Another Original LR Translation: Golts on the Russian “Army”

A note from the translator:  One of the problems with Russia is that no contract, social or commercial, is considered binding. Thus deep lawlessness prevails. The consequences may be dire and, given what Russia presents today, I hope they will be. One good step down this path is seeing what happens if you piss off your Armed Forces. Russia’s vlasti (powers-that-be) look like they are setting about it. The voices of freedom should be making major propaganda about this but will probably remain polite little appeasement artists.

Tearing Up the Contract

Aleksandr Golts,

5 May 2009

Yezhedevny  Zhurnal

Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel

Practically any medication can, if one uses it another way, become a poison. It all depends on the dose and how it is used. Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov recently issued orders for the extraordinary attestation (i.e. sudden re-testing) of all servicemen. Deputy Defence Minister Nikolai Pankov has reported that re-testing of 85% of the officer corps and 79% of the NCOs has now been completed. The only results so far made public are for the senior officer contingent. Of 250 generals and colonels serving in generals’ posts, 50 have been found to be substandard and will proposed for discharge from the armed forces. One can safely assume that no less than 20% of the remainder will also fail their attestations.

If that is so, then in my view the army top brass will be viewing matters somewhat liberally. It is quite obvious that a considerable proportion of the officer corps – mainly at the major-colonel level – in no way meet the forces’ requirements. Because of a lack of funding in the 1990s, battle training came to an almost complete halt (unless one accepts that that was what was happening in Chechnya). Ships stayed in port, pilots did not exceed 20 flying hours a year (the Soviet norm was 160 hours), and no manoeuvres were held. Officers got their promotions based on time served and not because they had done further training and gained battle experience. As a result, when in recent years there actually was enough money, the commanders who got their stars in the 1990s were incapable of organising real field training. There can be no other explanation for the endless series of catastrophes and accidents we have seen in the army, air force, and navy.

Furthermore, these commanders were incompetent in the field. This is no exaggeration. Here is how Chief of Staff General Makarov put it in a talk at the Academy of Military Science: “[Our] pilots are degrading. During the conflict with Georgia, we could count the number of pilots capable of performing active military tasks in simple situations on the fingers of our hands”. The situation with the ground forces is worse still. “We had to comb the army for lieutenant-colonels, colonels, and generals able and willing to take part in field operations. Because the official commanders of “paper” divisions and regiments were simply not capable of making decisions in the field. When those commanders were given men and equipment, they fell flat on their faces and some even refused to carry out the tasks they were given”.

One can understand that it cannot be easy to find many colonels who can be made to learn what a captain should know. One can understand that the Defence Minister’s plan to make a decisive cut in officers’ numbers – from 305 to 150 thousand – is intended, amongst other things, to rid the forces of those who do not want to learn and those who have been degraded by their enforced idleness. That, anyway, is what Serdyukov’s attestation claims to be about.

This would all look clean and honest if it were not for one important circumstance. When the minister announced the forthcoming reductions six months ago, the Defence Ministry’s top brass emphasised that the cuts would be carried out in strict accordance with the law and regulations. To be fair to them, they were careful not to clarify what laws and what regulations. Bear in mind that one of the laws covers discharge for “organisational” reasons, when the high command decides that is necessary. The main point here is that state makes itself responsible in that event. An officer with 10 years service becomes due a free apartment and a one-off payment of up to 185 thousand roubles. In principle, all 53 thousand officers who at the time of their discharge have still not served the full twenty years needed to get a pension are supposed to leave the service with these benefits.

There is a problem, however: this could cost the state a lot of money. Back when these ideas for reform were first mooted by the ministry, many were surprised at its statement that all this would be done within the existing military budget, with no need for extra assignations. Only recently has Defence Ministry advisor Elena Priyezzheva announced that the 2009-2011 programme for providing benefits to discharged servicemen is likely to cost 113 billion roubles (~$3.5 billion) or about 10% of this year’s defence expenditure.

With the crisis upon us, it became obvious that the funds for this were not there. And then the attestation began. As some knowledgeable people had feared, officers who fail their attestation can be dismissed under another article of the law – for breach of contract. Without a flat and without financial benefits. In the face of such a threat, officers may even agree, for example, to being “voluntarily” discharged, so that while, while they lose their financial benefits, they remain on the waiting list for accommodation, with the hope (somewhat illusory) of a free flat one day.

