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  • Happy That Russian Military Modernization is Failing

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on April 23rd, 2011 (All posts by )

    I read an article a few days ago that positively buoyed my spirits – this WSJ article titled

    “Russia’s Fading Army Fights Losing Battle to Reform Itself”

    Russia was attempting to move away from an all-conscription army and towards a mix of volunteers and conscripted soldiers. In common parlance an all-conscription army generally has poorer morale and is less able to run high technology equipment that is necessary for today’s battlefield. In addition, draft evasion is high and there is a great deal of incentive to avoid conscription due to its brutal nature as practiced by Russian officers, who commonly physically abuse the draftees as well as extorting their pay. From the article:

    The enlistment drive’s failure puts constraints on Russia’s reach. When ethnic rioting in June threatened to tear Kyrgyzstan apart, its president appealed for Russian peacekeepers, the kind of force Moscow once deployed routinely as a political tool. This time the Kremlin demurred—in part, defense analysts say, because the army couldn’t spare a full brigade of professional soldiers.

    I remember books from the 70′s about how America’s post-Vietnam war fighting was being crippled by the difficulties of the transition from a conscription-based army to an all-volunteer army. Someone who is closer to this could provide better information but I’d say it wasn’t until the first Iraq war that we’d made this type of long term change and worked effectively into an all-volunteer army that was capable of dealing with wartime issues.

    While we currently are not having significant difficulties with Russia, their invasion of Georgia shows that they are capable of projecting force to protect their interests, and often their interests are not compatible with their neighbors. It is generally good news for the US that this modernization effort failed; how you can run a high technology army with integrated command control consisting of demoralized conscripts that represent the “bottom of the barrel” since all others desperately try to avoid the draft, is beyond me.

    Another element I found surprising is that individual Russian soldiers spoke about their conditions in the army and were named…. this takes a lot of bravery in Putin’s Russia today and I hope that they escape with their lives.

     

    24 Responses to “Happy That Russian Military Modernization is Failing”

    1. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Russia is well on the way to becoming a basket case. The demographic, moral, and health collapse have gone to far to be easily reversed.

      My take on Russian strategy is that they need to focus on their own problems, and stop trying to be the super power they once were. A country that is being hollowed out from the inside, need not maintain ICBMs etc. What they should do is:

      1. Retreat gracefully and economically from East Asia. They could sell Sakhalin to the Japanese and Siberia east of Lake Baikal to China. More compact boundaries are cheaper to defend. They don’t have enough young men to defend their 6.6 million square miles. Even with those sales, it would probably still be the largest country by area.

      2. Aggressively Russianize the non-Russian peoples of Central Asia such as the Chechens. I know that is not PC., but Russia cannot survive with an aggrieved and aggressive Muslim minority. Education should be solely in Russian, Muslim religious instruction should be suppressed, evangelism should be encouraged.

      “An Evangelical Preacher’s Message Catches Fire in Ukraine” by Clifford J. Levy in the New York Times on April 23, 2011 at page A7; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/23/world/europe/23kiev.html

      His name is Sunday Adelaja he is an immigrant from Nigeria. He learned Russian as a student in the old Soviet Union.

      The current generation of leadership still dreams of Soviet Glory, and is much to preoccupied with stealing everything in sight.

    2. Carl from Chicago Says:

      Hmmm… I wasn’t really writing this to give advice to the Russians. Generally the Russians are on the opposite side of history from the US and the West and our values.

      The Russians provided a critical bulwark against continental powers for centuries from Napoleon to Hitler. You could say that they saved the Allies in WW1 when the Germans lost their nerve and sent troops East before overrunning France even though they fell in WW1.

      The difficulty with the Russians is that they actively punish those that are their allies and haven’t been able to integrate them. The break with Ukraine was catastrophic for them. Apparently to know the Russians is to crave space and distance from them.

      The Russians won’t give up a speck of power easily. They will hold their ICBM’s until their last breath. Being unable to force matters “on the ground” other than with the threat of nuclear incineration should hold them a bit in check, though.

      Agreed in the long term their problems aren’t us – they are the Chinese and the rise of Asia.

    3. Anonymous Says:

      Generally Carl, Russia has been ‘on our side’ since 9/11, they were the first country to offer bases and bombing transit on that day with a phone call from Putin to Bush. They’ve been pumping oil flat out since then, not out fo the kindness of their hearts, but if their oil output were still where it was during the 1990s the world would already have $200 a barrel or more. And who do you think gave Israel the plans to Bushehr and crippled that reactor, and passed on StuxNet into their system?

      Everyone seems to forget that in the U.S. — the incessesant neocon propaganda that Russia is America’s perpetual enemy just grinds on, like the fossilized donors who fund the Jamestown Foundation and other Cold War relics.

