Tag Archives: Aleksandr Golts

Re-Industrializing for Military Modernization

Golts

Golts

It’s been Golts overkill.  Despite the risk of overdosing, he has an article in Ogonek from 25 September which merits attention.

One could do much, much worse than to pick him, if you could read only one commentator.

Golts tries to explain why Russia’s OPK, its defense sector, has failed.

He gives prominent examples of defense industrial shortcomings including the most recent Bulava and Proton-M failures.  Interestingly, he says all serially produced Bulava SLBMs are being returned to Votkinsk for inspection.

Calling the list of failures “endless,” he concludes, “Production standards are falling uncontrollably not only in the space sector.”  He continues:

“The thing is not only particular failures.  Experts from the military economics laboratory of the Gaydar Institute suggest that defense order 2013 will be disrupted just as it was in previous years.  According to their data, defense order 2012 was revised and lowered at least three times.  And still it was unfulfilled by approximately 20 percent.  Accounting Chamber auditor Aleksandr Piskunov was extremely forthright in the Duma hearings:  ‘Almost one hundred percent fulfillment of state defense orders for the last 20 years hasn’t interfered with the failure of all armaments programs, with fulfilling them at 30, 40, 50 percent.'”

You may recall reading Piskunov here at the start of April.

Then, Golts notes, Putin himself cast doubt on the OPK’s ability to fulfill the current GPV.  He recalls the late July meeting when Putin indicated he’d entertain slipping ships and submarines due after 2015 into the next GPV (to 2025), so that there aren’t more “failures.”

Putin said work should be organized so producers’ capabilities coincide with the allocated funding.  Money, he said, shouldn’t be hung up in accounts [and stolen] while we wait for ships.  Golts reads this as Putin recognizing that the state of domestic industry is such that it can’t assimilate the gigantic sums allocated to it.

The defense sector has structural problems that endless calls for mobilization to face an aggressive West can’t resolve (i.e. a workforce that’s almost reached retirement age, continued aging of basic production equipment).

Golts again turns to Piskunov, who said only 20 percent of defense enterprises approach world standards in terms of technical equipment, and nearly half are in such a poor state that resurrecting them is senseless — it would be better to start from a “clean slate.”

But Golts focuses on poor coordination and cooperation among enterprises, government customers, and sub-contractors.  He turns to the familiar case of Bulava — 650 different enterprises reportedly have a hand in turning out this missile.

Most damning, Golts compares today’s “so-called united state corporations” unfavorably to Soviet-era defense industry ministries.  Ineffective and bureaucratized, the latter still managed to manufacture massive numbers of weapons.  And Gosplan matched prices for products and production by fiat.  Today’s goskorporatsii can’t.

There’s another important difference, Golts points out.  All Soviet “civilian” industries also produced arms, or parts for them.  Average citizens buying civilian goods helped finance military production with their purchases.

But the largest part of this permanently mobilized industrial system died in the 1990s and surviving parts retooled for other production.  Many in the latter category no longer wanted part of the defense order which would only make them less competitive in their main business.

Then Golts concludes:

“But it’s impossible to begin serial production of armaments without serial production of components.”

Today’s OPK chiefs don’t have the talents of some of Stalin’s industrial commissars, says Golts.  They are, however, good at blaming ex-Defense Minister Serdyukov for “destroying” the voyenpred system.

Golts really gets to it here:

“In reality producers of complex military equipment have a choice.  They can either make components in final assembly plants in a semi-artisan fashion.  Or they can buy them on the side, risking getting crap made in some tent.  It stands to reason the problem isn’t confined to recreating the military acceptance office in enterprises.  Complex chains of sub-contractors have to be established.  And, we note, even with money — this isn’t a banal task.  We’re really talking about new industrialization, the construction of new enterprises.  But just what kind?”

