Streetwise Professor

June 11, 2024

A Simulacrum Carrier Symbolic of a Simulacrum Military

Filed under: History,Military,Russia — cpirrong @ 5:52 pm

If Forbes’ David Axe is correct, Russia has finally given up on attempting to resurrect its lone aircraft carrier, the Kuznetsov. Too bad! It’s been a source of material for me for years. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say that I was a pioneer in mockery of the the ship, with posts going back almost 16 years. I was especially fond of pointing out that this naval colossus never left home–although it very seldom left home–without a salvage tug bobbing in its wake. (It only made seven–seven!-deployments in 33 years).

Old Smoky–or was it Old Brokey?–was hardly a big boy carrier even when it was brand spanking new. It used a jump ramp rather than catapults, which seriously limited the capability and carrying capacity of the aircraft it operated. And it operated relatively few aircraft–about 36, of which only 22 were attack/fighter types.

There has been no official announcement of Kuzentsov’s demise. Axe infers its fate from the fact that many of its special-built aircraft (MiG-22KRs) have been deployed to operate from land (including Crimea). But this could just be another manifestation of Russian materiel losses over Ukraine (and domestic accidents, such as yesterday’s crash of an Su-34) forcing it to resort to stopgap measures.

Although the ship is clearly useless, and a money pit, Russia has persisted in keeping it alive. All to give the impression that it is a serious naval power.

Just how pretentious this is is reflected in the current deployment of a Russian “flotilla” (in the words of the FT) to Havana. The “flotilla” consists of one nuke sub, one frigate (the Admiral Gorskov, displacement 5,400 tons), one oiler, and–wait for it!–one tugboat. I guess it could be worse: the FT could have called it an armada. (The media hyperventilating over this pipsqueak squadron has me rolling my eyes).

The Russian navy has been ravaged by a nation without a navy: the Black Sea Fleet has lost about one-third of its hulls, including several of its most capable, to Ukrainian drones (airborne and seaborne) and cruise missiles. It has all but abandoned its former home port of Sevastopol, and scampered to Novorossiysk, essentially abandoning the western Black Sea. And it is reported that yesterday one of its larger combatants suffered severe fire damage in the Barents Sea.

It is a simulacrum of a navy, perhaps intent on living up to the glory of Admiral Rozhestvensky’s Baltic Sea Fleet in 1905.

Not that Russian efforts on land are exemplary. Indeed, looking at the wreckage of the Russian campaign in Ukraine I am hard pressed to find in all of history a worse military performance on any level–tactical, operational, or strategic. Putin has achieved the triple crown of failure.

But he is apparently ebullient nonetheless. According to the Institute for the Study of War he “articulated a theory of victory” in which “Russian forces will be able to continue gradual creeping advances indefinitely, prevent Ukraine from conducting successful operationally significant counteroffensive operations, and win a war of attrition against Ukrainian forces.” Further:

Putin stated that Russian forces aim to “squeeze” Ukrainian forces out “of those territories that should be under Russian control” and therefore Russia does not need to conduct another mobilization wave. Putin asserted that Russian crypto-mobilization efforts are sufficient for this approach and that Russia has recruited 160,000 new personnel so far in 2024 (a figure consistent with reports that the Russian military recruits between 20,000-30,000 recruits per month).

In other words, Putin thinks that suffering 30,000 casualties per month (most of which are KIA or too badly wounded to return to combat) to gain a few kilometers here and a few kilometers there is not just sustainable, it’s the path to victory! (It is highly likely that the “crypto-mobilization” has basically created a steady state where the influx of recruits just balances casualties).

These force generation efforts do not just sweep up unfortunate Russian citizens (disproportionately from non-Russian republics), but also shanghai African students attracted to Russia by promises of a free education. They also attract impoverished Nepalese, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Indian, etc., by dangling promises of lucrative pay–which if they live to collect (highly unlikely) may not receive it anyways. Russia also routinely reneges on promised payments to families of KIA–and even frequently fails to give the supposedly honored dead a decent grave.

And maybe saying “a few kilometers here and a few kilometers there” gives way too much credit. The vaunted Russian attack on Kharkiv initially gained a few kilometers in two mini-bulges, but was stopped after a few days, and in the past week Ukrainian counterattacks have ejected the Russians from most of those paltry gains achieved at disproportionate cost.

