Category Archives: Serdyukov’s Reforms

Gerasimov Says No Sharp Course Change

General-Colonel Gerasimov (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatikov)

General-Colonel Gerasimov (photo: RIA Novosti / Sergey Pyatikov)

Gazeta.ru pieced together RIA Novosti clips of General Staff Chief Valeriy Gerasimov’s session with foreign military attaches yesterday.

Gerasimov said army reforms begun by former Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov will be “corrected,” not radically altered:

“Anticipating your questions on the possibility of a sharp course change in military organizational development, I would note there won’t be one.  In 2008, the Russian Federation President clearly indicated development tasks for our army, they will be fulfilled.  Naturally, some issues are being subjected to certain correction accounting for deficiencies revealed.”

“Organizational development” is primarily (but not entirely) TO&E and force structure.

Gazeta reports Gerasimov said mixed conscript and contract manning will be preserved, and the one-year conscript service term won’t be increased as some would like.

The new NGSh said the Defense Ministry is creating its own element to track fulfillment of the state defense order (GOZ):

“And by the minister’s decision, a structure will be created in the Defense Ministry which allows for controlling not only the completion of contracts, but work in all phases of the production cycle.”

Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry had various organs with this responsibility, including Rosoboronzakaz, Rosoboronpostavka, etc.  How will the new structure be better?

Gazeta closes with expert opinions on the fate of reforms introduced by Serdyukov.  Igor Korotchenko says:

“We didn’t have Anatoliy Serdyukov’s reform, but a reform the main parameters of which were set by the president.  That is the military reform course will continue fully with the exception of some cases of deficiencies revealed in the military education system, military medicine, and the reinforcement of control procedures over the activity of those structures involved in armed forces outsourcing.”

Ever-skeptical Aleksandr Khramchikhin doesn’t think there was a coherent course to be changed:

“In the army reform, there wasn’t a clear plan of action, one won’t appear under the new defense minister.”

“I don’t think Shoygu’s Defense Ministry will try to correct the course of reform or introduce some fixes.  There is nothing to correct.  Serdyukov’s reform had no kind of course, it went by the trial and error method.  There are grounds to believe that Shoygu will act according to the same principle.”

There’s a long list of policies commentators think will or might be changed, but little so far officially.  A new category to replace Serdyukov’s Reforms is needed.  Maybe Shoygu’s Nuanced Corrections?

Can He Possibly Avoid Prosecution?

Anatoliy Serdyukov (photo: ITAR-TASS / Aleksandr Mudrats)

Probably not.

It seems likely President Vladimir Putin, at some point, will turn Anatoliy Serdyukov over to the law, such as it is in Russia.  Despite assertions to the contrary, Putin will bow to evidence his former defense minister knew about,  condoned, or even participated in corruption schemes.

What’s Putin’s calculus?

Putin stands to look like a corruption fighter, perhaps for the first time.  Most of that corruption occurred on his protege-predecessor’s watch.  Serdyukov’s lost his tie to Putin’s closest associates through his estranged father-in-law Viktor Zubkov, so it’s free fire.  Putin can even save money by not pouring all 19 trillion rubles into new arms procurement by 2020 while investigators and prosecutors take at least 2-3 years unraveling the mess.

Few will recall Putin appointed Serdyukov to straighten out the Defense Ministry’s financial flows.  That didn’t work out too well.  Not many will remember Serdyukov was brought in because of the meager results of Putin’s stewardship of defense between 2000 and 2007.  Essentially, 12 years of Putin’s control and direction of the armed forces (de jure, de facto, or both) have come to little.  None of this will loom large politically for Putin.

On balance, it’s an easy decision to turn Anatoliy Eduardovich over to his fate.

Compared with nine months ago, clouds completely surround Serdyukov now.

Izvestiya wrote about his sister’s wealth right after the scandal broke.  A FGUP her husband ran won a lucrative one-bidder Defense Ministry vehicle leasing contract in 2010.  It’s not clear he was in charge of the firm when it got the deal.  But there can’t be any doubt the family connection was the reason for getting it.  The story appeared here, but the role of Serdyukov’s brother-in-law was unknown at the time.

This week the media reported Oboronservis affiliates responsible for paying energy suppliers for heating military installations are suddenly 4 billion rubles in the red.

The Investigative Committee (SK) searched Serdyukov’s cottage, along with those of other defense officials.

