Tag Archives: Sovbez

Mukhin on the Army’s Protest Mood

According to Nezavisimaya gazeta’s Vladimir Mukhin, Defense Minister Serdyukov has lost the confidence of his bosses, as well as his carte blanche to reform the Armed Forces.  NG’s Kremlin source claims Serdyukov’s initiatives will be vetted at higher levels (i.e. the Sovbez and President) in the future.  But can there really be any initiatives left at this point?  Isn’t it all either implementation or reversal at this point?

President Medvedev’s press-secretary quickly denied that responsibility for military reform is being transferred elsewhere, and insisted it remains with the Supreme Commander-in-Chief and his Defense Minister (but what about Putin?).  She called Mukhin’s report a “lie,” and said only Medvedev and Serdyukov answer for Armed Forces reform, while others just “contribute to it.”

Mukhin covers Putin’s trip to Kaliningrad about military housing where he was told about discontent among military retirees and he promised a 50-70 percent increase in their pensions.  General-Lieutenant Netkachev blames Putin for letting military pensions slip from three times to barely equal to a normal labor pension.

Mukhin’s final interlocutor cites Finance Minister Kudrin on the cost of these political promises to the military increasing Russia’s defense burden from 3 to 4.5 percent of its GDP.

It’s worth including all of Mukhin’s article:

“Election Candy for the Military Electorate.  The Party of Power Struggles for the Votes of Veterans and Servicemen.”

“The fundamental steps connected with reforming the army will now be implemented not by the military department itself, but by the Security Council (SB), where the main director of this work will be the Deputy Secretary of the SB, ex-Chief of the General Staff Yuriy Baluyevskiy.  A Kremlin source has told ‘NG’ such information.  It notes that in its responsibilities, the Sovbez is charged with supervising the general work of the government and power structures in creating a positive image of the main activities of military organizational development, especially in the social sphere for officers and retirees and their family members.”
 
“So it is that the carte blanche given to Anatoliy Serdyukov several years ago by Vladimir Putin for a radical reorganization of the country’s Armed Forces is now canceled.  Further reforms will be agreed at a higher level and, of course, with the participation of Dmitriy Medvedev’s team.  As an SB source notes, Prime Minister and United Russia leader Vladimir Putin agreed to such steps for two reasons.  First, the image of the country’s military-political leadership was recently severely shaken, and the protest mood among a large number of serving military personnel and retirees is growing.  Taking into account the experience of the Arab revolutions, the tandem, apparently, decided to secure itself.  Secondly, the electoral battle has pushed the party of power to correct steps in the army’s reform and especially in social issues.”

“Vladimir Putin’s 23 February trip to Kaliningrad, where he, along with General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov, Deputy Defense Minister Grigoriy Naginskiy, and other government officials met about the housing problems of servicemen and where he met with residents as UR leader, was evidently connected to these factors.  These meetings happened at the same moment when on Poklonnaya Gora in the capital, the Union of Airborne of Russia (SDR) demanded the Defense Minister’s resignation, when on the Arbat [location of the Defense Ministry’s buildings] under the flags of [the political party] ‘Yabloko,’ military retirees demonstrated demanding doubled pensions, when on Pushkin Square in Moscow and Lenin Square in St. Petersburg communist-veterans demanded a solution to the housing problems of servicemen.  Television didn’t show these and other protest actions, occurring in many regions, at all.  On the other hand, all central television channels broadcast Putin’s visit to Kaliningrad.”

“Against this background, ‘Finans’ magazine published its latest list of [ruble] billionaires in Russia, where under number 163 current Deputy Defense Minister and United Russia activist Gregoriy Naginskiy was noted.  On the list, he is noted as founder of the engineering firm ‘Titan-2’ which is involved in construction.  His personal wealth is estimated at 20.7 billion rubles.  We note that in the Defense Ministry Naginskiy is also in charge of construction issues.”