Falkenhayn and Pyrrhus stand aside before true greatness.

This is a truly twisted man, perfectly content to reinforce failure after failure, to sacrifice untold numbers, all to satisfy his grandiosity.

Meaning that Russia’s army is a simulacrum as well. There is much angst in Europe over the prospect of Putin launching an attack on some Nato countries, especially the Baltics or Poland. How? With what? To what end–other than an even more catastrophic defeat?

Yes, perhaps Putin is just delusional enough to do it. Or perhaps he will adopt Eisenhower’s advice: “If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it.” But if he does, it will not solve his problem, except in the way that death solves all problems.

July 6, 2019

Underwater Russian Roulette

Filed under: Military,Russia — cpirrong @ 7:18 pm

When my grandfather was barely 17, his mother signed a paper saying he was 18 (he was a hillbilly with no birth certificate, which gives rise to another story I may tell sometime), and he left Burr Oak, Ohio to join the Navy. He went to electrician’s school, and was assigned as an electrician’s mate on a submarine, the USS K-2 (submarine #33 in the US Navy), on which he served in 1921-22. (The K-2 was laid-up the next year.)

As you can see, she was a tiny thing, displacing 400 tons on the surface, and a little over 500 tons submerged.* My grandfather’s stories of his service on her were pretty harrowing. 1920s submarines were not for the faint of heart.

Even so, if given the choice, I would serve on the K-2 circa 1920 than on a modern Russian sub. Since Soviet days, the Soviet/Russian sub force has experienced a litany of accidents, many of them fatal: here is a list of those since 2000. The most notable of these incidents, and the one with the highest death toll, was of course the Kursk, about which Putin famously and laconically said: “It sank.”

Well, this week Putin didn’t have to say exactly those words about another sub, but there was a fatal incident aboard a Russian boat, reported to be the Losharik, reputedly a super-deep diving research and intelligence vessel.

Given the very secretive nature of the sub’s purposes and missions, and the inherent secretiveness of the Russian state, we know very little beyond a few details. These include that there was a fire that killed 17 aboard. (The standard crew of this class is estimated at 25, so arguably the fire killed 2/3s of those on board.) That the surviving crew was able to seal off the affected compartments, and eventually extinguish the blaze. And that’s about it.

It’s one thing for a dry dock carrying a decrepit hulk like the Kuznetsov to sink. It’s another for one of the most elite units in the Russian Navy to suffer such a catastrophic event. It does not speak well of the condition and readiness of the Russian Navy generally.

There are also some curious details. Reportedly 7 of the 17 killed were captains “of the first rank” (the equivalent of an O-6 in the US Navy). I know the Russian Navy (especially the nuclear sub force) is officer-heavy (and indeed, the entire complement of the boat is apparently officers), but that’s an insanely high number. Most US major combatants (including SSNs, SSBNs, and DDGs) are commanded by commanders (O-5), and others have a single captain, who is CO. What were 7 (or more) captains, plus two Heroes of Russia, doing on board? Was it holding some sort of ceremony? Or was it engaged in activities that were of intense interest to the higher ups?

Another possibility is enlisted ratings, and even junior and mid-grade officers, are not deemed sufficiently qualified and trustworthy to crew such an important vessel. But if they are not given substantial responsibility as lieutenants, how can one be confident in the captains? Is the Russian Navy so paranoid about security that they don’t trust anyone but the very senior, to serve on top-secret ships?

Also, are senior officers the best suited to handle the vital, but more narrow tasks that western navies entrust to well-trained, specialized ratings? If not, depending on the very senior to perform these tasks may increase the risk of things like fatal fires.

I doubt we’ll learn much more about the Losharik. But what we do know, especially in light of the record of Russia’s silent service, reinforces the very real perception that anyone in that service plays a submerged version of Russian Roulette every time his boat casts off.

*My grandfather took dozens of photos in his time on the K-2. I am going to digitize them and will post them when I do.