Golts recommends a policy of targeted and specialized re-industrialization.  Because of the expense, he says build specialized component factories to support production of critical systems where Russia is decades behind developed states — communications, reconnaissance, UAVs, precision weapons.  Russia will have to prioritize and Golts doesn’t see tanks, ships, and heavy ICBMs as priorities.  Those who pick the priorities have to withstand attacks from lobbyists for these weapons.

Golts believes Deputy Prime Minister and OPK tsar Dmitriy Rogozin knows the bind he’s in . . . and that’s why he says put off the beginning of serial production of many armaments until the next armaments program (2016-2025).

Golts concludes:

“Generally, the rearmament of the Russian Army is entering a new cycle.  Without any kind of results.”

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Golts Sidebar

Is a caption even necessary?

Is a caption even necessary?

The Golts article on Sergey Shoygu’s tenure is largely on-point.

But, for whatever reason, Golts neglects a positive change wrought by the new defense minister:  the surprise readiness inspections conducted since the beginning of this year.

While no longer a “surprise” and not as large-scale as the MOD would like us to believe, the exercises demonstrate what’s wrong and needs fixing.

But let’s return to some criticism, or witticism.

Along with Golts’ article, Kommersant published a sidebar listing Shoygu’s “significant” decisions.  Olga Shkurenko compiled it.

“New Annals of Military Organizational Development”

“A Chronicle”

“‘Ogonek’ has recalled the loudest of loud initiatives to strengthen the army and navy put forward during the time Sergey Shoygu has been in the post of defense minister.”

“On 7 November 2012 the minister decided to resurrect the tradition of Suvorov and Nakhimov cadets participating in the 9 May parade.”

On 12 November it became known that shoulderboards soon again will be worn on the shoulders, not on the chest.”

On 7 December it was decided to resubordinate military VUZy to the CINCs and Commanders of the services and branches of the Armed Forces (the MOD’s education department managed them previously).”

On 9 December Shoygu proposed reestablishing the Defense Ministry’s film studio.”

On 24 December the MOD announced that the troops will get a new uniform in 2014 and stop wearing undercollars.”

On 14 January 2013 Shoygu announced that by year’s end the army ‘should forget the word footwrappings.'”

On 25 January the Air Forces agreed with the minister on returning red stars instead of tricolors to the sides of airplanes and helicopters.”

On 4 February Shoygu gave the order ‘to install showers in all military units before the end of 2013.'”

On 26 February plans were announced to reestablish the institution of warrant officers.”

On 7 March mass media announced that the MOD had disposed of gas masks for horses.”

On 13 March ‘Interfaks’ reported from a source in the company ‘Russian Balloon’ that in 2014 purchases of inflatable tanks, aircraft and missile systems would begin.”

On 18 March the MOD press-service said that in 2013 172 dining halls of military units are transferring to the ‘smorgasbord’ feeding system.”

On 29 March the reestablishment of the first sports company was completed.  Then the minister proposed creation of analogous ‘scientific companies.'”

On 2 April the MOD culture directorate was created.  The poster contest ‘Homeland Army’ and the rebirth of army KVN¹ are among its first initiatives.”

On 3 April an OPK source said that the army was rejecting camouflage on tanks and other combat equipment and returning to a one-tone color scheme.”

On 9 and 16 April the recreation of the historic Preobrazhenskiy and Semenovskiy regiments was completed.”

On 4 May the earlier disbanded Taman and Kantemirov tank divisions [sic] were reestablished by decision of the minister.”

On 22 May in the State Duma the minister proposed to send those conducting alternative service in the army and navy to perform construction and housekeeping duties.”

On 23 July after the exercises in the Eastern Military District the MOD chief proposed ‘increasing by several times’ ammunition expenditure norms.”

On 31 July Shoygu ordered commanders to begin every morning in the barracks with a rendition of the Russian Anthem, to compile an obligatory military-patriotic book reading list and take the preparation of demob albums under their control.”

On 14-17 August the first competitions in the tank biathlon took place in the Moscow region at the minister’s initiative.”

On 16 August it was announced that the ‘office suit’ is being introduced for military men and civilians serving in the department.”

