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Russian Army Chief Vows To Boost Officers' Pay

Makarov announced plans to halve the number of officers.
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian Army officers' pay will soar under a modernization plan, the head of Russia's General Staff said about reforms that aim to improve morale and drive out corruption that has undermined the Soviet-style military.

Army General Nikolai Makarov was giving details in media interviews of the country's most radical military reforms yet, which were announced last week and follow Russia's brief war in Georgia in August.

"If we optimize, we can exponentially increase pay, which is very low for officers and contract soldiers serving in our army," Makarov said.

Interfax and Vesti television quoted Makarov as saying on October 18 that a lieutenant would earn at least 70,000 rubles per month ($2,700 at current exchange rates) within three years after the number of officers in the army is halved.

Most of Russia's officer corps survives on pay that falls below the national average of about 16,000 rubles per month.

A lieutenant colonel, the deputy commander of a mechanized infantry brigade, and a graduate of a top Russian military academy, make less than 15,000 rubles per month.

Poor morale and corruption have sapped the army and the campaign in Georgia in August -- while achieving Russian military goals -- exposed its obsolete weapons, lack of precision missiles, and old communications systems.

Russia will have no more than a million men under arms by the end of the three-year reform, including 150,000 officers, or half the current number, Makarov said in the interviews.

Analysts say the reform plan, which aims to turn Russia's top-heavy and bloated army into a more compact force that is permanently combat-ready, will face resistance from generals who stand to lose their jobs.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 Russia slashed funding, but it kept the structure essentially intact. That has led to units still existing on paper but not being capable of combat.