November 8, 2018

To Bad the Drydock Sank, Instead of the Carrier It Was Lifting

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — cpirrong @ 5:17 pm

A week ago Russia lost its largest drydock, while it was towing the country’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov.   This is amusing, though not surprising: “The cause of the accident was reportedly an electrical malfunction that left the pumps in the dry dock’s ballast tanks stuck on, causing it to sink rapidly.”

The Kuznetsov was itself damaged, when a crane from the drydock toppled onto the carrier’s deck.

All things considered, the Russians would have been much better off had the Kusnetsov plunged to the bottom, rather than the drydock.  The drydock is actually potentially useful.  The carrier is a near hulk that is more trouble than justified by its military value, which to a first order approximation is zero.

I will take credit for being one of the first to point out the comical fact that the Kusnetsov always sailed with a salvage craft–a towboat–bobbing along in its wake.  Prudent precaution, you say? Never leave home without one?  Well, no other aircraft carrier in the world needs to take this precaution.

The Russians will reportedly attempt to raise the drydock, although as the linked article points out it may have been damaged by the sinking.   And if the electronics were dodgy before, think what months/years under frigid seawater will do to them.  The Russians will also apparently continue with refurbishing the Kuznetsov, although this is already running over time and over budget.

Hey, if they want to burn money, who am I to stop them?  Better for the US that they waste resources on this rather pathetic vessel than put it into something actually useful.

It’s not August, but Russia has been suffering an August-like autumn.  And no, I don’t mean the weather: I mean the fact that for years August was regularly marked by major accidents in Russia.  In addition to the Kuznetsov/drydock fiasco, recent weeks have seen the failure of the manned Soyuz launch.  The failure has been blamed on a sensor damaged during installation:

“The reason for the abnormal separation … was due to a deformation of the stem of the contact separation sensor…,” Skorobogatov told reporters.

“It has been proven, fully confirmed that this happened specifically because of this sensor, and that could only have happened during the package’s assembly at the Baikonur cosmodrome,” he said.

I can imagine the conversation: “What do you mean it doesn’t fit, Boris?  Get a bigger hammer!”

Further, four bridges have collapsed in Russia since September.

In brief, Russia remains a shambolic place.   The gap between Putin’s chest-thumping and reality is as wide as ever.  The hamster wheel keeps spinning.

October 28, 2014

An American Space Disaster, With a Russian Connection

Filed under: Military,Politics,Snowden — The Professor @ 7:48 pm

An Antares spacecraft operated by Orbital Sciences and contracted to NASA to carry supplies to the International Space Station exploded on liftoff in Virginia. A failure for the American space program? Yes. But the major failure may be due to the fact that this craft, like most others operated by US companies, relies on Russian engines. Soviet engines, actually. I mean literally built in Soviet times. They have been refurbed, but Orbital Sciences was supposedly concerned about quality:

The NK-33 engine that powered Antares’ first flight was built decades ago by Russia’s Kuznetsov Design Bureau and is no longer in production. Further, Orbital is uncertain about the quality of Aerojet‘s remaining stockpile of 23 NK-33s, beyond those set aside for NASA’s CRS-1. Aerojet Rocketdyne is Orbital’s primary subcontractor and overhauls the old NK-33 engines into a configuration for Antares, dubbed AJ-26.

The fraught relationship with Russia, and Russian threats (uttered by Rogozin the Ridiculous, true) to cut off supplies of engines to the US has spurred efforts here to develop an American engine. Maybe NASA and the Pentagon should expedite those efforts.

October 19, 2014

Russian Truculence and a History of Russian Naval Mishaps Colliding in Swedish Waters?

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 2:35 pm

Russia has been hyper-aggressive of late in probing the defenses of neighboring countries, including the US and Canada, mainly by aircraft. Sweden has been a frequent target as well.

Now Sweden may be the subject of another probe, this one from under the sea in the Stockholm Archipelago. Anomalous underwater activity was detected, as have been communications (some encrypted) from a point in the region to the Russian naval base at Kaliningrad. The comms purportedly include a distress call. A Russian tanker (under the Liberian flag with an English name, the Concord) has been circling suspiciously in the Baltic: some suspect it is the mother ship of a mini-sub. A Russian research ship, the Professor Lugachev, has suddenly set sail from Saint Petersburg.

Given history, and current events, the Occam’s Razor solution to this mystery is that a Russian sub, maybe a mini-sub, has run into trouble while probing Swedish waters.

