RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES ACCOMPLISH ANOTHER TRAINING YEAR

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The main criteria of troops efficiency are their actions in Chechnya

On November 10-12, a meeting of the Armed Forces top ranking generals was conducted in Moscow. At the final stage of the meeting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with the generals of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff and assured them that the Armed Forces would receive everything required, and the defense issues would receive priority attention. We can believe Putin if we look at parameters of defense spending outlined by the draft budget for 2000.

For the first time after breakup of the Soviet Union almost 40% of military assignments are reserved for financing of the military industrial complex. The structure of the state defense order for 2000 is also changed. Until recently financing of strategic nuclear deterrence forces has been a priority, and up to 80% of assignments for the state defense order were spent on their needs. It is planned that beginning from 2000 the state defense order will comprise two priority directions: assignments for the nuclear deterrence forces, and assignments for purchase of conventional arms including the precision guided weapons.

How will be solved the problems connected with provision of the country’s ability to defend itself? Speaking about strategic directions of Russia’s development in his interview to Kommersant on November 6, Putin announced that “we need not explain attention of the government to the military industrial complex exclusively by the Chechen problem and the wish to switch the economy into the mobilization regime.” Putin says that “the Russian weapons and those who make them represent a resource, a key link by pulling which it will be possible to start pulling out the whole economy. It is impossible to live the whole life on account of gas and oil only. Russia should not be a raw materials appendix to the world economy.” Providing for weapons sale “the government is fulfilling a few tasks.” A huge sector of the industry is rising “deterioration of which started since the time of perestroika,” “Armed Forces are being rearmed, and money is found for the social sphere,” said Putin.

In 1999 the record lowest sum, 2.34%, was assigned by the country’s budget for defense. Of course, this negatively influenced condition of the troops combat training and logistics. Like it was in the past, in critical situations the troops were supplied from emergency reserves, which have already been spent by 40-60%. Armament and combat equipment was aging. Due to underfinancing they were repaired and restored mainly through dismantling of assemblies and spare parts from old armament and equipment.

However the war in Yugoslavia and terrorist acts of militants in the North Caucasus obviously made the country’s authorities look closer at the problems of the Armed Forces. We can point out that for the first time after breakup of the Soviet Union the military budget for 1999 might be fully financed. Moreover, the government decided to place an additional state defense order.

According to the government sources, the additional order of weapons for the Armed Forces in 1999 amounted to 4 billion rubles. The state defense order implies purchase of more effective modern ordnance, electronic reconnaissance and communication systems, as well as effective individual protection means. A certain part of assignments will also be spent on maintenance of armament and combat equipment of the troops deployed in the North Caucasus.

What did the troops do in 1999? The character of combat training of troops in 1999 was seriously influenced by the events in Yugoslavia in spring and summer, as well as terrorist acts of militants in the North Caucasus. The Defense Ministry and General Staff planned and organized the Zapad-99 strategic staff command exercises in late June. In these exercises commanders accomplished the missions similar to those fulfilled by NATO forces in the Balkans. For the first time after breakup of the Soviet Union strategic aviation flew to the Atlantic Ocean and back through the Northern Pole, having performed missile launches and dropped bombs. The troops were also trained to defend the Western and North-Western fronts, and to support and de-block the Kaliningrad Special District. For fulfillment of these tasks provisions were made for organization of an operational command headquarters near Vitebsk (Belarus) where forces and means of the Russian Armed Forces were to be deployed, including one division of the Air Force. In the exercises took part practically all staffs of the country’s security agencies deployed in the European part of the country. Boris Yeltsin highly rated these exercises.

Meanwhile the resources used for the Zapad-99 exercises have exhausted almost the whole reserve of fuel, ordnance, and so on, assigned for the combat training in 1999, which negatively influenced the character of the further combat training of troops. The shortage of fuel and lubricants practically in all Armed Forces branches (except for Strategic Missile Forces) prevented accomplishment of the combat training program: plans of military exercises with firing practice (in companies and battalions) were fulfilled by 70-80% on the average.

