ROAR: Russian armed forces’ command “to follow US example”

The creation of strategic commands in Russia furthers the reform of the armed forces and eliminates the Soviet-era military structure.

President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree ordering the creation of four joint strategic commands and a unified logistical system. The strategic command centers will be formed by December 1, Chief of the General Staff Nikolay Makarov said on July 14.

According to Makarov, a large number of overlapping structures have already been abolished and the number of levels of command in the Russian armed forces has already been reduced from 11 to three.

The four strategic commands – West, East, South and Center – will be created in the strategic directions by the end of the year based on six Russian military districts. Thus, the new command system of the armed forces has been fully completed, Kommersant daily said.

One should only welcome the elimination of an archaic and very complicated structure of command,” said Vitaly Shlykov, Chairman of the Commission on Security Policy and an expert on military legislation under the Defense Ministry. “The creation of a unified command in a strategic direction is a method approved in all Western armies,” he told the paper.

However, Vasily Zatsepin of the Institute for Economy in Transition believes that such reorganization is “just an experiment.” It is not clear if the new form of command will be effective in case of real military activities, he said.

The Russian armed forces will now be commanded in the US manner, Baltinfo news agency said. The new strategic commands will incorporate land force, air force, anti-aircraft defense and fleet, it added. Analysts believe that the need for such changes has been long overdue.

Many countries have already abandoned the system of military districts, including Belarus and Kazakhstan, said Aleksandr Khramchikhin of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis. Among other things, these changes will allow military commanders to abandon many administrative functions, he told the agency.

This kind of command was developed in the United States, and then other countries started to use it, historian Sergey Pereslegin told the agency. He believes that the process of enlargement of military districts is “natural and long-awaited.”

At the same time, the changes in the Russian armed forces may have both positive and negative consequences, the analyst believes. “On the one hand, the system may be more stable, but less flexible,” he said.

But the unification of land forces and fleet in one command is also “rational,” Pereslegin said, because “our navy strategy has been almost always linked to that of land forces,” he said. “Periods in which the fleet played a more or less independent part are not too long,” he added.

Some analysts are skeptical about the changes. The creation of strategic commands will not improve the situation, believes President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems Leonid Ivashov. “All the military reforms that have been conducted recently have not brought positive results,” he told Baltinfo.

Military districts were established in Russia during the reforms of Tsar Aleksandr II in 1862-1864, the agency recalls. After the end of WWII more than 30 districts were created, but their number was reduced by 1948. There were 16 military districts in the Soviet Union in 1983. After the USSR broke up in 1991, six military districts were created in Russia.

The unification of districts in strategic commands is being conducted as part of the reform of the Russian armed forces. It includes five main tasks, Vremya Novostey daily said, in the first stage, all the units should become prepared for military actions and the number of officers will be reduced.

In the second stage, the armed forces should obtain modern weapons and defense technology. The third task concerns the preparation of new officers and sergeants and the reform of military educational institutions.

The fourth stage includes the establishment of programs for the preparation of units for new forms of combat activities. The fifth task involves creating better social conditions for servicemen.

The first task has been practically fulfilled, the paper said. All the structural reforms will be completed in 2010. By the end of next year, the reform of military educational institutions will end.

However, with a new structure in place, the command system may become “even more complicated,” Vedomosti daily said, citing analysts. After the first stage of the reform the creation of strategic commands has become inevitable because objects of control have been reduced, Igor Korotchenko, a member of the Public Board of the Defense Ministry, said. “But the new system should be equipped with modern means of communication and control, otherwise it will not be stable,” he told the daily.

The president has also appointed Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Dmitry Bulgakov as chief of the Integrated Logistic Support System. Last month, Vladimir Popovkin was appointed First Deputy Defense Minister in charge of arms procurement.

Analysts believe the new appointments should contribute to the fight against corruption connected to material procurement in the armed forces. The current reform should eliminate corruption schemes.

First, the task was set to put a barrier between corrupt officials and business circles,” Rosbalt news agency said. In 2010, the Defense Ministry returned to the old system of work with producers, “which lacks independent control over procurement of weapons and defense technology,” the agency noted.

Dividing the control between military and civil officials in the Defense Ministry may contribute to the fight against corruption, observers believe. Vitaly Shlykov told the agency that this practice exists in other countries, and “Russia, at last, has taken a right decision on this issue.”

Control of the economic part of the Defense Ministry’s activities requires experience and special knowledge, Shlykov said. “And servicemen should devote themselves to improving their combat skills.”

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT