.  The opportunities to skim from defense spending are rife.  The manpower system lends itself to petty grifting by unit commanders and others in the chain of command, but the big rubles are in the defense contracts.

And besides, fixing manpower problems is hard, messy, and unglamorous.  Very few opportunities for VVP to pose in front of some large phallic object wearing one of those butch uniforms he likes.

A couple of other Russian defense items.  First, the Russian flotilla with the “aircraft carrier” making its way to Syria has just passed through the Straits of Gibralter, and is leaving goodwill in its wake!  Not really: it’s leaving something in its wake, and goodwill ain’t it (another h/t to R):

The crew of a Russian aircraft carrier has been accused of dumping waste off Scotland’s north coast after seeking shelter from winter storms.

Elements of the Baltic Fleet started arriving 30 miles (48km) off the Moray Firth on Monday.

The SNP’s defence spokesman Angus Robertson said there had been reports of crew throwing waste overboard.

Portsmouth-based Royal Navy destroyer HMS York has been shadowing the vessels.

The warships, including aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, were still off the firth earlier, but moving slowly.

. . . .

The Admiral Kuznetsov was headed for Syria when it and other vessels sought shelter in “deteriorating weather”, according Russian military news agency Interfax-AVN.

The Royal Navy and Ministry of Defence (MoD) have released images of HMS York close to the carrier.

In a statement, the MoD said: “The 65,000 ton carrier, with other warships and support vessels, is thought to be en route to the Mediterranean on exercise.

“The aircraft carrier anchored outside British territorial waters some 30 miles off the Moray Firth where she was thought to have taken advantage of the relative shelter to avoid the worst of current bad weather in the North Sea.”

No comment re taking shelter.

And finally, apparently continuing to grasp at the reset, in defiance of Congress (you’re shocked, I’m sure), the Obama administration has decided to share technical information about the SM-3 anti-missile defense system with Russia (yet another R h/t: she scores the hat tip hat trick!):

In the president’s signing statement issued Saturday in passing into law the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill, Mr. Obama said restrictions aimed at protecting top-secret technical data on U.S. Standard Missile-3 velocity burnout parameters might impinge on his constitutional foreign policy authority.

As first disclosed in this space several weeks ago, U.S. officials are planning to provide Moscow with the SM-3 data, despite reservations from security officials who say that doing so could compromise the effectiveness of the system by allowing Russian weapons technicians to counter the missile. The weapons are considered some of the most effective high-speed interceptors in the U.S. missile defense arsenal.

There are also concerns that Russia could share the secret data withChina and rogue states such as Iran and North Korea to help their missile programs defeat U.S. missile defenses.

Officials from the State Department and Missile Defense Agency have discussed the idea of providing the SM-3 data to the Russians as part of the so-far fruitless missile-defense talks with Moscow, headed in part of by Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher, who defense officials say is a critic of U.S. missile defenses.

Their thinking is that if the Russians know the technical data, it will help allay Moscow’s fears that the planned missile defenses in Europe would be used against Russian ICBMs. Officials said current SM-3s are not fast enough to catch long-range Russian missiles, but a future variant may have some anti-ICBM capabilities.

Allay their fears.  How therapeutic.  New flashes: (1) it’s way beyond “fear”, and paranoia is much harder to cure, and (2) allay all you want, but the Russians are not going to budge on missile defense.

This last item would present a nice segue into the administration’s just announced defense retrenchment, but that will have to wait for the weekend (hopefully).

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  1. What is worse – the fantasy and delusional stupidity of the Russians or the willful and arrogant stupidity of our administration? This is not a rhetorical question.

    Comment by Sotos — January 6, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

  2. No, it’s not. On the stupidity scale, the Russians win. But in terms of importance & relevance to me, the administration. Reading up on the defense cutbacks now, and will blog about it over the weekend.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 6, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

  3. Damn, and I thought you’d be more worried about that whole ‘President can lock up any U.S. citizen he wants’ provision of the NDAA. Guess we know where your priorities lie. You don’t think it’ll ever be used against any Tea Party gun and silver-loving types.

    Comment by Mr. X — January 6, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

  4. The MIC first, last, war without end, amen.

    Comment by Mr. X — January 6, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

  5. Mrx -TROLLING partners the Russaian Gangsters are happyly bragging about their last godwill visit to their rivals and competitors in the Gas business . The training near the “Troll” platform inevitably contributes to increased uncertainty in Norway about Russian ambitions in the North. Both Norway and Russia have the last years expressed their intention to step up their presence in the area following the plans for major Arctic oil and gas projects.