One-time Serdyukov deputy, apparent girlfriend, and central scandal figure, Yevgeniya Vasilyeva was denied bail and is under home detention.

Law enforcement sources are talking anonymously about much higher-profile and wider investigations.  There’s nibbling at other edges.  The SK is looking into alleged GOZ misappropriations.  The Main Military Prosecutor is reviewing old accusations about the poor design and quality of the army’s new uniforms.

Can Serdyukov avoid prosecutorial sharks with this much blood in the water?  Probably not.  Is he responsible for all Defense Ministry corruption?  Yes, by virtue of his former position. 

Could he become a sympathetic figure if he goes to prison?  Maybe.  Serdyukov might be seen as someone unwilling or unable to fix a broken system.  Perhaps guilty, but no more than Putin . . . a scapegoat or symbol of Russian problems larger than one man or one department of government.

A Conscript’s Year

A Picture for Ufimtsev’s Demob Album

Young Komsomolskaya pravda (Chelyabinsk) journalist Sergey Ufimtsev returned from conscript service in May.  He recently published a cheerful, humorous account of time as a soldier.  He doesn’t regret his wasted year in the army.  But he describes an army that Serdyukov’s (and Putin’s) reforms have not changed substantially.  At least not his remote unit, and probably many others as well.

Ufimtsev drew his ill-fitting uniform items and was sent to Ussuriysk in the Far East.  He describes skimpy rations which left him hungry again an hour later.

Officers left Ufimtsev and other new soldiers largely in the hands of senior conscripts, the dedy.  They still exist despite the fact that one-year conscription was supposed to eliminate them.  Ufimtsev says dedy took their new uniforms and cigarettes, and threatened them at times.  But they weren’t really so bad.  He actually learned from the soldiers who’d been around for six months.

The non-Russians, Tuvans and Dagestanis, in the unit and their petty exactions were worse.  Even officers feared them, according to Ufimtsev.

He goes on to describe training in his air defense battalion.  He got bloody blisters from endless close-order drill, and finally received his unloaded AK-74, which he cleaned often but never fired.  It was kept with others under seven locks in the weapons storage room.

This is why Serdyukov didn’t want to buy new automatic weapons for the army.  It already has massive stockpiles of unused ones.

Ufimtsev says he and his cohorts were kept busy with non-military work.  Money to hire civilians into housekeeping jobs apparently hadn’t reached his unit.  His battery commander took most of their meager monthly personal allowance (about $13) to go to “the needs of the sub-unit.”  The soldiers, mostly farm boys or technical school graduates, wore lice-infested underwear and got to bathe once per month.  The situation improved some when a new major took command, according to Ufimtsev.

Ufimtsev’s article drew so many comments that it’s possible only to summarize.

A few readers were critical of today’s youth.  One called them dolts, who cry to mom and dad, and wimps, not defenders of the fatherland.  Another says real men should be silent about the privations of army life.

Many readers drew the obvious conclusion that the author’s experience shows Russia needs an all-volunteer army.

One reader said, in a couple of months at home, he could train soldiers better for less.  He asks, “What’s the sense in such an army?”  Several commentators remarked that generals’ complaints about a lack of money for recruiting career military professionals is a lie.

One reader put it in the context of Yevgeniya Vasilyeva and the Oboronservis scandal that brought down Anatoliy Serdyukov:

“No, they won’t do away with conscription.  There’s no money.  They lost their conscience in their 13-room apartments and can’t find it.  But then they never will.  They have to decide which of 120 diamond rings to wear today.  Therefore, there’s no money for a professional army, and there won’t be.  And so there will be an army of slaves — it’s so expedient and cheap.”

Russia’s Arms Race

Sergey Karaganov

Sergey Karaganov wrote recently about Russia’s need for a military buildup.  His article appeared in Vedomosti, Russia in Global Affairs, and finally on the Valday discussion club’s site.

He sets out to explain why Russia needs a buildup, and why conventional military power is still relevant in today’s world.  He tries to square the buildup with a “record low” military threat to Russia.  But most of his text criticizes Kremlin intentions.

Down on Russia’s armaments plan, he’s high (probably too high) on the results of Serdyukov’s defense reforms.

It’s worth extracting and distilling some of Karaganov’s points into a stronger concentration.

He gives this as a general rule, but doesn’t (but should) emphasize how this applies to Russia:

“. . . nation states have lost much of their original strength.  Their ability to control information, financial, economic and political processes in their territories is wearing thin.  Also, they are becoming ever more dependent on the outside world.  There emerges another argument in favor of greater reliance on arms as the only tool of which the states almost entirely keep control.”

