Tag Archives: Elections

VDV Vets Rock Against Putin

The disparate parts of the anti-Putin movement probably couldn’t agree on much except their common desire to see the once-and-future president not win the election and a third term on March 4.

Yesterday VDV veterans from Moscow’s Akademicheskiy rayon appeared on the Internet rocking with hard-edged lyrics against Putin.  Livejournal comments indicate these guys are for real.  They were at Sakharov Square, and someone’s suggested they be on-stage at the February 4 demonstration.

Someone was kind enough to transcribe the lyrics here, and here are some English ones:

If you’re a citizen, if you’re president
There’s a law for you, there’s a prohibition for you
Don’t steal from the treasury and never lie
Be open for all, answer for your words
Eight years president and again a candidate
Look us in the eye and surrender your mandate
We believed you, but you lied many years
Employing in everything your KGB secret

You’re just like me, a man not God
I’m just like you, a man not a lout
Let’s not lie more, let’s not steal
We’re a freedom assault, the Motherland is with us
You’re a typical official, not tsar or God
For you a man is a stupid monkey
The ribbon’s color is freedom, for all positive
And only for you…a condom

I’m looking at you, at your portraits
You’re still lying to us just like your bears
We’re tired of looking at the shame of the entire country
With village poverty next to your castles
You destroyed the defense sector, and retired the army
You put it on soldiers, sent officers away
We won’t forgive all your services
We are demanding peacefully – go away tyrant

You’re just like me, a man not God
I’m just like you, a man not a lout
Let’s not lie more, let’s not steal
We’re a freedom assault, the Motherland is with us
You’re a typical official, not tsar or God
For you a man is a stupid monkey
The ribbon’s color is freedom, for all positive
And only for you…a condom

We remember our granddads who fought the SS
We remember our Guards who jumped from the sky
Berlin and Afghan remain in our heart
But the heart of One Russians is their own pocket
Nowadays honor’s not in respect, there’s no virtue
And only the systemic gleam of coins
Global materialism of machines and wimps
This is rotten systemic cynicism
They’ve forgotten culture in YeGE schools
Diplomas for money and bribes everywhere
An old man can’t be treated for free
This is the deadend of a rotten system

You’re just like me, a man not God
I’m just like you, a man not a lout
Let’s not lie more, let’s not steal
We’re a freedom assault, the Motherland is with us
You’re a typical official, not tsar or God
For you a man is a stupid monkey
The ribbon’s color is freedom, for all positive
And only for you…a condom

Of course, it loses a lot in translation.  But even if you can’t follow the original, its anger and power is palpable.

It seems to this author very unlikely Vladimir Putin will depart the scene any time soon.  But the demonstrations and the protest movement (even this song) signify that politics and activism are returning to Russia.

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Will Serdyukov Go?

Pavel Baev

Back to a familiar topic . . . is it possible or likely Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov will resign or be dismissed from his post prior to the March 4 presidential election?  It is, of course, a topic that won’t quit.  At least not for the next two months. 

Pavel Baev discussed this with BFM.ru over the holiday. 
 
We looked at Baev’s view of Serdyukov’s reforms back in the spring.  He was neither sanguine about them nor forgiving of mistakes made.
 
We also looked earlier at a couple considerations of whether Serdyukov might leave or be forced out of the Defense Ministry. 
 
In August, Mikhail Rostovskiy thought Serdyukov’s position pretty secure, and this author postulated, with once-and-future president Vladimir Putin secure in the Kremlin again, Anatoliy Eduardovich might find relief from the defense portfolio in a job both cushier and more to his liking.
 
In April, Aleksey Makarkin also thought Serdyukov was pretty safe.
 
It’s obvious that the aftermath of the December 4 Duma elections changed a lot of things.
 
Now Oslo-based Professor Baev thinks Serdyukov could be sacrificed in the election run-up for nothing other than loyal performance of the tasks Putin set him to in February 2007.
 