If this is so, however, the attestation is being made into something other than a proper and lawful procedure by which a government employer check up on its employees’ qualifications. In fact, it is being turned into the opposite of what it is supposed to be, into a cunning way to weasel out of one’s obligations when getting rid of an employee. Much the same scheme is used by the owners of villas outside Moscow: they hire illegal immigrants to do the building work and when the time comes to pay them, these owners phone their tame officials in the immigration service. The police swoop, round up the immigrants, and there’s no one left to pay. Formally – all nice and legal. In actual fact – a rotten disgrace.

If the above is the plan, the the Russian state is intending once again to break its contract with the officer corps. I’m not talking here of the silly bit of paper under which they intend to discharge them. What I am referring to here is the unwritten contract between the state and those who devote their lives to the defence of their country from external enemies. Officers not only agree in advance to submitting to serious restrictions on their rights and freedoms – they are dictated to as to where they will live, what work they will do – but also have to obey the orders of their superiors and more importantly still, have to be ready to fight and die for their country. In order to support the professional soldier in this, special traditions and rituals have been devised over the centuries – medals, uniforms, marching in step (although one far from stupid military man once told me that marching in step was invented to make it harder for individuals to run away). To this should be added a code of honour and a special moral code. Most importantly, however, the state for its part provided its military with a special status and special benefits. It has to be said, though, that the concept of a mass-mobilised army to all intents and purposes ran a line through the whole of this contract. What point is there in establishing a special relationship with the officer corps if, in the case of war, all men with higher education are going to be called up as officers and go into battle. The Soviet and now the Russian system has behaved as it liked towards its officers, sending them to work on collective farms, dumping them in the middle of nowhere, not bothering to pay them for months on end. This then became part of an accepted pattern and the officer corps responded to its Country with universal drunkenness and mass indifference.

And now they’re saying they want to establish a new kind of army. Yet, at the very same time, they are indulging in the same old Soviet tricks. Perhaps a few urgent problems will be solved in this way. But in the end the remaining officers will feel only distrust for the authorities and be totally cynical.

One wonders if the people who have undertaken to reform the armed forces realise this.

32 responses to “Another Original LR Translation: Golts on the Russian “Army”

  1. One thing that is clear is that the Military does not realize that sanctioning the Russian army’s disgraceful conduct in the Caucasas is cancerous to any kind of a “code of honour and a special moral code”. The Russian army can never be considered honorable or profesional.

  2. Looters and assassins who needed air support.

  3. Gordon, is US Army considered honorable or professional?


    The first thing you need to understand that not one single solider in the U.S. military is there against his will, while the vast majority of Russian grunts have been drafted.

    Then, try googling the word “dedovschina” and see if you can find comparable instances in the American military. You’ll soon see why Russia needs the draft.

    Then try comparing the pay scales of the two groups of soliders and their levels of experience. You’ll be well on your way to answering your own question.

    • Also, US soldiers are regularly prosecuted for excesses.


      Apparently you mean by this to imply that Russians aren’t prosecuted, but your implication that they are as guilty as Americans of criminal acts is false and the implication that they are as unprofessional is ridiculous. Doubt you intended those implications, next time be a bit more careful with words.

      • Regularly? You provide one case, and in this one case the US soldier was tried and found guilty, and the convicted rapist and murderer faces either the death penalty or life in prison. If it had been a Russian soldier, instead of an American soldier, do you believe that he would have had a fair trial, would have been convicted and would have had faced the death penalty or life in prison?

        • Just compare this case’s conviction (90-110 years for 3, death sentence or life for another) to this very, very rare Russian conviction:

          It was a premedidated, cold-blood, point-blank mass murder of 5 officially Russian civilians (including a pregnant woman), whose bodies were then burned – and the killers got only 9-14 years in prison (less than 2-3 years per victim).

          And the great most of such cases were not even investigated.

          And then “Jerry” comes along to say this conduct was not at all disgraceful and the rabid animals in uniform are honorable and professional (and then compares it with “throwing grenades into herds of sheep”).

          • Thank Robert. You proved my point. The fact that an American soldier was tried in the United States for rape/murder in Iraq and was found guilty by a jury of Americans and given an effective lifetime sentence speaks highly of American justice. Such justice is nonexistent in Russia.

      • Also “the American soldiers killing each other” is called friendly fire if accidental and fragging if deliberate.

        But the Russians have it too, and much more of it actually.

        But no one was convicted even when an incident in which two OMON units shot up each other badly on close range, resulting in dozens of casualties:

        “The first attempt by Russian authorities to address the problem of “friendly fire” in the separatist republic of Chechnya fizzled Friday when a court acquitted two senior police officers and instead laid blame posthumously on the commander of the targeted unit.”

