Tag Archives: Nikolay Pankov

The Military’s Most Authoritative

Russkiy reporter published its 2011 list of the 100 “most authoritative” Russian people — ten each in society, business, bureaucracy, academe, education, medicine, law, military, culture, and sports.

Avtoritetnyy, of course, isn’t just a cognate; it can mean influential, competent, trusted, reputable, respected, expert, etc.

You can read about last year’s picks in the military field here.  This year’s military list includes:

  • Deputy Defense Minister Anatoliy Antonov, for knowing how to talk to foreigners.
  • Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Arkadiy Bakhin, for housing officers.
  • Sukhoy test pilot Sergey Bogdan, for testing the fifth generation fighter.
  • General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov, for disbanding the “Arbat Military District.”
  • State Secretary, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov, for reforming military education.
  • President, General Director of RSK MiG, Chairman of the Board of Sukhoy, Mikhail Pogosyan, for developing the latest Russian weaponry.
  • Head of the Veteran-Military Chiefs Club, Marshal of the Soviet Union Sergey Sokolov, for 100 years in the ranks.
  • General Director, “Tactical Missile Armaments” Corporation, Boris Obnosov, for fast, accurate missiles.
  • Air Forces Senior Lieutenant Igor Sulim, for courage.
  • President, Academy of Military Sciences, Army General Makhmut Gareyev, for asserting the results of the Second World War.

It’s an interesting and eclectic list.  Clearly, many would dispute the names.  Some would say Pankov wrecked the military education system; others would say he implemented unavoidable reductions and consolidations.  Picking Makarov for breaking up the “Arbat Military District,” and sending more officers out to serve with the troops is also controversial, but he’s done something essential and long overdue.

Sokolov’s honored for his longevity. 

Obnosov’s interviewed in the lead article.  He talks about attracting and retaining young scientists and engineers in the defense sector, and about the OPK’s attempt to reach an understanding with the Defense Ministry on price formation.

Sulim’s a surprise, and a rather bold choice.

Only Makarov, Pogosyan, and Gareyev repeat from last year’s list.

RR picked Deputy Defense Minister, Army General Dmitriy Bulgakov as its goat of the year for the spate of deadly army arsenal explosions. 

The big “loser” Bulgakov’s in the same boat as some of the “winners.” 

He found himself in charge of a long-neglected and untenable situation, and he’s tried to fix it.  But many people will object and argue about his methods, the results, and consequences.

Not Decembrists

Returning to the three generals’ resignations . . . the Defense Ministry press-service came out quickly denying any “scandalous” general officer discharges. 

The press-service said General-Lieutenant Andrey Tretyak, General-Lieutenant Sergey Skokov, and General-Major Oleg Ivanov requested discharges for health reasons at different times.  But it also indicated the Central Attestation Commission (TsAK, or ЦАК) is reassigning generals to duties in the military districts under Defense Minister Serdyukov’s policy of rotating officers through different posts, and away from Moscow in particular.

A Defense Ministry source told ITAR-TASS the generals’ discharges are not part of any mass dismissal of officers from the Defense Ministry’s central apparatus.

The press was skeptical about three young and vigorous generals suddenly seeking a medical discharge, and it focused on their intent to avoid undesirable reassignments.  Newsru.com and Moskovskiy komsomolets reported in this vein. 

A Defense Ministry source told news agencies one in three requests for early retirement involves officers who are being reassigned from Moscow to a military district post.  The source claimed these cases are usually incorrectly characterized as opposition to military reforms.  Tretyak himself told Interfaks his resignation is not connected with Armed Forces reforms or disagreements with the leadership.

Then Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov talked to Rossiyskaya gazeta, giving a version of events varying from the press-service’s initial report of  discharges for health reasons.

Pankov told the paper Skokov and Ivanov were offered several good options including troop command duties or General Staff Academy positions, but chose retirement.  In Tretyak’s case, health was the issue, according to Pankov.  And Pankov called any thought of them leaving over dissatisfaction with army reform “farfetched,” or dissatisfaction with General Staff Chief Makarov “utter stupidity.”

