Russia Table of Contents
In the 1990s, the direction of change in the Russian armed forces is toward a smaller and more defense-oriented force almost entirely deployed within the borders of Russia. As of mid-1996, that change was occurring faster than military or civilian leaders could manage. The result was a large armed force with too many officers and not enough enlisted personnel, one unable to provide adequate training, and, according to Russian and Western experts, deficient in purpose and direction. The military leadership remained in the hands of holdovers from the Soviet regime who had failed to adjust to new political and military realities. The force's one strength lay in the sheer numbers of its personnel and the size of its equipment inventory.
The performance of Russia's armed forces in the Chechnya conflict provided a glimpse of the capabilities of Russian ground and air forces. The image is not an impressive one, particularly if evidence on training and force morale is considered.
The social implications of Russia's troop support effort in the mid-1990s are staggering. In the United States, a lack of military housing means that military families have to find homes or apartments in the civilian community. Because that option does not exist in Russia, a military family without military housing is literally homeless. Families of field-grade officers subsist in tents or packing crates salvaged from troop redeployments from Central Europe. In other cases, homeless military families have been sheltered for years at a time in gymnasiums or warehouses set up like emergency shelters. At the end of 1994, an estimated 280,000 military personnel and family members were homeless. Many units live in permanent field conditions under canvas. In 1995 only 2,500 of 5,000 rated pilots in flight-status jobs had apartments. The elite strategic rocket forces (SRF) have not fared much better than the other branches of the armed forces. In 1995 the SRF commander in chief, General Igor' Sergeyev, stated that only fourteen of forty-two apartment blocks needed in 1994 to house his troops and their families had been constructed, leaving 11,000 of his troops unhoused; one year later, 4,000 of his troops still were without housing. In 1996 the overall housing situation worsened.
The impact on military preparedness is immense. The daily lives of officers and enlisted personnel are consumed with providing the means of survival for themselves and their families. This marginal existence provides fertile ground for illegal activities such as trading military property for means of sustenance, or engaging in illicit acts to obtain money earned, but not received, in pay (see Crime in the Military, this ch.). There is little energy, time, funds, matériel, or even motivation to conduct individual or small-unit training.
Soldiers often wait two to four months to be paid, and often only partial pay is issued. According to a complex financial system, Russian commercial banks have responsibility for issuing funds from the Ministry of Defense's budget account to individuals, but the system has proved extremely cumbersome, and substantial amounts of money have simply disappeared or have been long delayed while being processed. The pay level also is unsatisfactory. In early 1996, a Russian pilot holding the rank of major was paid approximately 1.5 million rubles per month, or about US$300. By comparison, a NATO pilot of equivalent rank earned US$6,000 per month.
Force readiness also depends on equipment maintenance and resupply. In 1995 aviation units received only 39 percent of the required fuel, reducing annual flight time by a factor of 3.5. In 1994 the Ministry of Defense purchased only thirty of the 300 aircraft listed as being required, and only one aircraft was purchased in 1995. General Petr Deynekin, air forces commander in chief, has estimated that, at that rate of acquisition and maintenance, the air forces would have no flyable aircraft by 2005.
The naval forces are in approximately the same state of readiness as the air forces. Only one ship, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov , had as much as five months of time at sea in 1994. Other naval sea time training was described as "infrequent." In 1995 nearly 95 percent of the ready naval vessels remained at dockside because of shortages of fuel, ammunition, and crews, and a backlog of repairs. Fuel shortages have caused the Pacific Fleet to cancel visits by single ships to Asian ports, and electricity was cut off to a nuclear submarine base in the Kola Peninsula, nearly causing a serious nuclear accident, because the base could not pay its bills. The Black Sea Fleet was embarrassed when a cruiser in the Mediterranean in 1996 ran out of water and had to request emergency resupply from the United States Navy. The once-proud aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov , the last of the Kiev class in service, was in drydock in 1996 for repair after a serious fire, and there were proposals to sell the ship for scrap or to the Indian navy.
Naval logistics had reached a crisis state by the mid-1990s. In 1996 fuel allocations were reduced by 65 percent from 1995, and rations were cut by 60 percent. Similar cuts were made in funds for maintenance, parts, tools, and batteries. The result was that fleet readiness was reduced by an estimated 30 percent for coastal forces and 50 percent for the blue-water navy.
Russia's four Kirov-class nuclear cruisers have fallen into disuse because they require large crews and are expensive to operate. Of the ships in that category, the Ushakov had been at dockside in its home port, Murmansk, for nearly five years in 1996 because of a lack of spare parts. The Petr Velikiy began sea trials in 1996 after a delay of three years. The Lazarev was scheduled to be refueled in 1996, but scrapping also was considered. Conventionally powered ships also have experienced maintenance difficulties. The Slava-class Marshal Ustinov was in drydock in St. Petersburg for two years for refurbishing, but it was expected to be scrapped for lack of parts and funds.
The air defense forces also have found it difficult to maintain readiness. In February 1996, the commander in chief, General Viktor Prudnikov, admitted that inadequate funding and poor matériel and technical support had lowered his branch's standard of combat readiness. Russia's missile forces receive no systematic daily training, and there is no firing-range practice. Air defense pilots get little flight time, and no funds are available for maintenance or aircraft parts. An estimated 50 percent of Russia's border is unprotected by radar because equipment of the radio-technical forces is inoperable. As of 1996, the air defense forces had not had funds for new orders for two years, and no improvement was expected in the near future.
The readiness condition of the ground forces is comparable to that of the other branches. In 1994 General Vladimir Semenov, commander in chief of the ground forces, admitted that the ground forces lacked the capacity to perform their assigned tasks. The council reported that more than a third of the helicopters cannot fly and that even emergency supplies (war stocks) had been partially consumed. General Semenov has reported that ground forces units are drastically understaffed; motorized rifle regiments, the heart of ground combat power, are said to be understaffed by 60 percent. Semenov has concluded that Russian ground combat units lack adequate personnel to participate in military actions and that full staffing of units would take a prohibitively long time.
Data as of July 1996
Russia Table of Contents