On 20 August it became known that in the MOD they are working on the issue of rearranging the Russian anthem in two variants — for a standard choir and for young people.”

¹KVN is a little hard to describe.  Literally, the “Club of the Happy and Resourceful.”  A television game show where teams from various institutions and organizations compete in answering questions and performing skits.

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.”

Golts on Shoygu’s Tenure (Part I)

Aleksandr Golts is a formidable critic of Russia’s Defense Ministry.  If only the  MOD had a proponent to match wits with him.

Sergey Shoygu

Sergey Shoygu

Golts’ latest appeared in Ogonek on 2 September.  He gives his view on what is getting Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s attention.

Nothing else added or explained.  Just translated:

“From Reforms to Uniforms”

“Aleksandr Golts: The Defense Ministry is overgrown with shoulderboards”

“A series of recent Defense Ministry initiatives occasions more and more questions”

“Aleksandr Golts, Daily Journal observer”

“Recently one of the Moscow papers announced sensational news: Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu proposed that the president subordinate the Ministry of Emergency Situations to the military department. It’s all the same, they say, MOD troops by necessity participate, like now in the Far East, in any large-scale rescue operation. Experts, whom journalists rushed to interrogate, shrugged their shoulders: stupidity, of course. Some, who are older, remembered perfectly how in the beginning of the 90s Sergey Shoygu himself and his associates argued: it was essential to remove the civil defense troops from the Armed Forces to establish MChS on the basis of them. They, the rescuers, really have a completely different mission than the army, which, however you look at it, is concentrated on organizing armed force. Everyone knows: Shoygu resolved this problem perfectly. And so in place of civil defense troops, where they sent all army disciplinary offenders, soon appeared MChS, one of the departments most respected by the public. Moreover, the Armed Forces just went through the very painful Serdyukov reforms which, besides everything else consisted of changing structures and missions, redeployments and resubordinations. In the event of uniting MChS [to the MOD] this bureaucratic wheel would be doomed to turn again, really stopping combat training for another 1-2 years. It was impossible to believe that Shoygu, one of the not numerous talented Russian administrators, could come forth with similar initiatives. However in answer to the question are similar things possible, the experts began to hem and haw and in the end said now everything is possible in Russia.”

“Let’s sing friends”

“The fact is recently news has come from the military department, which, putting it mildly, is ‘more and more wonderful.’  Not long ago they decided to be seriously occupied there with the patriotic indoctrination of Armed Forces personnel. Sergey Shoygu ordered: ‘I ask commanding generals and commanders to ensure that the Anthem of Russia is performed. I order that in military collectives every morning should begin with the singing of the Anthem, no matter what the servicemen are doing.’ And later he ordered the famous Aleksandrov Russian Army ensemble to arrange immediately two versions of the anthem — a model, so to say, strict one, for performance exclusively by a choir and orchestra ensemble, and a pop one, for the military-patriotic indoctrination of the young. Stage stars including Lev Leshchenko and the group ‘Lyubeh’ will be invited to perform it. And this despite the fact that according to the Internal Service Regulations the Russian anthem is performed every day at evening roll call in every military unit. But, apparently, one performance of the anthem isn’t sufficient to achieve the necessary degree of patriotism in servicemen. It seems the degree of patriotism is directly dependent on the frequency of its performance. If so, then it shouldn’t stop at two performances a day, they could sing the anthem every hour. They could, in the end, make the army like a monastery and stand several hours for patriotic morning service. The main thing is results you know.”

“The issue of patriotic indoctrination isn’t exhausted by the performance of the anthem. ‘I’m inclined to have commanders lead the process of preparing demobilization albums¹, since every military unit has its own history,’ said Shoygu. It’s proposed to prepare this, more recently strictly individual, product of the soldierly creativity centrally using modern printing and photographic equipment. It’s curious, will the more recently obligatory element of creating such an album — photos depicting precisely what the demob dreams of doing when he leaves his military unit be centrally produced… Obviously, army political workers believe he intends to sing the state anthem again. But this isn’t all. ‘If we aren’t able to prepare a single history course for the country, we need to prepare such a textbook for the army and introduce it into all courses of instruction for servicemen,’ said the minister. If everything is understood with the performance of the anthem, then the authors of this separate army, strictly correct and patriotic history textbook still haven’t been determined. Nevertheless, it’s possible to guess both the authors and the content.”

