A concluding conference of members of the Academy of Military Sciences (AVN) was conducted at the Defense Ministry last Saturday. This public military-scientific organization has existed in Russia for almost nine years, but only over the past two consecutive years Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has been participating in work of the AVN. The fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the active and retired generals in the former building of the General Staff for the first time over the post-Soviet history gave a political implication to the event. The discussion was dedicated to improvements of the system of military management. In addition to Russian generals, military leaders of Belarus (Colonel General Leonid Maltsev) and Ukraine (Colonel General Olexander Zatynaiko) were invited for the conference to discuss issues of military management.

At the conference, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and some other speakers made a series of significant statements regarding the further directions of military reformation.

Firstly, Sergei Ivanov said that the functions of the General Staff and the Defense Ministry wouldn’t be divided any further. Once again Ivanov reminded the participants that the Defense Ministry, rather than the General Staff remains the main managing security structure in our country. At the same time he noted that the General Staff is overloaded with administrative and management functions and needs to be reformed, under the guidance and control of the Defense Ministry alone. Thus, the minister practically tabooed all conversations concerning the further division of the functions of the Russian Defense Ministry and the General Staff.

It’s hard to tell whether this is good or bad for Russia. It should be noted that in all civilized countries and many CIS states (Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan) the defense ministries is delegated purely civil functions, whereas the General Staff (or similar bodies – committee of staffs, the main headquarters, etc.) has been managing the troops.

Secondly, speaking about the problems of military construction Sergei Ivanov made harsh critical statements regarding the achievements of Russian military science.

“We must admit that up until now military science hasn’t revealed a clear, generalized type of a modern war or a modern armed conflict. Therefore, the Armed Forces of Russia and the superior bodies of military management must be prepared for involvement in any military conflict,” he said at the conference.

“Little was done to understand and, if you wish, predict the nature of a prospective war,” the minister emphasized. According to his view, “modern conflicts and wars are studied inadmissibly little, including the Soviet and US experience in Afghanistan, NATO-led operation in Yugoslavia, and the two Iraq wars. Each of these conflicts differ, has its own dynamics of development and specific behavior. The present-day task of military science is to ascertain their common traits so as to enable valid prediction of the nature of future wars and efficient military planning,” Sergei Ivanov stated.

Army General Anatoly Kvashnin, chief of the Russian General Staff supplemented the defense minister’s theses concerning military science. He said that “much has been said of late about priorities in scientific research and development. However, we are as yet unable to observe resolute concentration of financial, material, technological, scientific and other resources in the spheres of space, means of reconnaissance, communications, identification, navigation, automated control, creation of long-range high precision weapons and ammunition.”

Thirdly, Army General Makhmut Gareyev, president of AVN, verbalized the necessity for inclusion of all military formations (the Ministry of Emergencies, the Interior Forces, etc.) into the structure of the Armed Forces and appointing Russian defense minister as senior deputy commander-in-chief.

Fourthly, AVN president said in favor of preserving military districts as military-strategic commands. At the same time, Gareyev was actively criticizing Andrei Kokoshin, an author of United Russia’s military program for reassessing the role of politics in making military-related decisions in his scientific works.

Fifthly, military leaders of Belarus and Ukraine delivered some important statements about the regularities of military construction. For instance, Belarusian Defense Minister Leonid Maltsev said that issues of reforming the army in Belarus are based on the Russian experience, although they have some specific traits. For instance, the conscription system in Belarus is based on the territorial principle (as is widely known, the extraterritorial principle of conscription is in force in Russia). As regards personnel training, the emphasis is put on military faculties of civil institutions of higher education, rather than military institutions of higher education. Belarus has tremendous achievements in the issues of improving the management and preparation of means of communications. According to Leonid Maltsev, the activities on the creation of computer-aided and protected posts of control over the Belarusian troops are underway now.

Olexander Zatynaiko, chief of the Ukrainian General Staff related peculiarities regarding the reforming of the Ukrainian army. Unlike in Russia, the functions of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff will be divided drastically in Ukraine. The gradual transition towards employment of civilians in the Defense Ministry’s apparatus has been underway.

In his words, the Defense Ministry will be under democratic civilian control. Mobile and independent brigade will become the main tactical unit of the Ukrainian army (vs. regiment, brigade and division in the Russian Armed Forces). The Ukrainian general said that the Armed Forces of his country would in the near future consist of the Air Force, the Navy and the Ground Forces. Involvement in peacekeeping operations is a potential mission for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. This is among the priorities in combat training, chief of the General Staff of Ukraine said.

In his words, priority in development will be given to the rapid response forces. “Some problems with the service, in particular with monetary allowances, were settled in 2002-2003, which provided for an extra incentive to join the contract service,” the Ukrainian general noted. The strength of the Ukrainian army will be reduced to 200,000.

Thus, the concluding AVN conference conducted in Moscow has displayed the proper potential of the Russian military science. The main aspects of reforming our country’s military organization have been finished, although the changes will be implemented in the military sphere. By 2007, some units will become professional; the system of military management will be improved along with researching new kinds of weapons and ammunition.