Army’s Protest Mood (Follow Up)

You may recall Prime Minister Putin’s February trip to Kaliningrad, where he heard complaints about the lack of apartments and low pensions for ex-servicemen.  Today Besttoday.ru publicized video of the once-and-future president’s meeting with Kaliningrad veterans’ organization representative General-Major Kosenkov. 

Who knows where this clip’s been until now.  But, at the time, Putin’s handlers apparently decided it wouldn’t be good PR, and kept it under wraps.

The video’s become a minor sensation because it shows Putin dismissively ripping an appeal from former officers and soldiers.  Besttoday shows both a more inflammatory short clip, ending with Putin tearing the paper, and the longer clip above where Putin talks about raising pensions this year. 

As one blogger sees it:

“For the edification of those still expecting something from Putin.  You think someone is reading your complaint letters, petitions, etc.?  Then watch the video closely once more.”

“Enough with sitting by the TV and listening to cheap stories!!!”

A little context is needed . . . Kosenkov doesn’t associate himself with the paper he shows Putin.  It’s just an example, a warning about what’s being said and circulated.  We don’t even know exactly what it said.

Kosenkov represents a domesticated, acceptable group deserving of an audience with the prime minister.  Hence, the former general-major doesn’t bat an eye when Putin tears the paper.  But perhaps Putin’s just a little too quick to take offense at this appeal.  He didn’t have to look at it, or he could’ve just put it down without reacting.

At any rate, the Russian blogosphere is abuzz today because tearing the paper exemplifies and personifies Putin’s disdain for his uncontrolled, noncompliant opponents who are impudent enough to offend him with their manifestoes, placards, demonstrations, and disobedience.

But back to the army writ large . . . yes, parts of it are oozing some discontent, but they still generally don’t fall into the same category as political opponents of Putin’s quasi-authoritarian regime.  They just don’t have much in common with anti-Putin forces.

And Putin’s delivering on his promise to raise military pensions.  The new pay law just passed its third Duma reading.  It reportedly contains, on average, a 60 percent increase for retired servicemen.  This is supposed to take the average military pension from about 10,000 rubles per month (about the same as the average labor pension) to about 17,000.  And retirees have been promised semiannual indexation for inflation in the new pay law.

But one could point out that the new pay system will increase active duty pay by 200 and 300 percent, and will divide former and current servicemen financially, socially, and politically.  But suffice it to say that Vladimir Mukhin’s original article on “candy for the military electorate” was on-the-money.  

Parts of a couple quotes he provided bear repeating:

“‘In 2000, when Vladimir Putin became President, military pensions were on average three times more than civilian ones.  Now they are much lower.  Who stopped the current authorities from keeping our pensions at the previous level?'”

“‘[Increased defense expenditures] will lead to increased problems in the economy.  Or is there a possibility that militarization [i.e. rearmament] simply won’t occur, and this means the military’s negative attitude in society will exacerbate further.'”

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One response to “Army’s Protest Mood (Follow Up)

  1. An ill-mannered reader made the valid point that Putin’s tearing a political leaflet, not an appeal from veterans. We don’t know what it said, but it pointed to low military pensions as one strike against the regime.

    What should have been said is that the social network buzz purposely confused it with a petition or letter from the veterans organization.

    It was captured better in the original Mukhin article when this all happened back in February:

    “At a meeting with Putin, one of the leaders of the Kaliningrad veterans movement, former chief of the 11th Army’s political department, General-Major Boris Kosenkov handed the Premier a ‘little extremist manifesto’ being disseminated among veterans in Kaliningrad. At the same time, talking about low pensions for retirees, the general stressed that ‘a very tense situation is being created in our veterans’ organization structures and political parties are even using this problem in the election campaign.’ As is well-known, there’s no such thing as a former political worker, and the veteran precisely seized the moment to enlighten the Premier about the mood among military pensioners.”

    Yes, someone’s stirring vets up. It’s not hard to do. Anyone think Kosenkov’s a UR member? How about the vets? What was probably a KPRF leaflet reflected exactly what most old vets in the exclave think about their miserly pensions.

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