Sunday’s Svobodnaya pressa ran an interesting interview on the just-completed Defense Ministry collegium. Svpressa talked to a named, and recently dismissed, colonel who had worked in proximity to the collegium.
This colonel said the session left participants, to put it mildly, depressed. He said, “. . . from the first minutes the conference hall had such a blatant odor of stagnation [Brezhnevian] that it was clear there’d be no talk of any reform.”
President Medvedev had apparently attended the General Prosecutor’s collegium and asked why there were so few women attending that meeting. So, according to Svpressa’s colonel, the organizers of the Defense Ministry’s collegium flooded the hall with women in shoulderboards and without them. The zeal of the reformers went so far that some generals from Genshtab directorates were asked to surrender seats for ladies and return to their offices. The colonel says that, not being a strictly men’s affair, the severe talk needed didn’t occur.
Practically no one in attendance honestly considered analyzing the course of military reform. Serdyukov said that part of reform connected with cutting the army is going forward (the other directions of reform have practically collapsed). He reported on the rout (if, the colonel says, we call things by their real names) of officer training. But sergeants will replace dismissed officers under Serdyukov’s plan [but what happens when officers are gone and the contract sergeants never appear?].
According to the interviewee, Serdyukov simply sweetened the pill for Medvedev–in reality, everything is significantly worse than he described it. He asks how brigades can be combat ready if contract service is a failure. About 80 billion rubles went toward this and it’s unknown where the money ended up.
But at the collegium, there were no speeches analyzing the contract program’s failure or identifying people who are to blame for it. Everyone was silent. The Supreme CINC simply would be admitting failure on his part and the part of all authorities. Who wants that?
Svpressa asked the colonel why not a single formation commander wouldn’t stand and really say what’s happening out in the forces.
He answered that, like the old days, most of the generals attending are Arbat generals, and their main professional traits are caution and the inability to put their noses to the wind. The collegium was a litmus test for army reforms which don’t really exist and never have, according to him. There’s just the same ‘money grab’ that goes on everywhere in Russia.