Russian military re-evaluates its future after Iraq war


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Preacherman
April 16, 2003, 08:25 PM
From the Christian Science Monitor, April 16, 2003 (http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0416/p06s01-woiq.html):

Iraqi defeat jolts Russian military

Defense and policy experts said last week that modernizing the Army is a top priority.

By Fred Weir | Special to The Christian Science Monitor

MOSCOW – In the US's easy defeat of Saddam Hussein's army, Russia sees a lesson for its own conventional forces.
The Iraqi Army - which was cloned from the Red Army in the final decades of the Soviet Union - mounted only a feeble defense before falling apart.

"The key conclusion we must draw from the latest Gulf war is that the obsolete structure of the Russian armed forces has to be urgently changed," says Vladimir Dvorkin, head of the Russian Defense Ministry's official think tank on strategic nuclear policy. "The gap between our capabilities and those of the Americans has been revealed, and it is vast. We are very lucky that Russia has no major enemies at the moment, but the future is impossible to predict, and we must be ready."

The swift victory by mobile, high-tech American forces over heavily armored Iraqi troops dug in to defend large cities like Baghdad has jolted many Russian military planners. "The Iraqi Army was a replica of the Russian Army, and its defeat was not predicted by our generals," says Vitaly Shlykov, a former deputy defense minister of Russia.

Like its Soviet prototype, Iraq's Army was huge but made up mainly of young, poorly trained conscripts. Its battle tactics called for broad frontal warfare, with massed armor and artillery, and a highly centralized command structure. But those forces were trounced in a few days by relatively small numbers of US and British forces, who punched holes in the Iraqi front using precision weapons and seized the country's power centers more rapidly than traditional military thinkers could have imagined. "The military paradigm has changed, and luckily we didn't have to learn that lesson firsthand," says Yevgeny Pashentsev, author of a book on Russian military reform. "The Americans have rewritten the textbook, and every country had better take note."

Last week, the independent Council on Foreign and Defense Policy - a group of top Russian military experts and former policymakers, including Mr. Shlykov - met to assess the implications of the US triumph in Iraq for Russia. Their conclusion: The Kremlin must drop all post-Soviet pretense that Russia remains a superpower, and make rebuilding and redesigning the nation's military forces a top priority. "We cannot afford to postpone this any longer," Boris Nemtsov, head of the liberal Union of Right Forces, told the meeting.

Twelve years after the USSR's collapse, the most unreformed branch of Russian society remains its armed forces. Though its numbers have been halved to about 1.2 million personnel, and its annual budget has dropped to a mere $10 billion, the structure, weaponry, and doctrines of today's Russian military remain those of its Soviet predecessor. Each Russian defense minister since 1991 has pledged sweeping reform, yet more than half of the Army's combat forces remain ill-trained conscripts required to serve for two years for just 100 rubles ($3) a month. Aside from the strategic nuclear forces, no branch of the Russian military has acquired significant quantities of modern weaponry in more than a decade.

According to a Defense Ministry survey in early 2003, cited in the daily Izvestia, more than a third of Russian officers and their families live below the poverty line, and fewer than half of the officers want to remain in the service.

Critics say that military manpower must be at least halved again, and the draft abolished in order to make reform feasible. "We can afford an army comparable to those of France or Britain, but hard decisions must be made," says Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent defense expert. Adequate spending for equipment, training, and payment of professional troops is key, he says.

Others say that Russia also must define a clear post-Soviet security doctrine. "How can we reform our Army when we have not defined the threats it must deal with?" says Mr. Dvorkin. "We must first identify our national interests, then we'll know who our enemies might be."

As the US prepared to invade Iraq, many Russian military experts warned that American forces would come to grief in the streets of Iraqi cities. Some predicted the battle of Baghdad would resemble the Russian Army's two assaults on the Chechen capital of Grozny - in 1995 and again in 2000 - each of which lasted more than a month and cost hundreds of Russian casualties.

Early in the Iraq war, the Russian online newspaper Gazeta.ru reported that two retired Soviet generals may have played a key role in designing Iraq's defenses. The paper published photos of Vladimir Achalov, an expert in urban warfare, and Igor Maltsev, a specialist in air defenses, receiving medals from Iraq's defense minister two weeks before the war began. Russian TV later quoted General Maltsev as saying "the American invaders will be buried in the streets of Baghdad."

Some in Russia's military establishment still appear reluctant to accept the sweeping military verdict in Iraq. "I think American dollars won the war, it was not a military victory," says Gen. Makhmut Gareyev, president of the official Academy of Military Sciences in Moscow. "The Americans bought the Iraqi military leadership with dollars. One can only envy a state that is so rich."

