Sergeants made to order: How military professionals will be trained
Two Defense Ministry departments will now be responsible for the training and assignment of professional non-commissioned officers. Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov delegated these tasks to the department of military education and the personnel directorate. The NCO functions of the General Staff, which for years oversaw contracts at the junior command level, are not outlined in the new plan. This specialized function was eliminated from the domain of the General Staff late last year.
The army needs professionals, but the Defense Ministry does not want to just shunt anybody into the contract system. This explains its retooling of an ambitious plan to fill 80% of NCO positions with professionals by 2015, and bring the number of contract troops up to 150,000.
Now the generals' appetite for staff has diminished. They are talking about 90,000-100,000 professional soldiers. As for NCOs, a guideline has been adopted for not so much their quantitative as their qualitative characteristics. Their future junior commanders will undergo 34-month training in military academies. The first round of several hundred professionals will graduate this year in Ryazan.
According to Nikolai Pankov, deputy defense minister in charge of personnel, the annual need for professional NCOs is 15,000 personnel. Although the number of officers in training is constantly growing, NCO vacancies will not be filled quickly. In the meantime, newly-ranked lieutenants are forced to fill these positions. In the past year, nearly 5,000 junior officers were assigned to such vacancies.
The new plan will have to address at least three problems. First, there must be no random people in the contract system. Rigorous selection of candidates for NCO training and screening of underachieving and undisciplined students will eliminate potential dropouts. Second, troops will be assigned junior commanders on an as-needed basis. The high command and headquarters of each branch of the armed forces will compile a list of professionals needed for each platoon, squad or crew. Personnel officers will assign the NCOs to the garrisons.
Finally, the training of future professionals will be organized according to the programs developed in the department of military education. Churning out commanders according to a single “blueprint” without regard to armed forces branch and unit type means wasting public money. The responsibilities of a Navy NCO and an Air Force NCO are often as different as a plane differs from a ship. Therefore, junior professionals and NCOs will have separate training programs.
The military has reduced the training period of recruits in NCO schools and other training units from six to three months without waiting for the legislative extension of the spring draft on August 31. Because their graduates do not need any special technical knowledge, the generals did not focus on training, but on the recruits' field service. Now recruits will spend two-thirds of their time in the military in their units and only one-third in training. But instead of two annual basic training cycles, there will now be three.
Russian teenagers disillusioned
Ten to fifteen years ago, during Boris Yeltsin’s presidency, life was hard in Russia but the prevailing attitude was that these were temporary problems of the transitional period. People believed that change was just around the corner. Now disillusionment has set in, especially among teenagers, many of whom reject the reality on an emotional level. They have realized that it is the oligarchs’ children who will get the best in Russia while they – the majority – will be left with a pseudo culture, boring jobs and the daily tedium.
Teenagers have too little experience to understand that in order to change anything in society they first have to figure out how it works. This is why young people join various movements so easily.
Different groups have always had their own rituals to unite their members, including the police special forces and paratroopers, the elite of Russia’s armed forces. Team-building exercises widely used by companies mean that their employees have to learn senseless rules, chant hymns and demonstrate their loyalty even if they do not have any sense of unity in the hearts.
When you are a teenager, it is different. A 15-year-old teenager who knows the rules of a group and abides by them has a keen sense of bonding with other group members. There is no wonder that groups of radical young people use these rituals. It is too hard to live in an atmosphere of constant hatred and cynicism. Finally, these radical groups know they have the support of the public.
Nikolai Avdyushenkov, head of Moscow’s branch of the Other Russia party, was sentenced to one year’s probation for distributing leaflets that read: “Kill the slave inside you.” The court interpreted this as an incitement to murder but any normal person will sympathize with Avdyushenkov.
The youth is becoming increasingly segregated. The wish to flee to the West is taking hold as does the belief that life will never be good in Russia. This results in a larger number of drug addicts and followers of various exotic religious cults. This is also a reaction to the reality, a distorted way of being interested in something. Those who are not interested in anything at all are simply drifting along.
Russia’s current political establishment is most likely to pass the reigns of power to their children, who are being educated and live in conditions that are radically different from those of the country’s majority. But lower government positions will face a growing deficit of qualified officials capable of effective decision-making. This will lead to unnecessary spending, man-made catastrophes and so on.
Russia is likely to face a typical third-world-country situation. Established industries will have to invite top managers from abroad. Facing this situation, farsighted countries like the United Arab Emirates immediately began sending their students to Western universities. Russia hasn’t shown a similar intention so far.
Yevgeny Primakov: Protests in Egypt raise questions
Events in Egypt are moving swiftly, with waves of protesters demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Despite rapid economic growth, Mubarak’s government has failed to solve the issues of poverty and unemployment and has been ridden with corruption. An analysis of the zigzag development pattern can prompt several conclusions, Yevgeny Primakov, Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, writes in Rossiiskaya Gazeta.
First. The developments in Egypt are social rather than religious in nature. While Russia has understandably concentrated on radical Islamism as it gained strength in the Muslim world, it missed the possibility of “traditional” social revolutionary upheavals. It believed the time of revolutions sweeping away conservative and authoritarian regimes was a thing of the past, including in developing countries. But events in Tunisia and Egypt have shown this is not so.
Second. By focusing on the dangers of extremism, Russia has underestimated the effect of modernization above all on socially and culturally advanced Muslim nations. The multi-million revolutionary movement that has awakened Tunisia and then Egypt was largely a spontaneous response magnified by online chats and text messaging.
Third. A feature that catches the eye is the lack of Islamic slogans among demonstrators both in Egypt and Tunisia, though the Muslim Brothers is an organization that has strong positions in Egypt. This is a very important indicator but it does not warrant that the Islamists will not try to ride the revolutionary wave. Incidentally, one such attempt was made by the Muslim Brothers during the 1952-1953 events in Egypt, when Gamal Abdel Nasser was able to nip their activities in the bud. Time will show how events will develop now.
Fourth. The events in Egypt are not following the pattern of the 1950s. At that time, the main role was played by the army motivated by the Free Officers. Now it is likely to remain neutral.
Fifth. Currently, the Middle East is very much at the focus of meetings in Washington. Their atmosphere, as well as U.S. media comments on Egyptian developments, suggest a kind of wariness: many are asking how these events will influence Egypt-U.S. relations. After all, Washington has looked to the Mubarak regime as one of its main pillars in the Middle East. It provided it with $1.5 billion a year in military aid. Another cause for concern is that the events in Egypt may affect the situation in the oil-producing Arab countries. People are also asking if these issues may tell on Arab-Israeli settlement – Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. There are many questions but only time will answer them.
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