What did military commentators say?

In IA Regnum and Gazeta.ru, Anatoliy Tsyganok said the generals’ resignations show things aren’t quite right in the Defense Ministry, but also called reports of problems with Makarov a falsehood.  He said the incident shows it’s not just military retirees who bring attention to poorly thought out reforms.  At the same time, he doesn’t get the focus on Makarov when he just implements Serdyukov’s plans.

Also in Gazeta.ru, Aleksandr Khramchikhin asks where this ‘opposition’ to reform has been:

“But where were they earlier?  Reform’s already been going on for three years.”

Svpressa.ru wrote that no Decembrists remain in the army.  It quoted Konstantin Sivkov:

“The thing is in the Defense Ministry and Genshtab generally there are no longer any people capable of standing up for their opinion, if it diverges from the leadership’s viewpoint.  They still existed several years ago.  Recall General Rodionov, Ivashov.  They slowly disposed of them.  The only ones remaining are those who loyally hang on the words of the minister and Genshtab chief.  A negative selection has occurred.  And what remains . . .  Only those that agree with everything.”

Viktor Baranets told Vesti FM:

“The Genshtab chief proposed to all three figures that they leave Moscow, smell the powder a little, become greater practitioners.  My sources don’t deny that all of the generals’ troyka requesting retirement had relations with Makarov that weren’t very simple.  But all issues were decided behind closed doors, without cursing and throwing down reports [retirement requests] on the table.”

Shurygin on the VDV’s Discontent

Writing in Zavtra, Vladislav Shurygin has added his take on Sunday’s VDV protest.  As usual, it’s a different cut with different details, but a unique one that shouldn’t be ignored.

Here’s the gist.  Shurygin says it’s not just the VDV’s discontent, but the military’s.  He enumerates the VDV’s specific grievances.  He claims the airborne has lost its status as the Supreme CINC’s strategic reserve and been placed operationally under OSKs West, South, Central, and East. 

Much of Shurygin’s article comes down to the VDV’s alleged loss of elite status.  Others, however, would say Serdyukov’s handled the airborne with kid gloves compared to how other services have suffered.  They might also say it’s high time the VDV got knocked down a notch or two.  

Shurygin seems to want to say that vlasti are more worried, or should be more worried, about discontent in the army than they appear.  He says Serdyukov can’t be dislodged from the Defense Ministry by his opponents, only the internal imperatives of vlasti will move him to another job; then he’ll be replaced by someone who’ll begin his own reform.

Shurygin quotes one Russian Airborne Union (SDR or СДР) official on how servicemen are left socially unprotected:

“In the framework of this reform which is destructive for the country, the overwhelming majority of servicemen have been dismissed without serving the term enabling them to get a pension.  Half of them don’t have housing.  Our country already has a sad experience of dismantling troops.  In the distant 1950s, the Defense Ministry decided to eliminate Naval Infantry under the pretext of missile-nuclear weapons development, saying that, if necessary, conventional infantry could fully replace it.  Nearly 50 years later history’s repeating itself.  Only now the VDV and Spetsnaz ended up in the role of unneeded forces.”

Shurygin continues:

“Meanwhile, the attitude of high state officials toward the VDV has been drawing criticism for a long time already.  In July, when the VDV observed its 80th anniversary, neither the Supreme CINC, nor the Prime Minister appeared at a ceremonial concert in the Kremlin palace and they didn’t even send the nominal greeting customary in such instances.  Then a directive according to which the VDV command would become subordinate to the Main Command of the Ground Troops was prepared, and VDV formations and units are in fact being transferred into operational subordination to the commands of strategic axes ‘North,’ [sic] ‘West,’ ‘South,’ and ‘East.’  That is, they’re being taken from the reserve of and immediate subordination to the Supreme CINC of the RF Armed Forces.  Add to this the estrangement of the VDV from work with premilitary youth in DOSAAF and the elimination of the Ryazan Airborne Higher Military Command School, which has been dropped into the Ground Troops training center (Combined Arms Academy), and the elimination of the VDV Personnel Directorate, which will put a final end to the elite status of the VDV, traditionally proud of its own unique personnel school.  In fact, a quiet destruction of the troops is going on.”