Baev says Putin believes his regime faces an old-fashioned Cold War-style political threat.  Various Western “circles” (NATO, NGOs, CIA) think the regime’s exhausted itself.  Any possible replacement would be welcome to them.
 
Then we get to the essence of Baev’s argument — the fact that the Defense Minister has generated great dissatisfaction and irritation among Russia’s defense factory directors.  Without a serious go-between in the Military-Industrial Commission, Serdyukov’s become the focus of their ire.  They blame him and his subordinates for rejecting Russian weapons and equipment, and claim they’ve hurt Russia’s reputation as an arms exporter.
 
His case in point is the complaint from railcar and armor producer Uralvagonzavod during Putin’s December 15 “direct broadcast” Q and A with citizens.  A caller asked Putin to take Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Makarov by the neck, and replace the former with a “clearheaded Defense Minister.”
 

Baev’s interviewer asks whether Serdyukov will keep his current seat under Putin 2.0:

“. . . I think that the Defense Minister will be replaced even before the election.  The Armed Forces and military enterprises are a large and serious part of the electorate.  It was possible to extinguish accumulated irritation with the promise of money since after long promises they raised pay for officers, although not as substantially as was said.  It’s also possible to give money to OPK enterprises and sacrifice an unliked minister.”

But a resignation won’t be enough:

“I don’t think so because the problems have gone too far.  It’s hardly possible to put the protest mood just on one minister.  Everyone understands perfectly that it’s not the minister who started all this and carried all this out, no one suspects Serdyukov of being a confirmed reformer, having a program, or being a man motivated by a sense of his own mission.  He is a manager, an executive, and extremely stubborn, but he didn’t start this, and that’s clear.  And I don’t think Serdyukov will hold onto the minister’s chair.  The problems and conflicts have become so acute that it’s becoming costly to him.  I think they’ve had enough of him.”

Baev concludes that another civilian should take over the Defense Ministry, and continue separating its intertwined military and civilian functions.  He doubts Serdyukov’s replacement will reverse anything, but simply move forward on the problems reforms have created.

Serdyukov’s departure seems like more of a possibility now than before the Duma elections.  As Baev suggests, Putin could sacrifice his Defense Minister to appease his numerous unhappy defense industrial constituents.  Serdyukov’s fate may hinge on how badly Putin needs a boost for March 4. 

The Defense Minister’s 5-year anniversary comes next month and provides an opportunity for a change short of dismissal.  This author gets the impression Serdyukov’s energy for his difficult job has declined lately.

As for Uralvagonzavod, its workers are unlikely to quit sniping at the Defense Minister.  They, along with other military vehicle makers, have reportedly learned their defense order for 2012 has been drastically cut in favor of procurement in 3-5 years.

Perspective on the Military Vote

Carrying the Ballot Box

A little context for Kommersant’s report on Defense Minister Serdyukov informing the once-and-future president that 97 percent of servicemen voted in the December 4 Duma election, and United Russia garnered 80 percent of those votes.

The Defense Minister allegedly told Prime Minister Vladimir Putin 80 percent of servicemen and their family members picked United Russia (against 67 percent in 2007).  Some remote units reportedly even delivered 99 percent for Putin’s party. 

For the official opposition, the LDPR got 8.6, KPRF 6.3, and Just Russia 3.4 percent.  Their shares dropped from four years ago.

The TsIK says it doesn’t know how the Defense Ministry comes by such figures since most officers and soldiers vote in normal precincts.  And the military department hasn’t commented on any voting report by Serdyukov.

If this is accurate, we can conclude that Serdyukov delivered the military vote. 

Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin wrote that United Russia had very similar results in the 2007 Duma election.

In 2003, NG’s Mukhin said the Defense Ministry put the “military electorate” at 5-6 million voters.  It’s probably less today.

United Russia reportedly got only 52 percent of the military vote in 2003, and Rodina 12, LDPR 11, and KPRF 6 percent each.

In 1999, UR’s precursor Unity (or Medved) took 48 percent, KPRF 18, the Zhirinovskiy (LDPR) bloc 14, and Fatherland-All Russia 7 percent.