So Russia, like other states (perhaps to a greater degree), looks to its armed forces as the lone attribute of its sovereignty?

Russia, Karaganov contends, faces no external threat through the medium term.  A strong China is a problem, but not necessarily a military one.  Threats from the south are not like existential ones that shaped Russian history for centuries.  And the threat of a U.S. strike on Russian territory looks “ridiculous.”

Karaganov continues, saying the buildup is more about politics than anything else:

“I believe that in the eyes of the Russian leadership the need for gaining greater military strength will stem first and foremost from the factors of the country’s international positioning and the predetermined prospects of its political development.  Four years of sweet mumbling about modernization and practically no concrete action, except for Skolkovo, clearly demonstrates that neither society nor the elite is prepared for a modernization breakthrough.”

He describes why Russia’s ruler(s) opted for the buildup, then offers tepid support for it:

“It looks like the military buildup is expected to compensate for the relative weakness in other respects – economic, technological, ideological and psychological.”

“Criticizing this choice for being dissonant with the modern world is easy.  To a large extent this is really so.  But the modern world is changing so rapidly and unpredictably that quite possibly this choice is adequate.”

While lauding military reforms thus far, he admits:

“There are no well-considered re-armament plans behind them.”

“The process of rearmament is tough-going.  The defense-industrial complex has been bled white.  Still worse, it is not being reformed.  It is now a pale shadow of the Leviathan of the Soviet era. Just what the Russian army was only recently.”

Karaganov continues questioning the rationale for, and consequences of, the buildup:

“The military buildup policy is not only generally desirable for the ruling elite, and, possibly, for the country, but also inevitable.  The question is how and at what cost.  It will be important not to overspend, thereby ruining the development budgets.  In the meantime, it looks like a policy has been launched towards suicidal (for the country) cuts in spending on education, instead of its dramatic increase.  The reduction will upset even the beyond-horizon chances of making a modernization breakthrough.”

“It would be very silly to overspend and over-arm oneself beyond any measure only to breed more enemies, who would be looking at Russia with horror.”

“What makes the risk of mistakes still worse is that there are practically no institutional restrictions on the arms race.  Only two restraints exist at the moment.  The finance ministers – the current one and his predecessor – have been doing their utmost not to give as much as they were asked for.  And the defense minister has been trying to limit the appetite of what’s been left of the defense-industrial complex – thirsty for investment and, admittedly, corrupt as elsewhere.  In the current political system the national parliament is unable to play any tangible role in shaping a new military policy and in forming the budget.”

“No less alarming is the absence of an academic or public discussion of military policy priorities. In the meantime, there was such a discussion, although in a very limited form, even back in the last years of the USSR.  The academic think tanks created in those times are aging morally and physically.  From the right, liberal side the current military policy is criticized by a handful – literally two or three – of authors.  They surely deserve words of praise for being so bold.  But they lack knowledge and are politically engaged and biased.  In the center there is a group of experts close to the defense ministry, who are obliged to praise whatever it does and turn a blind eye on its mistakes.  And on the left side – in the mass media that are fortunately not quite available to the general reader – one can find publications by tens and even hundreds of specialists representing the remains of the financially and intellectually ruined academic part of the Soviet military-industrial complex.  I am not going to surprise the reader with the phantasmagoric threats these experts try to scare the country and themselves with.  Quite often their descriptions have no bearing on the reality and are nothing but caricature replicas of Soviet-era fantasies.”

“But to realize what is to be done, it is necessary to purposefully promote independent social, political and scientific analysis of the processes that are underway in the military sphere.  Or else there will be too many mistakes to be paid for too dearly.”

It’s pretty clear the new defense minister won’t be a brake on the OPK any time soon, if ever.

And Karaganov’s right, the lack of legislative or expert debate on defense policy is alarming.  But where in Russia hasn’t outside input and influence on politicians and policymakers waned?  His criticism of the state of press commentary on defense issues is a bit dramatic.

Anatoliy Serdyukov’s strength was making changes instead of talking them to death.  This approach engendered lots of resistance.  But, in the end, an intra-elite squabble rather than opposition to his policies brought his resignation.

