The Guardian December 4, 2002


Russia: What is happening to our defence?

This article, by Boris Lebedev, a lawyer, was published in Sovietskaya 
Rossia, Moscow, September 5, 2002.

It was translated by Dr Vera Butler.

Not so long ago, during Mr Putin's trip to Siberia and the Far East, we saw 
on TV how our specialists destroy our missiles in one of our enterprises, 
and we heard President Putin's words, said to our military who participated 
in manoeuvres near Chita.

Putin was talking about our need for a highly professional, mobile army, 
whose numbers are sustainable by our budget.

The commander-in-chief mentioned such figures as 1,300,000 military 
personnel. This is, today, the size of our army, charged with maintaining 
the defence of our state.

However, the other figure  50,000  shook me. I thought I had not heard 
it right. As I understood from the words of the President and commander-in-
chief this is, today, the size of our forces on land.

I still do not believe this figure, I think this must be some mistake. Can 
it be true that in our country there are no more than four army divisions 
or , as they are called now, motorised fighting forces?

Even if the figure were ten times as high, this would only mean 40 
divisions. Is this sufficient for the defence of our country?

In that very-same China, which is next door to the Chita region, a 
million(!) PLA personnel were engaged fighting floods. On our side the 
entire army barely exceeds these numbers.

In this context it is necessary to remember our history.

Before the beginning of the Great Patriotic War [World War II against the 
Nazis] our army consisted of more than 300 divisions, and the total Red 
Army numbered five million people. And regardless of this, the beginning of 
the war took a tragic turn for us.

Looking at the current condition of our army one can say without hesitation 
that if, in future, our enemies attack our country, that will result in a 
gigantic catastrophe, with fatal consequences for our statehood and our 
people. June 1941 will seem like a game of cossacks and robbers compared to 
what could happen to our country.

Somebody might say that our army possesses powerful military technology, 
powerful weaponry, which will scare away any would-be aggressor. But 
judging by what we daily see on our TV screens, we don't have such 
technology, and no such weaponry is left!

Our most powerful missiles are being destroyed before our eyes. We also 
learn daily about the state of our aviation, navy, and ground forces.

The President puts his hopes in a "highly professional army". I don't know 
what he has in mind. I think it would be difficult to find more high class 
and low paid professionals than the present officer corps of our naval and 
missile forces.

But let us remember our experience, more than 80 years ago, with the White 
Volunteer Army during the Civil War. Their detachments were almost entirely 
manned by officers, professionals with the highest military training, and 
experience from the First World War. Even colonels took the place of 
soldiers.

And what was the outcome of the clash between these "highly qualified 
professionals" fighting on the side of the Whites, and their adversaries  
illiterate or semi-illiterate non-professionals, who made up the Red Army?.

And how does the present government plan to pay these future mercenary 
"professionals", if it cannot muster payments for serving military 
professionals?

Hence I believe that the current talk about the change-over of our army to 
a professional basis will lead to nothing but the final destruction of its 
remnants.

I do not doubt that this is the goal of some of those who want to hide, 
behind a curtain of verbosity, plans to destroy the Russian army.

Now let us look at the [anticipated] mobility of the future army. Like any 
soberly thinking person I cannot take such talk seriously. In order to 
understand the full scope of its nonsense it suffices to look at the map of 
our country.

After the destruction of the Soviet Union it has shrunk, but even so it is 
difficult to imagine how, by what roads, what means of transportation, 
armed forces under siege in Kaliningrad from our Western "friends" could 
get to the Far Eastern Territories?

In our regularly falling-down air force planes? There wouldn't be enough of 
them left over from Soviet times, they are visibly aged, some have been 
taken apart (for spares)  and no new ones are coming into service.

Or by train  a journey which even in peace times takes no less than a 
week?

Is such talk really serious, and is there anybody in the General Staff 
headquarters who carries out such calculations? Or are we treated as fools?

One cannot omit details of the gradual and steady reduction of our armed 
forces.

Before Gorbachev came to power there were two powerful military forces 
opposing each other  the USA and its NATO allies on the one hand, and the 
USSR with its Warsaw Pact allies on the other.

Today the USA and NATO not only still exist, but have become stronger, they 
now include half a dozen of our former allies, with others rearing to join.

But that's not all: we lost former Soviet republics, some of which also 
hurry to join NATO. We have suffered enormous losses of our military 
capabilities whilst our potential enemies have become stronger. They 
intensify their re-armament.

The current US military budget alone exceeds the total budget of our 
sickly, democratic state.

Under such circumstances one would expect the outcry:  "Our fatherland is 
in danger, it's time to adopt extraordinary measures for increasing our 
defences"  yet we even destroy our missiles, with no replacement in 
sight. We disarm, under the pretext of inadequate financial means  well, 
take back what the thieves have stolen, and money will be there.

Simultaneously, our armaments industries are being destroyed, the high-tech 
production capacity developed over many years is dying, there is the 
ongoing loss of irreplaceable, truly highly professional cadres.

I recently found out that at the plant where I began my working career, 
which manufactured hydroscopic equipment for our missiles, today other, 
"lethal;" weaponry is being produced  pneumatic hand guns.

No doubt Brezinski, Rice and other "friends" must rejoice, watching what 
happens to our army, to our country.

So what? Maybe one ought to consult our Criminal Code, which contains 
explicit formulations regarding "damage inflicted to the external security 
of the state"? It goes on right now.

When our cities will be destroyed (remember Yugoslavia, forced to its knees 
with our acquiescence), and when Russian soil will be tramped upon by alien 
military boots, it will be too late to talk about the responsibilities of 
the guilty.

Moreover, there will be nobody left to do so.

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