What are we to conclude?  The process of nailing down the military vote has gotten smoother over time, coinciding with Putin’s and United Russia’s dominance of Russian politics.  It looks like the army has a habit of supporting whoever’s in power.  But now it looks just a little out of step with society — voting 80 percent for the party of power versus 49 percent countrywide.  But how the army votes and what it thinks may also be two different things.

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.

VVKO Faces West

How Will They Represent VKO on the Space Troops Flag?

VVKO faces west.  And north . . . ok, northwest.  Makes sense, that’s the direction those hypersonic missiles are coming from, right?  Maybe, maybe not.

Mil.ru, as is its wont, printed a little item on military preparations for the December 4 Duma election.

It indicates 80 percent of 53,000 servicemen and civilian personnel of the new Troops of Aerospace Defense (VVKO) will vote [i.e. are based] in the Western MD (ZVO). 

The press-release says more than 150 of 171 polling places (88 percent) for VVKO bases, garrisons, and military towns are located in the ZVO.

Space Troops weren’t very big, and they’ve gotten much bigger by swallowing as-yet unclear parts of the OSK VKO (the former KSpN or Moscow PVO District) and other Air Forces’ PVO units into the new VVKO.  OSK VKO, in particular, was a large, westward-leaning formation.

Still it’s surprising VVKO’s center of gravity has shifted so drastically to the west.  One would have thought there’d be a substantial chunk of VVKO-controlled PVO in the Far East, or northeast, too.

Medvedev Signs Pay Law

Medvedev's Meeting on Pay Law

Monday President Medvedev met an unusual group — the Defense Minister, General Staff Chief, and MD / OSK commanders (but no service CINCs or branch commanders) — to announce he signed the long-discussed law on military pay that becomes effective on January 1, 2012.

The increased military pay in this law was a key goal for Anatoliy Serdyukov when he arrived at the Defense Ministry nearly five years ago.  Premium pay was just a stopgap.  So this is a success for his reform program.  His idea was to cut half (or more) of the officer corps and raise the pay of those remaining.  Of course, he had to back off somewhat on cutting down to 150,000 officers.

Why did it take so long to enact an increase in military pay?  Was it hard to find the money?  Maybe, given the global financial crisis of the late 2000s.  Was it hard to overcome former Finance Minister Kudrin’s resistance to higher defense outlays?  

Newsru.com, Svpressa.ru, and others see the pay increase as timed to coincide with Duma and presidential elections, and designed to engender the military’s goodwill toward the current leadership at the ballot box.  It’s worth noting the reduction in conscription from two years to one came in the context of the last national elections in 2008.

According to Kremlin.ru’s account, Medvedev indicated he wanted to congratulate those assembled on their long, hard effort to raise military pay to its new level, on average 2.5 or 3 times above today’s pay.  RIA Novosti provides the standard example of lieutenants rising from 19 to 50 thousand a month. 

In addition to higher base pay, the usual supplements will remain in effect, including additional pay for special duties, class qualifications, and difficult service conditions.  Premiums of up to three times base pay for outstanding performance will also continue.  Military pensions will increase at least 50 percent to 17,000 on average.  Read more about pay calculations here.

Addressing his small audience, Medvedev said:

“In such a way, servicemen have a very serious stimulus to carry out their service duties well and improve their professional training.”

He was careful to say those without duty posts (the so-called распоряженцы) won’t be left behind:

“It also includes important provisions, which, in principle, allow us to prevent worsening of the material situation of different categories of servicemen, citizens, dismissed from military service, their family members, if the amount of pay given them is reduced in connection with introducing the new system, then here there is an established mechanism of compensation and balancing out of these payments that is also an important guarantee of financial stability for our servicemen.”

Not reassuring.  But those guys won’t vote for United Russia and Putin anyway. 

The president continued:

“I won’t conceal that many drafts were ripped up around it, there were many discussions about whether we were prepared to raise pay to such a degree, whether the state had the resources for this, whether this wouldn’t drain our budget, wouldn’t create some kind of problems in the future?”

