Editor: Our blog has recently posted about the voyage of president Medvedev to Kamchatka and his visit to an atomic submarine. In connection with this, our correspondent Grigory Pasko also has his comments. The president, it seems, is different, but the rake’s the same… Grigory Pasko, journalist I recalled the phrase of journalist Akram Murtazayev “Whoever hasn’t stepped on the same rake three times isn’t a Russian” when I read the reports about the visit by President Dmitry Medvedev to an atomic submarine on Kamchatka. The mass information media reported (I cite from the wonderful military newspaper Krasnaya zvezda [Red Star]:
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev began a working journey to Kamchatka with a visit to a base for submarines of the Pacific Ocean Fleet. On board the atomic underwater cruiser of strategic designation St. George the Victorious the Supreme Commander in Chief designated two main tasks in the military sphere: “First, this is the modernization of the Armed Forces themselves, and second, this is a strengthening of the status of the military serviceperson, which includes within itself too a raising of the monetary allowance…“
The fact is that every new president in Russia obligatorily comes first to a submarine, and then climbs into the seat of an airplane. (In an airplane, I believe, only Yeltsin did not sit). In such a manner they demonstrate to the whole world and remind themselves that besides all else they are also the Supreme Commander in Chief. The first thing to come out of their mouths before soldiers and sailors – we need to modernize the army and fleet, second – to raise the prestige of the service. Then there comes the traditional bunch of phrases about raising the monetary allowance (that’s what salaries are called in military language) and about the introduction of a new form of dress. (Moreover, if I’m not mistaken, the tradition of new rulers to immediately change military dress may have begun as far back as Paul the First).And as to what happens after such speeches – they couldn’t care less. The important thing is to make the right noises. This is why the Russian army still can’t fight properly, neither with Chechen “bandits” nor with Georgian “invaders”. The only thing it seems able to do more or less well is marching at parades. Paul the First would like that.I’ve got officer acquaintances who serve in the far East and, in particular, in Vladivostok. Sometimes they fly in to Moscow. Their first phrase – about how expensive air tickets are. But if we are to believe the Red Star, then the first question to Medvedev that the military service personnel of the atomic boat asked was about… the situation on the financial markets. Funny? I think it’s sad. Because this is – a lie: typical, Soviet propagandistic, far from the reality of life.They write that Medvedev also said such a phrase: “Irrespective of any crises we must build new submarines, in general simply engage in the modernization of the Armed Forces”. Now this I believe! This phrase – is from the number of obligatory mantras, incantations of any Soviet official. It was uttered as well by Putin, when he was president. But if we take a look at the results of his eight-year – from the year 2000 through the year 2008 – sojourn at the post of Supreme Commander in Chief, then we will see a sad picture of “modernization”.Since the year 2000 the Armed Forces have seen delivery of only 3 new airplanes – one Tu-160 and two Su-34s, a bit more than 60 T-90 tanks. During this same period the military-marine fleet [that’s Russian for “navy”—Trans.] and marine border-guard units received less than 10 surface and submarine ships and cutters.To this can be added that around 160thousand officers and warrant officers of the Russian army do not have housing, the incomes of the junior officer corps and nearly 40% of military pensioners are below the subsistence minimum.And which of all these problems does Medvedev consider to be the main one? Let’s read the Red Star: “Responding to another question, the President of Russia agreed that the military uniform of contract and compulsory-service soldiers could have differences”.So that’s how it is! It turns out that the main thing is to change the uniform for the contract soldiers. We have to assume that after this they’ll also start to live better and to serve more diligently.In short, the latest voyage of the latest president to the latest atomic submarine has shown: Russia isn’t going to have an army and fleet that are strong and provided with everything necessary for a long time yet.