      All I can say to you, Safranski, and other ChicagoBoyz — you better pray that what happened to Russia during the 1990s does not happen to us. Because some of the same players – here’s looking at you George Soros – seem to be planning for that very thing to happen. Hyperinflation, followed by national humiliation, the shriveled if not fatally weakened military you describe in this post, American mail order brides suddenly saying masses of jobless American men are useless and have taken to the bottle, etc. Just because Washington seems determined to commit fiscal and monetary suicide doesn’t mean no one is standing in the shadows handing the politicians a loaded gun and saying, “Go ahead, do it.” Or do you think there’s a reason Soros funds MoveOn.org to defend massive spending while massively shorting the dollar? These guys became billionaires by not taking ‘risks’, but by playing the insider tips. In Soros case, he probably rendered some services to Uncle Sam i.e. funding the Orange Revolution — in return for his spectacular bets against the baht, ruble and pound. The Russians with great justification view him as a mirror image of their own Kremlin-friendly oligarchs, if not worse.

      If you want my take on Russia, read David P. Goldman (aka ‘Spengler’s) article ‘Putin for President’, or his article from 2007 on what Putin ought to have told Bush at Kennebunkport.

      You are talking about Russia as if this is still 1985, or so. The world has changed drastically and the West needs Russia as an ally, though perhaps Russia needs what’s left of the West more. I’m not so sure which one will be hollowed out faster, simply because Russia has already experienced the collapse of a materialist system (Soviet communism) whereas the U.S. still hasn’t witnessed the final death of corporatism, whether it be of the Democrat ‘socialist’ or Republican ‘militarist’ variety.

    4. Carl from Chicago Says:

      Umm… wondering where this is coming from.

      I am not talking about Russia like it was 1985 and I wasn’t talking about US economic policies either. I am quite aware of the differences between 1985 and 2011.

      I was specifically mentioning their military capabilities,since they tend to use them against their nearby neighbors, such as Georgia.

      To say that Russia is acting as an ally of the US today is a stretch. At times we have had common interests but those common interests have waned since 9/11. It is absolutely true that relations are far better than the cold war nadir.

      Russia isn’t pumping oil to save us; they are pumping oil to save themselves and enrich their leadership.

    5. Jim Bennett Says:

      The last thing in the world we want is for the Chinese to get possession of Siberia, particularly the far eastern part (technically, not Siberia) on the Bering Straits opposite Alaska. If the Russians really collapse in the far east we would do well to sponsor a buffer state in the far-eastern part run by the Russians living there, which we would assist and help develop economically but not annex. (Even worse than a sea frontier with China would be a land frontier with China.) Right now Russia itself is serving as the buffer state there, and that is tolerable, but the substantial resources in the area are not being efficiently exploited. One way or another, that problem will be resolved before too long.

    6. zenpundit Says:

      Anon wrote:

      “All I can say to you, Safranski, and other ChicagoBoyz — you better pray that what happened to Russia during the 1990s does not happen to us. Because some of the same players – here’s looking at you George Soros – seem to be planning for that very thing to happen”

      Hmmmm….not sure how I was drawn into this, as I was not a fan of McCain’s loopy position on Georgia and said why it was inane at a major conservative site, but yes, there are some oligarchical billionaires – more than just Soros – trying to destroy the dollar as the reserve currency and hollow out the US in order to offload the toxic debts held by the finance industry.
      They are running into the friction of the fear of “operating without a net” if the dollar suddenly goes south and from other powerful global players who hold vast amounts of dollars. China is not keen on the dollar crashing.

      Unfortunately, our administration and the Fed, see limited devaluation as quiet repudiation of USG debt down to tolerable levels – this is partly why public pension systems are under coordinated political attack. If you intend to deliberately crash the dollar, you want to be free of having to pay ppl in the newly re-established, post-crash, currency. You want the middle class to “eat the cost” of depreciation by pushing them into current value dollar 401(k)s NOW that will be depreciated instead of giving them future payouts in 20-30 years. Not unlike the generation of Russians who had their life savings and pensions completely wiped out by Yeltsin’s fiat to make up for what Russia’s oligarch’s had looted as exported to the Western banking industry.

    7. Kenn Stevens Says:

      In my humble opinion, the most worrying aspect to come out from Russia in the last 3-5yrs is the growing face of fascism & the suppression of the free press. Both of which are supported by the state!
      With the use of violence to suppress any political opinion other than Putins’ – along with his belief that he deserves godlike status in the country – the mix has to be considered extremely toxic, much like the rise of Hitler & his murderous Nazi party in 30′s Germany!

      This may not be of initial concern to a major power like the USA, but it is worrying Europe.

      Taking into account that history has a nasty reputation for repeating itself, the Russian bear is pushing its weight a little too much & Europe alone does not have the stability, ability nor strength to keep the bear in its cage, & Putin knows it!

