How Medvedev plans to reform the military—and why Obama should not be worried.
On a chilly day earlier this fall in a forest near the Lithuanian border, Dmitry Medvedev strode out to inspect one of Russia's latest tactical missiles as it was trundled into launch position. The president wore a green officer's jacket with commander-in-chief decals and used a pair of outsize binoculars to watch the rocket soar toward its target.
Not long ago, such atmospherics would have been left to Vladimir Putin, Medvedev's old boss. But Russia's young, reformist president has become very invested in the country's military, and not just, like his predecessor, to bulwark a tough-guy image. While Putin quadrupled defense spending without making much headway on reform, Medvedev has embarked on a bold campaign to transform the Red Army, trying to turn a creaking Cold War–era institution plagued with a corrupt officer corps, outdated equipment, endemic bullying, suicide, and alcoholism into a modern fighting force able to effectively project power abroad for the first time in a generation. In his state-of-the-empire speech on Nov. 12, Medvedev told the Duma that Russia's "old economic model doesn't work anymore" and said that "our nation's survival will depend on modernization." The same goes for the military. It's an enormous project: to succeed, Medvedev will have to make the Russian Army smaller, better equipped, and more professional. This will mean painful cuts and dismantling deep vested interests that have thrived on the rotting, subsidy-soaked body of Russia's military-industrial complex.
If it works, however, the payoff could be just as great: a military that might actually live up to the Kremlin's ambitions. Those don't include threatening the West. Medvedev wants to stop preparing for the conventional European war the old Soviet Army was designed to fight and to focus instead on the kind of regional missions Russia may actually face in the years ahead. This will take rapid-reaction forces capable of fighting brushfire wars and clobbering smaller neighbors. Russia's not getting out of the great-power game entirely: Medvedev is also investing heavily in the country's still-gigantic strategic nuclear arsenal in order to preserve Moscow's place at the top table of nations. But even as he builds next-generation nukes, he has made a point of reassuring Washington by agreeing to cutbacks in Russia's aging nuclear stockpile.
Medvedev embarked on his reform campaign last year, shortly after Russia's dismal performance in the August war against Georgia, according to Pavel Zolotarev of Russia's Academy of Sciences. It was the first time Russia's Army had been tested against a foreign enemy since the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and the results weren't pretty. The campaign exposed what independent military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer calls "embarrassing failings" in Russia's fighting ability. At least 11 Russian aircraft and several drones were shot down, and there were reports of extensive burning and looting of abandoned Georgian villages by undisciplined troops. Many Russian soldiers were spotted going to battle in running shoes and polyester sweatpants instead of boots and camouflage uniforms, and one junior officer even asked NEWSWEEK reporters to lend him a Georgian SIM card to call his superiors after radios failed. A line of broken-down Russian armored personnel carriers was also seen on the main road from Tskhinvali to Gori. The ultimate end to the conflict was never in doubt—Georgia has 4.6 million citizens versus Russia's 140 million—but the tiny nation's spiffy U.S.-supplied military vehicles and uniforms made the Russians look as if they'd just stepped out of a World War II documentary.
Medvedev started to clean house in the days that followed. Nikolai Makarov, a top general he'd appointed just before the Georgia campaign, commissioned a root-and-branch review of the state of the military. It turned out that the troops deployed in Georgia were actually better than average. The review found, among other things, that only 17 percent of Russia's military units had a full complement of men and equipment. "All the other units either had faulty ammunition and weapons or did not have enough people," says Zolotarev. The Army was also seriously top-heavy, with more than 900 generals (the U.S. Army has about 300) and one officer for every 2.5 men, compared with the 1–15 ratio favored by Western armies. Meanwhile, up to a third of conscripts were "mentally un-fit, drug addicts, or imbeciles," according to a public statement last year by Col. Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov, the Air Force commander in chief. As for the Army's practices, these weren't stuck in the Cold War—they were downright medieval, with NGOs reporting hair-raising tales of officers hiring out their own men as slave laborers and male prostitutes.
With these exposés came a recognition that, while Russia may have managed to roll over Georgia, it won't always be so lucky. "If, God forgive us, we start a war with a highly technological nation like the United States, we have no chance of survival," says Alexander Golts, a Moscow-based military analyst. "Now, finally, the Russian government has accepted the gravity of the problem."
Medvedev's hatchet man is Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, appointed by Putin in 2007 and, like Putin and Medvedev, a graduate in law from St. Petersburg State University. The reform plan he helped draft, which was finalized in the fall of 2008, is impressively ambitious. Nearly 200,000 officers—more than a third of the total—are to be fired, while some of those remaining will get pay raises (up to a total of $5,000 a month, more than five times the current level) in order to improve quality. Compulsory service has been cut from two years to less than one, and the Army is to be organized into modern fast-reacting brigades of 2,000 rather than the old lumbering divisions of 5,000 and more. The overall size of the armed forces is to be cut by a quarter, largely by getting rid of many nonfighting units. And if Serdyukov has his way, resources will be concentrated on elite fighting battalions that will form the core of a new rapid-reaction force.
Of course, grand plans for reforming the Army have been coming out of the Kremlin for centuries, and most have foundered on institutional resistance and corruption. But there are good reasons to think Medvedev may succeed. The most promising sign is the way he's taken on some very sacred cows. One is procurement. The very idea of buying defense systems abroad would have been considered treason in the Soviet era. In September, however, Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin told the bosses of Russia's weapons industries that he would not hesitate to source matériel from overseas if they couldn't provide it. Sure enough, that month Moscow announced it would buy $50 million in unmanned drones from Israel rather than go with a clunky, overbudget Russian-made drone that had failed to perform in Georgia. This year Russia also bought sniper rifles from the U.K. and pistols from Austria for its elite units. "Acknowledging that Russia cannot produce everything is the first step toward modernizing the system," says Golts.
