Golts on Shoygu’s Tenure (Part II)

Shevtsova Sporting the "Office Suit" with Four General's Stars

Shevtsova Sporting the “Office Suit” with Four General’s Stars

Continuing with Golts’ Ogonek article, “From Reforms to Uniforms.”

“XXI century style”

“It stands to reason that deeply patriotic content received as a result of regular and repeated performances of the anthem require corresponding forms. Uniforms that is. Shoygu decided to dress all MOD, other staff and management employees in so-called office suits. The minister, his subordinates say, came to the conclusion that wearing a woolen jacket in summer is uncomfortable. So it was decided to sew a uniform reminiscent of the one MChS officers wear.”

“And so now not only the military, but civilian employees of the MOD will have to wear the office suit. Not only that, these same office suits come with shoulderboards. Now every civilian worker has to wear shoulderboards with stars corresponding to his bureaucratic rank. So, at the tank ‘biathlon’ competitions (incidentally, yet another of the minister’s well-known inventions) Deputy Defense Minister Tatyana Shevtsova appeared with four stars on her shoulderboards corresponding to army general rank. And Deputy Minister Anatoliy Antonov, who’s spent his entire life in the diplomatic arena, currently sports general-colonel’s shoulderboards.”

“This redressing is hardly the innocent whim it might appear to be. Really it’s a continuation of that line which began when Shoygu himself donned a general’s uniform at the moment of his appointment as minister of defense. In this logic the Ministry of Defense is not simply the military department, it’s the department where military men command and give orders. And civilian officials turn up there only in the extreme case when they can’t get along without them or there is reluctance to spend money on big salaries to officers. As a result they let civilian employees know that they are not quite military. But cadre officers can’t but experience irritation when civilian bureaucrats receive ‘for nothing’ stars very similar to those which they earned through blood and long years of service.”

“Behind all this is an obvious unwillingness to understand that civilian bureaucrats and servicemen have principally different missions. Civilian bureaucrats are needed to translate the political will of the country’s leadership into the language of military orders, to give the army its missions, to provide the Armed Forces essential financial and material resources, and also armaments. The military themselves have to be occupied with strategic planning and organizing combat training. If those same military men determine threats and missions and are also occupied with material support and financing, this unavoidably will lead to threats multiplying several fold.”

“It seems Sergey Shoygu, an outstanding administrator, to his misfortune ended up somewhere with Dmitriy Rogozin and caught a virus from him which leads the ill person to flamboyant initiatives. Remember the proposals about producing military toys at OPK enterprises, the advertisement of weapons by aged Hollywood stars, and the merger of space and aviation industries? It seems the chief of the military department has set off along the same road.”

“It occurs that the nation’s most popular minister turned up today in a complex situation, from which some organizer talents are clearly not enough to escape. The development of the Armed Forces has gotten to the point of bifurcation. It’s more or less obvious that the missions set down by Serdyukov’s reformers were not fulfilled. Permanent readiness formations exist, it seems, only in the victorious reports of military leaders. Due to the shortage of servicemen in brigades they’re forced to form only permanent readiness battalions which are fully manned. It’s obvious that manning the Armed Forces to one million servicemen in six months as the [supreme] commander-in-chief has demanded is impossible in principle (the single rational explanation for joining MChS to the MOD — an attempt to fulfill the president’s order by bureaucratic means).”

“It’s just as obvious that we aren’t getting any kind of rearmament — the conclusion of a large contract for the production of 37 MiG-35 fighters was just put off to 2016. The main reason is that industry is incapable of meeting a contract. Not everything is OK with the resolution of social problems. Despite promises, the housing line grows, and those who have the right to receive it are not at all in rapture at the idea of being given money instead of apartments.”

“There’s a complex choice in front of Shoygu. It’s possible to go along the path of Serdyukov’s reforms. It would mean honestly announcing that forming million-man Armed Forces is impossible in principle, and attempting to convince the political leadership of the necessity of limiting the army’s size to 600-700 thousand servicemen. And then concentrating on the selection of the quantity of contractees necessary to form fully volunteer Armed Forces. Meanwhile, it’s necessary to engage the defense industry in grievous battles to force it to produce what the army needs and not what it wants. However, all this would place Army General Shoygu in opposition to the Russian military lobby, exactly as it did Serdyukov who is reviled by everyone.”

“The other path is counter-reformation. Agree with the generals’ demands for the return of two-, or better three-year conscript service, return to the mass mobilization army concept, allow VPK [the government’s Military-Industrial Commission] directors to waste the defense budget. But in this case too it’s necessary to grapple with serious conflicts. Not with generals, but with society.”

“Shoygu, however, doesn’t want to lose his ratings. Therefore he’s trying to avoid any conflict. But how do you remain the center of public attention and visible while avoiding fundamental decisions? Here the initiatives about office suits, demob albums and anthem performances go into motion. The danger is the achievements of Serdyukov’s reforms, attained with such difficulty, will go away… in anthem singing.”

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