MOSCOW, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Commissioned officers in the Russian army are personally responsible for the fostering and training of subordinate soldiers. They lead attacks and organize defense and mobile dispersion. In peacetime, commissioned officers supervise day-to-day control of their subordinates' activity.
A number of Russian military experts believe a rapid cut in the number of commissioned officers is risky and could significantly decrease the military's combat readiness. Adjusting the Russian army to Western military standards should begin with the creation of a professional junior commander core, which could replace commissioned officers in the fostering and training of privates, as in the U.S. Armed Forces.
This task could not be accomplished within one or two years. Also, servicemen need training with sophisticated hardware, which could be achieved most effectively by professionals.
The Russian army also needs modern battle management and support systems, including intelligence, target acquisition, communications and navigation systems, science-intensive computers among others, which are a necessity for modern warfare.
Currently, the Russian armed forces don't have the above-listed advantages, and are unlikely to have them before 2012, because insufficient defense industry capacity and the low educational level of the soldiers will hinder the reforms. Two or three years won't be enough to improve the situation.
The Russian government's federal program aimed at filling sergeant positions with professional servicemen has not been approved yet. Relevant funding has not been allocated. There are no sufficient educational and training programs for professional sergeants, and no favorable social or financial environment with which to encourage them to serve for at least 10 to 15 years, allowing them to master their specialty and to effectively train conscript soldiers. Much work needs to be done to replace lieutenants with professional sergeants at the platoon commander level.
Experts say the severe reduction in commissioned officers in the Russian army will solve several nagging problems, allowing the Defense Ministry in Moscow to provide housing for 122,400 commissioned officer families that have been waiting for it for 10 years or longer, free up funds to increase military compensations and avoid boosting defense expenditure. It is impossible, however, to improve Russia's defense capabilities while losing many of the most experienced specialists.
The decision by Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov could prove to be pure voluntarism not backed up economically or socially, causing a weakness in national defense capability that would take many years to reverse.
Meanwhile, the joint panel of the Russian and Belarusian Defense ministries made a series of other important decisions, including the joint strategic exercise Zapad-2009 ("West-2009") scheduled for 2009.
"By holding this exercise, we will take the next step toward ensuring the high capability of our armed forces and the military security of the Union State," Serdyukov said. The decision to cut the numbers of commissioned officers in the Russian army will not affect this exercise.
(Nikita Petrov is a Russian military analyst. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)
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