Well, more like Return of the Retired, or Dawn of the Dismissed, or whatever. Your attention’s been grabbed (hopefully).
Last Thursday, Kommersant’s Ivan Safronov reported the Defense Ministry will bring 4,011 ex-general officers back as civilian advisers and consultants, primarily in military districts (unified strategic commands — OSKs) and large operational-tactical formations (armies). The idea, apparently, is for today’s top commanders to benefit from the experience of their predecessors.
Safronov’s report is based on claims from a source in Defense Minister Serdyukov’s apparat, his immediate staff. The plan to deploy retired generals as advisers got Serdyukov’s approval on January 20.
The former higher officers will also work as scientific associates in VVUZy and in military commissariats.
Kommersant’s source said these men generally have advanced education and a wealth of combat troop and administrative experience to share with today’s commanders.
Safronov turns to Vitaliy Tsymbal to describe how deploying a huge number of ex-generals contradicts earlier Defense Ministry policy:
“There’s no particular logic evident in this, many now retired generals are already remote from military affairs. This is a sufficiently magnanimous gesture on the part of the minister, but it doesn’t have some kind of deeper sense in it. Earlier nothing stopped him from dismissing the very same generals for various reasons.”
According to Safronov’s source, it remains only to determine what to pay the returning generals.
Who knows if any of this will actually happen? But if it does, it’s another walk back on a key plank of military reform. Remember the walk back on keeping 220,000 rather than only 150,000 officers?
In late 2009, General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov said the Defense Ministry had cut 420 of 1,200 generals in the Armed Forces. With current manning, the remaining 780 generals are enough for a relatively high 1-to-1,000 ratio to other personnel. So they’ll be digging deep for 4,011 former generals. Who and what will they find?
In late 2010, Makarov almost bragged about cutting useless, superannuated officers:
“During this time [before 2009], we grew an entire generation of officers and generals who ceased to understand the very essence of military service, they didn’t have experience in training and educating personnel.”
However, those officers and generals saw it differently, for example:
“Ill-conceived reform has left the Russian Army without a central combat training methodology – that is, now no one knows what and how we teach soldiers and officers on the battlefield.”
So either Serdyukov’s shift to a new, younger, and more junior generation of military leaders isn’t working out, or there’s some other reason for bringing the older dudes back. One obvious possibility would be to keep them from being openly and publicly critical of Putin’s regime and Serdyukov’s Defense Ministry on the eve of the presidential election. Maybe some can be bought for a small supplement to their pensions. A couple things are more certain. If the old generals arrive, their former subordinates — now in charge — probably won’t like having them around. The old guys probably won’t enjoy it much either. And the whole scheme may not even get off the ground, or last very long if it does.