Shurygin says VDV Commander Shamanov’s doctors say confidentially that, in intensive care, he was in no condition for paperwork, and his right hand was immobilized when he supposedly authored his message urging VDV on Poklonnaya Gora to avoid confronting the Defense Ministry.   

So Shurygin doubts Shamanov wrote this, but he doesn’t allow for the possibility that the general dictated words to be issued in his name.

Shurygin adds that sources close to the Defense Ministry say the Shamanov document turned up in the hands of Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov, was edited by his people, and sent to the hospital for Shamanov’s signature as he was being wheeled into surgery. 

Shurygin shifts gears reprinting part of an interview he gave Baltinform prior to the Poklonnaya Gora demonstration.  Asked about Serdyukov, he says:

“The reform Serdyukov is conducting causes confusion in specialists.  The opposition to the pogrom he’s conducted in the army is very great.  Tens of thousands of people are opposed — they really see what is happening in the troops, and are trying to get this information to the public.”

“The fact that this [Seltsy] scandal received publicity is not evidence of conspiracy, but evidence of the crudest error in Serdyukov’s judgment, who left himself open, conducting himself rudely and offending an honored officer, a Hero of Russia.  And this outrageous incident only became the latest reason again to raise the theme of reform.  If the main reformer conducts himself in such an unworthy manner, then this automatically calls forth questions about the entire reform he’s conducted.  I think that opposition to Serdyukov is located not at the Kremlin level or any mysterious officials, but at the level of those whom military reform has literally ‘run over like a tank.'”

 I relate to [Serdyukov] as an absolutely incompetent person who occupies a job that is not his.  And for three years already he’s been learning the completely new business of managing the army at the cost of huge damage to the latter.  First they constantly destroy army structures like a house of cards, then they try to ‘sculpt’ and create something out of them.”

  “Some directives are suspended, others are given out and then are suspended.  The army leadership is feverishly searching as if trying to get a careening wagon down a hill in the necessary direction, but still just increasing the chaos and disintegration.  Massive break-ups were undertaken in place of approaching reforms from a scientific viewpoint and working out experiments on specially selected parts.”

“The Armed Forces have been ‘cut to the bone.’  They’ve broken everything in them, both the bad, and the good.  They broke it, then observed the mistakes, and are now trying to correct them.”

Asked if Serdyukov will finish his reforms or be replaced because of complaints from his opponents, Shurygin concludes:

“It seems to me he’ll go to that phase when it’ll be officially acknowledged that the reform has taken place.  Then a moment will come when it’s necessary to make a change in the official hierarchy, and Serdyukov will be transferred to another position.  The one who comes into his place, will begin his own reform anew, perhaps, a more ‘quiet’ one.  But he won’t avoid long work analyzing the mess of forest cut down by Serdyukov.”

Officer Discontent on Poklonnaya Gora

Reviewing the press on Sunday’s VDV meeting on Poklonnaya Gora, one could say there’s an inclination to dismiss it as the howling of old cranks who don’t constitute an organized challenge to anything or anyone.  But behind that initial take, some media saw palpable discontent among officers, both retired and active duty.  Nezavisimaya gazeta suggested there might be more below the surface of this rather feeble demonstration – either more powerful interests or much larger numbers of affected individuals.  Ekspert concluded, at a minimum, the whole episode might lead Defense Minister Serdyukov to take the opinions of officers more seriously.      

The VDV demonstration goes back to the 30 September Seltsy incident, and the Russian Airborne Union’s (SDR) call for Serdyukov resign for insulting Hero of Russia, Colonel Krasov as well as for destroying the army.  Kommersant put the number of participants at about 1,500.  Retired General-Colonel Vyacheslav Achalov and other organizers threaten to resume protesting on 17 November if President Medvedev doesn’t fire Serdyukov.  They also want General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov, and Main Personnel Directorate Chief Viktor Goremykin to resign. 