Navy Main Staff Moved

Admiralty (photo: http://www.1tv.ru)

The Navy Main Staff’s officially moved to St. Petersburg after several years of on-again, off-again plans and delays.  Pervyy kanal covered a Senate Square ceremony and the raising of the Andreyevskiy flag over Admiralty in a light snowfall last Wednesday.

Wonder if there’s a “for sale” sign on the building on Bolshoy Kozlovskiy in Moscow.

Reacting to Felgengauer

A good friend asked for a reaction to Pavel Felgengauer’s latest piece.

This author agrees with many of Felgengauer’s views, though not all of them.  In particular, this observer is unable to declare, like Felgengauer, that Russia’s military reform is failing abjectly, despite its uneven results.

Let’s look at his article.

Mr. Felgengauer presented the essence of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s dustup with Prime Minister Medvedev last week.  Serdyukov said outright, if the PM wanted to fire someone for failing to prepare semi-abandoned military towns for handover to regional authorities, he should fire him.

You may have read on these pages, the problem of no-longer-needed military towns is an enormous one.  There’s a veritable archipelago of hundreds of voyengorodki throughout Russia.  They’ve long since lost their purpose and support from the Defense Ministry.  Fixing them to transfer to civilian control is an enormous task, probably beyond the Defense Ministry’s current financing and capabilities.

One Putin campaign pledge for 2012 was not to foist broken down military infrastructure on Russia’s regions and localities.  And, though left unsaid, the problems of voyengorodki are connected to the military housing woes.  If more apartments were ready for occupancy, there might be fewer ex-servicemen living in the archipelago of former military towns.

Felgengauer could have written about how the Serdyukov-Medvedev flap reflects wider tensions in Russia’s ruling elite.  Between Putin’s people and Medvedev’s.  He did say the scandal showed the latter’s relative powerlessness.

Felgengauer might have clarified for some folks that, under the constitution, the Defense Minister answers to the President first, and the PM second.  Not so for most ministers.

He mentioned the situation harked back to Serdyukov’s reported ambivalence about continuing in his job.  There was also pre-election talk that Serdyukov might be replaced at the start of Putin’s third term.  But Felgengauer concludes Putin wanted to keep him in the post regardless.

Felgengauer suggests Serdyukov might suffer a “mental meltdown.”  He could have reacquainted readers with the temper and frustration Serdyukov showed the VDV in Ryazan in late 2010.

Turning to strictly military issues, Felgengauer concludes, “. . . the actual capabilities of the military after almost four years of Serdyukov’s reforms are questionable.”

Despite efforts to move away from reliance on hollow units, and increase permanently ready units, woeful undermanning (Vedomosti, June 9) leaves newly formed army brigades crippled, “with most of them not ready to be used in combat as full units in any circumstances.”

He continues:

“Most of the soldiers are one-year serving conscripts, called up two times a year, so half of them at any moment have been serving less than 6 months — not yet trained to be battle-ready at all.”

Let’s examine all this a bit.

Undermanning certainly exists.  The lack of detail on the strength of Russia’s new brigades make things somewhat sketchy.  If (a very big if) the brigades aren’t large, 300,000 conscripts might stretch to cover them, barely.

If the 45 maneuver units have only 3,000 draftees each, that’s 135,000.  Add maybe 60,000 (40 x 1,500) in other brigades, and Russia uses 200,000, or two-thirds, of its conscripts for the Ground Troops.

If these brigades are fully equipped and can depart garrison in an hour or two, they’re technically permanently ready.  But, as Felgengauer points out, six months is not adequate time for combat training, so it’s not clear what missions they can accomplish.  The issue is more combat capability than readiness.  Permanent readiness is a starting point, not an end in itself.

Felgengauer rightly notes that Serdyukov’s reform has lacked a strategic objective and defined doctrine.  One might say it’s failed to prioritize goals, problems, and threats.  Felgengauer says “attempts to meet all other possible threats [besides the U.S. / NATO] resulted in thinly spreading out limited resources.”

This author agrees completely.

Felgengauer ends, weakly, saying military food service was outsourced to make conscript service more attractive, and Putin might abandon it.  He views it as a failed military reform.  It may be, but outsourcing was really introduced to keep draftees in training 100 percent of the time rather than in non-military duties like KP.

We’ll return to the issue of whether military reform is succeeding or failing another time.

Defense Policy Reset?

RF President Vladimir Putin last week held the first meeting of his third term to discuss military priorities with senior uniformed officers.

President Putin

He looked less impressive, and less in command of his brief in the video of his introductory remarks than on similar past occasions.