¹Not necessarily reverent scrapbooks conscripts have traditionally assembled about their service time.

Bulava Postponed?

A Bulava Test

Interfaks reports an expected salvo launch of two Bulava SLBMs has been put off until next year, as Defense Minister Serdyukov said it might.  The press agency cites a well-placed Navy Main Staff source.  RIA Novosti, however, citing its own Navy Main Staff source, says the test was delayed by weather, but will occur today or tomorrow.  For its part, ITAR-TASS cites an OPK source who says the Bulava test firings are off until June because of White Sea ice.

The last Bulava test, a success, took place on October 28.  The Bulava / Yuriy Dolgorukiy weapons system might have been accepted into the inventory before year’s end following a successful salvo launch of two missiles.

BFM.ru talked recently to Aleksandr Golts and Vladimir Yevseyev about Bulava.  It notes the last planned launch of 2010 was also put off for ice.

Golts believes there’s a political motive for postponement.  He thinks the Defense Ministry can’t allow another failure and blow to its reputation and the image of Russian weapons.  And, by the time of the next test, the elections will be over, and Serdyukov may no longer be at the Defense Ministry.

Golts attributes Bulava’s problems to problems in the component base and the collapse of the Soviet sub-contractor chain.  The lack of serial production has made it impossible to guarantee quality component manufacturing.  Hence, something different seemed to go wrong in every test failure.

Golts doesn’t rule out the possibility that there simply aren’t enough missiles for testing (or for picking ones to test) because of the GOZ-2011 contracting dispute between the Defense Ministry and Bulava’s producer.

Yevseyev is a suspicious about postponing a shot for weather.  He calls the situation around Bulava ambiguous and unclear.  He says defects in the missiles might have been identified, and poor weather could be an excuse.

Like Golts, Yevseyev sees Bulava’s problems as symptomatic of larger defense industrial ones, and he doesn’t exclude a political motive:

“There’s a sharp decline in the quality of production, a partial loss of specific producers, technologies.  There’s aging of the machinery itself, the lack of qualified specialists who can work on it.  When the OPK’s been collapsing for so much time, it’s strange to hope it can produce such a complex technological product like a missile system.”

“It’s possible there’s a danger that, if there are unsuccessful tests in the period when we’re beginning Duma and presidential election campaigns, they’ll spoil the scene.  This is one of the possible reasons for the postponement.”

It seems understandable risk tolerance would be pretty low at this point given the history of the Bulava program, the bad publicity and angst generated by recent high-profile space failures, and the political season.  Perhaps it’s a case of better late, but better.

Serdyukov’s Anniversary

Putin Welcomes Serdyukov as Ivanov Looks On

The fourth anniversary of Anatoliy Serdyukov’s appointment came and went quietly enough on 15 February.  But WikiLeaks has come through as if to mark the occasion.  

On Friday, it posted an Amembassy Moscow assessment of Defense Minister Serdyukov a month and a half after he arrived in the “Arbat Military District.”  Mindful of hindsight bias, one can’t judge this cable too harshly.  But it’s an interesting retrospective on what was expected of the man going in, and what has happened since.

As stated all over the Russian media, Amembassy anticipated Serdyukov would impose discipline on the “Ministry’s notoriously loose financial control system,” and not otherwise initiate major changes.

Aleksandr Golts told Amembassy:

“Serdyukov’s inexperience on military issues would undermine his credibility with the General Staff and other senior officers, hindering his ability to push through needed reforms.”