    Comment by Anders — January 6, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

  6. Ah Anders, thanks for identifying your nationality. Your noble ancestors tied down all those convalescing German soldiers while the Luftwaffe and Kriesgmarine slaughtered American and British sailors trying to reach Murmansk in 42′-early 43′. Bravo. I’m of Norwegian descent. Thank God my ancestors got on the boat in the late 19th century.

    And Professor, I heartily agree how Russia treats its military men and especially enlisted men is a disgrace.
    Lindsey Graham ‘shut up, you’re an enemy combatant, you don’t get no lawyer’…Joe Lieberman ‘I want that person to be terrified of being in American custody’. Terrified Professor? That’s defensible? How many more Americans would have died if the Wehrmacht had been terrified of surrendering in spring 1945 or after Falaise in 44′?

    Comment by Mr. X — January 6, 2012 @ 8:20 pm

  7. Just great SWP, you’ve invited yet another Russian demographic lecture from SO.

    Comment by Howard Roark — January 6, 2012 @ 9:52 pm

  8. No, not really.

    I’ll be writing a post on demography soon, updating my demographic models from 2009 (which if anything were actually too pessimistic given real world data since).

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — January 6, 2012 @ 10:20 pm

  9. Sublime Oblivion–

    Speaking of Russian demographics, ‘word on the street’ is that Belarus is leaking citizens every which-a-way. A severely declining population, many of whom seem to be just walking away. Likely a good decision on their part.

    Comment by gardener1 — January 7, 2012 @ 1:14 am

  10. The Soviet dissident Bukovsky recently wrote an article explaining how futile it is to try and negotiate with the KGB. In the KGB world view you can only be an enemy or an agent, nothing in between. When you think you are negotiating with them what is really happening is they try to recruit you as an agent. The only productive way of negotiating with them is to tell them to eff off.

    Anyway, what do you call someone who knowingly and of his own free will delivers sensitive info to the KGB?

    Comment by Ivan — January 7, 2012 @ 1:39 am

  11. A tool?

    I’d charge money.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — January 7, 2012 @ 1:53 am


    No need for you to write or update anything. The Russian government has already beat you to it.


    Comment by La Russophobe — January 7, 2012 @ 7:51 am

  13. Mr X thanks for identifying your nationality. The Ancestor’s of Hamsun ,Quisling and the family of Mr. X have strong DDR -partners in Gazprom .

    An article in “Pravda,” 29 Nov 1938, sets the tone for the 1939 census: everything is glorious in the Socialist Motherland, and any census-taker who fails to demonstrate this is an enemy of the people.

    Comment by Anders — January 7, 2012 @ 8:53 am

  14. Hmmm, I guess Quisling Mr.X forgot all about the very large number of Norwegians who served in the RAF, RN, and in Norwegian units of the British Army, after all the country was invaded and occupied.

    Vermin X also forgot about the Norwegian resistance. Not surprising given his obvious fascist tendencies….

    Comment by Andrew — January 7, 2012 @ 11:54 am

  15. Only the most fanatical commenters here are comparing those who disagree or call them out with ‘vermin’ and Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who was killed without trial. Even if you think it’s a justifiable kill akin to killing some Volksdeutsche kid from Oregon in 1944 (like that scene in the second episode of Band of Brothers) it’s hardly worth bragging about as those sniveling little ghouls Graham and McCain do.

    And yes, I’m sick and damn tired of being lectured on what America’s foreign policy should be by a Kiwi and a Norwegian. I’M AN AMERICAN AND I PUT AMERICA FIRST. Who do you put first?

    Comment by Mr. X — January 7, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

  16. Vermin X – The Volksdeutsche kid from Oregon – Former KKK Grand Wizard and Louisiana Congressman David Duke also phoned in to explain why he’s voting for Mr. Paul.

    Comment by Anders — January 7, 2012 @ 8:06 pm

  17. Ok Anders, you’ve convinced me. If you were actually in Norway you wouldn’t be posting here right now at 3:30 a.m. Oslo time (check it on World Clock folks), unless you’re already really drunk — and it’s not the white nights there like in summertime so you didn’t just come in from sunbathing.

    You are clearly a plant, on a blog full of plants with spooktastic connections. Hell, maybe SWP moonlights on flights running guns into Mexico out of Houston…he certainly’s got nothing to say about Fast and Furious. No sir.