But others are obviously shaken. "Thank God our public has finally begun to discuss the state of the Army," General Vladimir Shamanov, who commanded Russian troops in two Chechnya wars, told a Moscow radio station after the extent of the US-led triumph in Iraq became clear last week. "Maybe our strategic nuclear forces will protect the country for another decade, but then what? A strong Russia is impossible without a strong army."

One bright note for Moscow, however, is a report that Iraqi forces used Russian-made, laser-guided antitank missiles to destroy several Abrams tanks during the US attack. This could boost profits for Russian armsmakers, who are already receiving inquiries from Syria and Iran, according to Shlykov.

The US has complained that Russia supplied Iraq with defense equipment in violation of UN sanctions. "As a result of the Iraq war and accusations of illegal Russian arms deliveries, applications for Russian weapons have soared," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said last week.

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Drizzt
April 16, 2003, 08:40 PM
I've always felt that the liberation of Kuwait did a whole lot towards speeding up the final demise of the Soviet Union. They had always made such a big deal about the Soviet Union being necessary to counter American 'agression', then they saw how we could roll right over them anyhow, and figured it just wasn't worth it anymore....

WonderNine
April 16, 2003, 11:15 PM
It's funny how they didn't come to this conclusion after the first Gulf War :scrutiny:

If they spent $300 billion + on defense every year they would have a pretty kickass army too.

CZ-75
April 16, 2003, 11:32 PM
They DID come to this conclusion after Gulf War I, they just forgot or didn't do enough.



A strong Russia is impossible without a strong army

And how will they pay that army? Tractor parts or vodka, when they are paid at all, just won't cut it.

They should massively cut their forces and rely on nukes, both on land and at sea, to provide deterence. Any money saved should be plowed into collecting taxes and trying to jump-start their economy. I'd like to see full-scale production of new Makarovs be a priority. :D

Jeff White
April 17, 2003, 12:54 AM
Gulf Wars I and II were not really a test of Soviet Doctrine and equipment. Their doctrine assumed that their soldiers would actually fight.

The 11th Armored Calvary Regiment beats the best our Army has to give about 9 times a year. And they use 1970s technology.

The Russian economy won't support any modernization anyway..so it's pretty much a moot point.

Jeff

John G
April 17, 2003, 02:04 AM
The fellas at NTC and JRTC win not because of a mastery of Soviet doctrine, but because they know how to "play the MILES game." The home field advantage doesn't hurt either. They know where the enemy is, because its where they always are.

Deadman
April 17, 2003, 08:27 AM
Hell, I thought the whole point of Russia's current pact with China was to get the Chinese to do all the fighting. :p


If there is one negative aspect of the Coalitions victory in Iraq, it's that the use of NBC weaponry by rogue states/elements is now so much more attractive/necessary if those rogue states are to have any sort of chance.
Afterall one large scale EMP blast at the start of the current Iraqi campaign would have leveled the playing field by a large margin.


Personaly I wouldn't put too much credence into anything those Soviet defence officials say. Sun Tzu's philosophy is all about feigning weakness, confusion, disorder etc. And God knows the Soviets love to tell their enemies what said enemies want to hear.

KMKeller
April 17, 2003, 09:13 AM
Deadman has a point. We've just demonstrated to the entire world the futility of conventional military warfare when opposing the US war machine. They will, and rightly so, view their only option as proliferation of NBC implements of war or abject capitulation. Tyrants are far too proud to capitulate, Saddam has proven that point all to clearly.

stevelyn
April 17, 2003, 09:23 AM
I wouldn't underestimate the effectiveness of Russian battle doctrine based on the performance of the Iraqi (Army?). For any military doctrine to work there have to be well trained and disciplined soldiers, ready and willing to execute it. One of the major mistakes is Saddam Hussien's failure to keep an adequately trained force in spite of having the resources to do it. Saddam Hussein was pre-occupied with staying in power. Maintaining an effective army was seen by him as more of a threat to his longevity than a necessity to repel an invasion. That's why the only well trained and disciplined troops were the very thoroughly investigated and trusted Republican Guard.
Wargaming senarios during the Cold War showed that if the Soviets decided to come charging through Fulda Gap there was little we could do to stop them short of nukes. NATO would end up having it's tail kicked quite a distance before being able to mount a counterattack that amounted to anything more than a delaying action.

4v50 Gary
April 17, 2003, 10:47 AM
In a toe to toe military confrontation, no one could stand up to us. The Spaniards learned this when they got whupped by Napoleon. They resorted to guerilla warfare instead. The Palestinians also learned that in direct confrontation against the IDF, they'd lose. So they've got suicide bombers instead. That's why Al Qaeda is something to be reckoned with. They know those lessons and will attack targets that aren't protected that well.

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