Since the mid-August intensity of combat training of the Ground Forces substantially grew, which was caused by beginning of preparation of the combat operation for clearance of Chechnya from terrorists. The troops were trained to organize cooperation between various units, to drive combat vehicles not only at testing grounds but also within columns on cross country at long distances (up to 500 kilometers).

Actually by the beginning of October the major part of the most combat ready units and formations of the Ground Forces has been concentrated in the North Caucasus. According to informed sources, over 90,000 servicemen are currently taking part in combat operations in Chechnya, which is almost 2.5 times more than during the Chechen campaign of 1994-1996. This group includes almost one third of all Ground Forces. Concentration of such a group shows the seriousness of the General Staff plans, and we cannot rule out that the troops will more actively squeeze the militants to the mountains and liberate the plains part of Chechnya.

Besides the Ground Forces, Air Force pilots are also trained to improve their skills of flying aircraft. Intensity of sorties (up to 100 and more per day) enables the pilots to improve their professionalism. Meanwhile, according to Air Force Commander Anatoly Kornukov, the combat airplanes fleet is aging, and the Air Force badly needs precision guided weapons. Only one tenth of the military budget is assigned for the Air Force needs, while the developed countries assign one fourth of the whole military budget for their air forces. It is planned that since 2000 the Russian military budget will stick to these proportions.

For increase of the aviation effectiveness the Air Force will soon start upgrading of the whole fleet of MiG-29, major part of Su-27, MiG-31, SU-25, and a small portion of Su-24 fleet. The upgrading program is intended for two or three years.

Air Force Commander Anatoly Kornukov stressed that the upgrading would cost three or four times less than the purchase of new airplanes. “However, the new airplanes are already available, they are being developed and are undergoing trials, and I think that by the Day of the Air Force (August 2000) we will see them,” added Kornukov.

In 1999 the Strategic Missile Forces performed a few successful launches of new Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile. By the end of 2000 the Armed Forces might place another regiment of Strategic Missile Forces armed with Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles on combat duty. At present 10 Topol-M missiles launchers are already on combat duty in the Tatishchevskaya division of the Strategic Missile Forces (Saratov Region).

In 1999 the Navy performed a range of strategic exercises. In February large anti-submarine warfare ship “Admiral Chabanenko” arrived to its base in the Northern Fleet. Navy Commander Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov announced that combat readiness of the Russian Navy is maintained on the due level. The Navy successfully fulfills the tasks set by the Defense Minister, which was confirmed by the inspection done by the Security Council. According to Kuroedov, as a result of the Navy reforming in 1998 “40,000 vacancies were reduced.” The Navy received 87% of budget financial assignments.

Within the next ten years Russia does not plan any new reductions of the Navy. “The Navy accomplished its structural and organizational transformation in 1998, and this structure will evidently be preserved in the decade to come,” says Kuroedov.

Speaking about the modern condition of the Russian Navy Admiral Kuroedov stressed that it has very promising directions of development, is equal to NATO navies according to armament quality, and has to catch up with them “from the standpoint of quantity.”

Kuroedov noted that during the past few years the structure of the Navy financing was changed. In 1997, 90% of assignments were spent on wages payment, and in 1999 the share of this spending amounts to 60%. Nonetheless, the Navy lacks money for building of new ships, and majority of trends in the Navy activities “are negative.” For example, the modern weapons are supplied “in scarce quantities,” added Kuroedov.

Thus, in 1999 the Armed Forces conducted more intensive combat training. In a short period of time they had to fulfill difficult tasks associated with organization of combat operations in the North Caucasus. The two-link scheme of command (General Staff – staff of the North Caucasus Military District) of the troops in Chechnya (including the troops of other security agencies) has been tested by practice. The troops are currently showing improved combat readiness and controllability, and this confirms that despite a difficult political situation in the country a possibility of emergency situations development is being reduced.

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