Three signs Russian military and its political bosses are in trouble

Brand-new Russian diesel -electric submarine "Kolpino" (Kilo class by NATO designation) intended for Russia's Black Sea Fleet was accepted and commissioned without undergoing full normal sea trials (Image: TASS)

Brand-new Russian diesel -electric submarine "Kolpino" (Kilo class by NATO designation) intended for Russia's Black Sea Fleet was accepted and commissioned without undergoing full normal sea trials (Image: TASS) 

Analysis & Opinion, Politics, Russia

The Kremlin-controlled media and often–echoing it–Western outlets paint a picture of Russia as a burgeoning military power, with its forces totally prepared to carry out any order the Putin regime gives them. But three stories this week suggest not only that this picture is incomplete but that it may be dangerously false.

The first of these is perhaps the most serious. As all political philosophers from Machiavelli on have pointed out, one of the first tasks of a ruler is to ensure that his forces are well-paid not only so that they will not be tempted to revolt against him but also so they will be ready to do his bidding in the future.

Over the past several years, there has been a drumbeat of stories about military bases where the power was shut off because Moscow hadn’t paid the bill and about soldiers not getting adequate food or even being paid on time because the center hadn’t managed to perform that most basic of functions.

But now Moscow, at a time of budget stringency, has taken a step that could lead to real problems. It is demanding that officers and soldiers who served in “hot spots” like Abkhazia in the 1990s return the supplemental combat pay they received for their service.

The roughly 3,000 military personnel involved are “in shock” about this decision, Moskovsky komsomolets reports. They’ve long ago spent the money they were paid, believe that they earned it, and have filed an appeal with the Russian Supreme Court to try to force the Russian government to reverse its order.

Obviously, the soldiers long ago spent the money they were given and don’t have it to give back to the state. But their plight, serious as it is, pales to that of a government which makes promises to its soldiers and then reneges, something other military personnel who may be asked to do other things will certainly be taking note of.

The second of these stories is potentially just as serious. In order to boost its military presence in the Black Sea, Moscow has forced commanders there to accept and commission ships that have not gone through the normal trials that could have been expected to identify and lead to the correction of problems.

That doesn’t mean that these ships are not capable of performing most of their tasks, but it does mean that they are far more likely to suffer breakdowns and be able to fulfill any orders they are given. And it means that these untested vessels should not be counted as part of some new “super” Russian fleet as Moscow and some in the West routinely do.

Russian icebreakers stuck in the ice of the East Siberian Sea. January 2017. (Image: Alexander Samsonychev / The Siberian Times)

Russian icebreakers stuck in the ice of the East Siberian Sea. January 2017. (Image: Alexander Samsonychev / The Siberian Times)

And the third of these stories, a more humorous one, is noteworthy primarily because it comes on the heels of what the Kremlin-controlled media has been celebrating as a great breakthrough for its fleet and for the prospects of the Northern Sea Route, the successful transit over that route of ships at the end of December.

After making what everyone calls “a historic Arctic voyage,” Russia’s icebreakers have gotten stuck in the ice in the East Siberian Sea. They are being supplied by helicopter, and officials say that the situation “is not critical.”

But this event too like the others is a reminder that what looks strong in the Russian case as a result of Potemkin Village-style operations may not be as powerful as the Kremlin needs them to be to achieve its ends or as many, as a result of its propaganda effort, in fact believe them to be.



Edited by: A. N.

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  • Dirk Smith

    Third-world gas station succeeding by smoke and mirrors.

  • Alex George

    That’s pretty damning, especially the part about combat soldiers being asked to pay back their supplements.

    If so, it would indicate that the Russian army is headed for collapse.

    Rather than going to the Russian Supreme Court, perhaps the Russian soldiers should be forming soviets.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      The Dwarfstanian combat veterans should be thankful for small mercies. They haven’t been told they have to pay for their travel to and from the war zones, or for the ammo they expended…….. not yet, that is!

      • WisconsinUSA

        Do they have commissars following closely behind them as they go into battle?

        • Alex George

          The professionals, ie the contract soldiers, don’t. With the conscripts, who knows?

          But actions like this are really going to irritate the contract soldiers. That probably explains why they seem to desert a lot. Zik news often carries stories (in English) about the latest reported desertions.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            Zik also recently had a story about 20 Dwarfstanian regulars being knifed in the Donbas- 18 killed, 2 critical:


            When that becomes known Dwarfstanians will be even less likely to “volunteer” for the Donbas.

          • Quartermaster

            But….but, the locals just love those guys.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            Plotnitsky, Pushilin, Zakharchenko and Co. do, but especially in the so-called LNR the ordinary people don’t.

          • Quartermaster

            I was being facetious.

          • Dagwood Bumstead

            I’d say “the only reason we haven’t seen it in Crimea YET….” While the ethnic Dwarfstanians in the Crimea will probably be just as apathetic and lethargic as their brethren in Dwarfstan, don’t forget that the Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians make up nearly 40% of the population. Don’t forget that the large revolts in Gulag camps in the 1950s e.g. Vorkuta were not initiated by Dwarfstanians but by Ukrainians. So don’t be too surprised when the Tatars and Ukrainians finally revolt against Dwarfstan’s occupation and oppression.

        • Dagwood Bumstead

          Although not conclusively proven, there were strong rumours of FSB blocking units behind the Kolorads during their repeated attacks on Donetsk aerodrome. Casualties among the attackers were heavy; they were usually mercenaries and locals i.e. cannon fodder, though one unit of Northern Fleet marines was reported to be practically wiped out. There may well have been other regular Dwarfstanian units that suffered heavily.

  • Brent

    North Ko-Russia….

  • WisconsinUSA

    Excepted and commissioned without going through sea trials? Un freaking believable

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      She may well be the next “Kursk”.

  • zorbatheturk

    Re. that submarine. RuSSians build expensive coffins…