Large-scale reshuffling in security agencies indicates that Russian military reform, on the tip of everyone’s tongue for so long, has finally taken off. In a single day Vladimir Putin replaced top-ranking officials of three security agencies, the Security Council, and the Atomic Energy Ministry. It is interesting that the personnel change took place one year after Putin was elected president. Some observers have therefore noted that this way Putin managed to allegedly keep his promise to Boris Yeltsin and the “family” not to set loose any radical reshuffle for a year after his election. That year has passed, and the heads have begun rolling. The first changes took place in the Defense and Interior ministries, the organizations on which the stability of Putin’s power depends. How necessary really was the personnel purge now? To what extent is the change linked with the present stage of military reform? It was high time for Sergeev to retire, due to his age. Hence society took his appointment as presidential aide as a natural step. Even more so, since, as member of the Security Council, Sergei Ivanov studied the problems of the Armed Forces every week, and actually became one of the main authors of the national military agenda. Who but him could head the agency in which the major changes would take place? Both Putin and Ivanov mentioned this argument when they explained the reasons for the reshuffle.
Vladimir Rushailo’s new assignment also makes sense. He is an experienced professional, who truly fulfills his tasks associated with providing for the country’s internal security. He will evidently be in demand as Chairman of the Security Council. However, the Interior Ministry is frequently criticized by nature of the job, which is why Putin may have wanted to bring “fresh blood” into the Interior Ministry with Gryzlov and Vasilyev.
It is hardly possible to agree with Putin that the announced appointments in the military fields were “the result of 18 months of work on the military reform which deals not only with the Defense Ministry, but also with the entire military organization of the state, and the industries connected with this field.” Over the last few months it has been difficult to notice any important steps associated with the military reform proper, although such attempts were made. Thus, Putin issued a series of decrees December 1, 2000, and created a new system of military technological cooperation.
At present the military technological cooperation committee is subordinated to the Defense Ministry, and Mikhail Dmitriev from Putin’s entourage, former professional intelligence agent, and incumbent Deputy Defense Minister, is in change of such cooperation.
Yes, appointment of loyal people in the Defense and Interior ministries by Putin is associated with the need to promote military reform. However, this explanation is incomplete. Putin ascended to power without a team of his own. The reshuffling also demonstrates that Putin is forming his own team. By appointing new top-ranking officials in security agencies, Putin shows that he is strengthening his position in society and is probably moving towards a more stringent style of governance. Such measures will evidently be justified, because a certain part of the population may dislike the liberal reform policies declared by Putin (land sale, liberalization of the Labor Code, introduction of paid healthcare services, and so on). The Armed Forces and the Interior Ministry should guarantee that there will not be any social uprising. Probably this is a coincidence, but the forceful replacing of NTV executive coincided with the new appointments of security agencies officials loyal to Putin. In a probable further struggle of the President against the oligarchs, the unbending loyalty of the Armed Forces and Interior Ministry will be an additional argument and factor showing the strength of Putin as a leader. In his message to the Federal Assembly, Putin said almost anything about military reform, but it is hardly possible to say that it will not take place. So far the personnel changes conducted in late March remain the most visible step towards reform. Putin obviously trusts Ivanov so much, that the new minister will take all measures to build up a renewed military structure on his own. Alternately, plans of transformations to be conducted in the Defense Ministry are so secret that the public need not know abut them for the time being.
Either way, military reform is starting to take some vague shape. It is possible to judge the future of the reforms by Putin’s appointments to the Defense Ministry. In addition to selecting new Defense and Interior ministers, Putin also appointed three new deputies for Ivanov, commander of the Ground Forces, and commander of the Military Space Forces. All these posts are new to the Defense Ministry. Thus, simultaneously with personnel reshuffle Putin also outlined a new structure of the Defense Ministry. According to him, this structure fits the needs of civil society better and gives the minister better control over the troops.
Thus, for the first time a woman was appointed one of the deputy defense ministers. Lubov Kudelina was until recently a Deputy Finance Minister. Kudelina will be in charge of the main military budget and financing department of the Defense Ministry. She will be responsible for rational spending of assignments for national defense. For almost ten years the department has been severely criticized for bad work; Kudelina’s last two predecessors were both dismissed. A criminal case has been started against former chief military financier Colonel general Georgy Oleinik. Hence it is reasonable to presume that highly skilled civil professionals may join the department in the near future. Former Commander of the Moscow Military District Colonel general Igor Puzanov was appointed one of the deputy defense ministers and a state secretary. This post had remained vacant for a long time. Until mid-2000 Nikolai Mikhailov held the job and worked exclusively on issues related to the military industrial complex. However, Puzanov will be in charge of collaboration between the Defense Ministry and the Federal Assembly. He will also supervise the social sector, including troop morale, education, and so on.
Alexei Moskovsky, a man from Ivanov’s entourage, has been appointed director of the armament department and Deputy Defense Minister. He will take over leadership of the military industrial complex, and assist in preparing the state defense order. Before his appointment to the Defense Ministry he was the Ivanov’s deputy in the Security Council. Moskovsky’s position is also new to the Defense Minister. Formerly the director of the armament department did not hold the status of deputy defense minister. After Ivanov’s arrival, this status was implemented again, as during Soviet times. By his decree Putin restored the Main Command of the Ground Forces (disbanded in 1998) and appointed Colonel general Nikolai Kormiltsev chief of this department. Putin also appointed Colonel General Anatoly Perminov, former Chief of the Main Staff and Senior Deputy Commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, Commander of Military Space Forces.
These appointments were not accidental. The role of the Ground Forces in modern warfare is bound to increase. The troops will master new methods of armed combat, including the use of precision-guided weapons, which are impossible to aim without satellite reconnaissance.
It is well known that Ivanov chaired the interagency work group for military buildup, which was organized following the president’s order. Ivanov has studied all nuances of the upcoming changes in the country’s military organizations. His appointment as Defense Minister showed that the Security Council has completed its outline for military reform, and the President would soon accept a policy on state military buildup until the year 2010. According to the concept many tasks of security agencies will be distributed in a new way, and functions of the Defense Ministry and General Staff will be radically divided.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that military reform has finally begun. Ivanov announced that it would not be done through “revolutions,” but would take an evolutionary course. According to him, reforming of the Armed Forces is not a goal in itself, but only a method to cut costs. It is necessary to add a modern look and mobility to the Armed Forces, and to arm it with new weapons. According to the new Defense Minister, one must also increase respect of the military in society.
Meanwhile, it is clear that the success of these recently launched transformations in the country’s military system will depend primarily on Russia’s economic condition. This means that it will be possible to evaluate the efficiency of the current reforms in the Armed Forces and other security agencies only in another 10 to 15 years.