Daily Archives: October 25, 2010

Two More Perspectives on Serdyukov Flap

Defense Minister Serdyukov (photo: RIA Novosti)

A couple more interesting ones today . . . .

Calls for Serdyukov to resign seen as an effort to stop the ‘revolution from above’ . . . journalist Mikhail Leontyev told United Russia’s website:

“Serdyukov is a very severe man.  He’s conducting a very severe reform.  The very logic and mission of reform is merciless in relation to many people.  Serdyukov himself and others understand this, but this is not a reason not to renovate the army.  Reform is being conducted from аbove and by a man who’s a stranger to the army.  Moreover such a task was set from the beginning so it would be exactly like this.  Because they won’t ever do anything to ‘their own.’  In essence, the system is resisting.  Many would want to stop military reform at the current stage but this is stupidity.  Therefore a rumor beneficial to a large number of people is launched that they’re removing Serdyukov.”

Serdyukov almost a victim of his own success when it comes to making military officers focus exclusively on military affairs . . . Aleksandr Golts writes in today’s Yezhednevnyy zhurnal:

“The entire business, in my view, consists in the fact that a new revolution is ripening in the armed forces today.  They are removing officers, almost to the very top, from the heavy responsibility of distributing finances.  Unit commanders and district commanders alike henceforth don’t need to answer for the work of a boiler or cafeteria, or for guaranteeing electricity to the district’s troops.  Civilian departments — Oboronservis, Rosoboronpostavka and the like — will be occupied with supporting the troops with all essentials — from ammunition to the most complex armaments.  Military reformers set as their goal to put an end forever to commanders as ‘big business managers.’  In the course of decades, the commander was hardly evaluated by senior chiefs according to how he trained his unit for action on the battlefield.  They evaluated him according to whether he succeeded in building the cafeteria or bathhouse ‘efficiently,’ that is without allocating the necessary resources.  All this submerged commanders in tangles of corrupt relationships.  Besides lumber and bricks, the officer could pay his debts with the help of a natural resource which was at his disposal – a free work force.  If in Soviet times this system was somewhat limited by party control, then in the 1990s, when the state didn’t have any money at all to support its gigantic military machine, military units were practically condemned to self-support.  As a result, now officers have come to be brigade commanders and deputy army commanders who know perfectly how to ‘operate,’ but not to command.  This is not their fault, but their misfortune.  And the Defense Ministry is creating a special system for retraining senior and higher officer personnel [to learn or relearn their strictly military business].”

“But far from all military leaders are inspired by the prospect of perfecting troop command and control, and combat training methods day and night, meanwhile having at their disposal only that money that came to their personal bank card from their salary.  Many long ago became accustomed to side profits which now seem like their base pay.  In the minister’s innovations, they see the main threat to their interests.  And, as we’re seeing, they aren’t standing on ceremony.”

No, they aren’t standing on ceremony.  They’re using the opportunity to come after the guy who dared threaten their profitable arrangements.  Who knows how widespread this kind of corruption is, but it certainly exists and those benefiting don’t want it to end.  Similarly, one can only guess to what extent Serdyukov’s been successful instituting his civilian control over Defense Ministry financial flows.  And no one should assume the civilian hands on these flows will be any cleaner.

Political Tinge of the Serdyukov Flap

In this morning’s Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vladimir Mukhin says the Serdyukov flap has taken a political tinge.  NG’s Kremlin sources claim President Dmitriy Medvedev is “very worried about the developing situation.”

Mukhin says there won’t be any public lashing a la Mayor Luzhkov, but Medvedev called Serdyukov last week and categorically directed him “to carry out deliberate, well-considered work to create a positive image of the military reform which the country’s leadership is organizing and conducting.”

He concludes it’s clear Defense Minister Serdyukov has already reacted to the call from the Kremlin and begun “to work on the mistakes.” 

On Friday, Serdyukov unexpectedly met with the Defense Ministry’s ‘heavenly group,’ the superannuated retired generals and marshals in its General Inspectors’ Service (SGI or СГИ).  Mukhin says until now Serdyukov hasn’t paid them their due or used their experience in his reforms.  But all of a sudden he gathered them to inform them about how well his changes are going, and announced he’s forming a Defense Ministry organ to work with veterans and veterans organizations. 

And, of course, veterans – specifically airborne vets, but not only them – were the group most offended by what transpired between Serdyukov and Colonel Krasov at the Seltsy airborne training center.

Mukhin turns to retired General-Lieutenant Yuriy Netkachev for a comment:

“Elections are coming, and successes in military reform aren’t apparent.  The social situation of servicemen and military pensioners especially is worsening.  In this case, any incident similar to what happened in Seltsy could be a detonator for mass protest acts by a large number of veterans’ social organizations.  The party of power can’t allow such a thing on the eve of elections.  The opposition has already been using the dissatisfaction of the airborne veterans.  And therefore we will very soon be witness to a mass PR campaign on behalf of the head of the military department and his steps to form a new profile for the army and fleet.”

He didn’t, but Mukhin could have quoted former Soviet General Staff Chief, now SGI member, Army General Mikhail Moiseyev who supported Serdyukov and obediently told ITAR-TASS there’s no other way except to reform the Russian Army:

“We no longer need 192 divisions, it’s better to have a smaller quantity of permanent readiness brigades which will define the army’s combat readiness.”

That, of course, is a real no-brainer, and surely there must be aspects of Serdyukov’s reforms Moiseyev doesn’t agree with.  We’d like to hear about them.

Moiseyev also thinks Serdyukov is going to establish an assistant to the commander of each MD and fleet commander for work with veterans.

LRA Command-Staff Exercise

Today Russian Long-Range Aviation (LRA or ДА) began a large three-day command-staff exercise (CSX or КШУ) under Air Forces CINC General-Colonel Aleksandr Zelin’s direction.  The CSX involves units from Siberia, the Far East, but also Lipetsk, and 40 aircraft including the Tu-160, Tu-22M3, Tu-95MS, Il-78, A-50, MiG-29, MiG-31, and Su-27SM.  They will operate both from their home and temporary bases, and fly over central Russia, the Far East, and extreme northern parts of the Russian Federation.  A-50 crews will control the airspace for the exercise.  Il-78 tankers will conduct mid-air refueling, and ranges at Pemboy near Vorkuta and at Nogotay in Irkutsk Oblast will be used for missile launches and other weapons training.