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Meeting with commanders of 60th Division's missile regiments

February 21, 2012, Saratov Region

In Saratov Region, Dmitry Medvedev had a meeting with commanders of the 60th Division's missile regiments. The issues discussed included the Armed Forces’ re-equipment, improvement of service conditions and social benefits for the servicemen.

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Excerpts from transcript of meeting with commanders of 60th Division’s missile regiments

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, comrades,

First, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all of you on the Defender of the Fatherland Day. It is a national holiday that is not only celebrated by servicemen, but also their loved ones, their families and everyone who has ever served in the Armed Forces. I wish you every success and all the very best.

I was truly looking forward to visiting the 60th Missile Division. Today we have deployed a new Topol-M system. I hope that all our plans on the re-equipment of the Strategic Missile Forces will be fulfilled. As I said earlier today during the presentation of state awards, we have all the required prerequisites and they are very simple: the state must have sufficient funds and the political will to put into practice all of these decisions. Naturally, we also need the hard work of a huge number of people serving in the Strategic Missile Forces and other structures and working at the institutions developing the extremely complex equipment that ultimately you will use.

At the present moment we have both of these prerequisites, and I am certain that we will finish on time the re-equipment of Russia’s Armed Forces as a whole and the Strategic Missile Forces, which constitute our nuclear missile shield. This is a crucial line of work, and that is recognised by our Government, and a major priority for the senior officers of the Defence Ministry.

Certain essential aspects of military service have changed starting this year. I would like to hear your views on these developments and how effective they are at present. I am referring to the new pay system and the rise in remuneration. Officers’ pay has increased by 100% to 200%. The pay of contract servicemen is also growing, although this issue requires a separate and final decision. I would be very interested to hear your opinions on this matter as well.

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Question: Comrade Commander-in-Chief, in your Address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, you expressed a hard-line position regarding US missile defence plans in Europe. Does this mean the beginning of a confrontation with Western states?

Dmitry Medvedev: This does not mean the beginning of a confrontation. It only means that we cannot be indifferent to their plans, because this affects our strategic interests. That’s why I had to make that statement. Some thought it was excessively hard, while others said it was a statement specifically made during a pre-election period, and won’t result in any action. Both of these opinions are erroneous.

It is not a tough statement, because it takes into account the actual circumstances that have led me, as Commander-in-Chief, to take the corresponding decisions and response measures that will be implemented. They are currently in the process of being implemented; you are all aware of them, and they will be completed.

Thus, we will enact countermeasures to the so-called American-European missile defence system that I spoke about, unless our partners either renounce this venture or propose some kind of alternative arrangement contemplating our participation in the joint missile defence. Here, everything is very simple; sometimes, the issue is turned into lengthy debates, but the fact is, everything is exceedingly simple for you as professionals in the field of Russia’s strategic potential, as missile officers. This is absolutely clear. If we have our own nuclear potential, it must be effective.

When President Obama and I signed the new START Treaty, it was assumed we would be in relative parity, with perhaps the need for a little adjustment on both sides. This is a relatively balanced situation that creates or supports the strategic balance model. We understand that in essence, missile defence is a continuation of the Strategic Missile Forces, only using other means. In other words, this is basically an attempt to upset that balance. We cannot be indifferent to it.

Regardless of who is President of the Russian Federation or the United States of America, the decision will need to be made. And you know, they have adopted the so-called concept for the multi-phase creation of European missile defence network – the four-step adapted approach. Well, by 2020, or perhaps even as early as 2018, we will need to make a whole set of difficult, costly decisions (though not excessively costly), in order to balance out what they are doing. If, by then, they renounce their plans – and the fact is, our colleagues have been flexible on this matter on multiple occasions – then we will also show flexibility. But if they continue with missile defence shield deployment according to NATO’s plans, we will be forced to do everything that I spoke about.

Let me emphasise again that this is not some kind of stand-alone Russian militarism or the rudiments of the Cold War; this is just good judgement. We cannot do otherwise. I stress once more that we will need to do it regardless of who is heading our nation, the United States of America, or NATO. Our partners, with whom we are engaged in dialogue on maintaining strategic parity, must remember this. So we will have quite a bit of work.

Question: The State Arms Programme stipulates further arming the Strategic Missile Forces with new missile systems. Is it possible that something may get in the way of implementing these plans?

Dmitry Medvedev: I have already answered this question. There should be no backset to our plans. Why? Because there are two components: money and political will. We have the money and the political will. Let’s move ahead. What’s most important is for our defence industry to function adequately. But that’s the question of control, responsibility of individual Cabinet members and all government institutions overall.

So have no doubt, we will do everything as planned. The armaments will be new – advanced and modern. But let’s not discuss certain issues right now for obvious reasons.

Question: To meet the challenges set before the Strategic Missile Forces, a serviceman must be really highly qualified. Practice shows that these qualities can only be found among professional servicemen performing high-quality combat duty, servicing armaments and military equipment.

Are you planning to increase the share of those serving under contract in the Armed Forces in general and in the Strategic Missile Forces in particular? What further measures will be taken to promote contract service?

Dmitry Medvedev: We are certainly planning that. In essence, we – I as the Commander-in-Chief, my colleagues in the nation’s political leadership, and Security Council members – have made the decision to change the procedure for manning our Armed Forces. This concerns not only the Strategic Missile Forces, although they certainly are the elite, but also other highly complex forces, and so on. Overall, it concerns all our Armed Forces.

In the next five to seven years we must essentially switch to a recruitment model, where 85 to 90 per cent of our servicemen will serve on a contractual basis. We must still maintain a relatively small share of conscripts, but for entirely different reasons. We need to have mobilisation resources; we simply need people who want to serve, for example, and who are ready to become officers afterwards, to have the chance to be in the Army, see what it is like, get the taste of it, the experience, and then make the important decision on whether or not to pursue a military career.

Moreover, additional contract positions will require funding, and that funding has already been earmarked, but it is quite possible that it will need to be increased even more, since we must shift to a contract service model that will be appealing. I have met with contract servicemen many times, and we are currently increasing their compensation, although perhaps not as quickly as they might like. We must identify a reasonable, adequate level of compensation that would distinguish a contract soldier from an officer. We must not devalue the difference between a contract serviceman and an officer, but at the same time, we should be able to recruit well-trained people to serve under contract – people who will train and who can serve for a relatively long time. To do so, we will need to resolve the housing issue and that of the military pay. This will also require considerable expenditures, but still, we will need to do it.

We have already begun to implement this idea, because with every passing year, as I sign decisions and Presidential executive orders on active military service, we are reducing the share of conscripts and increasing the share of contract servicemen, and we will continue to do this steadily over the next several years. So I hope that you will see much more well-prepared individuals coming to serve with you than, perhaps, you had some time ago.

February 21, 2012, Saratov Region