A bit silly in retrospect.  Yes, he had no credibility with the Genshtab, nor it with him.  But he didn’t care and pushed right through the Genshtab, cutting the Genshtab (it suffered first in the reforms) and building his own bureaucratic machinery in the Defense Ministry.

Amembassy claimed that Serdyukov dismissed then-Chief of the Main Directorate of International Military Cooperation (GU MVS) General-Colonel Anatoliy Mazurkevich, and that Serdyukov’s auditors might be driving other corrupt officers into resignations or dismissals.

The cable describes the Defense Minister aptly as a “detail-oriented micromanager and ruthless policy administrator.” 

But what it doesn’t note (and what has become patently obvious over the last four years) is that the Defense Ministry, and the Russian military, is an unwieldy and untidy establishment not well-suited to micromanagement.  Talk about trying to turn an aircraft carrier on a dime . . . not gonna happen here. 

A couple stories come to mind . . . Serdyukov trying to put new uniforms on the troops, one of his first initiatives.  Now maybe only 20 percent of the troops have them, and the parents of those that do say the new uniforms aren’t as good against the cold as the old ones.

Also, Serdyukov talking about one new brigade commander who didn’t implement his directives.  It’s a big country and a big army.  What Moscow says isn’t always relevant in Chita, etc.

Next, Amembassy summarized the views of Ivan Safranchuk this way:

“He thought the Ministry establishment would try to ‘outlast’ any reforms that Serdyukov sought to impose, with the brass counting on Serdyukov to adjust to their way of thinking — or at least to stay out of their way.  Safranchuk told us that former DefMin Ivanov ultimately had not made a significant impact on how things functioned within the Ministry, despite his reform efforts, and predicted the same fate for Serdyukov.”

This one turned out to be pretty wrong, didn’t it?  There may still be some elements awaiting Serdyukov’s departure and a return to the way things used to be, but too much has changed.  The military establishment can’t ever be exactly what it used to be.  And the brass was definitely no match for Serdyukov, and he didn’t stay out of their way, but rather sent many of them down the highway.  And this Defense Minister has had a greater impact in four years than Sergey Ivanov in nearly six.  Ivanov’s fate was not to be Putin’s successor, and to muddle around in his next job, i.e. First Deputy PM.  As for Serdyukov’s fate, we’ll have to see.  As for his impact, at least some is likely to be lasting.  How long?  Only until the next determined reformer arrives.  None of this is to say Serdyukov’s impact is all positive, mind you.  Some changes may have messed things up worse than they were.  But he got reform off the dime in a way Ivanov never dreamed.

Here’s video of Putin’s meeting with Ivanov and Serdyukov on 15 February 2007.

The cable continues:

“Sergey Sumbayev, a former journalist with Krasnaya zvezda (Red Star), told us that management and accountability within the Ministry were dysfunctional and fostered inefficiency and corruption.  He referred both to financial accountability and responsibility for policy implementation.  Sumbayev thought the Ministry’s entrenched bureaucracy resisted, mostly successfully, institutional change, which generated considerable waste and delayed delivery of modern weapons systems to the armed forces.”

Sumbayev also told Amembassy:

“. . . management experience and tenacious work ethic make [Serdyukov] the ideal ‘technical’ manager that the Ministry needs.  While acknowledging Serdyukov’s political connections, Sumbayev did not think Serdyukov harbored any political ambitions.  He was chosen mainly for his managerial expertise, loyalty, and willingness to please his political bosses.  Serdyukov could probably make progress in streamlining the Ministry’s management structure, reducing waste, and exerting more control over its financial accounting systems.  One year, however, would not be sufficient to accomplish these tasks.”

“Sumbayev speculated that keeping the General Staff off-balance and focused on internal matters over the next year was one of Putin’s objectives in appointing Serdyukov. In this respect, he suggested that Serdyukov had a mandate to shake things up in the Ministry without sparking too much discontent.”

Amembassy concluded that:

“Serdyukov has his work cut out for him in bringing order to a Ministry badly in need of reform.”

Serdyukov’s made progress, but this final assessment probably remains true four years on.

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.