Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gen. Nikolai Makarov has replaced tough, old Gen. Yury Baluyevsky as the chief of staff of Russia‘s armed forces and has been tasked with rapidly modernizing them.

Despite all the stories of a run-down and demoralized military that regularly appear in the Western media, Russia’s armed forces remain the most powerful and effective land force across all of Eurasia.

They don’t have enough modern equipment. But what they do have is state-of-the-art, especially in main battle tanks, heavy artillery and close ground tactical air support.

Their multiple-launch rocket mortar forces are without parallel in any other armed force in the world.

However, modernization has not been going remotely as fast as former Russian president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would like.

That is one reason Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has shoehorned out four-star Army Gen. Baluyevsky and replaced him with four-star Army Gen. Makarov.

According to a June 3 report from RIA Novosti, the state news agency, Russian analysts generally interpret Gen. Makarov’s appointment as meaning there will be a major new drive to upgrade the Russian army’s operating procedures, officer and troop training and procurement procedures.

Gen. Makarov enjoys Defense Minister Serdyukov’s full confidence and previously worked closely with him as deputy defense minister.

By contrast, Gen. Baluyevsky, is closely tied to Mr. Serdyukov’s predecessor, Sergei Ivanov. They are both associated with Russia’s so far unsuccessful campaign to prevent the United States from deploying a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Gen. Makarov also got the job because his specialty has been solving the bottleneck problems of industrial production, spare parts and supply that have bedeviled Mr. Putin’s efforts to revive Russia’s military might.

Gen. Makarov previously ran the Russian military’s armed forces procurement operations.

Three-star Col. Gen. Leonid Ivashov, president of the Russian Academy of Geopolitical Studies, told RIA Novosti in an interview that Gen. Makarov would focus on seeking to “reverse the negative, destructive trends that are now plaguing the armed forces, and stop the technical degradation of the army and navy.”

Gen. Ivashov also confirmed the assessment of leading U.S. military experts that the Russian military “has an acute shortage of new weaponry and military equipment, ammunition and other technical systems.”

However, Gen. Ivashov also expressed confidence that Gen. Makarov would be able to overcome the Herculean problems he is facing.

Gen. Makarov will certainly not lack financial resources. Mr. Putin, on the day he was sworn in as prime minister within 24 hours of handing over the presidency of Russia to his handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, pledged to boost the country’s defenses.

With oil prices regularly topping $120 per barrel and Russia the world’s second-largest oil producer, Gen. Makarov will certainly get all the funding he needs.

Gen. Makarov is also an acknowledged expert in the very areas where the problems are worst - industrial production and timetables for supplying weapons and other equipment.

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