      With the Russians holding veto at the UN you can be pretty sure that the organisation with no bite & little bark will not be able to convince Putin to stick to a road of peace. Eventually the UN will go the same way as the League of Nations!

      When that happens, so will war!

    8. Tatyana Says:

      Robert, your whole #2 has been done; starting in Tsarist times, and continuing, with variation on a theme (since coming from officially atheist state) during 80+ years of Soviet rule. Who, do you think, built all these universities and schools, freed women, liberalized education, industrialized all these countries? The result – on the surface westernized peoples, in reality, as seen by barbaric bloodbaths against christians in Central Asian and Pre-Caucasian republics at the end of 80′s – nothing changed. Underneath civil suite, russified name civilized manners there is still dagger-wielding savage, with his tribal worldview and its consequences.

    9. Gerry From Valpo Says:

      Ordering!!

      I’d like a Stoli Gibson…make it a double…with extra onions, please.

      http://www.idrink.com/v.html?id=1974

    10. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Does anyone know if there is any truth to the story of the Oprichnina as the secret society that has existed since Ivan the Terrible ? I am a fan of the WEB Griffin novels. His series about the Army aviation history and about the Marines in WWII are both very accurate, to the point of street addresses in the military housing areas. He has written a series that has gotten very specific about Putin and the Oil for Food story. I wonder if there is anything to his theme.

      It seems that the KGB has had much of the power in post Soviet Russia. I wonder if the other story could be part of it.

    11. onparkstreet Says:

      All I can say to you, Safranski, and other ChicagoBoyz…Anonymous

      I’m with zen on this. How did all we other CBz (and girlz) get drawn into this? There is no set editorial policy around this group libertarian/conservative/and other blog and no one exactly jumped for joy over McCain’s Georgia positioning around here as I recall.

      Popular topics among commenters and posters include:

      1. The Anglosphere (a post Cold War way of thinking about the world);

      2. The foolishness of the DC foreign policy establishment’s South Asia policies – in particular, “AfPak” policy as stemming from old Cold War relationships;

      3. And a whole bunch of other things that have nothing to do with Russia, but certainly don’t portray Russia today as equivalent to the old Soviet Union.

      ????

      Interesting post, Carl. Thanks.

      - Madhu

    12. onparkstreet Says:

      Correction to my above comment:

      3. And a whole bunch of other things that have nothing to do with Russia

      4. Other posts about Europe that don’t portray Russia today as equivalent to the old Soviet Union.

      - Madhu

    13. onparkstreet Says:

      @ Anonymous

      Here is part of a blog post I did some time back:

      3. The sometimes head-scratching priorities and decision-making of American officials: Yet the revelation doesn’t fully explain why the U.S. military and executive and congressional branches have consistently made bad calls on Pakistan because this has been going on for more than a half century — ever since the U.S. first became involved with Pakistan. Yet these bad calls weren’t seen as such until NATO floundered in Afghanistan. That finally put a crimp in the style of Washington’s anti-Russia crowd but over decades the crowd and its counterpart in Europe looked the other way while Pakistan ran riot because they saw the country as a weapon first against the Soviet Union then against Russia.

      http://chicagoboyz.net/archives/17955.html

      The above is from blogger Pundia which I included it in my linked post.

      But Russia is not a part of the world I know a thing about so I appreciate different points of view.

      - Madhu

    14. onparkstreet Says:

      I don’t know a thing about. Oh, forget it. I always make so many mistakes in my comments and it drives me crazy. Preview wouldn’t help because sometimes I hit post by accident instead of preview on other blogs where I comment.

      : )

      - Madhu

    15. Michael Kennedy Says:

      Michael Totten has some very good blog posts on the invasion of Georgia that were written at the time.

    16. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Carl from Chicago: “I wasn’t really writing this to give advice to the Russians.”

      No, but you raised a fascinating strategic problem. I like to look at it from their viewpoint.

      “Generally the Russians are on the opposite side of history from the US and the West and our values.”

      Well, Russia is a European country, and in a world where the major issues seem to be in Asia, they should want to get along with us. I was sure that after the beginning of GWoT, and the attacks from the Chechens at the theater in Moscow (Oct 2002) and at Beslan (Sept 2004), they would want to side with US. But, in their dealings with the Iranian nuclear drive, they have acted as if their prime directive was “pimp the US”. They seem to be unaware that there are major Russian cities within a few hundred miles of Iran. If I were they, I would not want the Iranians to have nuclear weapons, under any circumstances.

      Jim Bennett: “The last thing in the world we want is for the Chinese to get possession of Siberia, particularly the far eastern part (technically, not Siberia) on the Bering Straits opposite Alaska.”

      True. But, I was looking at it from their view point. They do not have the men to defend the territory or exploit it. Better to make a deal, than to have the Chinese just take it.