        Take THAT, dead man! (And at first it was blamed on the separatists.)

    • Yes on both counts.

      And “Jerry” is actually a Russian so he knows this word (but possibly thinks it’s a normal thing).

  4. LR please don’t change the topic to internal problems within the Russian army. I responded to Gordon’s comment about “Russian army’s disgraceful conduct in the Caucasas” which “is cancerous to any kind of a “code of honour and a special moral code”. and because of which according to Gordon “the Russian army can never be considered honorable or profesional.”

    The reason I asked Gordon, is because I’m just curious; what does he think about: US soldiers raping little Iraqi girls, crushing civilian vehicles and structures with tanks while driving on a routine patrols, running people off the road with humvees, throwing grenades into herds of sheep, kidnapping people, shipping them around the world like cattle and torturing them? I mean the list can go on here. Just go on Youtube and confirm it for yourselves.

    Unlike LR and its little trolls I don’t have double standards. So I will actually admit that I respect and honor US military, despite all of that. But what say you Gordon?


    Listen, BLOCKHEAD, you certainly DID change the subject. Gordon spoke about RUSSIA, the topic of this blog, you spoke about the US, trying to change the subject to something that has NOTHING to do with this blog. Wanna talk about America? Go find a blog about that subject. Wanna prove Russia isn’t bad? Give evidence Russia is good, not that other countries are also bad. Your childish “reasoning” is apelike in its idiocy and Soviet in its dishonesty.

    Lie again and you’re banned, simple as that.

    • Crimes are treated as crimes, even as the victimes are not the US citiziens.

      Btw foreign citiziens: any Russian official investigations at all related to the Russian crimes in Georgia (like for example the widespread looting and wanton destruction of civilian property even after the ceasefire)?

      Can you imagine dozens of recent (last 15 years) mass graves being uncovered in the United States and no investigations or even DNA identification of the victims?

      Or even secret mass graves of civilians attributed to the US military overseas (no US civilians, just foreigners) – and also no investigation?

    • In any war, in any army, there are excesses. Armies are mostly made up of young men, even teenagers, heavily armed, and in very stressful situations. When they overstep their boundaries and commit crimes, it is incumbent upon the army’s authority to punish this behavior. Sometimes they are successful and sometimes they aren’t. The point is it must be the policy of the command that the behavior be discouraged and punished, even if unevenly. For a professional army to be professional and ultimately achieve success, the brutal nature of young men in war (human nature) must be curbed.
      That is the difference between the US army and the Russian army. Do excesses occur in the US army? Yes, of course, but they are collateral to the objectives of the army and actively discouraged. In the FSB controlled Russian army, the excesses, human rights abuses, and murders are not collateral to the objectives of the army, they ARE the objectives of the army. This behavior is actively encouraged not only by the military command but also by the political elite, the FSB, and even the mass media. Those that participate in this behavior are hailed as heroes, and if called on the carpet, are actively sheltered and defended (after all, they are only doing what is expected of them).
      It all boils down to the objectives of the mission. If the mission is to truly liberate, brigandage will by nature be strongly discouraged and punished. If the mission is conquest and subjugation, gangsterism will be a natural offshoot, emanating directly from the leadership and condoned. (Not surprisingly, when the mission is fuzzy, you have more problems, more uncertainty and bad decisions coming from command).
      I hope I don’t have to site the hundreds of available sources to prove that the objectives and methods of the Russian army, throughout history, but especially during the second Chechen war, are not only subjugation and conquest, but deliberate pillage.

      • Hi Gordon, as I understood your previous post (which I think was a little misunderstood) was pointing out that the US military has strict honour and behaviour codes BECAUSE it prosecuted those soldiers in the Haditha incident.

        This is compared to the vermin in Russia which would probably have got the gold star for the same sort of behaviour.

  5. War is war Robert. People die. People died in Dresden, people died in Grozny. US is just better at PR and so it can always leave behind open graves, because it was fighting “evil”. US is also better at using other peoples hands for doing dirty work. People are people. I don’t see much difference between dozens of thousands of dead Iraqis/Afghanis and a few thousand Chechens. What does it matter if you were shot in an open market in Baghdad when someone threw a rock at a US patrol, or if you were shot in a basement in Grozny for aiding terrorists?


    Yeah, you’re sure right. What diffference if you are a young Jewish child gassed by Hitler or an American soldier shot by a German sniper while you’re trying to liberate Paris. George Bush, Adolf Hitler, they’re all the same.

