Staunton, June 3 – At a time when Vladimir Putin is saying that ever more foreign powers threaten the Russian Federation, Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu sent a very different message when he focused more attention on planning for upcoming military parades than on developing a response to foreign challenges, Aleksandr Golts says.
The independent Russian security analyst says that at the most recent meeting of the defense ministry’s collegium, Shoygu led with a discussion of plans for a series of military parades in the coming months rather than focusing on improving the country’s defenses (ej.ru/?a=note&id=36179).
After talking about parades, the defense minister did provide the now-standard litany of Western threats; but he neither prioritized them nor put them in context by discussing the way in which the actions of the Western powers have been a response to prior Russian actions such as the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine and the Anschluss of Crimea.
Shoygu did say that he was creating 20 new units in the west in order to counter NATO. But he did not add the two most important facts about this: On the one hand, the imbalance of forces there is nothing new; and on the other, creating new units in almost every case reduces rather than increases Russia’s defense capabilities.
The reason for that bitter conclusion, Golts says, is that an increasing number of Russian units are hollow. They have a more or less full complement of officers but only handfuls of soldiers. The idea is that the places of the latter will be filled by a general mobilization in the event of a crisis.
But that is unlikely to happen and creating these units simply provides more career opportunities for officers without improving defense and by spreading spending across more units, such a policy may lead to a decline in the military preparedness and readiness of the units involved.
And things aren’t set to change if the current policy is maintained, the commentator says. “From year to year, the number of draftees is declining – you can’t ignore demography and the number of 18-year-olds is getting ever smaller.” Moreover, the professional soldiers the Kremlin has talked so much about haven’t increased to fill their places. They remain at about 380,000.
The number of officers has increased as has the number of new “’paper divisions’ consisting only of commanders.” Failure to address those real threats means that Russia won’t be in a position to counter any that may come from outside the country sometime in the future and whose appearance will become more likely if Moscow continues its aggressive course.