The conspiracy-minded protesters maintain that Vladimir Shamanov’s crash was no accident; they think someone tried to kill him since he’s the only man standing in the way of the VDV’s ruin.

The Defense Ministry didn’t officially comment on yesterday’s protest, but Kommersant garnered an unofficial reaction.  An unnamed Defense Ministry representative said:

“Criticism should be constructive.  When memorial days like 7 November are used for political purposes, it’s unseemly.  Moreover, criticizing the minister for the reform is premature, since it’s not complete yet.”

So the Defense Ministry didn’t think the protest was helpful, but they also think 7 November is still a holiday.  The last is the best though.  Exactly when, where, and how are opponents supposed to raise their objections?  When everything’s over and done with?  Another insight into current regime thinking about the proper interaction of politics and policymaking . . . none.

Nezavisimaya gazeta was most interested that it wasn’t just the usual non-systemic outcasts at the VDV rally, but Just Russia (Справедливая Россия) flags showed that some of the official opposition was there too.  Federation Council Speaker and Just Russia leader Sergey Mironov was once a VDV senior sergeant himself.  NG sees SR trying to play an army card to its advantage while remaining part of the official opposition.

The paper says Mironov could be using the military, and showing support for officers against Serdyukov (and Medvedev by extension) for his own purposes.  And he’s politicizing the army – something not done in recent years and generally considered unacceptable.  NG indicates some think there’s more to all this than just a reaction to Serdyukov’s alleged rudeness to the VDV:

“There is, incidentally, an opinion that the [Seltsy] incident was only a pretext, and the interests of some military circles and retired officers connected to them, who feed off the army and are dissatisfied with the current military reform, are behind the protest.”

Novyye Izvestiya describes Poklonnaya Gora as quite the retrograde affair replete with Soviet flags, and the usual representatives of the radical opposition.

One participant bragged to its reporter after passing through one of many metal detectors:

“We don’t need weapons, we could take the Kremlin with a stool leg.”

But Novyye had more serious points too, like one ex-VDV who complained of Serdyukov’s cuts in military medicine, and his commercialization of military hospitals.  He asked:

“What military doctors will be on the battlefield?  There aren’t any remaining.  But there’s no one to fight, in a year’s army service what can you learn?  Only to sweep the parade ground.”

The paper concludes VDV veterans believe only military men can solve the army’s problems, the army needs to be mobile and highly capable, and it shouldn’t be shameful to serve in it.  At least everyone seems to agree on the last two.

Writing for Ekspert, Stanislav Kuvaldin describes Seltsy and Poklonnaya Gora as a breakdown in communications between the Defense Minister and the officer corps.  One SDR leader told Kuvaldin:

“Serving officers are silent, but they think the same things.  We grew them and indoctrinated them.”

He went on to say that even if they are silent about Serdyukov and reforms in exchange for today’s higher officer pay, it doesn’t mean they’ve been suppressed.

A key element of Serdyukov’s reform is basically tripling officer pay, and this higher pay is already a serious factor in calculations about serving, but it hasn’t happened yet (except for those getting special premium pay).  Nevertheless, potentially higher pay won’t automatically mean Serdyukov will be more popular, and it doesn’t mean the VDV will get over Serdyukov’s insult to one of its officers and a Hero of Russia, according to Kuvaldin.

Kuvaldin reports the Defense Ministry may compromise on some of the VDV’s more specific complaints, i.e. not moving the VDV Headquarters to Ryazan and preserving the VDV Museum, but not reversing the VDV Higher Military Command School’s subordination to the Combined Arms Academy.

In the end, Kuvaldin writes, this dissatisfaction is only creating tense moments for Serdyukov, not a serious threat:

“In the end, if after two years of reforms, vulgar insults to the head of one military school have become the cause for veterans to come out, it’s possible only to talk about an unpleasant emotional backdrop for the minister, but not about a hypothetical organized resistance.”

