Serdyukov’s Carte Blanche

In an editorial Monday, Vedomosti supported the carte blanche President Dmitriy Medvedev has apparently given Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov and his military reforms.  The paper likes the reforms enough that it wants the President to think about the possible effectiveness of the ‘army method’ in reforming the MVD.  Here’s what Vedomosti had to say:

“Renaming the Army”

“Dmitriy Medvedev’s and Anatoliy Serdykov’s joint trip to a model Moscow suburban military unit went beyond the protocol of the visit.  The President’s speech in awarding outstanding military men became a new signal to officers, the army, and society:  ‘Despite the fact that all changes are difficult, they are necessary…  Everything that is now being done is directed at establishing modern and effective armed forces.  Here there are both problems and good decisions, I am following this personally as Supreme CINC.’  The Kremlin demonstrated that, despite the recent media scandal, it trusts the civilian Defense Minister, won’t bow to the generals’ and veterans’ opposition, and intends to continue its planned military reform.”

“The new carte blanche for Serdyukov for further transformation is important for many reasons.  The current minister is not the first civilian director of the military department.  However, he specifically replaced a campaign of reforming with systematic transformations.  In his inheritance from Sergey Ivanov, Serdyukov received a much truncated army of the Soviet type, not answering modern requirements.  Dedovshchina, obsolete armaments (modern equipment is not much more than 10% of the general inventory) and command and control, and manning were its main problems.  Add to this corruption among the generals which prevented equipping the army with new types of armaments and communications.  The victorious August war of 2008 showed that the victors couldn’t suppress the enemy’s aviation and artillery and were inferior to the vanquished in modern communications and reconnaissance means.”

“Serdyukov’s attempts to establish control over expenditures on purchases for the army met severe resistance from rear services officers and generals.  Not long ago he acknowledged to journalists:  ‘When I came to the Defense Ministry, speaking plainly, I was surrounded by large amounts of thievery.  Financial licentiousness, the impunity of people whom no one had checked out (…) was so deeply ingrained that it had already become a way of thinking.’  The minister confirms that the transparency of the defense order is a ways off.  The unnecessary secrecy of the military budget is interfering with this.  Meanwhile, progress in the struggle against traders in shoulderboards is obvious.  In 2006, corruption cases were started against seven generals, in 2007, when Serdyukov became minister, — against 16, in 2008 — against 20, in the first half of this year — against eight more.”

“Besides this, the Defense Ministry put up for sale unneeded property and facilities which were being illegally rented out to enrich a few people, and didn’t allow for building apartment blocks for officers needing housing on these grounds.”

“On the whole, it’s possible also to consider organizational transformations a success:  the transition to a more modern system of command and control and the reduction in the excess number of generals and higher officers.  In 2008, of 249 generals and admirals who underwent certification [аттестация], 50 were dismissed, and 130 sent to new places of service.  One can’t avoid mistakes in cutting and dismissing officers, but those deprived of a sinecure cried loudest of all about the collapse of the army and treason.”

“The struggle with barracks hooliganism goes on with varying success.  According to the Main Military Prosecutor’s data, in 2006, more than 5,800 people suffered beatings from fellow servicemen, in 2009 — 3,000.  And for the first five months of 2010, 1,167 soldiers suffered from dedovshchina — 1.5 times more than the analogous period of 2009, of them, four died.  The cause is not only in the growth — because of the cut in the service term — the number of new conscripts went from 123,000 in the fall of 2006 to the current 270,600.  Generals, having botched the program costing 84 billion rubles to transfer to contract, now are forced to call up those with criminal records.  Military police will remain a paper tiger for ‘dedy’ and ethnic clans.  We note that Serdyukov hasn’t forsaken a professional army, but put off its creation until the time when the Defense Ministry will be able to select and not collect contractees through deception and duress.”

“Nevertheless, it’s notable that over 3 and 1/2 years, the reform, being conducted by independent managers without legal changes and loud renamings, has really moved forward.  It’s possible it’s worth the President considering the effectiveness of the army method in reforming the MVD.”

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