Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 127

Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced that the number of servicemen in the armed forces would be decreased from the present 1.13 million to one million by 2013. According to Serdyukov, “The previously approved concept scheduled a decrease in numbers to 1.1 million by 2011 and to one million by 2016. Now we have decided to move more rapidly, in the understanding that service pay must be extensively increased.” Serdyukov announced that a special 100 billion ruble ($4.2 billion) fund would be created to pay extra bonuses to officers “in the most important positions” from 2009 to 2011. In 2009, these extra bonus payments are planned at 25 billion rubles ($1 billion), in 2010, 33 billion ($1.4 billion), and in 2011, 42 billion ($1.8 billion). Today, according to Defense Ministry officials, there are some 350,000 officers in active service in the Defense Ministry, and this is considered too many. A decrease in numbers will help hike the pay of those who stay (RIA-Novosti, June 23).

The exact breakdown of who will get extra pay and how much it will be has not been announced. Strategic nuclear missile officers, submarine crews, paratroopers and other elite-unit servicemen would seem to be the most likely beneficiaries. The announced reduction in service personnel, 10 percent in 5 years, does not seem to be considerable and in itself can hardly help increase the meager pay of servicemen and women substantially. Contract soldiers today get $315 on average a month, while officers get from $470 to $590. A recent official Defense Ministry report said that 60 percent of Russia’s servicemen were discontent with pay and service conditions (see EDM, June 5).

Serdyukov mentioned that a “previously approved concept” for the development of the military would be changed. This might be the most important part of his announcement, since it seems to confirm that a new reform is being planned. Reports have appeared in Moscow that a special gathering of the top brass is planned to decide the future shape of the armed forces. The exact timing of the meeting and its possible results are not yet known, but there are already calls for a new military doctrine to be affirmed, before new reform plans are issued. Russian generals demand to be told who Russia’s enemies and allies are and for what possible future wars they must prepare their forces and order new weapons (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, June 20).

Low pay, old weapons, low moral and poor discipline are ruining Russia’s military. Last February in a major policy speech to a session of the State Council, then President Vladimir Putin announced that the use of new “revolutionary” weapons and technologies made it necessary “to rethink the strategy of building the armed forces.” Putin announced that only a new “innovative army,” manned with well-paid and trained solders could effectively use modern weapons. Putin promised to increase military pay but at the same time announced that while Russia would begin production of new weapons, it “will not be drawn into a costly new arms race” (, February 8).

Since then Putin has left the Kremlin to become Prime Minister, but it is clear that at present he is still effectively in charge in Russia, while the new president Dmitry Medvedev plays a secondary role. Medvedev’s narrow sphere of influence involves an announced campaign against corruption and an attempt to reform Russia’s notoriously corrupt judiciary, but foreign and defense decision-making do not seem to be in his command (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 1).

Putin’s February policy speech was not the political will of a retiring president but a program of his continuing rule. An informed insider, Vitali Shlykov, believes that Putin’s “innovative army” concept will be the backbone of Serdyukov’s military reform plan. Shlykov is a retired military intelligence (GRU) colonel and at present a committee chairman and member of the presidium of the Defense Ministry Public Chamber, an officially appointed consultative body. According to Shlykov, Serdyukov plans to create a Defense Ministry controlled by civilian personnel. Officers’ pay will be increased, and by 2012 everyone will be provided with government-built housing. By 2011 all sergeants will be contract volunteers. This will create new, highly professional armed forces that could effectively use new modern weapons. The draft in Russia will continue. A new military doctrine may or may not be approved: This is not essential, since such public documents in Russia are used almost exclusively for public relations exercises. In fact, Russia will prepare to fight in different conflicts with different possible foes (Security Index, Fall 2008,

Serdyukov was appointed Defense Minister in February 2007 to fulfill a specific mission: to fight massive graft in the Defense Ministry, make defense spending more effective, and streamline procurement of new weapons. Now it is obvious that more serious structural changes are needed to stop the steady decline of Russia’s military, and Serdyukov is preparing to meet the challenge as best as he can.