“At a meeting with Putin, one of the leaders of the Kaliningrad veterans movement, former chief of the 11th Army’s political department, General-Major Boris Kosenkov handed the Premier a ‘little extremist manifesto’ being disseminated among veterans in Kaliningrad.  At the same time, talking about low pensions for retirees, the general stressed that ‘a very tense situation is being created in our veterans’ organization structures and political parties are even using this problem in the election campaign.’  As is well-known, there’s no such thing as a former political worker, and the veteran precisely seized the moment to enlighten the Premier about the mood among military pensioners.  Vladimir Putin had no choice but to agree with the fact that ‘really the situation with pension support for servicemen doesn’t correspond to the principles on which it was formed in previous years.  And according to recent data, for about 40% of military pensioners (or, maybe, even a little more), the pension is already either equal, or even a little less than a labor pension.’  Putin immediately promised that the ‘increase in military pensions will be substantial.  It will be an increase of about 1.5 times, about in the range of 70%.’”

“‘Let them, of course, raise pensions.  But now this looks like pure PR,’ believes General-Lieutenant Yuriy Netkachev, advisor to the Association of Social Defense for Veterans of ‘Rus’ Special Sub-Units.  ‘In 2000, when Vladimir Putin became President, military pensions were on average three times more than civilian ones.  Now they are much lower.  Who stopped the current authorities from keeping our pensions at the previous level?'”

“Academy of Military Sciences Correspondent-Member Colonel Eduard Rodyukov draws attention to another fact.  ‘In Kaliningrad, Putin promised to allocate another 150 billion rubles to solve all the housing problems of servicemen and military pensioners.  President Dmitriy Medvedev has once again pledged that from 2012 the salaries of officers will increase several times. In Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin’s opinion, all these transformations, as well as realization of rearmament programs, which the President and Prime Minister proudly proclaim, will require increased defense spending of at least 1.5% of the country’s gross domestic product.  That is the total expenditures in the military budget next year will be 4.5% of GDP.  For comparison:  in the U.S. about 3.5% of GDP is spent on defense.’  Rodyukov draws attention to the fact that in Russia wars are not foreseen in the near future.  But spending on defense will be very great.  ‘This will lead to increased problems in the economy.  Or is there a possibility that militarization simply won’t occur, and this means the military’s negative attitude in society will exacerbate further.’ Rodyukov supposes.”

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Scapegoat Biront Wins in Court, for Now

Lieutenant Colonel Biront (photo: http://www.odnoklassniki.ru)

Last Tuesday, the Lyubertsy Garrison Military Court held President Medvedev’s dismissal of Lieutenant Colonel Viktor Biront to be illegal.  Recall Biront was the President’s and the Defense Ministry’s scapegoat when the 2512th Central Aviation-Technical Base of Naval Aviation burned in this summer’s infernos near Moscow.

A criminal case for negligence was also raised against Biront, but, according to Moskovskiy komsomolets, they punished him by dismissing him “in connection with nonfulfillment of contract.”  Biront fought back, and an inquiry revealed that, as of 1 February, the base’s firefighting unit had been disbanded, a 50-meter fire break hadn’t been established, and firefighting supplies were absent.  Biront had informed his leadership, but was ignored.  Biront’s lawyer also argued that his client had an impeccable 26-year service record, and had only been in charge of the Kolomna base for 3 months and 25 days.

The lawyer said Biront was left with 70 sailors to dig a fire safety zone around an 8-kilometer perimeter.  And Biront’s predecessor was fined for trying to dig this zone on his own.  The lawyer says the Defense Ministry plans to appeal the overturning of Biront’s dismissal.

In its coverage, Kommersant said Biront’s lawyer pointed out that every due process was violated in his client’s case: 

“First an investigation is performed regarding the disciplinary violation which served as the basis for dismissal, then the serviceman should be familiarized with its results and guaranteed the right to present his objections.  None of this was done.”

The lawyer continues, “The president gave the order to sort it all out and dismiss the guilty, but they didn’t sort it out and found a scapegoat among the unit’s officers.”

In Kommersant’s version, Biront and 30 sailors fought the fires armed with nothing but axes. 

One officer told the paper a chain reaction following Biront’s victory was likely, as others dismissed make similar appeals based on the lack of due process.

So, one can conclude that Medvedev’s ‘tough guy’ on-the-spot firing in the 4 August special Sovbez session was really nothing more than feelgood PR at best, or stupid at worst.  But, if they want to get Biront, they will, especially for being impudent enough to fight the system, and not being a quiet, cooperative victim. 

Biront is one of those allegedly superfluous officers denigrated by the victors in Serdyukov’s ‘new profile’ reforms for being a ‘housekeeper,’ uninterested or unprepared to conduct combat training.

The news about the Biront case has received very little media attention.