Who will defend the defenders?

1:43 23.02.2012 • Armen Oganesyan , Editor-in-Chief, International Affairs

A recent TV film about Zhukov, for all its conventionality and weightiness, unexpectedly sharply raised the issue of the need to "defend" the defenders. One can read the biographies of great generals, Suvorov for example, and you will see hardly anyone of them avoid disgrace.

It is not just about protecting the prestige of the military class, because it was high enough in the days of Suvorov, and in the times of Zhukov.

The paradox is that the army is one of the most "vulnerable" institutions in society. Its structure consists of a mass of interconnected parts, and each of them is important. Ideally, the structure combines the most sophisticated philosophy of war with the everyday life of the common soldier. Even in an over-democratic society, the army is always hierarchical. In these circumstances, any changes, not to mention reforms, affect not only the individual parts of the body, we call the "army", but its condition as a whole.

At the time of Nikita Khrushchev, the institution of sergeants was abolished (which nowadays we are trying hard to revive), and bullying in the army blossomed, which erodes the current army, undermining its credibility in the eyes of society, and reducing its fighting capacity. One would think that it was right to remove the enlisted sergeant from the barracks, who spent day and night with the soldiers, and who, according to Khrushchev, knew only how to "punch someone on the nose." But very soon the number of hunters humiliating and "punching the young on the nose" had grown exponentially.

It is no surprise that demotion and purges in the Army have taken place from the earliest times and happen in periods of military reforms. Khrushchev at first considered himself to be ignorant in the military field, but soon the tone of his argument about the army became peremptory with his typical Stalinist style "refinements." So, he reduced the number of troops, and "directed them to the growth of the national economy," The General Secretary of the Central Committee said: "If a major became a swineherd, then he would be priceless."

Just as "figuratively" Khrushchev was able to present his military doctrine, which he did not consider it necessary to negotiate with the military. "We have a nuclear missile shield ... Our rockets are the best in the world, the Americans cannot catch up with us ... Why do we need  huge armies, concentrated in Europe, to defend us? This is old junk, scrap metal, which is hanging like a heavy weight from the neck of the people, diverting millions of workers hands from productive employment. "

In fact, a huge military budget is bad for the economy of a country; it distracts the scientific and technical elite to the manufacture of military and defense equipment. One can see for example the "economic miracle" of the revival of Germany and Japan, which by the wishes of the winners of the war were not allowed to have a large army, and were free of the need for them to spend a substantial part of their budgets on the military. Do not, however, forget that, on the way to this "miracle" they had to endure the shame of defeat and unconditional surrender.

Khrushchev's military reforms planned, firstly, a significant reduction in the number of military personnel. Although great efforts had been made for their retraining and employment, this program was not implemented, not to mention the unresolved domestic issues. Benefits and military pensions would be received only by those who served in the Army for 25 years and over, those with less than 20 years seniority were deprived of many privileges and military pensions. Almost a quarter of the reduced personnel were not provided with housing.

The reduction of troop levels, however, was a special consequence of Khrushchev's general approach to the changing role of the armed services. "Times have changed. Now defense is not determined by having many soldiers with guns but by having the means to deliver firepower. Therefore it is necessary to strengthen and improve the country’s nuclear-missile shield. So the military, air force and navy have lost their former significance. They need to be gradually reduced and replaced with missiles."

In 1954, Khrushchev inspected the fleet, and realized that in its existing state it would be unable to resist the U.S. and English navies. However, he did not accept the surface fleet construction program proposed by Navy Commander Admiral Nikolai Kuznetsov. He not only rejected the construction program for the surface fleet proposed by him, but he lowered Kuznetsov from the rank of admiral and soon dismissed him. From that time, the main focus was on a missile equipped submarine fleet and ballistic missiles.

As in many of his endeavors, in grabbing hold of one link in the chain and giving it an exaggerated importance, Khrushchev fell into extreme primitivism, which helped him design his lifeless and unsafe utopias. At the Kapustin Yar nuclear missile rocket launch and development site in September 1958, he said: "If we do it cleverly, in a short time we can transfer the whole army to missiles and, protected by them like a shield, turn our attentions to peaceful affairs." Even the production of tactical nuclear weapons, not to mention the development of conventional arms Khrushchev called a pointless waste of money. Replacing reality with his own dreams, he saw the future in the complete abandonment of the army and the creation of some "militia forces” of law and order, formed territory by territory.

On the basis of his false assumptions, Khrushchev made mistakes, which seriously affected the country's defense even to this day. His main mistake was that he rejected any value or meaning in local wars and regional conflicts. He ignored elements of geopolitics as a "pseudoscience" and as a long outdated chimera. He saw the foundations of defense in strategic missiles, that, in his words, "keep the whole territory of the enemy under threat of attack, and under pain of death,” as an important deterrent. However, the Soviet Union was in exactly the same position as its potential enemy – in the sights of the nuclear forces of the U.S. and its allies. Fear was mutual and with equal restraining forces, it left the field open for those who have been the strongest in the area of conventional weapons. They are essential to this day: military aircraft, surface ships and aircraft carrier strike fleets, even though they were rejected by Khrushchev some time ago. Later they were joined by forces based in space and "smart weapons" on the battlefield.

The Berlin crisis in 1961 made Khrushchev suspend the program of reducing the armed forces and military budgets. If Khrushchev is credited with the achievement of nuclear parity with the United States, we should recognize the fact that due to imbalances in the major reform of the Armed Forces, it subsequently formed a much greater burden on the shoulders of the people who in the historical conditions could not make a choice in favor of an "asymmetrical response ".

Virtually all military history teaches a simple lesson: any rushing aside, any attempt to translate ideological utopias, or dreams of "world peace" in the specific language of military construction is disastrous, especially for the economy, the standard of living and national defense of the country.

Only the blind can’t see that military force is today a guarantee for the future protection of the economic interests of the largest countries in the world, which, of course, Russia belongs to. Military budgets can’t be "a little" or "a lot"; they should be as much as is sufficient for a strong, effective and morally healthy army.

So let the Major remain a Major, or even promote him to general, and let the swineherd tend to the pigs.<!--EndFragment-->


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