26 Apr 10. After years of mulling over various reform strategies, Russia is finally moving forward with plans to modernize both its armed forces and the nation’s defense industry. In a Forecast International Russian Defense Market report, Eurasian defense analyst Rebecca Barrett points out that the long-term budget plan known as the SAP 2007-2015 “has evolved to simultaneously become a military modernization, employment, and defense industry stimulus plan.” According to Barrett, “The plan is attracting a greater number of stakeholders and thus gaining the political momentum needed to ensure that defense spending continues to grow, even if such expenditures are not economically prudent.” In February 2010, President Dimitri Medvedev approved the new, highly anticipated military doctrine for the Russian Federation. The doctrine outlines the nation’s strategic nuclear plan and highlights what the government considers to be real threats and challenges facing the nation. It also calls for the armed forces’ transformation into a more effective mobile force. Under the plan, the Russian military will be cut by some 200,000 personnel by 2012. “The combination of Russia’s desire to modernize its force structure and its budget constraints is forcing it to adopt a number of end-strength and budget reforms,” said Barrett. As a result, the second major aspect of the reform is the restructuring of the long-term planning portion of the Defense Ministry’s budget. The aim here is to modernize the Kremlin’s fiscal practices in line with the modernization of the nation’s defense industry. In this regard, improving Russia’s defense industry has taken on great importance for the central government. Indeed, President Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have even used the modernization as a political tool to some extent, with Putin touting the effort as a jobs/industry stimulus plan. Modernization plans have been plodding along slowly in recent years, as is evidenced in the SAP 2007-2015. However, now that President Medvedev has signed the new military doctrine, the efforts are finally coming together under one umbrella.
25 Apr 10. First-hand accounts capture Black Watch Afghan tour. The six-month tour between April to November last year was the first time the battalion had been deployed to Afghanistan. The name Black Watch has become famous, thanks in part to the award-winning play based on the testimony of soldiers from the regiment who served in Iraq. Now the battalion is publishing a first-hand account of life on the frontline in a new book documenting troops’ experiences of Afghanistan. Soldiers from the Black Watch, the 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 Scots), undertook a six-month tour of duty in the country last year. It was the first time the regiment, based at the historic Fort George barracks near Inverness, had been deployed to Afghanistan. The tour turned out to be the most challenging in a generation for Black Watch, 3 Scots. A lovely smell. It was lavender, growing in the gullies in a horseshoe of a mountain and here we were taking firing positions amongst it. Five soldiers lost their lives, 30 were wounded in action, and 51 were evacuated back to the UK. The collection of diaries, journals and interview transcripts provide insights into life as an infantry soldier serving far from home. Experiences ranging from the adrenaline kick of first contact, to the horror of losing a friend and colleague are captured in uncensored and honest accounts. The book “Black Watch, 3 Scots: A War In Their Own Words” is not due to be published until autumn, but BBC Radio Scotland has been given access to the journals and diary accounts for a special documentary. (Source: BBC)