More on Serdyukov as Possible Moscow Mayor

Defense Minister Serdyukov (photo: Vadim Savitskiy)

Russkiy Newsweek has taken a look at Anatoliy Serdyukov as a candidate for mayor.  And gotten an interview from him.  He doesn’t give many. 

The magazine does it two ways . . . they give their spin on the interview, then the actual text of the interview.  Fair enough. 

Their spin is labeled КОНТЕКСТ (Context).  Their bold sub-heading says Serdyukov might be the only guy who meets the criteria for Moscow mayor.  They repeat today’s Nezavisimaya gazeta on Serdyukov meeting with Putin last week, then with General Staff Chief Makarov.  The latter reportedly gathered highly placed military men and told them ‘cadre changes are possible,’ which people take as confirmation ‘they’ will move Serdyukov to the mayor’s office. 

In Serdyukov’s favor, he’s from Piter, he’s twice shown his effectiveness in tough places (Tax Service, Defense Ministry).   And shocked at how they stole stuff in the Defense Ministry on his arrival, he’s been successful in the struggle against corruption [well, maybe more successful than predecessors who were completely unsuccessful!].  And Russkiy Newsweek concludes he’s shown he’s capable of moving a large structure like the army from a dead stop, and this makes him a fully possible candidate for mayor [since the same thing is required in the Russian capital].  And finally, Putin and Medvedev trust him. 

Now, the interview . . . 

Asked about the GPV budget, Serdyukov says Russia didn’t allocate money for rearmament for a long time, and now expenditures are being increased to what is really necessary for effective development of the armed forces.  He lists the following priorities — nuclear deterrence, Space Troops, PVO, aviation, and communications.  He says proposals for the GOZ 2011-2013 are now being prepared based on the ten-year GPV. 

On cooperation with the U.S. in missile defense, Serdyukov says the possible joint use of a radar in Kaliningrad remains just a proposal. 

Did the Georgian war spur military reform?  He says: 

“The conflict really accelerated this process.  It confirmed the need for reorganizations.  We are trying not to use the word ‘reform.’  We’re establishing a new profile for the army.  We’ve done a great deal.  We researched the experience of foreign armies — Israel, America, Germany, France, Italy — for the creation of our own model, taking account of geopolitics and economic possibilities.  But it all began with basic things.  We evaluated the correlation of officers and soldiers.  It turned out to be 50:50.  That is a soldier for every officer.  When we began to analyze it, this was for officers, it became clear — senior personnel, not lower than lieutenant colonel.  And among them the overwhelming majority not only didn’t have combat experience, but even experience commanding sub-units and units.  Were this many necessary?  We concluded this was an inflated correlation.  In European armies, the share of officers is from nine to 16%.  It’s true their armies are built differently.  We have space, rocket troops, and strategic nuclear forces.  Here the share of officer personnel is much higher.  And this is essential.  The calculations we made showed that the number of officers should be within the limits of 15% of all armed forces personnel.  Approximately the same correlation as in the world’s leading armies.” 

Serdyukov says he made: 

“The conclusion that it’s essential to make the transformations quickly and decisively.  The conflict showed that the army acutely needed a modern command and control system for its troops and equipment.  That it needed to change its entire system of training officers, soldiers, and sergeants.” 

The interviewer asked Serdyukov about the new military districts / OSKs. 

“The character of wars has changed in recent decades.  The zone of military actions is now not some piece of territory, but the entire country.  This has changed the demands on troop groupings.  They have to be flexible, maneuverable, and highly mobile.  And the former six military districts didn’t fully guarantee the reliable defense of our borders.  The military-administrative divisions of the country no longer answered existing military threats.  Troops essential for repulsing aggression had to be scattered in several military districts.  Besides we didn’t have command and control organs on strategic axes that were capable of uniting the effort of ground, aviation, and naval forces.  And finally, the territorial borders of the military districts didn’t correspond to the borders of zones of responsibility for air defense.  These problems are being eliminated with the establishment of the updated military districts.  Now all troops on their territory will be subordinate to one commander.  And he will bear personal responsibility for security in the region.” 