    That Duke ‘endorsement’ of Ron Paul is about as planted as those two rednecks Rand Paul’s opponent paid in 2008 to wave signs for him disparaging blacks while pretending to support Rand in Tennessee. The word in Russian you’re looking for is provocatsey, like two hot hookers showing up with fur overcoats wearing nothing underneath at Navalny or Nemtsov’s door (hell, knowing those two, they’d probably tape it, thinking it would improve his poll numbers in Russia).

    And anybody who’s linking to some asshat who claims he’s a Navy SEAL promoting his book who says he sucker punched a sixtysomething year old former professional wrestler (Jesse Ventura) and then ran away five years ago is clearly deluded by a plant. Spooky disinformatsia is as spooky disinformatsia does.

    Blackfive’s closed comments section gives in to total asshattery and libel. I hope Jesse sues the bastards, all of them, including NewsCorp, along with those huge pending lawsuits against SWP’s buddies at the CME.

    Comment by Mr. X — January 7, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

  18. C’mon, quit insulting everyone’s intelligence already Anders. You’re a spooky plant. That also goes for you to ‘Kiwi’ Andy. [Sic] their (Navalny and Nemtsov’s) poll numbers in Russia…but Anders, I have to give you a credit. At least you’re still a human being, as opposed to crazy Ekaterina Fitzpatrickeva who has been entirely replaced by a Pentagon conintelpro ‘bot that can’t pass a Turing test…sad really, I liked it better when the Google bombing and manipulation of rankings to keep smears at the top was done by a human.

    Comment by Mr. X — January 7, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

  19. Vermin X – The Volksdeutsche kid from Oregon – please take your pills –

    Comment by Anders — January 8, 2012 @ 9:17 am

  20. Ron Paul’s problem is not merely the racist newsletters, the close ties with Lew Rockwell, his views on abortion, or even his stance on the 1964 Civil Rights Act – though these automatically disqualify him from my support. His real problem is his fundamentalist commitment to federalism, which would make any notion of human progress in this country impossible .

    Comment by Anders — January 8, 2012 @ 10:03 am

  21. Mr X, your support for Russian led ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity put you firmly in the vermin basket.

    You are an uneducated fool, I would pity you if you were not such a detestable piece of waste.

    Comment by Andrew — January 8, 2012 @ 11:00 am

  22. You are TFF X man. First of all, bitching about the asshattery of somebody else’s comments pegs the irony meter.

    But the really funny part is about my moonlighting and the plants and spooktastic connections. Stop it–you’re killing me. I do travel a lot, and it has been a running gag with my kids that I’m really a CIA operative. But that’s it: a gag.

    Insofar as Fast and Furious is concerned–another X-man fail. Look up my post on Holder and Corzine.

    In the spirit of the subject, however, I prefer “ready, aim, fire” to “fire, ready, aim.” Or put differently, it’s better to keep one’s powder dry and not go off half-cocked. Certainly F&F smells to high heaven, but I’d prefer to wait for more facts before making conspiratorial claims. (Obviously not your MO.)

    For the record, Holder is a very suspect character–his association with Mark Rich is enough to support that claim. But he has multiple крыши–the Clintons, and Obama. There are already literally smoking guns in F&F, but Holder will take the fall only if his fingerprints are on them–almost literally–because of that protection.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — January 8, 2012 @ 4:47 pm

  23. -Mr X -TROLLING partners the Russaian Gangsters . Did you read this –Several types of military ships, as well as a tanker and 47 aircrafts, are involved in the training. Also strategic bombers are engaged, VG Nett reports.

    Several aircrafts and helicopters are in the air around the aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov”, which is located near the “Troll” platform. The military flying has made StatoilHydro halt helicopter traffic to and from the platform .

    Mr X want the Norwegians to drink vodka with the bastards and be thankful and happy about the environment swine .

    Polonium-210, –There is a dispute about possible radioactive substances within the ship.[2] Some claim that the substance found is Polonium-210, which has a half-life of 138 days.

    Comment by Anders — January 8, 2012 @ 5:43 pm

  24. As much as I hate to admit, but people in the know (no, not Felgenhauer) claim that on balance the military reforms are working. It’s just that there is a huge disparity between units. Conditions, training is improving, though the army will end up much smaller. Re: SM3 – ICBM performance data is shared, why not ICBM interceptors?

    Comment by So? — January 8, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

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