However, possibly, the situation will force the minister to deal with officers’ opinions more attentively and respectfully.

But this author wouldn’t bet on it.

In a not particularly surprising postscript, the GAI stopped SDR leader Pavel Popovskikh — former colonel, VDV Reconnaissance Chief, and defendant in the murder of journalist Dmitriy Kholodov — for driving drunk after the demonstration.  The story was widely reported, but an alternative version hasn’t gotten as much play.  Segodnya.ru reported that Popovskikh’s friends and others say he stopped drinking long ago.  The website also says Vladislav Shurygin wrote in his blog that traffic cops were ordered to stop Popovskikh and check him for alcohol, but they sheepishly released him with an apology when they found he was sober.

Serdyukov Reportedly Offends VDV

It took a couple of weeks for the story to leak out, but it did, largely thanks to Russian bloggers. 

Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov reportedly insulted Colonel Andrey Krasov, chief of the VDV’s Ryazan Higher Command School (now officially a filial of the Combined Arms Academy).  Monday’s Kommersant summed it up well.  Serdyukov flew to Ryazan on 30 September and visited the school’s Seltsy training center.  Getting off his helicopter, he reportedly launched into an obscene and humiliating public tirade against Krasov (who also happens to be a Hero of the Russian Federation) over the small wooden Church of the Prophet Elijah located on the grounds.

Serdyukov ordered the church dismantled, and Colonel Krasov dismissed.  The latter tried to explain that the church was built with money from sponsors, and that it will be used for training chaplains starting next year.  But, according to a retired VDV general’s account, Serdyukov wouldn’t have any of it, saying or telling his minions:

“Don’t give money to this VDV center.  We generally need to cut this school back.  Remove this impudent colonel.”

So Serdyukov comes off badly, and Colonel Krasov sounds as mild as a choir boy.  Who knows if we’ll ever know exactly how it happened.

In any case, the VDV was apparently already seething about the bureaucratic downgrading of its alma mater, and the Union of Russian Airborne Troops has asked President Medvedev and Patriarch Kirill to intercede on behalf of Colonel Krasov.  The Union’s chairman, former VDV Commander and failed putschist, Vladimir Achalov wrote the appeal:

“Anatoliy Serdyukov insulted Colonel Andrey Krasov with unprintable language, degrading his professional and personal worth in front of his subordinates.  The religious senses of the airborne were also insulted for building the church with their own resources.  And this is the fourth military church Anatoliy Serdyukov has ordered dismantled.”

“The insult to Hero of Russia Andrey Krasov is an insult to all defenders of our Motherland.  We reserve the right to act in defense of the honor and dignity of servicemen.”

There’s been no official reaction to all this from the Defense Ministry, but it’s become quite a storm.  Most major print and Internet media have covered it.

Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov met with Airborne Union representatives on Monday to smooth the whole thing over, according to Kommersant.

A Ryazan church official gave the paper the church’s view that the military has no relationship to the Church of the Prophet Elijah, and said Patriarch Kirill has already met with Medvedev on this, and decided the church won’t come down.

This situation is reminiscent of Serdyukov’s first foray as Defense Minister inspecting the St. Petersburg Nakhimov School in March 2007.  Appalled by its condition, he sacked its chief —  respected former submariner Aleksandr Bukin — on the spot, and was criticized later for mistreating a decorated admiral whose duty post  suffered from a chronic lack of resources.  But Serdyukov seemed to learn from the PR, both good and bad, and we haven’t seen anything similar in public since.

At Seltsy, maybe Serdyukov just lost his self-control.  Maybe there’s sub-text or details here we don’t know.  The whole thing could be overblown to make Serdyukov look bad.  But who’d benefit from that?  The VDV?  The Defense Minister’s really handled that branch of service with kid gloves in the process of his reforms.  Maybe, at its root, it’s a traditional civil-military dust-up — maybe this civilian Defense Minister and uniformed military men don’t understand or respect each other very much.