The Russians, of course, deny everything:

A defence ministry spokesman in Moscow told reporters that the Russian navy’s submarines and surface ships were “performing tasks… according to plan”.

“There has been no irregular situation, let alone emergency situation, involving Russian navy vessels,” he said.

Again given history, the best thing to do is to assume the opposite is true. Consider the case of the Kursk:

In the days after the incident, the Navy and the government issued a blizzard of non-information, mis-information and dis-information.  At first, the Navy denied that anything was amiss, acknowledging a mere “technical difficulty.”  The government denied the problem for some time; it took two entire days to even admit that the ship “was in serious trouble,” and then lied about when the incident had occurred.  Indeed, the day after the sinking, the Navy commander told the press that the exercise had been flawless.  Yes: flawless.

They never used the word “sink.”  They claimed the entire crew was alive.  They claimed they were in communication with the crew, and that the ship was supplied with air and power from the surface.  The Navy excused its evident lack of preparation for a rescue by bewailing the weather conditions and strong currents, even though the weather was fine and the currents benign.  All complete and outrageous fabrications.

Enraged by the duplicity, at one Navy press conference, the mother of a Kursk officer, Nedezhda Tylik, launched into a screaming denunciation of official dishonesty.  In an event captured on film, a nurse was seen to move up behind Tylik, and inject her with a hypodermic needle.  Tylik collapsed and was taken from the room.  (A still photo is available here; I have not found the video online for free despite a diligent effort; there is a documentary that has the film that can be purchased here.)  She first claimed she had been sedated against her will, and the Navy said that it had indeed given her a sedative; in an Orwellian way, it acknowledged the “solicitous administration of needed tranquilizers.”

Then, remarkably, in the aftermath of a domestic and international outcry, the Navy denied that it had sedated her, and Tylik also recanted, claiming that she had only been given her heart medication at her husband’s request.  Yeah, sure.  Who you gonna believe?  Them or your lying eyes? (Tylik maintains this version in the documentary.  But why did neither she nor her husband make that statement initially?)

And how can we forget Russia’s dodgy naval safety record? I’ve often mocked how its carrier Kuznetsov, such as it is, never leaves home without a salvage tug bobbing along in its wake. The Russian naval curse even inflicts those dumb enough to buy its cast offs and then spend billions trying to fix them up. The Indians found this out to their cost when they bought the Admiral Gorshkov. Now the Chinese are having problems with the Liaoning, ex-VaryagNo biggie. Just that steam is flooding out of its boiler compartment. But it’s not a boiler explosion, apparently! So there’s that.

Given the combination of recent Russian truculence and the long record of Russian naval mishaps, the most likely explanation is that a Russian naval intelligence operation has come to ruin. Let’s hope that the crew survives-though given the track record one doubts that Putin and the Russian high command give a crap about that. Indeed, they would probably prefer that the crew die undiscovered than survive to be captured. Let’s also hope that the facts come out, and prove very embarrassing to VVP.

But one thing for sure: pay zero attention to what the Russians say about this. Well, that’s not right, exactly. Take what they say, and assume the exact opposite and you might be within visual range of the truth.

May 26, 2014

Still Crazy After All These Years

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 1:48 pm

I have been going through an extremely high variance travel experience, hence the light posting. And no, the crazy in the title does not refer to me and what United Airlines has done to me over the last 3 days.

Instead, I am referring to Putin, who has been on a major roll at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Where to begin? One statement is loonier than the next.

A lot of it is whining about how Russia doesn’t get any respect.

Note to Vova: respect has to be earned. Cleptocratic autocracies that annex the territory of other countries and foment rebellion in other countries often come up short in the respect department. Just sayin’.

Putin justified the annexation of Crimea by saying that if he hadn’t, Ukraine could have joined NATO and Sevastapol would have become a NATO base.

First of all, Ukraine was and is decades away from any possibility of being in NATO. Any belief that Ukraine’s ascension to NATO was or is imminent is the raving of a paranoid mind. Not to mention that never during Maidan or post-February 22 had breaking the Russian lease to Sevastapol been mooted.