But he clearly laid out his main concerns for Russia’s top Armed Forces leaders:  training, Aerospace Defense Troops, rearmament, contract manning, pay, and housing.

He seemed confounded by the Defense Ministry’s failure to pay new, higher military salaries on time, and by the continuing lag in providing housing to servicemen.  He said his Control Directorate is investigating both situations.

Taking it from the top, Putin said the state of military training and exercises today is completely changed from past years when the Armed Forces were rarely active.  The president twice emphasized conducting joint exercises with Russia’s allies in the CSTO, CIS, and SCO.

His second priority is developing the newly created and reformed Aerospace Defense Troops.

His third is rearmament.  He repeated the familiar goal of replacing 30 percent of weapons and equipment with new generation systems over the next three years (2015), and 70, or in some cases 100, percent five years after that (2020).  And he added:

“I ask you to report promptly about all instances of breakdowns or incomplete deliveries, if you identify them.  Everyone participating in Gosoboronzakaz work must bear personal responsibility.”

The fourth priority is manning, and the earlier announced effort to increase professional soldiers in the ranks to 425,000.  This, he says, would increase their numbers two and a half times, reportedly from 170,000 today.  Putin made the customary comments about carefully screening and selecting enlisted troops, and giving them incentives to serve well.

Fifth and finally, Putin emphasized efforts to provide better social support for servicemen, specifically, this year’s increase raising military pay by up to three times, and his attempt to provide all military men permanent housing in 2013 and service housing by 2014.  He said:

“Sufficient resources have been allocated for this, the necessary amount has been reserved.”

“But I have to note that, to this point, there are many problems in the provision of housing and calculation of pay, unacceptable breakdowns and procrastination, open professional negligence by officials.  And even if on paper and in reports everything is normal, in fact in real life servicemen and their families at times encounter various kinds of bureaucratic procrastination, often with a formalistic indifferent approach.”

“I’ve directed the Russian Federation President’s Control Directorate to conduct a corresponding check in all these areas.  Unacceptable facts are being encountered, already in the first stages of this check this is clear:  this is both delays in the transmission of pay, and the impossibility of normally finalizing the paperwork for an apartment.  Fitting conclusions will be drawn according to the results of the check, and instructions will be formulated.  But today already I’m asking Defense Ministry representatives to report what measures are being adopted to correct the situation.  May is ending, and normal work with pay still hasn’t been smoothed out.  We already talked about these issues more than once.”

Where are outside observers left?

  • Training and exercises have increased as a function of more budget and fuel, but this didn’t happen until the late 2000s.
  • Aerospace Defense Troops are another structural reorganization, potentially a good one, not unlike other reorganizations since the 1990s.
  • Rearmament is a serious downfall.  Despite the Putin factor, nothing really happened on this score until late 2009.  It’s complicated by the difficulties of fixing a dilapidated OPK.  And, although there may be some favorable signs, success here remains to be seen.
  • Contract service is a second serious downfall.  Putin’s first effort to professionalize the army started in 2002.  The General Staff Chief declared it a dismal failure eight years later.  The Defense Minister revived it on an enlarged scale one year after that.  Demographic reality and draft problems leave Moscow no other choice.
  • Low military pay is a downfall.  It became more of a realistic priority with Serdyukov’s arrival in the Defense Ministry, but it was still five long years before the new, higher pay system was implemented.  And Putin admits how poorly it’s functioning.
  • Housing is also a downfall.  Despite progress since Putin first really addressed the issue in 2005, it’s still problematic.  And the president publicly moved back his timetable for a solution.

The downfall areas are problems requiring a long-term, sustained commitment to resolve.  Putin 2.0 is wrestling with the same military issues he identified back in 2000.  It’s still far from certain he can or will bring them to a successful conclusion.

This author believes there’s been progress on Russia’s military issues during the 12 years of Putin’s time as national leader.  But future economic or political challenges could derail progress toward rebuilding the country as a full-scope military power.

Is Putin resetting or rebooting defense policy?  Yes, at least jumpstarting it on key issues.  But a restarted or jumpstarted computer, car, or policy usually works (or doesn’t work) the same way it did before it stalled.  So this isn’t necessarily the path to a successful finish.  But no one ever said making and implementing policy was easy.

Face Recce

Last Wednesday afternoon, President Putin put his Supreme Glavk hat back on and met for a bit with uniformed military leaders on Armed Forces development, manning, training, and social support issues.

