Washington (UPI) Jun 5, 2008
Gen. Nikolai Makarov has replaced tough, old Gen. Yury Baluyevsky as the chief of staff of Russia's armed forces and has been tasked with rapidly modernizing them -- but the odds are against him.
Despite all the stories of gloom and doom about them that regularly appear in the Western media, the Russian armed forces are still one of the most formidable and important factors of military power on the planet and the most powerful and effective land force across all of Eurasia.
They don't have enough modern equipment and they are modernizing excruciatingly slowly. But what they have is state of the art, especially in Main Battle Tanks, heavy artillery and close ground tactical air support. Their multiple-launch rocket mortar forces are without parallel in any other armed force in the world.
However, modernization has not been going remotely as fast as former Russian President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would like. That is one reason Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has shoehorned out four-star Army Gen. Baluyevsky and replaced him with four-star Army Gen. Makarov.
According to a June 3 report from RIA Novosti, Russian analysts generally interpret Makarov's appointment as meaning there will be a major new drive to upgrade the Russian army's operating procedures, officer and troop training, and procurement procedures.
Makarov enjoys Defense Minister Serdyukov's full confidence and previously worked very closely with him as deputy defense minister. By contrast, Baluyevsky, who has very publicly led Russia's so far unsuccessful campaign to prevent the United States from deploying Ground-based Mid-course Interceptors in Central Europe, worked very closely with Serdyukov's predecessor as defense minister, Sergei Ivanov.
Baluyevsky has now been kicked upstairs to the essentially powerless position of deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council.
Makarov also got the job because his specialty has been solving the bottleneck problems of industrial production, spare parts and supply that have bedeviled Putin's efforts to revive Russia's military might. Makarov previously ran the Russian military's Armed Forces Procurement operations.
Three-star Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, president of the Russian Academy of Geopolitical Studies, told RIA Novosti in an interview that Makarov would focus on seeking to "reverse the negative, destructive trends that are now plaguing the armed forces, and stop the technical degradation of the army and navy."
Ivashov confirmed the assessment of leading U.S. military experts that the Russian military "has an acute shortage of new weaponry and military equipment, ammunition and other technical systems."
However, Ivashov also expressed confidence that Makarov would be able to overcome the Herculean problems he is facing.
Makarov will certainly not lack financial resources. Putin, on the day he was sworn in as prime minister within 24 hours of handing over the presidency of Russia to his handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, pledged to boost the country's defenses. With oil prices still well over $120 per barrel and Russia benefiting from them as the second-largest oil producer and exporting power in the world, Makarov will certainly get all the funding he needs.
Unlike Baluyevsky, Makarov is an acknowledged expert in the very areas where the problems are worst -- industrial production and timetables for supplying weapons and other equipment. And unlike Baluyevsky, whose unease and discontent with Serdyukov was common knowledge around Moscow, Makarov also enjoys a warm and close working relationship with the defense minister.
But the problems he faces are so intractable that he will need all the help he can get.
earlier related report
Russia's Prime Minister and former President Vladimir Putin lost faith last year in his Westernized, technocratic defense minister, Sergei Ivanov, and kicked him upstairs to the post of first deputy prime minister, replacing him with current Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.
Putin had wanted Ivanov to transform and streamline the Russian armed forces, but he had failed to do so. And as first deputy prime minister, Ivanov was tasked with concentrating on helping solve the disastrous and widespread delays in production and development of Russia's most advanced weapons systems, such as the S-400 anti-aircraft and anti-missile interceptors.
The S-400s are reputed to be the best weapons system of their kind in the world, but so far only one force of them has been operationally deployed to defend Moscow, and productions schedules for further production and deployment remain woefully slow.
Now Serdyukov has fired veteran armed forces Chief of Staff Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, a brilliant strategic mind and blunt, tough-talking soldier, and replaced him with fellow four-star Army Gen. Nikolai Makarov.
Makarov has something of a comparable reputation to U.S. four-star Gen. David Petraeus, who has so successfully transformed the fortunes of U.S. forces fighting counterinsurgency operations in central Iraq over the past year and a half. Like Petraeus, he is regarded as an exceptionally brilliant intellectual soldier with flexible, unconventional views on military force deployment who also has a first-class reputation in the field.
Russian military analyst Ilya Kramnik, writing for RIA Novosti, noted this week that Makarov "is viewed by many who have worked with him as one of Russia's best generals. He rose through the ranks from platoon commander to head of a military district. His record includes service in Tajikistan and the special Kaliningrad region, where he was deputy Baltic Fleet commander for ground and coastal troops."
Kramnik also noted that Makarov bucks conventional Russian military thinking by putting great emphasis on training and educating troops in his commands. This was an issue that the old Soviet army and the Russian army traditionally have ignored, except for very small elite units.
Makarov also believes in having flexible armed forces that, like the 21st century U.S. armed forces, are designed to work flexibly and be interoperable with units and elements from other arms of the Russian military in specialized task forces quickly assembled to perform designated missions.
Most of all, however, as respected Russian analyst Pavel Felgenhauer noted this week in an analysis for the Washington-based Jamestown Foundation, "Makarov has the right military career qualifications to be accepted as chief of general staff by the military, but his main asset is his presumed loyalty to Serdyukov."
Former Chief of Staff Baluyevsky, Felgenhauer noted, was close to and had a warm and effective working relationship with then Defense Minister Ivanov from 2004 to 2007.
However, over the past 16 months Gen. Baluyevsky and his new boss, current Defense Minister Serdyukov, have clashed often, especially over Serdyukov's determination to move key command facilities and offices from Moscow northwest to St. Petersburg. Also, Serdyukov and Putin saw Baluyevsky as lacking interest or drive in upgrading the living standards of Russian servicemen and their families, neglecting their education and, in general, failing to share their vision of a streamlined, leaner, far more efficient Russian military.
But it remains to be seen if the new Serdyukov-Makarov team can deliver the goods.
Next: Solving the morale problem
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Russia to export six billion dollars in weapons in 2008
Moscow (AFP) June 8, 2008
Russia's public arms export agency, Rosoboronexport, will ship at least six billion dollars worth of weapons abroad this year, a Russian official told Interfax agency on Sunday.
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