“I want to tell those present and, naturally, all servicemen of the Armed Force to hear me:  it won’t drain us, everything will be normal, and all required payments by the government will be made because this is the most important guarantee of raising the professional preparation of servicemen and improving the quality and effectiveness of the Armed Forces.  Therefore, the decisions, proposed several years ago, are being executed and put into action by this law.”

Thanking Medvedev, Serdyukov said:

“For us, in a complete sense, this resolves all earlier problems:  this is manning with both officers and contractees; this is serving; this is the attractiveness of military service, the fact is this is the entire complex of issues which weren’t practically resolved for us.”

Medvedev completed his remarks with this:

“But the main thing the state, by adopting this law, its signing and, accordingly, its entry into force, shows is that decisions once given voice are subject to unconditional fulfillment, whether someone likes them or not, if depending on them is the social condition of a huge number of people:  these are servicemen and their family members.”

“And further, we will do this so that our Armed Forces will be highly effective, and service in them will be prestigious and highly professional.”

So Medvedev declared it a test of governmental capability, and swiped at dear departed Kudrin who opposed the extent of defense budget increases in view of priorities like education and health (not to mention the pension fund).

It takes capability to implement a decision, yes, but it takes even more to stick with it over the long term.  Will the Russian government be able to continue the new level of military pay when the elections are over, economic conditions less favorable, oil prices and revenues lower, and budgets tighter?  That’ll be the true test of capability.

P.S.  We shouldn’t forget that the Defense Ministry has also semi-obligated itself to paying 425,000 professional enlisted contractees 25,000 rubles or more a month in the future.  That will probably equal the bill for paying officers.  Let’s estimate this total cost at 500 billion rubles a year.  The non-procurement defense budget in 2009 was only 670 billion.

Unlikely Sacrifice

Writing in Moskovskiy komsomolets, Mikhail Rostovskiy examines the possibility that the government might be shaken up, or ministers turned into political human sacrifices in the runup to the December 4 Duma election.

We’ve been on this topic before when Aleksey Makarkin tiptoed around it, examining only the possibility that Defense Minister Serdyukov or Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova might be sacrificed to appease angry Russian voters.

About Serdyukov’s chances, Rostovskiy writes:

“Victim No. 4.  They say that Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov is not liked very much by his subordinates.  On the other hand, they value him very much up above.  Here they believe that Serdyukov is achieving what his predecessor Sergey Ivanov couldn’t manage.  They say, for example, that under the current minister the real battle to introduce elementary administrative and financial order in the army began.  Therefore I would rate Anatoliy Serdyukov’s chances of surviving a ritual ministerial sacrifice as high.”

Is Serdyukov better than Ivanov?  Vote here.

Just to round it out, here’s Rostovskiy’s full list, from most to least likely to be sacrificed:

  1. Minister of Education and Science Andrey Fursenko
  2. Minister of Health and Social Development Tatyana Golikova
  3. Minister of Transportation Igor Levitin
  4. Minister of Defense Anatoliy Serdyukov
  5. Minister of Sports Vitaliy Mutko
  6. Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliyev
  7. Minister of Finance Aleksey Kudrin

What issues have brought Serdyukov political heat?

Most recently, the prime minister and government — Deputy PM, VPK Chairman, and Serdyukov predecessor Sergey Ivanov in particular — really want to tag the current defense minister with the GOZ-2011 mess.

The dustup between Serdyukov and the commander of the VDV training center at Seltsy last fall became a political faux pas for Anatoliy Eduardovich.

Last summer’s fires around military bases, and seemingly perpetual ammo dump explosions were and are weak points for the defense minister.

The bottom line is Serdyukov was always and remains part of Team Putin.  He’ll see his fifth anniversary on the job early next year.  What happens to him after the presidential election depends (obviously) on the outcome of the election.  But he will probably find himself with a bigger, better, possibly somewhat less troublesome portfolio.