The nine-minute video of Putin’s introductory remarks provides a chance to catch up on the players.  There are, of course, many changes of late.

This photo lets us survey everyone (even if only the top of a head or partial face in some cases).

The Full Table

From the left, to Putin in the center, to the extreme right:

  • Rear-Admiral Sergey Alekminskiy, Caspian Flotilla Commander.
  • Rear-Admiral Aleksandr Fedotenkov, Black Sea Fleet Commander.
  • Rear-Admiral Sergey Avakyants, Pacific Fleet Commander.
  • General-Colonel Valeriy Gerasimov, Central Military District Commander.
  • General-Colonel Arkadiy Bakhin, Western Military District Commander.
  • General-Lieutenant Vladimir Shamanov, Airborne Troops (VDV) Commander.
  • Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov, Navy Commander-in-Chief.
  • General-Colonel Vladimir Chirkin, Ground Troops Commander-in-Chief.
  • Anatoliy Serdyukov, RF Defense Minister.
  • Vladimir Putin, RF President and Supreme Commander-in-Chief.
  • Army General Nikolay Makarov, General Staff Chief.
  • General-Major Viktor Bondarev, Air Forces Commander-in-Chief.
  • General-Lieutenant Sergey Karakayev, Strategic Missile Troops (RVSN) Commander.
  • General-Lieutenant Oleg Ostapenko, Aerospace Defense Troops Commander.
  • General-Colonel Aleksandr Galkin, Southern Military District Commander.
  • General-Lieutenant Anatoliy Sidorov, Eastern Military District First Deputy Commander.
  • Vice-Admiral Vladimir Korolev, Northern Fleet Commander.
  • Vice-Admiral Viktor Kravchuk, Deputy Baltic Fleet Commander.

Here are a few more looks at the table . . .

Makarov, Bondarev, Karakayev, and Ostapenko

Galkin and Sidorov

Korolev and Kravchuk

Gerasimov

Putin Recognizes Shamanov’s Promotion to General-Colonel

Not a New Face

In some sense, maybe it is a new face, or at least a reworked one.

We can’t leave this visite de visages (?!) without observations.

The Navy’s top ranks have been cleared.  Its new leaders are pretty junior.  With Chirkov moving up to CINC, Kravchuk is probably acting and set to become Baltic Fleet Commander.

The same thing might be said about the Air Forces with one-star Bondarev in charge.  He should be promoted quickly.  Recall he took a pretty hard line against Igor Sulim.

Gerasimov took over for Chirkin when he became Ground Troops CINC.

While other commanders have been held down in ranks, the MD commanders have crept up to three-stars.

Karakayev’s got to wonder when he’ll get his third.  Ostapenko probably knows Karakayev will get another before he does.

Sidorov is apparently filling in for Eastern MD Commander, Admiral Konstantin Sidenko at this session.

Not a Fish, But a Crawdad (Part II)

Topwar’s summation of the Kommersant story on Defense Minister Serdyukov’s retention brought many comments in its forum.  They came mainly from conservative critics of Serdyukov and President Putin.

It’s a tough slog for anyone suggesting Serdyukov has done things that were overdue and necessary.  Anatoliy Eduardovich is roundly criticized for destroying what existed, and not putting anything better in its place.  Worse, some call him a traitor serving “Western interests.”

S_mirnov writes only a real idiot, or one who values an apartment more than his country, could believe Serdyukov is the best man to guarantee officers housing.  To him, the reappointment of Serdyukov is akin to giving the Titanic’s captain a new ship and having him sail to the same destination with surviving passengers.

Sinandju concludes not sending Serdyukov into retirement is just another sign of what Putin’s oligarchic-bureaucratic government is all about.

Redpartyzan alleges there were more questions about Serdyukov’s performance in office than ministers who were not reappointed.

BigLexey says Serdyukov’s been kept around to be a scapegoat for the army’s problems at an appropriate time, so the president and prime minister won’t be blamed.

Kadet787 from Belarus shares a poem about Russia appointing as Defense Minister not a wolf or bear, but an ass who sells military property for half what its worth.

To Topwar’s suggestion that time might tell about Serdyukov’s continuing tenure, Older replies all of Taburetkin’s wonders have been seen and Putin and Medvedev have behaved strangely.

Then Teves from Germany asserts Serdyukov remains because he did what Putin wanted despite the illusions of “superpatriots.”

