Summer 1999, can’t remember exactly why I was pouring over the north German plains, but something that happened around Pristina International airport during the Yugoslav wars and somehow, I had to do some home work. Nonetheless it was the year Shaun Woodward chose to cross the carpet to the other side of the parliament. Good Lord! Did he not make history as the first Labour MP for Witney? Yes, he certainly did.
And as if the Pristina’s “shock therapy” wasn’t enough for the whole of Oxfordshire, Boris Yeltsin, couple of months later, ceded his seat to an unknown KGB officer. To those learned in the military art, Boris was as Russian as they come – always a Janus with the intelligence of Odysseus. And perhaps the most dangerous leader to ever come out of Russian.
Anyway, that Pristina event was part of my first lesson about what a lean, fast and very professional army could do. Further studies revealed that trimming down the military is a way of improving over all efficiency – if you have to rebuild a society. It is also as a way of transferring skills between the military and the civilian sector – thus revitalizing the economy at all levels.
King Solomon was probably the first to do it. Henry VIII did it out of necessity for the state. In our modern time, Germany, then the Brits again, followed by the Russians. We saw the result then and we are still seeing the result today. Hopefully the US will follow suit – if the House of Rep. see things the Obama-Hagel way.
Russia of 1999 was broke. Lost a lot of man power and credibility. Stores were empty and it’s people couldn’t afford to feed themselves talk less an army. Boris’ chosen successor – that young KGB officer, selected a few like minded fellows and went to work. Outline priorities, target key areas, set up laws where there was none and bring the system to par with current needs. No ceremonies.
Suddenly, environmental laws and the environmental welfare ministry started enforcing laws in places where the ministry of industry and manufacturing was expected to play. A new for mother Russia and I guess Shell BP and a few others heavy diggers could tell you more about this.
Not only was he (through this ministries) able to curtail environmental disasters, he also pulled the country back from total collapse. We are seeing the effect today.
Now let us look at the make up of the Russian army kit in Ukraine.
Come across as a force well adapted to guerrilla warfare. They all had a protective helmet with modular comms., internal direction finder or positioning system. A body protection piece over an electronically laced battle gear for arctic warfare. They also have a Motorola-like back up walkie-talkie. Now that is the best way to communicate in the field if you don’t want anyone to intrude on your net. Also if you want to keep off wireless intruders. What else to say about the optronic system, image display directly from weapon, light intensifier, night vision, optic sight sensors and all? Amazing transformation of men and materiel.
The only thing missing is the AN-94. So far so good, that is good news.
The uniform and the balaclava looks funky, covering all body parts, but guess what! It was like the rest of the uniform, made with body heat suppressing fibers – probably obtained from Japan or locally made.
As a matter of fact, using western standards, you can break down the whole kit on every soldier into six sub-sections. And I guess each walking Russian infantryman cost about $80k to dress.
This force is many generation different from the force that went into Chechnya and professionally different from the ones that went into Georgia. A perfect show off. What more to expect?