Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Russian Military Not at All Prepared to Fight Challenges like Pandemics, Golts Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 20 – Unlike the armed forces in the US and Spain, Aleksandr Golts says, the Russian military is unprepared to defend the civilian population of Russia against the pandemic or even itself against such infections. And that is likely why Vladimir Putin only now asked the defense ministry to come up with a plan to do so.

            Had the Russian army really had the capabilities to help the civilian sector that Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has routinely claimed but his subordinates pointed out it does not have, the Kremlin leader might have been expected to turn to the military far sooner, the independent military analyst says (

            Now Putin’s call for the defense ministry to come up with an assistance plan smacks of desperation or confusion given that any program decided upon this week would “in the best case” involve military units in the fight against the coronavirus only “in the first half of May,” that is, more than two months after “the threat to national security became real.”

            In recent weeks, Putin has been speaking of the military as “a reserve force” that he could deploy against the pandemic only if the civilian medical system was at risk of being overwhelmed. But given both the spread of the coronavirus and what is known about pandemics – earlier intervention is more effective than later – his words have sounded “strange,” Golts says.

            That is especially the case if one relies on the promises Shoygu has made about the military’s capabilities in this sector; but it is no surprise if one pays attention to those like the chief of the military-medical administration, General Dmitry Trishkin who has pointed out that all the facilities Shoygu has talked about are for soldiers only, not civilians.

            The military is facing infections and wants to have its own hospitals treat them so that it can hide the extent of the spread of the pandemic in the ranks. Indeed, as the commentator notes, the defense ministry admits cases only when the media have first reported them (

            The high command has good reason to want to hide any infections: It continues to stage exercises that are natural breeding grounds for the spread of the pandemic; and it doesn’t want any delay in the spring draft, even though bringing 135,000  men in at one time will almost certainly lead to a spark in coronavirus cases.

            It is possible, Golts says, that the defense ministry could deploy 10 to 15 brigades of radiological, chemical and biological defense to decontaminate facilities. “This of course is important, but it will not have decisive importance for the struggle with the infection,” even if it is good PR for the military.

            Putin’s request for help now highlights both his own desperation as the pandemic worsens and the fact that “Russia for long years has been preparing to repulse threats which are those of the recent or even distant past and has turned out as a result to be unprepared to struggle with new dangers.”

            As a result, it can provide “nuclear deterrence, but it can’t do anything to contain the infection.”

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