Borisst64 analyzes the situation like this:

“The aim of Serdyukov’s appointment was clear from the start – destroying the structure of the country’s VS [Armed Forces], if they leave him, it means severe decisions (cuts, relocations, etc.) will still be implemented. The logic is understandable, the people’s attitude toward Serdyukov is negative, still they are patient, and we’ll appoint a new one [Defense Minister] when everything is perfect and nothing threatens the [new Armed Forces] image.”

Olegych picks up the defense of the Defense Minister:

“Serdyukov is a normal, honest Defense Minister, cleaning up all the bullsh** accumulated for decades.  Dedovshchina, thievery, ruined bases and military units, the lack of arms and POL supplies, the absence of housing – that’s what was, and what would be left.  And if you poured trillions of rubles into the sad MO [Defense Ministry] structure that existed before him, the result would be poor.  In the context given, Serdyukov is not a fighter, but a finance officer, a controller of resources, of tightly planned and justified expenditures.  And here’s the entire answer to why he remains at his post.  He remains at his post because there are real and tangible results from his leadership:  housing acquired, new armaments introduced, increased pay, an increase in exercises and flights, the destruction of millions of tons of old and dangerous ammunition, untangling the flywheel of the Gosoboronzakaz.  Cutting the number of servicemen and training institutions is an essential and necessary step, because there are no resources to maintain them.”

For a bit, the discussion devolves to Putin, whether “the Tsar is good and the boyars bad,” and whether it’s OK to insult the president.  And, more interestingly, whether Putin will eventually lose support and give rise to more “bolotniki.”

There’s a final counter to Olegych when Drugar says:

“Why Serdyukov is again Defense Minister is obvious.  The only thing not understood is what servicemen and the army / fleet as a whole are waiting for.  Generally, judging by recent events, the army is turning into a commercial enterprise, this transformation of everything and all to a civilian basis has allowed turning the servicing of army structures into a fantastically profitable and absolutely unpunishable business!  It’s possible to steal billions, imagine how much it costs to feed, clothe soldiers, repair equipment, supply spare parts, build-repair, and the like.  But, if someone will say it, report, Mr. Serdyukov – a MILITARY SECRET, gentlemen, a military secret . . .  This is the finale, the culmination of the Putinist corruption scheme!  So in Russia they still never steal . . .  People have become mute and blind from propaganda and zombification, have lost the ability to think (!), they are accustomed to softened up facts from the state’s zombie box [television].  Pronouncing ‘that yes they’re all d*cks there in the end,’ every one will stay home and continue hoping Putin will steal, steal, but remember about the people . . .  In vain.”

No absolute answer why Serdyukov remains, but some interesting and reasonably educated opinions.

Not a Fish, But a Crawdad (Part I)

It’s nice when you send yourself on a sabbatical.  But it’s terrible when your first post of the month doesn’t come until the 24th.  Seriously, this author should be flogged for neglecting the reader.  And he isn’t exactly prepared to dive back into frenetic posting either.  Only to hang more text out here now and again.

Serdyukov with Putin (photo: AFP)

This topic and title were stolen from Topwar.ru.  The site picked up on Kommersant’s examination of why Anatoliy Serdyukov was one of only five ministers to retain his post in the first Putin 2.0 government.

Kommersant claims Serdyukov came somewhat close to being retired in December when, at then-Prime Minister Putin’s behest, FSB Director Bortnikov searched out potential replacements.  Bortnikov looked at Rostekh’s Chemezov, Roskosmos’ Popovkin, and Deputy PM and OPK steward Rogozin.  The former pair convinced Putin of the “inexpedience” of making either of them Defense Minister in Serdyukov’s place.  Rogozin reportedly was willing, but, of course, already had a higher-ranking post.

Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov cited Aleksandr Kanshin and a Defense Ministry apparat source to the effect that Putin decided it’d be better to have Serdyukov see the military reform process through to its conclusion.

For its part, Topwar.ru also attributes Serdyukov’s “unsinkability” to a desire to avoid changing leadership in the midst of reform.  It also writes that Anatoliy Eduardovich turned out to be, at least in some ways, the best available and most willing candidate.  Topwar sums Serdyukov’s position up with this adage:

“When there aren’t any fish, even a crawdad is a fish.”

But Anatoliy Rak isn’t likely to replace Taburetkin as a nickname for the Defense Minister.

The most interesting part of Topwar’s account, however, may be the large number of commentaries, which we’ll look at in part II of this post.