Back to a familiar topic . . . is it possible or likely Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov will resign or be dismissed from his post prior to the March 4 presidential election? It is, of course, a topic that won’t quit. At least not for the next two months.
Baev’s interviewer asks whether Serdyukov will keep his current seat under Putin 2.0:
“. . . I think that the Defense Minister will be replaced even before the election. The Armed Forces and military enterprises are a large and serious part of the electorate. It was possible to extinguish accumulated irritation with the promise of money since after long promises they raised pay for officers, although not as substantially as was said. It’s also possible to give money to OPK enterprises and sacrifice an unliked minister.”
But a resignation won’t be enough:
“I don’t think so because the problems have gone too far. It’s hardly possible to put the protest mood just on one minister. Everyone understands perfectly that it’s not the minister who started all this and carried all this out, no one suspects Serdyukov of being a confirmed reformer, having a program, or being a man motivated by a sense of his own mission. He is a manager, an executive, and extremely stubborn, but he didn’t start this, and that’s clear. And I don’t think Serdyukov will hold onto the minister’s chair. The problems and conflicts have become so acute that it’s becoming costly to him. I think they’ve had enough of him.”
Baev concludes that another civilian should take over the Defense Ministry, and continue separating its intertwined military and civilian functions. He doubts Serdyukov’s replacement will reverse anything, but simply move forward on the problems reforms have created.
Serdyukov’s departure seems like more of a possibility now than before the Duma elections. As Baev suggests, Putin could sacrifice his Defense Minister to appease his numerous unhappy defense industrial constituents. Serdyukov’s fate may hinge on how badly Putin needs a boost for March 4.
The Defense Minister’s 5-year anniversary comes next month and provides an opportunity for a change short of dismissal. This author gets the impression Serdyukov’s energy for his difficult job has declined lately.
As for Uralvagonzavod, its workers are unlikely to quit sniping at the Defense Minister. They, along with other military vehicle makers, have reportedly learned their defense order for 2012 has been drastically cut in favor of procurement in 3-5 years.