Second, raising NATO as a bogeyman is also the raving of a paranoid mind. Other than the US, and maybe France and UK on good days, NATO couldn’t fight its way out of a piss soaked paper bag (as Patton used to phrase it). It is militarily shambolic, spending well under 2 pct of GDP on defense, and most of that is on waste and militarized welfare rather than weapons. But Schaeuble says no, no, no, NATO nations should raise defense spending in response to Ukraine or any of Vlad’s other adventures.

To illustrate how toothless NATO is, consider the fact that when the Russians sent the carrier Kustnetsov through the Channel (rather than around Ireland, per usual), the Dutch navy did not have a single ship to dispatch to follow it, and also has no maritime patrol aircraft to shadow any vessel sailing of its shores.

All this stuff about big, bad NATO is so much hot air. Militarily, NATO is the US, and as anyone following things knows, in the era of Obama and sequestration, US military capability is extremely stretched. And the prospects for Sevastapol becoming some sort of NATO outpost are somewhere between zero and as if.

Another of Vlad’s wacko statements was that the only reason the US wants to impose sanctions on Russia is to achieve competitive advantages over the EU. Or something:

“By insisting on sanctions against Russia, I suspect that our American friends, and they are shrewd guys, may wish to gain certain competitive advantages in their trade and economic relations with Europe,” Putin said at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on Friday.

Exactly how that works is beyond me.  The US is going to replace Russia as a supplier of gas to Europe and accelerate that process through sanctions? Really?

This is part of Putin’s plan-which has been all to successful-to sow discord between Europe and the US.

In the same conversation, Putin said this about Ukraine:

“A civil war is starting in Ukraine, but what do we have to do with that?” the Russian president asked.

Try “everything” for an answer.

Relatedly, Putin had the chutzpah to demand of Ukraine: “Where’s our money?” [for natural gas]. To which Ukraine should reply: “Where’s our Crimea?”

But as stiff as the competition was, this had to be Putin’s most outlandish uttering:

“Russia is not the type of country that gives up fighters for human rights,” Putin said during the plenary session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

Actually, I sort of agree with that. When the fighters for human rights happen to be Russians, the country doesn’t give them up: it imprisons them, beats them, or kills them. Because Russia is not the beacon for human rights, as Putin outrageously suggests: but because it is the enemy of human rights.

Face it. The world is dealing with someone who either is believes the most insane things, or is willing to say the most insane things even when he knows they are crazy. Either way, this man is a menace. Not someone before whom it is necessary to cringe, or to extend a hand. Indeed, what Merkel says is as crazy, or crazier, than anything Putin has been saying. And that is saying something.


January 13, 2012

The Hardware Ain’t So Hot Either

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 3:29 pm

The Russian “aircraft carrier”–and crucially, its trusty tugboat–reached Syria, where the flotilla received a warm welcome from the besieged Assad regime.  Pavel Felgenhauer’s description makes it plain that scare quotes I routinely use in reference to the Kuznetsov are more than warranted:

The Kuznetsov is a 60,000 ton ship that may carry an air wing of up to 50, including some 26 jets and 24 helicopters. On its present voyage the Kuznetsov’s majestic flight deck is almost empty – only eight Su-33 fighters and two Ka-27S helicopters for search and rescue missions, if any Su-33s are lost (Interfax, November 30). Not only is the present Kuznetsov air wing minuscule, it entirely lacks anti-submarine Ka-27 PLO helicopters and even more importantly – Ka-27RLD (Ka-31) early warning flying radars. Without any long-range radar capability, the Kuznetsov is not a combat ship, but a sitting duck – a large, uncomfortable and rusty tourist ship. The Su-33 fighters are not produced any more, so the Kuznetsov is now carrying the last flight worthy Su-33s and they will soon be mothballed after the carrier returns to port within two weeks.

The Kuznetsov’s main steam turbine engine has been breaking down constantly during the ship’s service, which began in 1992. The Kuznetsov has been a largely immobile and useless ship with three major shipyard repair periods lasting over six years since 1996. The sea salvage tug Nikolai Chiker is shadowing the Kuznetsov during its present tour to tow the hapless carrier back home if the main engine breaks down again. After completing its last voyage the Kuznetsov will be disarmed and go to the Severodvinsk shipyard for a major refitting that is officially planned to last until 2017 or end later – if ever (NVO, April 22, 2011). Su-33 production has been terminated, so the Kuznetsov must be refitted to carry MiG-29K fighter jets being developed for India. The Kuznetsov’s main anti-ship weapon, the supersonic Granit cruise missile, is also out of production and must be replaced. The main engine must be replaced – the carrier will be virtually gutted to the bare hull and rebuilt from scratch. When it ever sails again, al-Assad will be long forgotten history.

