PLUSES AND MINUSES OF MILITARY REFORM IN UZBEKISTAN

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Uzbekistan has become the first former Soviet republic to return to some principles of the Soviet model of the Armed Forces command. Like the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan has united all security agencies of the country with the common command. Henceforth actually all security agencies can be called Armed Forces, because by his decree the President has organized the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces. What are the benefits of this decision?

First, henceforth all security agencies of the country will be commanded from the common center, which means that effectiveness of their application will grow. Second, the quality of combat training and military personnel education will grow, because the standardized corrected plans coordinated with other security agencies will be in effect. Third, logistics, medical support, and other kinds of troops support will become less expensive, because duplication and organization of parallel auxiliary structures is excluded.

Russia has not made such steps yet, although the General Staff already advocates organization of a unified logistics system for all security agencies of the country, standardization of personnel training and medical support. The legislators have not made the relevant decisions yet, although the experimental unified logistics and command system is actually operating in Chechnya. The President only needs to apply such scheme to all Armed Forces. However, the next meeting of the Security Council will be organized only in a month. It is unknown whether the Security Council will discuss integration of security agencies.

In this field Uzbekistan acts more dynamically. Between 1995 and 1996, Uzbek leadership decided that during special periods commanders of military districts should become commanders of all units and formations of security agencies deployed in the territory of their military district. In summer and autumn 2000, commanders of the Southeastern Special and Eastern military districts performed exactly such functions during organization of resistance to Islamic militants. Tashkent has decided that all security agencies should be commanded from the same center even in peacetime. That is why the General Staff in Uzbekistan has been transformed into the Joined Staff of the Armed Forces. The country’s leadership also plans to thoroughly divide its functions and functions of the Defense Ministry.

The Joint Staff will perform the function of the tactical and strategic planning and combat application of troops. The Defense Ministry will perform the function of the Armed Forces administration.

According to Uzbek mass media, “such division of functions complies with the processes of democratization and principles of building of a strong civil society, and has to activate the mechanism of civil control over the military buildup in the country.” There is nothing antidemocratic in division of functions of the General Staff and Defense Ministry in Uzbekistan, but we can hardly agree that giving of the status of a body of administrative control over the Armed Forces to the Defense Ministry is associated with the mechanism of establishment of civil control over the military buildup process. In a democratic society political institutions should manage the military buildup in a country, and not the defense ministry itself. Political institutions should also secure civil control over the Defense Ministry and the General Staff.

Concentration of command of all security agencies of a country in a single place, like it is done in Uzbekistan, is not a very democratic procedure. In a democratic society all security agencies exist independently, and are not subordinated to the common command, because such unification may make the military a corporate body, which in turn may stimulate a possible military coup. According to military experts, this very circumstance is the main obstacle in the path of integration of security agencies in Russia, on which the General Staff insists. Its experts have frequently announced that it is necessary to give to the General Staff not only the status of coordinator of all security agencies of the country, but also the main administrator of all security agencies.

President Putin has said, “This will never happen,” but excessive “ignoring” of the role of the General Staff and adding of independence to other security agencies leads to excessive expenditures. For example, the Russian Armed Forces liquidate pilot schools, but on their basis the Border Guards plan to train their pilots, although pilots can be trained in the schools common for all security agencies. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan has solved this problem for itself despite some drawbacks.

During the years of post-Soviet existence Uzbekistan organized military districts in the most important districts, redeployed the troops, established a system for coordination and close collaboration of all security agencies. Uzbekistan also approved a new organizational structure of the Armed Forces. According to Uzbek experts, this structure is based on the principles of mobility, quick reaction, and self-sustainability of military units. All basic models and mechanisms of the new model, say officers of the Uzbek Defense Ministry, have been tested during numerous exercises and antiterrorist operations. Results of the first two stages of reforms have enabled Uzbek authorities to smoothly transit to the next one, that is, improvement of the system of Armed Forces command.

Colonel Kadyr Gulamov, the new Defense Minister of Uzbekistan, says “The goal of this stage is organization of the unified system for command over all branches of the Armed Forces and other troops, as well as provision of their close cooperation and maximum effective application in strengthening of security and territorial integrity of the state.”

President Islam Karimov appointed Gulamov the Defense Minister on September 29. Despite his officer post (Gulamov has been appointed the Director of the Academy of the Armed Forces of Uzbekistan) Gulamov has been known as a physicist and academician of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, which has managed the unique research and production association Sun Physics for many years.

Uzbek observers say that appointment of Gulamov is associated with transformation of the Defense Ministry into a civil agency. Maybe they are right. However, a reform of the system for command over the military organization of a country can be considered half accomplished because, according to many observers, Uzbek leadership has failed to solve other problems of the military buildup, that is, to organize combat-ready forces which is the main criteria for effectiveness of military reform.

According to Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, “before the breakup of the Soviet Union, the strata of Uzbek officers in the Soviet Armed Forces was thin, and the share of Uzbek soldiers in some units totaled 60-70%. When Uzbek leadership conducted the military reform between 1992 and 1995, it did not prevent emigration of highly skilled Slavic officers from the country. As a rule, ethnic Uzbek personnel was enlisted instead of them, that is, officers from the reserve and graduates of military faculties of civil higher educational institutions who had not enough military culture, knowledge and skills.” According to Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, this circumstance was the major reason of low combat capability of Uzbek forces. A number of serious military catastrophes happened in Uzbekistan over the last few years. The latter of them occurred in late September near Sarasiya village (Surkhandarya Region). A Mi-8 helicopter, which transported a team of special forces, crashed there killing seven servicemen of the Defense Ministry and the helicopter’s crew (According to witnesses, the personnel reshuffle and appointment of Gulamov on the post of the Defense Minister occurred because of this catastrophe.).

An insufficient training of troops has reportedly been the main reason of deaths of soldiers and officers in combat against militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (In August, 12 servicemen and 6 policemen were killed in the Surkhandarya Region). Many experts explain absence of Uzbek air defense units at international military exercises the Ashuluk testing ground by bad training of Uzbek servicemen (Initially Tashkent announced that it would take part in the exercises).

According to experts to whom Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie refers, the present level of training process in the Armed Forces of Uzbekistan does not enable the country to train highly skilled personnel for the Air Defense Forces and Air Force. Uzbekistan will be able to train such servicemen only in higher educational institutions of Ukraine or Russia. The republic is preparing the relevant agreements. Tashkent understands very well the need for military integration with Moscow, but hopes that it will be able to improve the combat capability of its troops on its own without any military advisors. This is possibly a mistake of the Uzbek leadership.

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