    Only thing is, you venal little bastard, the US government has lasted 200 years under one consitution while Russia has collapsed twice in the last century, and Americans live nearly 20 years longer than Russians on average. So even if both societies are equally evil in your warped, perverted little “mind,” one needs reform a bit more than the other.

    You are truly a repulsive excuse for a human being. People like are why people like Stalin get started so quickly and so do much harm.

    • Differences: the Iraqis are not American citiziens. That’s one. Maybe you just don’t understand it.

      Americans don’t shoot Iraqi (foreign) captives by thousands for alleged “aiding terrorists” – even when they do so much less like simply tormenting them for fun, it’s a crime and it’s prosecuted. See the Abu Ghraib affair (even as it was no worse than an avarage Russian prison and no American citiziens suffered). That’s two.

      Being shot by a trigger-happy soldier for throwing a rock, and being shot with the others for only witnessing a killing (the case above – two aqcuittals for “following orders” in the case of multiple cold-blood murder), yes, that’s a difference.

      It’s not “dozens of thousands of dead Iraqis/Afghanis and a few thousand Chechens”. There are no “dozens of thousands” (or even just thousands) Iraqis/Afghans forcibly disappeared for years (and presumed dead) at the hands of the US forces – and only 1 million people live in Chechnya. That’s three.

      Even in WWII there was a difference – there was rape of Berlin, but there was no rape of Tokyo. The Americans closed the concentration camps, the Soviets re-opened them. The Americans liberated Paris when uprising broke out there (even as their original plans were to not go there), the Soviets stood by and literally watched Warsaw burn. And so on.

      “US is also better at using other peoples hands for doing dirty work.” – because there was never the policy of “Chechenization”. Oh, and actually in several instances the US forces raided the Iraqi prisons (and secret prisons) to stop the torture of detainees – and an American vigilante “Jack” was also convicted for torture in Afghanistan. One such raid, on the very Iraqi Interior Ministry HQ:

      • Well, actually just a compound in central Baghdad and not the HQ. Anyway, the results:

        Iraq’s Interior Ministry has charged nearly 100 employees, including a police general and other high-ranking officers, with involvement in torturing detainees at a prison in Baghdad known as Site 4.

        And that’s just an another difference.

        • A self-correction: the second article was about an another Iraqi-run prison – but as I said, there were several such actions (ranging from inspections of official detention centers to raids on secret prisons).

  6. Jerry, you have a very low opinion of the American military, what is it based on?

    No western news source has ever reported open or mass graves in Iraq. Nor mass stealing nor mass rapes or mistreatment of civilians. Trust me the European press would have been all over behavior like that. PR would never have saved the US military from international press scrutiny if their was gross misconduct.

    I’m curious, what’s your opinion of the Russian military?

  7. Jerry, Gordon never mentioned the US military, or any other military in his initial commentary. He made a statement/opinion about the Russian military. Why did you pinpoint the US military? Something personal there? Did you not qualify for being ‘one of the few good men’ by the US marines?

    But beyond that, you also fail to miss the underlying premise of the entire story. The powers that be in Russia are set once again to scr*w over the same people it asks to make sacrifices in defending them (the country).

    You also fail to miss the wider implication of the type of unrest which could/can foment beneath the surface within the military establishment due to this kind of back-stabbing. The Russian military has never led a coup, but….

    You also have your feathers ruffled to the point that you feel the need to compare apples to oranges. Why must you, and a few other proponents of the current Russian regime, insist on going off point and refusing to look at the situation which exists, or is alleged to exist, and not even bothering to ask questions about the situation. In the Catholic Church there is something call an ‘examination of conscience’ done before going to Confession. It is not done to beat yourself up or despise yourself; it is done to find areas which need improvement. Well it seems to me, Russian needs to have an ‘examination of conscience’ of epic proportions. How on earth can you/Russia ever improve you situation unless you find out what it is which needs improvement?

    • Barb, I like the concept of the examination of conscience. In a true democracy, citizens are willing to examine their actions and those of their state and there will be a debate as to what should be done. The debate will entail what areas need improvement and whether an effort should be expended to improve certain areas and finally there will be a debate as to what solutions are needed to improve.

    • “The Russian military has never led a coup,”

      Actually they did.

  8. barb, and Michel, agree. The Catholic process of confession, atonement and redemption is a very humbling and humanizing process. And, don’t forget that Jews also have a ritual of atonement for sins too.

