In his latest Russian Federation Sitrep, Patrick Armstrong mentioned a speech given by Sergei Shoigu to a Duma committee. In this speech Shoigu reels off a litany of new weapon systems now in the hands of Russia’s defense forces. Impressive, but still just a list. A few days ago, Colonel Lang asked me to take a closer look at the speech. Clearly he saw something I missed in my initial cursory reading. I read it again. It is one hell of a speech. Shoigu says a lot more than merely listing what new weapons are in the hands of Russian soldiers. “SouthFront” offered an English translation of the speech which first appeared at “Red Star,” the official newspaper of the Russian Federation MOD. The “SouthFront” article begins as follows.
“Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu took part in the extended meeting of the Defense Committee of the State Duma. The head of the defense ministry gave a detailed update to those in attendance about the results of the six-year large-scale work to strengthen the defense capability of the Russian state by increasing the combat power of our Armed Forces. In fact, Russia now has a completely different army compared to the one it had prior to 2013. Today we are publishing the full text of a speech by Army General Sergei Shoigu at an expanded meeting of the Committee on Defense of the State Duma of the Russian Federation.”
The speech is filled with numbers and facts and is blessedly short of propagandistic hyperbole. Who needs propaganda when the facts speak for themselves. First some of the facts. Improvements to the strategic rocket forces include 12 RS-24 Yars MIRV ICBM regiments (109 missiles), 108 submarine launched ICBMs, probably the new Bulava missiles and 3 Borei class missile submarines built to use the new Bulava missiles.
Another system Shoigu mentioned is the deployment of 10 Iskander short range ballistic missile brigades with 12 launchers/brigade. This system gives NATO fits. It can fire nuclear and several kinds of conventional warheads and has multiple means of guidance, including a cruise missile version. It was successfully battle tested in Syria.
Among the defensive systems touted by Shoigu are 20 S-400 missile regiments with 8 to 12 launchers/regiment, 23 Pantsir-S divisions (regiments?) with 18 launchers/regiment, 17 battalions Bal and Bastion antiship coastal defense systems with 12 launchers/battalion. Note these are defensive systems. Sure they can provide a defensive umbrella for deployed forces as in Syria, but they are still defensive systems. They are primarily deployed on Russian territory to defend Russia from sea and air attacks. This fits with another point made by Shoigu. He said, “By 2019, a complete radar field for the missile attack warning system in all strategic aerospace directions and for all types of ballistic missile flight paths was created around the perimeter of the Russian border. The unified space detection and combat control system is being developed.” It should be clear that the purpose of the armed forces of the Russian Federation are to defend mother Russia, not engage in expeditionary adventurism. Refreshing, isn’t it?
Shoigu also explained Russia’s answer to the realization that space is a domain of war. The Russian Air Force is now the Russian Aerospace Force. We have know this for a while, but Shoigu mentioned this while touting the development of the Angara rocket and the deployment of 57 satellites. This reorganization occurred in 2015 when the Air and Missile Defense Forces, Space Forces and Air Force were consolidated into the Aerospace Forces.
Along with this listing of major weapons systems and their increased availability, dependability and accuracy, Shoigu went to great lengths to point out advances in logistics, force development, military education and other “soldier issues.” There has been a vast improvement in soldier housing, health care and military recreation facilities over the last six years. Two thirds of the armed forces are now contract (volunteer) with only one third being conscripts. The Army has 136 fully ready battalion tactical groups comprised of all volunteers. Of special significance to me was Shoigu’s mention of remedying the rampant use of contract outsourcing in the past now with soldiers and MOD employees doing all work. In this aspect the Russian armed forces are moving in the opposite direction as ours. Oh how I long for the return of company mess teams and KP duty.
Another item mentioned by Shoigu shows how he and the Armed Forces are convinced that men are more important than machines is that “practically all Ground Forces, as well as motorized rifle brigades and naval infantry brigades, a total of 35 formations, were provided with the Ratnik-2 modern combat equipment.” The Ratnik-2 individual combat equipment includes a passive exoskeleton to protect spine and joints as well as providing ballistic protection. My spine and joints would have appreciated such attention to soldier health and welfare. I think this Ratnik-2 is just as impressive as those bigger items of equipment. This is a description from a “Military Times” article.
“At the core of the system is creating a highly integrated network that boosts the infantryman's situational awareness, and allows vital information and intelligence to be fed between soldiers in a unit, and other external assets supporting that unit. To accomplish this, Ratnik includes the "Musketeer" communications system that allows for voice and video transmissions, as well as GLONASS (the Russian alternative to GPS) receivers for navigation. Additionally, the system comes with a heater, a water filter, a gas mask, medical kit, and other necessary "life support elements." The entire Ratnik-2 suit is covered with infrared-defeating materials, allowing soldiers to operate nearly undetected by infrared scanners.”
Finally, there is a nod to the psychological/informational aspect of warfare. No, it’s not that silly Western idea of the “Gerasimov Doctrine.” Mark Galeotti explains the silliness of that idea in his comments about Gerasimov’s speech given a little over two weeks ago. The MOD’s interest in the psychological aspect of war is primarily defensive, just like the structure and disposition of the Russian Armed Forces is defensive in nature. “In accordance with the decree of the President of the Russian Federation, military political bodies [военно-политические органы] were created last year. One of the most important areas of their work is the patriotic education of servicemen of the Armed Forces and youth.” I could be wrong in my interpretation, but this looks like a modern, less sinister, implementation of political commissars. I don’t see this as a bad thing. On the contrary, I see it as an implementation of civics classes for the troops, just as the Young Army Cadets National Movement [Юнармия], also noted in Shoigu’s speech, represents a civics education for Russian youth… a psychological inoculation against Western information warfare.
As a final note, I like this guy, Sergei Shoigu. He enjoys history and hockey. He paints in water colors, my favorite medium. He enjoys and is quite talented at wood carving. I could see us drinking around a campfire when he suddenly breaks out in a Tuvan throat singing tune. What a hoot that would be.
* This is the title of the "Red Star" article