More Talk of Raising Draft Age to 30

Appearing on Thursday’s RIA Novosti talk show ‘Civil Defense,’ Deputy Defense Minister, State Secretary Nikolay Pankov claimed raising the upper age limit for conscription would benefit the army, and Russian society as a whole.

Under Russian law, men aged 18 to 27 are subject to the draft.  In April, GOMU Chief Vasiliy Smirnov floated the possibility of increasing the age to 30 as a way to help fill the army’s ranks at a time when 270,000 new conscripts are needed every six months, and contract service has failed to produce sufficient numbers of professional soldiers.

Pankov told his interviewer:

“I think this question [of raising the draft age limit] is very productive, and I wouldn’t reject this idea.”

But he admitted it needs more study.

After Smirnov’s April trial balloon, Defense Minister Serdyukov and General Staff Chief Makarov backed awayfrom raising the draft age, saying they were only ‘reviewing options.’

The issue really boils down to this:  how many 27-year-olds are the Russians currently drafting, and how much would drafting 28-, 29-, and 30-year-olds really help fill gaps in the ranks?

One has to conclude the return on conscription greatly diminishes at the outer edge, while resistance to it increases.  Forum.msk editor Anatoliy Baranov commented that raising the draft age limit to 30 is unpopular because average life expectancy for men is less than 60.  He continues:

“Of course, against the background of a general decline in the draft contingent by almost 2 times for social and demographic reasons, there are no and can’t be solutions fully compensating for this ‘demographic hole.’”

“How do you keep general military training and not draft everyone into the army at the same time?  There are, of course, solutions, but the current Defense Ministry leadership, it seems, consciously ‘overlooks’ them.”

Baranov seems to be saying, if the military wants a million-man army, with 600,000-700,000 conscripts, it’ll have to increase, not the draft age, but the draft term from one year back to 18-months or two years.

Bad News for Would-Be Officers

Future Officer, or Sergeant? (photo: RIA Novosti / Valeriy Titiyevskiy)

There’s no better time for bad news about changes in military education than the beginning of Russia’s academic year.

The Defense Ministry said Monday it’s stopping induction of cadets into military higher educational institutions (VVUZy or ВВУЗы).  And new students will not matriculate next year either.

There’s no doubt there’s lots of excess capacity that needs to be cut from Russia’s military education system, but, as usual, there seems to be more angst about the way the process is being managed than about the need for some kind of change itself.  The Defense Ministry is trying to ram many young men who signed up to be officers into sergeant’s billets, and generally changing the rules in the middle of the game.  There’s no doubt large numbers of VVUZ professors and other teaching staff will be pushed out of the service, but the Defense Ministry is denying this for now.  Perhaps most interesting, RIA Novosti elected to editorialize on this issue, saying it exemplifies the Defense Ministry’s, and the Defense Minister’s, poor way of dealing with the public and presenting its initiatives.

Deputy Chief of the Defense Ministry’s Main Personnel Directorate (GUK or ГУК), Tamara Fraltsova (who doubles as Chief of the Military Education Directorate) made the announcement during a video conference marking the opening of the Presidential Cadet Corps in Orenburg.  Specifically, she said:

“In the course of this year and next, the Defense Ministry is refraining from selecting cadets for its VUZy.”

“This is connected to an overabundance of officer personnel and a deficit of officer positions in the Armed Forces.”

“At present, graduation of cadets exceeds the officer positions we have in the Armed Forces by four times.”

In other words, the military educational system is still too big, and needs more cuts.  There are 56 teaching institutions in all – VVUZy and their branches (filialy). 

The ‘overabundance’ of officers is part and parcel of Defense Minister Serdyukov’s ‘new profile’ reforms in which officers are being reduced to 150,000 from well in excess of 300,000 in late 2008. 

Fraltsova has previously indicated VVUZy would be cut further and unified into ten ‘inter-service scientific-training centers.’  Duplicative or overlapping specialty training will also be eliminated.

Izvestiya reported that Fraltsova said the military education system is still configured to support a 4-million-man, rather than a 1-million-man, army.

