Staunton, December 26 – The Russian defense ministry and high command are going back to the Soviet practice of forming hollow divisions, consisting primarily of officers, with most of the soldiers continuing to consist of poorly paid draftees rather than professionals and with junior officers performing the roles non-coms do in Western armies, Aleksandr Golts says.
Such a mass force may look good on paper, the independent military analyst says; but there is a very real danger that it could mean that the Russian military, as Vladimir Putin himself observed at the time of the second Chechen war, has a large number of men in uniform but few to send into battle (ej.ru/?a=note&id=33266).
The shift from plans to move toward a professional military force toward continued reliance on draftees, Golts says, was signaled by Defense Minister Shoygu at a recent meeting of the Social Council of his ministry, when he talked about how many draftees Russia will need over the next seven years.
“If you believe official statistics,” the analyst says, 260,000 men were drafted. Consequently, this figure is now to be considered ‘optimal.’ But several days ago, when reporting to the president … Shoygu himself said that 220,000 was optimal.” That 40,000-man gap isn’t easy to explain.
According to Golts, “the simplest (and therefore the most probable) explanation is that the army is taking all that it can take, and declines in the size of the draft which have occurred over the last several years are connected not with the fulfillment of any plan but with the demographic hole into which [Russia] continues to fall.”
But worrying about those numbers distracts attention from the most important message they collectively send: Moscow is going back on plans, reaffirmed by Putin himself only a year ago that the Russian army is going to be made up of professional soldiers rather than draftees. Clearly that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
And whether it is a case of making the best of a bad situation or more likely a reflection of how the Russian general staff thinks, Shoygu signaled that the defense ministry is pleased with relying on draftees. “An army which fights for money,” he said, “is certainly not entirely correct.” Russia must have one informed by spirit and pride.
This shows, Golts continues, that “together with his epaulettes and trouser stripes, Shoygu has absorbed the prejudices characteristic of generals of the Soivet kind: lower ranks are obligated (in contrast to officers) to serve for free and exclusively out of love for the Motherland.”
If such a soldier is paid adequately, these Soviet-style generals believe, he will “in an instant be transformed into an unprincipled and cynical ‘mercenary,’” despite all the evidence to the contrary in the experience of the militaries of Western countries, the military analyst points out.
“Having become professions, soldiers and sergeants hardly lose their patriotism and loyalty to the Fatherland,” Golts says. But clearly Russia isn’t able to recruit or pay for a professional army. Shoygu did not even mention how many professional soldiers there are in Russia today, talking only about increasing their number to 475,000 by 2025.
It is obvious, Golts continues, that the reason the defense minister was silent on this point is that the number of professional soldiers has not increased for three years and that there is no agreed upon figure as to how much of an increase there is supposed to be this year, with it being 60,000 if one believes Putin and 50,000 if one believes deputy defense minister Nikolay Pankov.
What this means, the analyst says, is that “the number of soldiers and sergeants in the Armed Forces at a minimum isn’t growing and more likely is declining in number,” a truly dangerous trend given that the defense ministry is creating ever more new units. That means two things.
On the one hand, it means that just as in Soviet times, junior officers will be doing the work sergeants do in Western armies, lowering the military capability of units in which they serve. And on the other, it means that many of these units will be hollow, staffed by officers and filled in only with mobilization.
(For more on that last risk, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/12/ever-larger-portions-of-russian-army.html.)
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