General of the Army Nikolai Pankov, Chief of the Personnel and Morale Service of the Defense Ministry, met with journalists on September 8. He said that only 68 civil high schools will have military sub-faculties in 2008. As is known, General Pankov stated in June 2005, that only 30-35 military sub-faculties would remain. That report stirred up society. To all appearances, the Defense Ministry listened to the people and decided to retain more military sub-faculties. The educational system proposed by the defense Ministry has to be approved by the government yet (along with the list of high schools, which will retain military sub-faculties).

It’s strange that the Defense Ministry has announced the list of high schools without discussing it with the government. In the meantime, it’s not a coincidence. It seems that the Defense Ministry’s public relations structures have decided to behave as experienced propagandists who seek to create a positive image of the Army in society. This conclusion was drawn by Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Friday.

The newspaper notes that the Duma has not yet discussed the amendments concerning recruitment deferrals. Meanwhile, the defense minister is sure that they will be passed. He noted that, “students will not be called up”. As is known, society’s attitude to the Defense Ministry’s attempts to restore the institution of guardhouses is ambiguous. Meanwhile, generals are sure that it will be restored. It should be noted that Russian ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, has supported this plan. To all appearances, it’s no coincidence that Sergei Ivanov signed a memorandum with Lukin. The Defense Ministry has organized a range of meetings between defenders of human rights and servicemen, and announced secret reports about the death rate in the Army and the Navy. In other words, the Defense Ministry seeks to be transparent. Why?

The answer becomes obvious if we remember about the impending presidential and parliamentary election. The Army’s problems affect the majority of the population. These problems are an ideal element of PR campaigns. To all appearances, the Defense Ministry and the Kremlin understand this. It should be noted that analysts consider Sergei Ivanov as a potential candidate for president. It’s easy to guess who would replace him in the Defense Ministry. As is known, General Pankov makes all loud statements. Precisely this general gave a report on the state of discipline in the Army at a meeting with defenders of human rights on July 1. He visits military units together with journalists. It should be noted that military sub-faculties are the task of the General Staff, which controls the mobilization resources. It should be noted that the Central mobilization-organizational department of the General Staff compiled the list of high schools with military sub-faculties. In the meantime, the chief of the Personnel and Morale Service of the Defense Ministry announced the list.

This prompts that as the successor of the Soviet central Political Department of the Army, the Morale Department of the Defense Ministry plays a very important role winning over military voters (from 18 to 20 million people, including officers, their families, military pensioners, workers of the defense industry and more). The Central Morale Department uses different tools such as local newspapers, the Zvezda TV channel and thousands of clubs and houses of officers with thousands of potential propagandists. It’s no coincidence that Colonel-General Vladimir Kulakov, former chief of the Central Morale Department, and his deputy Alexander Kalita were nominated to senators after the success in the 2000, elections. Some sources say that Major-General Nikolai Burbyga, a department chief of the Central Morale Department, was promoted to the federal inspector in one of the regions of the Central federal district. He worked as an ordinary correspondent at Izvestia in 1994-1995. Thousands of morale officers who worked in the Central Morale Department currently work in the Presidential Administration, the Security Council and the government.

In other words, the Defense Ministry de facto becomes one of the most important players in the election campaign.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta states, “It’s a logical thing for a ministry to take care about its image. To all appearances, Russia has also understood this.” But it should be noted that military construction is not a PR action. Generals should not forget it…