Writing in Zavtra, Vladislav Shurygin has added his take on Sunday’s VDV protest. As usual, it’s a different cut with different details, but a unique one that shouldn’t be ignored.
Here’s the gist. Shurygin says it’s not just the VDV’s discontent, but the military’s. He enumerates the VDV’s specific grievances. He claims the airborne has lost its status as the Supreme CINC’s strategic reserve and been placed operationally under OSKs West, South, Central, and East.
Much of Shurygin’s article comes down to the VDV’s alleged loss of elite status. Others, however, would say Serdyukov’s handled the airborne with kid gloves compared to how other services have suffered. They might also say it’s high time the VDV got knocked down a notch or two.
Shurygin seems to want to say that vlasti are more worried, or should be more worried, about discontent in the army than they appear. He says Serdyukov can’t be dislodged from the Defense Ministry by his opponents, only the internal imperatives of vlasti will move him to another job; then he’ll be replaced by someone who’ll begin his own reform.
Shurygin quotes one Russian Airborne Union (SDR or СДР) official on how servicemen are left socially unprotected:
“In the framework of this reform which is destructive for the country, the overwhelming majority of servicemen have been dismissed without serving the term enabling them to get a pension. Half of them don’t have housing. Our country already has a sad experience of dismantling troops. In the distant 1950s, the Defense Ministry decided to eliminate Naval Infantry under the pretext of missile-nuclear weapons development, saying that, if necessary, conventional infantry could fully replace it. Nearly 50 years later history’s repeating itself. Only now the VDV and Spetsnaz ended up in the role of unneeded forces.”
“Meanwhile, the attitude of high state officials toward the VDV has been drawing criticism for a long time already. In July, when the VDV observed its 80th anniversary, neither the Supreme CINC, nor the Prime Minister appeared at a ceremonial concert in the Kremlin palace and they didn’t even send the nominal greeting customary in such instances. Then a directive according to which the VDV command would become subordinate to the Main Command of the Ground Troops was prepared, and VDV formations and units are in fact being transferred into operational subordination to the commands of strategic axes ‘North,’ [sic] ‘West,’ ‘South,’ and ‘East.’ That is, they’re being taken from the reserve of and immediate subordination to the Supreme CINC of the RF Armed Forces. Add to this the estrangement of the VDV from work with premilitary youth in DOSAAF and the elimination of the Ryazan Airborne Higher Military Command School, which has been dropped into the Ground Troops training center (Combined Arms Academy), and the elimination of the VDV Personnel Directorate, which will put a final end to the elite status of the VDV, traditionally proud of its own unique personnel school. In fact, a quiet destruction of the troops is going on.”
Shurygin says VDV Commander Shamanov’s doctors say confidentially that, in intensive care, he was in no condition for paperwork, and his right hand was immobilized when he supposedly authored his message urging VDV on Poklonnaya Gora to avoid confronting the Defense Ministry.
So Shurygin doubts Shamanov wrote this, but he doesn’t allow for the possibility that the general dictated words to be issued in his name.
Shurygin adds that sources close to the Defense Ministry say the Shamanov document turned up in the hands of Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov, was edited by his people, and sent to the hospital for Shamanov’s signature as he was being wheeled into surgery.
Shurygin shifts gears reprinting part of an interview he gave Baltinform prior to the Poklonnaya Gora demonstration. Asked about Serdyukov, he says:
“The reform Serdyukov is conducting causes confusion in specialists. The opposition to the pogrom he’s conducted in the army is very great. Tens of thousands of people are opposed — they really see what is happening in the troops, and are trying to get this information to the public.”
“The fact that this [Seltsy] scandal received publicity is not evidence of conspiracy, but evidence of the crudest error in Serdyukov’s judgment, who left himself open, conducting himself rudely and offending an honored officer, a Hero of Russia. And this outrageous incident only became the latest reason again to raise the theme of reform. If the main reformer conducts himself in such an unworthy manner, then this automatically calls forth questions about the entire reform he’s conducted. I think that opposition to Serdyukov is located not at the Kremlin level or any mysterious officials, but at the level of those whom military reform has literally ‘run over like a tank.’”
I relate to [Serdyukov] as an absolutely incompetent person who occupies a job that is not his. And for three years already he’s been learning the completely new business of managing the army at the cost of huge damage to the latter. First they constantly destroy army structures like a house of cards, then they try to ‘sculpt’ and create something out of them.”
“Some directives are suspended, others are given out and then are suspended. The army leadership is feverishly searching as if trying to get a careening wagon down a hill in the necessary direction, but still just increasing the chaos and disintegration. Massive break-ups were undertaken in place of approaching reforms from a scientific viewpoint and working out experiments on specially selected parts.”
“The Armed Forces have been ‘cut to the bone.’ They’ve broken everything in them, both the bad, and the good. They broke it, then observed the mistakes, and are now trying to correct them.”
Asked if Serdyukov will finish his reforms or be replaced because of complaints from his opponents, Shurygin concludes:
“It seems to me he’ll go to that phase when it’ll be officially acknowledged that the reform has taken place. Then a moment will come when it’s necessary to make a change in the official hierarchy, and Serdyukov will be transferred to another position. The one who comes into his place, will begin his own reform anew, perhaps, a more ‘quiet’ one. But he won’t avoid long work analyzing the mess of forest cut down by Serdyukov.”