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Meeting on developing military education system

November 15, 2013, Ryazan

Vladimir Putin held a meeting on developing the military education system while visiting the Ryazan Margelov Higher Airborne Command School.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon colleagues.

Today, we will discuss the development of Russia’s higher military education system. The main question here is how to make the best of our accumulated experience and our military academies’ traditions to ensure the higher military education system’s quality growth and development. 

Russia’s higher military education system dates back more than 300 years. The first military engineering school opened in Moscow in 1689. But the establishment of a network of higher military academies really only began when Peter the Great set up the School of Navigation in 1701.

We are all very much aware that the higher military education system and officer training are at the Armed Forces’ very foundation. We therefore need a system that is solid and reliable, meets today’s demands, and – very importantly – is focused on the future too.

Assessments made by our military experts immediately following the Great Patriotic War indicated that the reasons for many of our failures in 1941–1942 were linked to problems in military education in the pre-war years.

Many of you are probably already familiar with the situation, but let me read in any case this extract from the Defence Ministry’s Central Archive. It comes from a report made by the military academies’ directorate. The report dates from 1946, just after the Great Patriotic War. The specialists at that moment, who would themselves have all taken part in the Great Patriotic War, wrote in their report: “Constant organisational changes in the military academy system before the start of the war, lack of a planned strategy for developing academies’ networks and capabilities, and unrealised plans for building up the officer reserve all created a number of serious problems, especially during the first years of the war.” We must not forget these hard-learned lessons.

We have made considerable efforts to modernise the higher military education system over recent years, including on the organisational side and teaching programmes’ content. Teaching programmes are now based on new federal state standards and qualification demands. This work is an integral part of developing our modern Armed Forces. We must be consistent in continuing this extremely important work and adapt the military education to the demands of our military development plans.

Let me outline a few priorities here.

First, by 2014, we must complete the process of optimising the military academy network, which was mentioned in the 1946 report I just quoted. We must bring this network into line with the personnel demands of our Armed Forces and other security agencies. The Defence Ministry has already approved these plans. At the same time, I think that it is of principle importance to maintain a number of military academies as independent educational establishments. You know what I am referring to here. The decisions have already been approved in principle. This concerns the Mikhailovskaya Artillery Academy, the Vasilevsky Military Academy of the Army Air Defence Corps, the Air and Space Forces’ Academy, and the Academy of Radiation, Chemical and Biological Defence. 

As for training officers in new fields, this should be done at existing academies that already have the required resources. It would not make sense to build new academies from scratch for this purpose, all the more so as tradition plays a particularly important part in military education.

We also need to plan the higher military education system’s development over the long term. I therefore ask the Defence Ministry to work together with the relevant agencies to draft proposals by March 2014 on further plans to develop the military education system through to 2020.

The second priority is to raise the quality of officer training. I note that the new law On Education for the first time gives military academies and the security agencies quite broad powers in the education process. They now need to make competent use of these powers.

What do I mean here? I am talking about, for example, setting qualification demands for professional military and special training of graduates, setting information lists for publication on open information and telecommunications networks, setting the specific features of the way the educational, methodological and research process is organised and carried out, and so on.

Military academy graduates must be ready to carry out the most complicated missions. This means that we must introduce the most effective educational programmes and constantly analyse the graduates’ actual subsequent service in the Armed Forces, see what skills and knowledge they use, and what turns out to be not needed. On this basis, we can make timely adjustments to teaching programmes, improve teaching technology, introduce in the teaching process the latest advances from at home and abroad, and ensure that training takes into account likely changes in the nature of armed warfare.

Coming back to the start of the Great Patriotic War again, you certainly know better than I do that the students in military academies were learning about trench warfare, and when the tank offensives began at the start of the war, the situation was markedly not in our favour, as the 1946 report made clear. You and I know today the specificities of modern warfare and the future developments we are likely to see in warfare over the medium and long term. You certainly know how modern warfare is conducted, and most importantly, what forces and means are used, and thus what methods are needed in its conduct and how to train people for this kind of warfare. Today it is a completely different picture even compared to the time of the Great Patriotic War.

Furthermore, conducting this kind of analysis will help us to decide what kinds of arms, military equipment and training simulators we require for the future. Our military academies’ students must master not only today’s arms and equipment, but also be ready to use those that the Armed Forces will receive over the coming years.

Another important point. Military education’s prestige and interest in it stem in large part from the fact that it was always a fundamental education that was every bit as good as civilian education and in some areas even better. The rector of Moscow State University might want to argue with me here, but such was always the tradition in Russia. We must continue to encourage healthy competition with the civilian universities. This year, students from our leading civilian universities took part in the All-Armed Forces Olympics, and this is a practice we should definitely continue. 

In 2014, we plan to hold this competition at the international level and invite specialists and students from military academies in other countries, above all the CIS states, to take part too.

Third, we need to develop our military academies’ research potential. This potential is considerable. Most of our military theoreticians, researchers and analysts work in the military academies, which are home to more than 400 research centres. This represents a huge potential. We have 1,600 DSc and more than 8,100 PhD degree holders. Together, they make up more than 70 percent of the Defence Ministry’s research capability. I think this is an area that needs the very closest attention, all the more so as next year we will start putting together a system of promising military research projects.

Finally, we need to expand international cooperation in training military personnel. We have a wealth of experience here. It is enough to say that over the last 70 years, our military academies have trained more than 280,000 servicemen from 108 countries.

They have held and do hold high office in their home countries, in military organisations and in the civil service, and some have gone on to become heads of state. They include presidents and prime ministers. This is further convincing evidence of our higher military education’s quality.

Currently we have more than 5,500 servicemen from 43 countries studying in Russia. They come above all from the countries that are our strategic allies in the CSTO and CIS, but some are from other countries too. We need to create new incentives to attract foreign students to our military academies, offer professional development programmes for specialists, and train military-technical personnel. This is all important for developing our ties in the defence cooperation sector, and for bolstering Russia’s influence in the world.

Let’s now discuss this in more detail.


Vladimir Putin: Friends, colleagues, officers,

Let me say by way of concluding remarks today that we have before us the immense task of modernising our Armed Forces. This is one of our strategic goals for the coming decades. I think that there is no need to tell you military people that a country cannot develop effectively and be confident in its independence and sovereignty without a modern army. 

I already spoke about the increasing complexity of the forms and methods of conducting modern warfare, and you are all well aware of this too. Warfare now is about modern technology and equipment, but without people who know how to use it and fight with it, it is all just so much useless metal. This is why you have this immense task of modernising the Armed Forces. 

I want to end today’s meeting with the same words I spoke at the beginning. Training personnel is the foundation for developing our Armed Forces.

I am counting very much on you, on your dedication to your work, your talent, creativity, energy and experience. Let me say again that much indeed depends on you. We will work together to improve and build on what has been achieved so far. We will keep moving forward.

Of course the proposals that were made today will be taken into account in drafting the document based on this meeting’s conclusions.

November 15, 2013, Ryazan