Nevertheless, Fraltsova maintained that all 15,000 VVUZ graduates were placed in military billets last year.  But she didn’t say what kind of billets.

Krasnaya zvezda quoted her:

“. . . there is a chance for higher quality manning of the Armed Forces.  So, the requirements for future officers must be stricter.”

“There is a need for a review and selection of military specialties, according to which education in military VUZy is provided.  Part of [these specialties] will be transferred to the civilian ranks, part will go into to the duty category of sergeant personnel.”

There’s been media reporting for months that any cadet receiving even a single ‘2’ – an unsatisfactory mark – is now drummed out.  But this doesn’t eliminate many – 70 percent of cadets graduate without ever getting even a ‘3,’ according to the Defense Ministry.

Writing in Komsomolskaya pravda, Viktor Baranets indicated that only 100 of 600 lieutenants who arrived in the Pacific Fleet got officer jobs, and, in Voronezh, only the very top-ranked graduates found officer posts in the Air Forces.  About 20 percent of cadets normally graduate ‘with distinction.’  So the remaining 80 percent either accepted a sergeant position, or immediate dismissal into the reserves and the civilian world.  

Grani.ru reported that most graduates of the Defense Ministry’s Military University – a social sciences institution located in Moscow – got a ‘free diploma’ and an immediate discharge.   

According to Izvestiya, Fraltsova said there are only 5,000 command positions in the Armed Forces against an influx of 15,000 newly-commissioned junior officers.  The paper quotes her:

“Let them compete for what they will get.  The rest simply received a free higher education.  In my opinion, this is fair.”

She claims these changes are improving student performance, and she wants to use competitive ratings to make initial officer assignments.

She dismisses worries about the impact of cadet reductions on VVUZy teaching staffs because, in many cases, they’ll be busy teaching noncommissioned officers.  Some will be one-year conscript sergeants, and others three-year contractees getting nearly 3 years of post-secondary schooling.

Fraltsova revealed that 60 percent of VVUZy already teach on a ‘for-profit’ basis, and this will fully employ their instructors.

The effects of officer corps cuts, and VVUZy cuts, have rippled down to Russia’s venerable Suvorov and Nakhimov schools.  Without places in VVUZy, these young men will have to seek spots in other power ministry academies, if they want to be officers.  Premilitary Suvorov and Nakhimov schools now have to compete for students with the new Presidential Cadet Corps, which are supposed to train youth for the civil service in each federal district.

Forum.msk’s Anatoliy Baranov remarked that Fraltsova and her ilk “will suddenly observe in 10-15 years that everyone in higher military institutions has died, and there is no one and no way to teach new officers.”  Leonid Ivashov told Gzt.ru simply, “We are witnessing the destruction of Russian military education.”

RIA Novosti published surprisingly stark criticism of Fraltsova’s (and Serdyukov’s) performance. 

First, it quoted her:

“. . . not everyone in Russian society is sympathetic to this initiative.  Yes, these are very severe measures, not many like them, and we are being subjected to criticism for this decision.”

The news agency said Fraltsova’s press conference left the media with the impression that the Defense Ministry still doesn’t know what to do about the military education system.

It called the halt in VVUZ induction a ‘radical step,’ which calls attention to the Defense Ministry’s secretiveness in making important decisions.  The agency complains that, since 2008, when the ‘new profile’ started, the media and society have learned about most changes after the fact.  Veterans and other social groups have written to Serdyukov asking to give input, but it’s not clear their letters are even answered.  RIA Novosti concludes, in this case, the military department has once again ‘stepped on a rake.’

Yesterday Deputy Defense Minister, State Secretary Nikolay Pankov went on TV in damage control mode, saying these changes are intended to improve military education as well as to save money.  He intimated there will be lots more pain in going from 56 to 10 institutions.  Pankov said 20 percent of this year’s 10,000 VVUZ graduates will become sergeants instead of officers, but the Defense Ministry will keep these reluctant NCOs in mind if officer billets come open.