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Expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board

March 5, 2010, Moscow

The meeting summed up the results of the Defence Ministry’s work in 2009 and clarified its objectives for 2010.

In his remarks at the meeting, the President gave an assessment of work undertaken so far to develop Russia’s Armed Forces. Russia has now achieved its goal of establishing combat capable forces with the number of servicemen now standing at one million. Equipment is being modernised gradually throughout the Armed Forces. The Government has been set the task of increasing the rate at which arms and equipment are upgraded by 9–11 percent a year, which will bring the share of new arms and equipment in the Armed Forces to 70 percent by 2020. Work is also underway on providing the Armed Forces with automated control centres and information systems.

Mr Medvedev said that priorities for the Defence Ministry include raising the prestige of serving in the Armed Forces, improving training, and ensuring better social support for veterans, servicemen and their families. The Defence Ministry also has a lot of work to prepare for the upcoming celebrations of the 65th anniversary of victory over Nazism. 

The President said that he plans to attend the main events at the Vostok-2010 strategic military exercises.

On the subject of Russia’s defence policy, Mr Medvedev said that Russia has no need to increase its nuclear deterrent capability, yet the possession of nuclear weapons remains a determining condition for Russia to be able to pursue independent policies aimed at maintaining peace and preventing military conflicts.

The President also noted that talks with the USA are now very close to reaching agreement on a new START treaty. Full-scale contacts with NATO have also resumed.

During a break in the meeting Dmitry Medvedev met with military districts and naval fleets commanders. Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Nikolai Makarov also took part in the meeting.

* * *

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Comrades, as the Defence Minister said just now, we are here to sum up the results of the Ministry’s work over the last year and discuss our plans. I want to say a few words on some general issues.

A month ago, I approved the Russian Federation’s new military doctrine, which is now being studied closely both here and abroad. I also approved the Principles of State Nuclear Deterrence Policy until 2020. On the basis of these two documents we can draw several important conclusions.

First, we have no need today to continue increasing our nuclear deterrence capabilities, yet the possession of nuclear weapons remains a determining factor in Russia’s ability to pursue an independent policy directed at protecting its sovereignty, maintaining peace, preventing military conflict, and also helping to settle post-conflict situations.

Last year, we adopted amendments to the Law on Defence. These amendments provide the legal grounds for the Russian Federation to use its Armed Forces to protect its citizens beyond our borders. We should remember too that there are conflict potential and unsettled problems close to our borders. This unquestionably creates a potential threat to our national security.

But we are continuing our active efforts to cement the positive trends in international politics today. Over a relatively short time our intensive talks with the United States of America have brought us close to a new strategic offensive arms treaty, which will see both sides make cuts to their stockpiles of these weapons. After going through a somewhat rough patch, full-scale contacts between Russia and NATO have also resumed. 

The reaction to Russia’s European Security Treaty initiative serves in many ways as a barometer of our relations with the USA and NATO. The defining issue here is our partners’ willingness to give a legally binding form to the principle of indivisible security in Europe. Active discussion is underway on this document. It is my conviction that the treaty we propose would give us precisely the instrument we need to be able to prevent various regional conflicts, above all on the European continent, including conflicts similar to the Georgian-Ossetian conflict. 

Unfortunately, far from all countries and politicians have learned the lessons from what happened in August 2008. Unfortunately, Georgia continues to build up its military potential with the military support from outside. Taking this into account, and also the complicated social and economic situation in the Caucasus, I decided to establish the North Caucasus Federal District. Among other things, this makes its possible to coordinate the military and security forces there more effectively. 

Colleagues, the main aim of our efforts to modernise the Armed Forces is to create modern forces equipped with the latest arms. In September 2008 I approved the respective modernisation programme. Last year we put the organisational foundations into place, keeping to the tight deadlines that we set and without going over our planned spending. Our Armed Forces now comprise one million servicemen. Overall, the Defence Ministry has reached its objectives of establishing combat-ready Armed Forces, as was confirmed by the Autumn-2009 military exercises.

As you know, I was present during the active stage of these exercises and saw the evidence that overall preparedness, coordination between the newly reorganised units and operations planning was all of rather high level. This does not mean that we have solved all our problems, but the overall impression was positive, especially when you think that it had been a very long time since we held military exercises of that level. These kinds of exercises need to become part of regular practice. Our Armed Forces simply cannot exist without them.