Asked if he’s an opponent of the domestic arms industry, Serdyukov said: 

“In this case, we’re in the role of consumers.  Consumers of those arms that the OPK supplies.  There are requirements which form the basis of parameters — technical characteristics for their production which are presented to us.  The thing is our opponents also have requirements for defense production.  And we need to correlate these figures.  Our defense sector often can’t support the required characteristics.  We are talking about this with domestic corporations.  You can’t do it yourself — go to them.  The issue of the ‘Mistral’ arose for this reason.  The Russian OPK couldn’t support the essential parameters for us.  Therefore we’re talking about readiness to buy foreign ships.  Our enterprises want to put out old models.  We don’t want to buy them.  But this isn’t really a conflict — it’s a working situation.” 

Asked about his largely civilian team of financial specialists, their focus on results, and what kind of results they seek, he said: 

“A combat capable, modern, like one of my colleagues put it, a ‘smart’ army.  An army is a sufficiently serious consuming part for the country.  The money could go to more humane purposes, if it’s possible to say so.  Therefore, it needs to justify expenditures on itself by their effectiveness.  We have tried to make the management structure two-tier.  To divide its activity into military and that connected with support of the military.  There is still the task of building a financial oversight system.” 

This one was the most shocking to many folks.  Asked simply if they steal in the Defense Ministry, Serdyukov said: 

“When I came to the Defense Ministry, to put it bluntly, I was discouraged by the extent of theft.  This sensation still hasn’t passed.  Financial licentiousness, the impunity of people whom no one had ever checked out.” 

“This system was so ingrained that it was already a way of thinking.  We are developing an effective oversight system.  I’m not saying that today the problem has been fully uprooted.  But there are very palpable results.” 

Asked why Russia is moving away from contract service when the budget for arms has tripled, the Defense Minister said: 

“Don’t believe that armaments are cheaper than a good contractee.  If you calculate it, these are colossal expenditures.  The past program didn’t work precisely because it was done in a formalistic way.  The military was told you have to do it.  They saluted.  But it was perfectly clear that a contractee wouldn’t go into the army for seven thousand, if he could earn not less than 15 as a civilian.” 

“We actually could forego rearmament and let the money go to the improvement of contract service.  But then we’d have old equipment and weapons that don’t meet modern requirements.” 

He continues: 

“We aren’t giving up on contract service, but only shrinking the number of such servicemen.  To 90-100 thousand.  We’ll see further.  If we save money in other areas — of course we’ll return to this idea.  But an already well-prepared one.” 

Asked whether one-year conscription’s having any effect on dedovshchina, Serdyukov said: 

“There are more nonregulation instances in absolute terms.  But this doesn’t scare me, because there are more conscripts.  The situation has to level out with time.  And the statistics will begin to fall perfectly precisely.  Particularly when you account for our methods:  we are very demanding with commanders on this, even up to dismissal in cases with deadly consequences.  Human rights advocates have already begun to criticize me for dismissing many of them for nothing.” 

Asked if he has carte blanche from the country’s leadership, he says: 

“There is trust.  I’m trying to talk over, get support for any serious things.  Before beginning the transformations there were three meetings with Putin, then with Medvedev.  There were many meetings and sessions.  All of 2008 we gathered [Duma?] deputies in various formats and tried to explain the logic from military, economic, and financial viewpoints.  This is serious work.  Large-scale.  But there was no longer another way.  Otherwise was a road to nowhere.  More and more money would be spent, but the results would be worse and worse.” 

So the interviewer concludes they needed someone from the financial sector: 

“Honestly, I never expected such a decision.  When they dismissed me from the army after my service, I thought I wouldn’t end up there any longer.  Obviously, they decided that they really needed a financial specialist for these tasks.”

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