Vladimir Putin met with top Defence Ministry officials to discuss developing the Armed Forces, personnel needs and combat training, and social protection guarantees for service members.
* * *
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon,
We are here today to discuss the Armed Forces’ development, and will focus in particular on the priorities for military organisation, combat training, and ensuring social protection for service members and their families.
We have made some progress of late in all of these different aspects of modernising our armed forces, primarily in the changes we have made to our system of military planning and the use and organisation of troops. But we must continue the work to strengthen our defence capacity and put even more effort into this task than before. In today’s world there are many risks and threats, as you know well, and Russia must have the means to respond adequately to challenges of any nature, so as to be able to effectively guarantee our people’s security and country’s sovereignty, and fulfil our obligations to our allies.
We need to set our armed forces on a qualitative new level over these coming years. This means that we must complete the process of putting into place a modern model for troop training and command and ensure that all units are manned with well-trained servicemen and have the modern equipment they need.
The Russian Federation Defence Plan through to 2016 will set out the main objectives and stages of this work. This basic document must be drafted and approved in December this year.
What are our biggest priorities, as I see them? First, we must carry out more intensive and better quality combat training. This is essential if we want our military units and divisions to have a high level of combat readiness. We remember the days when training exercises were a rarity. The situation has changed completely now. We have conducted more than 280 command and staff and field manoeuvres, naval exercises, and other exercises at various levels over the first five months of this year alone, and by the end of the year we plan to carry out around 300 more exercises in various areas, including in the Arctic region.
We must also step up our cooperation with our allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, and with our partners in the CIS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, including through joint exercises that will enable us to address not just defence but also counterterrorism objectives.
Second, another of our definite priorities is work to continue developing the new branch of our armed forces – the Aerospace Defence Forces. They took up combat duty on December 1, 2011, and today carry out a range of air and missile defence missions, early warning of missile attacks, and monitoring outer space, and make an important contribution to maintaining strategic parity.
I ask you to keep proper watch on all issues related to infrastructure development in this area. We plan to commission two new radar stations soon – in Armavir and Irkutsk, and by 2020, we must complete the work set out in the Aerospace defence Forces’ development plan.
Third, the entire armed forces must undergo a complete re-equipment. Let me remind you that we have three years to bring the share of new equipment up to 30 percent of the total, up to 70 percent within five years, and in some cases even up to 100 percent. Our military arsenal must include the modernised Topol-M systems, the latest and most important space systems (important in terms of ensuring our defence capacity), air defence systems, aircraft, ships, and submarines. I ask you to report immediately any failures to meet the set deadlines or delivery-related problems. Everyone involved in the state defence procurement work bears personal responsibility.
The fourth priority I want to draw to your attention is the need for new approaches to the way the armed forces are manned. The main logic here is the need — for clear objective reasons — to gradually reduce the number of conscript servicemen and increase the number of professional servicemen.
The plan is to increase the number of contract servicemen 2.5-fold over the next five years – up to 425,000 people. Let me say straight away that this is not an easy task for the budget, and we will need to keep close watch on the budget’s possibilities, but we must keep working towards this target.
Contract servicemen will work primarily as sergeants and warrant officers, and also as specialists working with the new military equipment. We will soon introduce a new system of service for contract servicemen that gives them incentives for professional development and raising their qualifications.
Let me stress that the selection process for contract service should be stringent, and the training centres and sergeants’ schools must provide effective training. The armed forces need people with the right moral and physical qualities, educational and professional level.
Conscript service must change too, again, for obvious reasons. Conscripts must concentrate on their main task – intensive training and preparation, all the more so as compulsory military service is now only 12 months. Of course, with only this short timeframe, use of conscripts for auxiliary work of various kinds should be kept to a minimum.
Effort must also continue to improve provision of food and material supplies for conscript servicemen.
Let me say a few words separately about social protection for military personnel. As you know, decisions took effect as from January 1 this year, under which Defence Ministry service pay will increase 2.5–3-fold on average, and all military pensions will increase 1.6-fold. Furthermore, as we agreed, all servicemen in need of permanent housing must receive it in 2013 at the latest. We must complete construction of modern service housing by 2014. Enough money has been allocated for these tasks, enough funds have been set aside.
But I am forced to note, nonetheless, that there are still a lot of problems with housing provision and service pay. There are unacceptable glitches and red tape, as well as cases of blatant professional carelessness on the part of officials. Things might look fine on paper and in the reports, but in reality servicemen and their families sometimes encounter all manner of bureaucratic hurdles, formalism and indifference.
I have instructed the Presidential Control Directorate to make the necessary checks in these areas. There are unacceptable cases that become apparent right from the start of these checks: we see cases of delays in paying service pay, and cases when servicemen find it impossible to get all the documents needed to move into apartments. Subsequent to the checks, we will draw the relevant conclusions and issue the relevant instructions. I ask the Defence Ministry right now, however, to report on what measures are being taken to change the situation. We are coming to the end of May, but the problem of getting wages paid on time has still not been sorted out yet. We have already discussed this matter in the past.
Of course, work must also continue to develop a special insurance system, medical, and health-resort services for service members and their families, and for retired servicemen too, and develop employment opportunities for servicemen’s wives. I know that the Defence Ministry has already drafted a number of specific proposals on this matter. Let me stress that continued development and strengthening of our Armed Forces depends on each and every one of you.