      Tatyana: “Robert, your whole #2 has been done; starting in Tsarist times … Underneath civil suite, russified name civilized manners there is still dagger-wielding savage, with his tribal worldview and its consequences.”

      I did know that. My mother’s grandparents spoke Yiddish at home, but she was raised speaking Russian and learned it in school. OTOH, Soviet nationalities policy had a strong element of letting quiescent peoples be. Things have changed, and they need to redouble their efforts. Here in the US we destroyed tribal cultures by putting them on reservations and selling them fire water. The Russians should undertake similar actions.

      Michael Kennedy: “Does anyone know if there is any truth to the story of the Oprichnina as the secret society that has existed since Ivan the Terrible?”

      I would be extremely skeptical of such a thing. Russia has had a long tradition of autocratic rule. By their nature, autocrats have secret police organizations. But I sincerely doubt that any of the successor organizations to the Oprichniki, which was disbanded by Ivan Groznyi himself, in 1572, would have tolerated the existence of another such organization in any format. Further, there was a 250 year gap between the Oprichniki and the first Tsarist secret police, which were post Napoleonic.

      One of the things that has held Russia’s attempts at development back has been the weakness of institutions outside of the autocracy.

      onparkstreet: “Yet the revelation doesn’t fully explain why the U.S. military and executive and congressional branches have consistently made bad calls on Pakistan because this has been going on for more than a half century — ever since the U.S. first became involved with Pakistan. “Pakistan ran riot because they saw the country as a weapon first against the Soviet Union then against Russia.”

      In the geometry of the cold war, Pakistan was valuable to us. No longer, now it is a failed state as are most Muslim countries. Time to turn it over to the Indians for dismemberment.

    17. ErisGuy Says:

      “Selling Siberia east of Lake Baikal to China” would be an environmentalist’s nightmare.

    18. Tatyana Says:

      Robert,
      that Soviet nationalities policy (russificaiton by force, unavailability of equal education in native languages, potemkin villages of “national cadre” – affirmative action a la russe, etc etc) has been the reason for powerful centrifugal impulse that destroyed the Union. All those republics that were held together by economic considerations and fear of central military retaliation, fell apart exactly because of the nationalistic policies you recommend. Resentment at being kept a second-class citizen stocks up – especially in islamic psyche, where pride is held in higher regard than practical considerations. All those Central-Asian republics quickly became independent countries that joyfully returned to their pre-westernized ways: no separation of mosque and state, tribal ties, nepotism and corruption.
      Believe me, I lived for 15 years in Tatarstan, where local muslim population learned to drink “fire water” and wear miniskirts better than Russian “newcomers” (Ivan Grozny conquered Kazan in 1552), the local youths were mobilized to Afghan front just like conscripts from Baltics and Central Russia and were constantly watched and propagandized against the enemy. All that – and just as soon as it became safe, in the 90s, there appeared resurrection of green banner of the prophet all over Tataria, the mosques were experiencing inflow of cash, and endless stream of volunteers – from safe, peaceful, oil-reach, prosperous, russified Tataria! – appeared in Chechnya, Abhazia and Dagestan.

      This policy has been proven quite wrong, Robert.

    19. Robert Schwartz Says:

      ErisGuy: “‘Selling Siberia east of Lake Baikal to China’ would be an environmentalist’s nightmare.”

      A good reason to do it.

      Tatyana: Here is the problem: Russia will not let the Caucasus go, because that is where the oil is. But, the Caucasus contain Muslims, and Muslims cannot live as a minority in a free civil society. If they cannot be assimilated, they will have to be exterminated, and I am sure the Russians will do it. I am urging them to try to assimilate in a more thorough way than they have in the past. But, if they don’t want to, or can’t, they will have to at least kill all the men over the age of puberty and sell the women to China or India.

    20. Tatyana Says:

      Robert, you made me laugh – and today is rather hard day for that. I wish I could send your advice to @LiveJournal chattering classes – I can just imagine the effect! that anthill will explode!

    21. Ralf Goergens Says:

      The Soviet Union originally voted in the UN for the establishment of Israel as a sovereign country, despite Stalin’s anti-Semitism. It continued to support the country until the Soviet leadership judged that it would be more opportune to appease the various Muslim peoples inside Soviet borders by switching sides to the Arabs.

    22. Ralf Goergens Says:

      Fine the comment above all by itself comes close to a non-sequitur, so I should add that by dissolving the Soviet Union, Russian and other European peoples separated (reverse separatism?) themselves from certain non-European ethnic groups.

    23. Anonymous Says:

      Ralf, you are correct. I cannot find a link to Richard Hellie, The Soviet Role in the Creation of Israel Reconsidered, which is very good on this point.

    24. Ralf Goergens Says:

      Thanks, I ‘ll try googling for it.