Perhaps, but updating the military-industrial complex will be as hard as modernizing the rest of Russia's moribund technology sector. Thanks to injections of cash—Russia's military budget hit $50 billion in 2008, and Putin recently pledged to raise it to $125 billion by 2011—old giants like the aircraft makers MiG and Sukhoi are now cranking out new planes. But the latest generation of Russian hardware—the Su-34 and Su-35 fighter-bombers, the MiG-35 fighter, the S-400 air-defense system, and the Iskander short-range missile—is in fact little more than upgraded versions of projects designed 30 years ago. "As soon as these design bureaus got money, they just dusted off their old projects that were a generation old," says Felgenhauer. Medvedev seems to recognize this problem, and during a visit last month to the Mashinostroyenia factory in Reutov, he blasted the industry and called for a "fundamental modernization."
Feb 27, 2010
Abandoned Russian tanks
MOSCOW - SOME Russians were amazed to discover dozens of T-80 battle tanks seemingly abandoned in a forest, but army officials insisted there was nothing unusual about it.
The tanks - nearly 100 in all - were found near the Elanovskaya railroad station about 100km outside the Urals Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, the Kommersant daily reported on Saturday.
Their presence was revealed after a local news website posted a video of the tanks, covered in a deep layer of snow and resting peacefully between the railroad and the woods with no military personnel in sight. 'There are tanks all over the forest, abandoned.
A spokesman for the Volga-Urals Military District, the branch of the Russian army which oversees the area, said the tanks were being transported to a storage site aa part of a routine logistical operation.
'It is entirely possible they could have been filmed on video. This is not a military secret, and placing a guard next to each vehicle is impossible.' -- AFP
Former air force chief: Russia's air defenses weak
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV (AP) – 13 hours ago
MOSCOW — Russia is lagging 25 to 30 years behind the United States in developing prospective air defense weapons because of a meltdown of its defense industries, a former Russian air force chief said Thursday.
Retired Gen. Anatoly Kornukov said Russia has only a reduced capability to protect itself from an enemy attack — a statement that contrasted sharply with the government's claim that the nation's military are getting stronger following a post-Soviet decline.
The Defense Ministry has boasted about developing new S-400 air defense missile systems and proudly displayed some of them in Sunday's massive Victory Day parade on Red Square.
But Kornukov said that the military now has only two such systems, each including a radar, several launchers and support vehicles, and it was supposed to have 15.
He said the Soviet-designed S-300s have strong capabilities but are approaching retirement. "Their lifetime can't be expanded indefinitely," he said at a news conference.
Another component of the nation's air defense, fighter jets, have been increasingly grounded for lack of engines and parts, Kornukov added.
"Regrettably, our air defense forces only have a limited capability to protect the nation's security," Kornukov said.
Compared to the Soviet times, when the nation's air defense forces were capable of shooting down up to 98 out of every 100 intruding enemy planes, now it would only intercept 20 out of 100, he said.
"The situation is simply terrible," Kornukov said.
Asked whether the military is capable of fending off an attack from Iran or North Korea, he said that the Russian forces would likely find it difficult to shoot down a short-range missile fired by one of them.
Kornukov said Russia has fallen 25 to 30 years behind the U.S. in air defense technologies and would find it difficult to narrow the gap because of a meltdown of its defense industries which have been plagued by the loss of qualified personnel and key technologies.
"The industrial plants producing high-tech weapons are in a pitiful condition," Kornukov said.
Retired Col.-Gen. Anatoly Sitnov, who formerly was in charge of weapons procurement for the Defense Ministry, said the nation has lost up to 300 key industrial technologies in aviation and air defense. He said that Russian industries are increasingly falling behind in developing new materials, such as heat-resistant graphite needed to build new faster missiles.
Kornukov and Sitnov harshly criticized the government's military reforms, saying they have further crippled the nation's air defense capability by weakening coordination among different branches of the military.
The government has insisted that the reforms helped bolster the nation's military capability.
Kornukov said Russia's five-day war with Georgia in 2008 highlighted the weakness of the Russian military. Russian media said the military accidentally shot down at least one combat jet of its own in the conflict because of confusion and the lack of coordination between forces.
For protection,yes, powerful .If somebody wants to conquer Russia - russian people will protect with the will and spirit .But if Russia wants to conquer some countries- I don't think Russian military will be powerfull. They don't have contract army.gun runner said:Powerful,no...broke yes! Poor could equal tough, but not powerful. Their will is strong, and the spirit may be too, but the national fervor is not the same as it was twenty-five years ago. My :2c: Ubique.
“The Armata will be unveiled during a closed showing at the Nizhny Tagil arms expo,” Rogozin said on Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio. “Several prototypes will be shown exclusively to the Russian leadership.”
The Armata’s design incorporates aspects of other projects, including Object 195 and Black Eagle, according to manufacturer Uralvagonzavod.
The tank, dubbed Armata, is being developed by tank manufacturer Uralvagonzavod in Russia’s Urals region. The Defense Ministry earlier said the field testing of the MBT was expected to start in 2014.
“Uralvagonzavod tells us they will supply a first prototype under the Armata project for testing 10 months ahead of schedule,” Sukhorukov said.
The first deliveries of the tank to the Russian Armed Forces are scheduled for 2015. A total of 2,300 MBTs are expected to be supplied by 2020.