Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Moscow’s Plans for Three New Divisions Will Degrade Russia’s Defense Capacity, Golts Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 13 – Russian defense minister Sergey Shoygu has announced plans to form three new divisions in the western part of the country, an announcement clearly intended as Moscow’s response to NATO’s new forward basing in the Baltic countries, Poland and Romania, Aleksandr Golts says.

            Their deployment, the Moscow military analyst writes in today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal” is a clear additional indication that “Russia is rapidly moving toward a new ‘cold war’ with the West.”  But what this plan does not do, he argues, is to increase Moscow’s defense capabilities. In fact, it may contribute to their degradation (

            At present, there are only three divisions in the Russian land forces: the Taman, the Kantemir, and the field artillery one based in the Far East.  The remaining units are brigades, the result of the so-called “Serdyukov military reform” of 2009 on the basis of the assumption that in local or hybrid wars, brigades are more effective than divisions.

            That was “demonstrated in the course of the hybrid war in the Donbas,” he continues. “But if one is preparing for a major war with the West, then full-scale divisions, which represent in fact small armies, is a more suitable instrument. And, alas, it is not excluded that the decision about creating three new divisions is only the beginning of a painful new reorganization.”

            That will inevitably create problems in the short term, “but this is not the worst thing.” The worst thing, Golts says, is that the new announcement reverses the cuts in the number of units in the armed forces and boosts their numbers, a shift that means that once again the units will have to rely on reservists to come up to full strength.

            That is because “the stormy growth in the number of army units hardly is going to be accompanied by a growth in the number of personnel in uniform.”  In 2016, the Russian military is supposed to grow by 10,000 officers and soldiers, but for three new divisions, it would need “no less than 30,000.” If they are taken from elsewhere, those units will suffer.

            There can be “only one result” from that: “an increase in personnel shortages in Russian units. The generals will boldly report that they will quickly bring the number up to requirements of war time by drawing on reservists.” But, Golts says, “the possibility of recalling these people and restoring their army habits in a short period of time is purely theoretical.”

            Even if that worked, he continues, “this would mean a return to the long-ago-discredited concept of mass mobilization,” given that “in order to fight with NATO, [Russia] will need more battalions.”  But “the forces which have appeared as a result of the successful military reform do not satisfy the ambitions of the Russian bosses” – and so military readiness will be sacrificed.

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