    Compare the process of ridding Nazism from Germany where guilt, atonement and desire for redemption was part of the process and the lack of ridding Stalinism from Russia.

    Too bad the ROC relinquished all moral authority with its collaboration with Putin.

    The horror of Russia is that all classes of people and institutions undermined each other. The few westernized political liberals aren’t even on the radar there.

    It was an old adage in my clinical psych experience that the shame based commit homicide, the guilt based, suicide. There is a difference. I’ll leave it to others apply it where appropriate to cultures.

  9. Also, this “Jerry” guy dig up Dresden 1945 (the Allied aircraft killing mostly Germans) to somehow equal it with Grozny 1995, 50 years later (Russian Army killing mostly Russian citziens, in large part even ethnic Russians).

    And I’ll show you some of the modern civilized world elsewhere, that is outside Russia:

    Yes, in Poland it’s an alleged war crime of murder to kill a few Afghan civilians by reprisal shelling – while in Russia, it’s not murder to kill thousands of even fellow Russians (it’s just “nothing” – practically total impunity, a pure barbarism).

    Btw, all the Soviets convicted or wanted for military crimes in Afghanistan (all crimes – from desertion to theft to murder) were blanket-amnestied in 1989. Sakharov campaigned for this, thinking it would help leave the dark past behind once and for all… he died the same year.

  10. Refugee trains from the East with Slavs coming into Germany to escape the death that awaited them from Stalin were bombed by the RAF and Americans. This indeed was dishonorable and was done because the Allies decided that they did not want a refugee problem after the war. If the Axis Powers won the war there would be trials and the guilty would have been punished. This point is made because balance is needed. I know because my parents were on one of these trains and still have the Icon that they believe protected them from allied bombings. My parents were on the last train out. There were even Jewish refugees who preferred the Germans to the Rooskies and were in Displaced Persons camps in Germany as well. Anyway the betrayal of the Kozaks (Cossacks) and the deal made with Stalin in Yalta resulted in Operation Keelhaul. People were rounded up and sent to Stalin fully knowing what would happen to them. So we should not be so righteous in our indignation. Not all Russians are always wrong but mostly unbalanced in their opinions here.

    • Refugee trains from the East with Slavs coming into Germany to escape the death that awaited them from Stalin were bombed by the RAF and Americans. This indeed was dishonorable and was done because the Allies decided that they did not want a refugee problem after the war.

      The air war in WWII was not specifically to bomb civilians. Although the British raids were at night over cities with the purpose of destroying their ‘will to resist’. Hitler bombed London first, that’s what happens in war. If Hitler had used poison gas, so would the allies. You don’t win wars by being ‘Mr. Nice Guy’. Trains loaded with people didn’t look any different to a pilot of a fighter-bomber than a troop or ammunition train. Trains were an important part of the Nazi’s communication system which was a high priority target. What allies decided they didn’t want a refugee problem? Never heard that one before. The air war was a necessary part of the defeat of Germany and Japan, we’ve learned a lot since then. In WWII only something like 5% of bombs dropped actually landed within a few miles of the aiming point, with that lack of accuracy, area bombing was adopted. The U.S. tried precision bombing, but was chewed up badly until they had fighter escort. I don’t agree with your opinion that bombing was some how dishonorable, it was necessary.

      • Actually even the trains with concentration camp prisoners being evacuated to the camps still held by Germans were strafed by the Allied aircraft. Such as this one:

        They probably just didn’t know who’s in this particular train they’re attacking. And I guess the orders were to kill everything that moves and is larger than a man on bicycle.

        But such small attacks on German trains and other vehicles were actually much more effecitent in criplling the German war machine than the carpet-bombings of the German (and non-German! from Caen to Belgrade) citzies that killed millions of people (including tens of thousands Allied airmen).

  11. Yeah, foul language in the army during training is one reason to detest it. Especially if you are a young impressionable man. Another reason not to re-enlist. George Washington wrote about the use of foul language even during the revolutionary war. But nothing can top Rashans like Oleg Naumov who had sniffed glue before taking up his post, and lost control of himself while under the influence of the intoxicating fumes, Naumov hit his first victim with an ax, injuring the soldier. He then shot dead his commander and another serviceman at his guard post. After that, he killed five more soldiers in a canteen and a restroom.

    Widespread draft evasion has left the military so desperate for new soldiers that the Army often drafts men with a history of mental illnesses or drug abuse. Military commanders said that Naumov had been a drug addict since age 13 and had a criminal background that the military was not aware of when he was drafted.

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