Permanent Military Reform

Text of report by the website of heavyweight Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 15 March

Article by Vladimir Mukhin on the upcoming session of the the Collegium of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. President Medvedev will participate in the session, which will consider results of the construction of the Russian Armed Forces in 2010 and the prospects for their development in the period up to 2020: "Permanent Military Reform"

The Kremlin and the Ministry of Defense have elaborated a program for the development of the Armed Forces of Russia up to 2020.

The problems connected with the enhancement of the effectiveness of national defense are once again at the center of attention of the leadership of the country. This week, Dmitriy Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, will participate in a session of the Collegium of the Ministry of Defense. During the session, the results of the construction of the Armed Forces in 2010 and the prospects for their development in the period up to 2020 will be considered.

Viktor Ozerov, Chairman of the Committee on Defense and Security of the Federation Council, made the following statement: "Anatoliy Serdyukov, Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, will deliver the main report at the expanded session of the Collegium of the Ministry of Defense and there will be an in-depth analysis of the reformation of the Armed Forces in it." According to the senator, General of the Army Nikolay Makarov, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Popovkin, First Deputy Minister of Defense, and other military chiefs will also deliver reports.

We will mention that the results of the military reform were already discussed with the military chiefs at the training ground near Nizhniy Novgorod during the fall of last year. And now there will be another meeting with the generals on the same issue. According to the experts, this is the first time in the entire post-Soviet history that a Russian head of state has given so much time to problems of the development of the Armed Forces. There is another question. Just why is the head of state actively engaged in military matters at the present time?

It is not very likely that this is connected with the pre-election campaign. Or with concern of the military-political leaders about the situation with the state defense order and the break-down of the plan for supplying the Armed Forces. The Kremlin, to all appearances, is extremely concerned about the deterioration of the morale of the servicemen and veterans, which is reflected in the increase of incidents among the troops and acts of opposition on the part of the retirees. In view of the problems of the Arabian revolutions, in which the armed forces played a decisive role in the fall of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as their role in Libya, it appears that the military-political leadership of Russia intends to make the Russian Armed Forces their ally for a long time.

The fact that a chief of the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Defense for Personnel has still not been appointed demonstrates that not everything is in order with respect to the morale of the troops. And, last Friday, the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper, which is the central organ of the Ministry of Defense, published questionnaires for officers, soldiers, sailors, and sergeants, asking them to evaluate some aspects of the indoctrination work and informational-propagandistic work that are being organized in the troops and on the ships. This is the first time that this has been done in the past five years.

According to Senator Viktor Ozerov, members of his Committee on Defense and Security were invited to attend [the session] of the Collegium of the Ministry of Defense in full complement. In addition to the senators, deputies of the Committee on Defense of the State Duma, members of the Presidium of the Public Council, and representatives of the administration of the president and the Security Council will participate in the session [of the Collegium of the Defense Ministry].

We will mention that, besides President Medvedev, only military chiefs and Aleksandr Abramov, an aide to President Medvedev, participated in the Collegium of the Ministry of Defense last year. That session took place in the fall of last year and the intermediate results of the program to bring about a new look for the Armed Forces were summed up during it. It appears that the leaders in the Kremlin reached conclusions based on the criticism in the mass media, the veterans’ movement, and the community of experts that "the Ministry of Defense itself is trying to reform". And now, on the threshold of the meeting of President Medvedev with the generals, an attempt at an informal discussion of steps in the sphere of military construction was organized in the beginning of March. Reports of Valeriy Gerasimovich, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, and Igor Sheremet, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, were heard in the Federation Council, as well as in the framework of the Commission of the Public Council of the Ministry of Defense for Problems of Military Construction and Scientific Research in the Sphere of Security (the Commission for Military Construction of the Public Council). In this connection, as the information agency reports, at the session in the Public Council, Major General Sheremet, Chairman of the Military-Scientific Committee of the Armed Forces, acknowledged some over-costs and mistakes involving the reformation of the Armed Forces.

Moreover, Major General Sheremet said: "It is not true to say that the military reform is being conducted without rhyme or reason. There was a mass of dissertations 10, 15, and 20 years ago and military research work in which the stage at which we have arrived at the present time was substantiated." Sheremet thinks that it is another matter that the prospects of this scientific research have not been realized. He said: "We had to form up a critical mass of these works and the people, who perceive the necessity for reform and consider it rational and their business. That is how it turned out." Major General Sheremet acknowledged that local armed conflicts, both on the territory of Russia and near its borders, were the catalyst of military reform.

Major General Sheremet also acknowledged that the Ministry of Defense made a mistake when it began "to limit" the military scientists. He said: "The transformation of the Armed Forces, which is long overdue, must be supported by very deep research, which the command expects from us and which is stipulated by the plan for scientific work in 2011." He added: "At the present time, the work for the fulfillment of the planned scientific research work is in full swing."

Several questions spring up here. Usually the reformation of the Armed Forces occurs after military science determines the main threats to military security and proposes measures for the neutralization of those threats. However, the main steps in the reformation of the Armed Forces have already occurred and military science, as it turns out, is only providing substantiation for those actions after they have occurred. And is it suddenly turning out that the directions of the reformation were incorrectly selected?

Source: Nezavisimaya Gazeta website, Moscow, in Russian 15 Mar 11

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