Shoygu’s Inherited Dilemmas

Shoygu and Serdyukov

Shoygu and Serdyukov

Before Russia’s holiday topor fully enshrouded military commentators, Gazeta’s Sergey Smirnov published an interesting piece on the situation in which Defense Minister Shoygu finds himself.  There isn’t a lot of great comment on Shoygu yet, but it might be cranking up.  Smirnov looks at how the popular Shoygu could mar his well-regarded career while tackling the same accumulated military structural problems that faced his predecessor.  He writes about possible bureaucratic and personal conflicts with Sergey Ivanov, Sergey Chemezov, and Dmitriy Rogozin.

Leftover Problem One:  Contract Service

According to Smirnov, Russia’s military added virtually no contractees in 2012, but still has to recruit 50,000 of them every year until 2017 to reach its assigned target of 425,000.  The obstacles are the same.  Eighty percent of them don’t sign a second contract because the army doesn’t offer living conditions more attractive than barracks.  Undermanning is a related problem.  Smirnov says the military’s manpower is certainly below 800,000.  And Shoygu may have to acknowledge this problem.

Leftover Problem Two:  Bureaucratic Competitors

Smirnov describes Serdyukov’s conflict with Rogozin over the OPK and its production for the military.  He claims the “Petersburg group” of Sergey Ivanov, Chemezov, and Viktor Ivanov wanted one of its guys to take Serdyukov’s place at the Defense Ministry.  But Putin didn’t want to strengthen them, so he took the neutral figure Shoygu.

According to Smirnov, Serdyukov wanted out, and wanted to head a new arms exporting corporation to replace Rosoboroneksport.  That, of course, conflicted directly with Chemezov and the interests of the “Petersburgers.”  And Smirnov makes the interesting comment:

“But that appointment [Serdyukov to head a new arms exporter] didn’t happen precisely because of the big criminal cases which arose not by accident.”

Was Serdyukov done in for overreaching rather than for corruption scandals in the Defense Ministry?

Shoygu, writes Smirnov, was not thrilled at the prospect of continuing the “not very popular” army reforms.  Smirnov is left at the same point as everyone else:  will it be a “serious revision” of Serdyukov’s reforms or a “course correction?”

There’s lots of talk to indicate the former rather than the latter.  The new VVS CINC has bloviated about returning to one regiment per airfield instead of large, consolidated air bases.  He claims the Krasnodar, Syzran, and Chelyabinsk Aviation Schools will be reestablished.  He babbles about going to a three-service structure and retaking VVKO.  Shoygu will allow Suvorov and Nakhimov cadets to march in the May 9 Victory Parade.  He stopped the Military-Medical Academy’s move out of the center of Piter.  Other commonly mentioned possible revisions are returning to six MDs and transferring the Main Navy Staff back to Moscow.

Leftover Problem Three:  Outsourcing

Serdyukov’s outsourcing policy led to scandals, and didn’t work for the Russian military’s remote bases.  Gazeta’s Defense Ministry sources say the structure and activity of Oboronservis will likely be greatly modified or, less likely, Oboronservis will be completely disbanded if some workable entity can take its place.

Leftover Problem Four:  Military Towns

The military wants municipal authorities to take over the vast majority (70-90 percent) of a huge number of old military towns (that once numbered 23,000) no longer needed by Armed Forces units.  The army only wants some 200 of them now.

The local government wants the military to provide compensation to restore and support these towns, but the latter doesn’t have the funds.  The army is laying out billions of rubles in the next three years, but only to outfit 100 military towns it wants to use.  There is also the problem of who gets, or has the power to give away, legal title to this military property.

Leftover Problem Five:  Officer Housing

Shoygu, says Smirnov, has to solve the unresolved problem of officer housing, especially for officers “left at disposition” of their commanders (i.e. not retired but lacking duty posts and apartments).  The Defense Ministry still doesn’t know how many need housing.  Smirnov writes:

“Despite the fact that the military department daily reports on the handover of apartments, the line of officers retired from the army who are awaiting receipt of living space is not becoming smaller.  At present from 80 to 150 [thousand] former officers are awaiting the presentation of housing.”

More than enough lingering headaches for one Defense Minister.

5 responses to “Shoygu’s Inherited Dilemmas

  1. Regarding kontraktniks, some 2500 were supposed to have been recruited in the Central MD alone, 10-15k overall in 2012 seems quite reasonable; but, of course, that’s still not enough.

    As for cadets marching on Victory Day, what does it matter?? If this is the kind of utterly trivial issues they’re concerned with, I’m amazed. The issue which they really need to be addressing is the decimation of military science and unnecessary personnel cuts.

    Regarding Serdyukov vs MIC, one thing he really should have done was force manufacturers to unify around several key types/platforms (i.e. Su-30/35 instead of a clusterf**k of Su-24M, Su-27SM, Su-30, Su-34, Su-35, Mig-29SMT, Mig-35; Mi-28 and Mi-8 instead of Mi-28N/NM, Mi-35M, Ka-52, Mi-17, Mi-26). Serdyukov fought all the wrong battles with the industry guys.

    A return to the 6-district structure? From what I’ve read, one of Serdyukov’s best decisions is supposed to have been the transfer to the 4 strategic commands.

  2. Thanks for the good points…the marching cadets are a tradition, you know how militaries are about traditions. One has to agree, Serdyukov could have fought smarter against the MIC / OPK. His methods and tactics rather than concepts appeared to cause his defeat. He stacked up a lot of enemies and overestimated the degree to which he could steamroll them. I doubt anyone (who is serious) really thinks 6 districts would come back. Everyone is trotting out their issue though, not every one has the same merit or chance of being “fixed.” Thanks for your insight.

    • Something else I’ve just thought of.. with the whole brouhaha around how civilian catering/cleaning personnel will head out into the field during exercises or actual combat operations, how is this handled in Western militaries?

  3. This one turned out to be pretty wrong, didn’t it? There may still be some elements awaiting Serdyukov’s departure and a return to the way things used to be, but too much has changed. The military establishment can’t ever be exactly what it used to be. And the brass was definitely no match for Serdyukov, and he didn’t stay out of their way, but rather sent many of them down the highway. And this Defense Minister has had a greater impact in four years than Sergey Ivanov in nearly six. Ivanov’s fate was not to be Putin’s successor, and to muddle around in his next job, i.e. First Deputy PM. As for Serdyukov’s fate, we’ll have to see. As for his impact, at least some is likely to be lasting. How long? Only until the next determined reformer arrives. None of this is to say Serdyukov’s impact is all positive, mind you. Some changes may have messed things up worse than they were. But he got reform off the dime in a way Ivanov never dreamed.

    • Wow, disagreement is more interesting than agreement, but it’s nice to hear someone on something close to the same wavelength now and again. Not quite as sanguine on this end about how hard it will be for MOD reactionaries to turn back the clock. Some changes, though announced, haven’t gotten too deep into the military fabric. Definitely agree Serdyukov’s implementation of reforms and management of change ended up a fiasco (for reasons that go way beyond the MOD; corruption’s in the fabric of the political system and society). Serdyukov had the moxie, chutzpah, daring, or perhaps foolishness to start changing things. He went, however, without caution, along too broad a front. Thanks for reacting.

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