Is corruption the cause for the recent spate of decrees on military personnel?
In today’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vladimir Mukhin reports a Defense Ministry source says the recent dismissals of high-ranking military men are connected to corruption by them or their subordinates. He puts the sudden retirement of 12th GUMO Chief Vladimir Verkhovtsev in this category. He reminds that the 12th GUMO is responsible for the safety, security, storage, testing, and reliability of Russian nuclear weapons, and is also primary recipient of years of U.S. taxpayer funding through the Nunn-Lugar Act.
Though he’s headed the 12th GUMO for the last five years, General-Colonel Verkhovtsev’s a relatively young 55, and could still serve 5 years under the law.
Mukhin says Defense Ministry sources say Verkhovtsev’s going down for corruption and theft by General-Major Viktor Gaydukov, commander of a nuclear weapons storage site, who together with his wife managed to steal 20 million rubles worth of U.S. aid intended for engineering work for “improving the secure storage and accountability of nuclear weapons.”
Gaydukov was the first to fall for failing to report his income and assets accurately under the provisions of the latest government anti-corruption campaign. However, the authorities’ discovery of his theft of money intended for nuclear security was purely incidental.
Mukhin cites Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov’s persistent proponent, Igor Korotchenko:
“To the Defense Minister’s credit, he didn’t hide these facts and continues to sign dismissal paperwork for all officers and generals discovered mixed up in corruption. That’s why there are so many retirements of military chiefs figuring in the president’s decrees.”
An anonymous 12th GUMO officer says:
“In Russia and the U.S., there are few ordinary people who know that, almost 20 years after the USSR’s collapse, Washington gives unreimbursed aid to the RF for the defense and support of its nuclear-technical facilities. Why aren’t such activities promoted – it wouldn’t do to talk about them. In Russia, they’re afraid that so-called patriots [Tea Party types?], the opposition, U.S. taxpayers wouldn’t like it.”
Mukhin says Moscow has spent much less on these facilities than the U.S. ($11 billion over two decades), but no one knows how much for sure because that budget article is still secret. He says the Russian government may soon have to say whether the money’s been used as planned and effectively.
Viktor Litovkin called Verkhovtsev and asked him to react to claims his dismissal is linked to misuse of Nunn-Lugar funding. He responded:
“My retirement has no relationship to this issue. And to link it to the Nunn-Lugar program would be incompetent. This is some kind of gibberish. I personally made the decision to retire. I wrote a request addressed to the Defense Minister at the beginning of November. And I also recommended a man for my post. He is a very good specialist whom I know well through joint work and service. I’m sure that he’ll manage very well.”
Sounds like he’s pretty sure he won’t be facing any prosecutor.
One should also observe that it might also be very convenient for a Defense Minister to label as corrupt anyone who opposes his policies and actions. To complete the picture of possibilities, it’s also possible some are both corrupt and oppose Serdyukov on principle.
A short post-script . . . it’s a pity Mukhin didn’t also explore General-Major Fedorov’s move from one nuclear facility to another . . . Korotchenko credits Serdyukov for not hiding information about corrupt generals, but if he isn’t hiding it, where are the details of their crimes?