Officer training remains an essential task to work on. The Armed Forces need top-class specialists familiar with modern technology and deeply motivated by the military profession they have chosen. We need to develop our military education system, improve its material base, which has deteriorated over the last years, and support teachers who are experienced and devoted to their work. Sergeants need to be a particular focus for our attention. Sergeants need to have the training to enable them to step in and replace officers at the primary level if the circumstances call for it.

We need to raise responsibility of officials at all levels for developing the personnel reserve, building it up with promising and professional officers and organising additional training for them specific to the appointments awaiting them. It is good to see that appointments to the main command posts are coming mostly now from the personnel reserve. This policy should continue.

We still have much complicated and important work to do on providing the Armed Forces with new arms. As we agreed, we are working in stages. Last year, we stabilised the situation with arms and military equipment, carrying out the state defence procurement programme as planned despite the financial crisis, though not without encountering some problems on the way. Promising research and development work is underway – the kind of work we need to be able to modernise our arms and equipment. 

At the same time, the system for carrying out defence procurement orders is still not working effectively enough. We still have work to do in this respect. Things are still moving too slowly. This year we will complete the drafting work on the new defence procurement programme for 2011–2020. I set the Government the task of increasing the rate at which arms and military equipment are upgraded by 9–11 percent a year on average, which will make it possible to increase the share of modern equipment to 70 percent by 2020. This work must be backed up by full and timely funding. 

As for this year, I outlined our immediate tasks in the Address [to the Federal Assembly], in which I named the specific weapons systems and types that must be delivered in priority to the Armed Forces. No changes are planned in this respect. Obsolete arms need to be decommissioned. Planning work is underway on this in accordance with the federal targeted programme for 2011–2015 and until 2020. As I have already said in the past, we need to take the necessary measures to ensure proper use, storage and conservation of missiles, ammunition, explosives and all types of military equipment in general. Events last year highlighted the problems that we still have in this area. 

Another issue is that of providing the Armed Forces with automated control centres and information systems. This also covers the work to move over to digital communications systems by 2012. This is another of the tasks I set in my Address. The Zapad-2009 military exercises tested a system of automated mobile control centres. This is just the start of our work. We need to step up the pace in this area because the situation with communications is still far from ideal. 

One of the main tasks in 2010 will be work to raise general purpose forces’ combat readiness within the framework of their new organisational and personnel structure. The main focus here should be on establishing and training combined forces groups and also maintaining and developing the nuclear deterrence forces, in accordance, of course, with the thresholds set on strategic offensive weapons. The main training event this year will be the Vostok-2010 military exercises. I will plan my schedule so as to be able to attend the main events during these exercises.

Another of our priorities is to raise the prestige of service in the Armed Forces and improve social support for veterans, servicemen and their families. I stress in this respect that the state will fulfil in their entirety its obligations towards current and retired servicemen. There will be no changes to the budget allocated for this, and nothing will change our plans in this respect. The Government has clear instructions to provide all servicemen in need with permanent housing by the end of this year, and with service housing by 2012. Work is progressing quite well on this and I will be keeping it under my supervision.

We need to implement in full our commitments to raise servicemen’s wages, including through the transition to the new payment system starting from 2012, and we also need to guarantee implementation of the Security Council’s decisions to raise retired servicemen’s pensions. We must not forget those who have left the Armed Forces.

You all know Order 400, which provides incentives for military work and has produced good results. I think that in introducing the new wage payment system we should keep the bonus option. I expect the Defence Ministry to present me with proposals on this matter, so that we can organise a system of bonuses and incentives alongside the actual wage system. 

We also need to pay special attention to the 65th anniversary of victory celebrations. This is a special event, an event of particular importance. The Defence Ministry has a lot of work before it in this respect. I expect that all of this work will be implemented as planned, including the military science’s contribution to defending the truth about the events of that period (and not just the science), and affirming a fair and unbiased view of our country’s leading role in vanquishing Nazism.

In conclusion, I want to say once again that modernising our Armed Forces requires us to work effectively, consistently, in coordinated fashion, carry out our plans, not hesitate and continue moving forward.

Thank you.

March 5, 2010, Moscow