On 13 January, Vladislav Shurygin published the final installment of Big Reform or Big Lie.
He focuses first on Putin’s military housing promises. Former housing chief Filippov said, in early 2009, that more than 90,000 Defense Ministry servicemen needed apartments. This represented a drop from 160,000 just a few years earlier. But while the Defense Ministry was housing those 70,000 servicemen who came off the list for apartments, 80,000 waiting for apartments in order to retire joined the list, as did not less than 40,000 dismissed under Serdyukov’s reforms. So no one really knows how many are on the list; it’s an issue of how many names the Defense Ministry recognizes.
According to Shurygin, the Defense Ministry has sifted the housing list and pushed tens of thousands of names off it. Some in closed garrison towns have been counted as having housing while others were pushed into seeking dismissal at their own request and losing their rights to apartments. Shurygin believes not more than one year after Putin declares that all servicemen have been housed Russian courts will still be full of military men suing the Defense Ministry over housing.
A lot of Shurygin’s information comes from the Duma roundtable on the preliminary results of Serdyukov’s reforms, held late last November.
There’s not one decision by ‘reformers’ and ‘optimizers’ that doesn’t bring sad consequences, according to Shurygin. He cites the catastrophic state of Russia’s overflowing arsenals and munitions depots. This summer Serdyukov transferred responsibility for them from the GRAU to the MDs and fleets who aren’t technically prepared to manage them. Shurygin notes it was GRAU personnel who were punished for the November blasts at the Navy’s arsenal in Ulyanovsk. Convenient people are punished rather than those who are truly guilty, according to him.
Arsenal management is split between the lower-paid military officers who supervise the storage area without adequate resources, and better-paid OAO Oboronservis people who operate the ‘technical’ area. Disarmament of unneeded munitions is performed without the experience of servicemen, long ago dismissed, who knew how to assemble and disassemble them. GRAU personnel are now just contracting officers who are no longer technically qualified for their work.
Now rotated to forestall corruption, factory voyenpredy now work on munitions, aircraft, and submarines, whether they are experts on the production of these systems or not.
Shurygin spends time describing the closure of the 5967th Arms and Equipment Storage Base (the former 16th Guards Tank Division) in Markovskiy village, Perm Kray. He says the formation performed well in Stabilnost-2008, but was disbanded anyway.
The Defense Ministry rapidly closed it last November. No troops were left to guard the equipment, including 433 tanks, and money to pay for moving equipment arrived late. All officers, warrants, and contractees were placed indefinitely outside the TO&E, and it was quietly made clear that they could be put out for ‘violating their contracts’ for any reason. Civilians in support services were dismissed, and servicemen had to be brought in to perform essential jobs. The kindergarten and military hospital are in limbo; the hospital doesn’t even have guards. People in Markovskiy not only lost jobs, but also their emergency medical services which had been provided by the base. Shurygin reports that the garrison’s telephone network and electricity grid are being sold to private operators.
Shurygin sums up a bit:
“The Defense Ministry has forgotten about one of its missions–this is guaranteeing the social defense of servicemen, civilian personnel, military pensioners, and family members.”
“The military unit, military hospital and KECh (apartment management unit) are our town-forming enterprises. Eliminating them and putting nothing in their place, the Defense Ministry has thrown its servicemen to an arbitrary fate, since a preliminary analysis of the consequences of dismantling our units was not conducted, and the mechanism for transferring the garrison to municipal control still hasn’t been determined, and also the timeframe, mechanism for transferring property hasn’t been determined.”
“And there are hundreds of such garrisons today! And many thousands of such complaints!”
Shurygin asks somewhat rhetorically why Putin and Medvedev are silent about all this. And he goes on to try to get at the nature of the Putin-Serdyukov relationship, postulating that maybe the latter is some kind of secret silovik, a KGB operative who visited Dresden and Putin in the late 1980s. Sounds a tad far-fetched.
Nevertheless, it is true that Putin seems to trust Serdyukov, and Serdyukov is an ‘untouchable.’ Shurygin concludes an effort to remove Serdyukov would be the cause of one of the first conflicts between Putin and Medvedev.
Shurygin quotes General-Major Aleksandr Vladimirov, who says Serdyukov’s reforms have taken on such momentum that they cannot be stopped.
In them, Shurygin sees the complete destruction of the former Soviet military machine [a bad thing from his viewpoint]. Specifically, he sees the liquidation of its mobilization system, military science, personnel policy, state order, rear services, and technical support systems, its military service ideology, and its historical regiments [replaced by nameless brigades]. He sees the sale of a great part of its facilities, infrastructure, and land. He also sees the liquidation of its military-industrial complex [but this clearly started long before Serdyukov].
What else does Shurygin see? A physical cut in army manpower, in the officer corps and high command, the overturning of the military education and junior command personnel training systems, the practical destruction of the Suvorov military school system, the reduction of the armed forces’ presence abroad [could blame Putin, Yeltsin, and Gorbachev for this].
So Shurygin concludes that the field has been cleared, what will be built in its place and who will do it? Russia’s leadership doesn’t know the army, is afraid of it, and doesn’t believe it is loyal to the leadership. Reform has been placed completely in the Defense Ministry’s hands and it does as it pleases. The criteria according to which the armed forces are being built aren’t obvious, but they are being built under the tyranny of the most unprofessional officials. The professionalism of the high command is so low, that this itself is a national security problem. And all the problems are getting worse. Russia’s political elite has lost the skills to control the state and army, and the army as a school for training the nation’s elite has been lost. The officer corps has been degraded and lumpenized.
The army’s situation has increased the power of the police and special services over society.
Quite simply, according to Shurygin, Russia is losing its capability to mount an armed defense even within its national boundaries. The armed might of the USSR is gone, and that of Russia hasn’t been created. But in the Kremlin, they don’t know what an army is, and this is why they weren’t capable of picking the right strategy for reform at a time when there was an historic chance to conduct it without hurrying. When they could have selected what was right for Russia, they picked complete destruction, cuts, and breaking everything that could be broken. Their remorselessness and arbitrariness rivals the Bolsheviks when they broke the Russian Army in 1917. But at least the Bolsheviks eventually created the Soviet Army [well, after a fashion perhaps].
The greatest problem, according to Shurygin, is the officer corps. It has been totally purged and cut. The very best officer personnel, who had the courage to have their own opinions, preserve their independence, those who didn’t bow to the bosses, and served without ‘influence’ or protection, were the ones sent away. In a year, the army’s lost the greatest portion of its most experienced and educated officers. The Serdyukov reforms have broken the back of the officer corps, once and for all.
Officers who remain exchanged their honor for a tripling of their pay over three years. The officers bought with this money are doomed to complete injustice and submission because any ‘disagreement’ with the policy would result in expulsion from the ‘feeding trough’ and dismissal. The Kremlin can do as it sees fit, cut, drive off, take away benefits, and what’s needed is only one quality, complete submission.
If there’s a gap between the rulers and the officers, Shurygin believes the gulf between officers and soldiers is just as wide. The army can’t be restored without restoring the officers corps, in Shurygin’s opinion.
Can the army survive the reforms of Kremlin commissar Serdyukov and his oprichnina? No one knows the answer, but society needs to know because it will pay with blood for the mistakes and failures of the reforms.