Meaning that the Kuznetsov’s little tugboat that could, the Nikolai Chiker, is arguably the most important vessel in the Russian fleet.

I doubt that the refit mentioned in the above quotewill go any better than the overhaul of another Russian “carrier”, the Gorshkov.  It was sold to the Indians, but the overhaul in a Russian yard went billions (dollars, not rubles rupees) over budget, and years over schedule.

Speaking of refits with hazy timelines, some news is leaking out about the fate of the Yekaterinburg, with emphasis on the “leaking.”  Whereas Rogozin had initially said the vessel would be repaired in a year, even he is now pushing that date into 2014, and other estimates say 2016 .   That’s because the damage was far more severe than Rogozin let on.  The sonar system is a total loss, and the torpedo section heavily damaged.  These both give lie to the initial claims that damage was limited to the rubber coating on the hull.  Neither is surprising given the pictures that came out last week.

The boat must be towed to a shipyard in Severodvinsk, and that can’t happen until the ice clears–and that big hole in the side of the boat is patched up  This will likely be May at the earliest.

I’ve frequently argued that the software in the Russian military is in deplorable shape.  The hardware isn’t that great either, especially afloat.

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).

November 29, 2011

General Makarov Channels Emily Litella

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 10:15 pm

Today the Chief of the Russian General Staff, General Nikolai Makarov, denied that the Russian Navy was sending an “aircraft carrier” to Syria:

The dispatch of a Russian Navy task force to the Mediterranean Sea is part of a scheduled exercise and is not connected to the situation in Syria, General Staff chief Nikolai Makarov said on Tuesday.

“We are not sending anything [to Syria],” he said.

He did not say when the exercise would take place.

Earlier in the day a Russian Defense Ministry source denied media reports that a group of Russian warships led by the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier would arrive at the Syrian port of Tartus in the spring of 2012.

Uh huh.  Riiiiggggghhht. I would be very interested to know what the real story is here. Was the military freelancing? Was this a trial balloon that drew a rather hostile response from the US. (Along the lines of: you might want to reconsider that, unless you want to see how a real carrier group operates, up close and personal.)

Anyways, the screeching U-turn is rather entertaining.

Take it away, Emily!

November 28, 2011

Row, Row, Row Your “Aircraft Carrier”

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 4:40 pm

Russia’s simulacrum of an aircraft carrier will go Syria along with 2 other vessels (one of which, based on past experience, should be an ocean going tug/salvage vessel):

The vessels including the Admiral Kuznetsov, which will have eight Su-33 fighter aircraft, several new MiG-29K fighter jets and two Ka-27 naval helicopters on board, will arrive at the Mediterranean port of Tartous in the spring, the Moscow- based daily said.

In the spring?  Really?  Uhm, it’s not even winter yet.  I didn’t know the Kuznetsov was oar propelled.  But maybe this is just based on a realistic appraisal of the likelihood of breakdowns, etc.  Or perhaps instead this is a purely symbolic expression of pique that the Russians hope they don’t have to follow through on.

Information Dissemination has an excellent observation regarding this deployment:

An indication that Russia continues to support the [Assad] regime, and also that any multilateral effort to conduct a no fly zone regime change would have to go through a venue other than the United Nations Security Council. Still, it’s a risky move, because if Assad falls, the new regime will likely remember the visit of the Kuznetsov for just as long as the Indians remembered the deployment of the USS Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal in 1971. You have to wonder about the decision-making procedures in the Kremlin; how much information do the Russians have about the foundations of the regime, and how much of this is generated by anti-NATO animus as opposed to an effort to engage in regional influence?

Put heavy money on option B.  Especially in light of the track record, and the nationalist Putin and Medvedev speeches at the Crooks and Thieves Convention.

Next Page »

Powered by WordPress