Generals’ opposition, what does this mean?


Some mass media reported about growing opposition attitude among the top-ranking military officials. Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote that Senior Deputy Defense Minister and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Army General Yury Baluevsky submitted a resignation report. Baluevsky allegedly did this because of disagreement with the policy of reforms that Anatoly Serdyukov planned and started implementing. According to available information (it is currently being checked), resignation reports were also submitted by several directors of the main and central departments of the Defense Ministry and General Staff including Baluevsky’s deputy, director of the main organizational and mobilization department of the General Staff Colonel General Vasily Smirnov. Incidentally, Colonel General Victor Vlasov, acting director of the service of accommodation and settlement of the Armed Forces (this post is equalized to the post of deputy defense minister), submitted a resignation report before his suicide too.

So far, there were no official confirmations of the intentions of Baluevsky and other generals to quit there posts. It is reported that authorities of the country try to resolve the conflict between the generals and the Defense Ministry. At least, the authorities are doing their best for mass media to learn as little as possible about these contradictions. However, several military sources independent from each other reported that the incumbent Chief of the General Staff was on vacations before resignation and spoke about some details connected with the reasons for resignation of Baluevsky. It turned out that in the last five months Baluevsky submitted already three resignation reports. The first report was submitted in November of 2007 when Major General of the Federal Security Service of the reserve Oleg Eskin, fellow-countryman of Serdyukov, was appointed on the post of deputy defense minister. Eskin is considered to be a member of the “St. Petersburg clan.” Eskin graduated from the Leningrad institute of instrument building and from the military academy of communication named after Budenny located in St. Petersburg. For a long time he served on various posts in the staff of the Northwestern District of the Border Guards located in St. Petersburg.

Independent sources report that now it is Eskin who is the main author of the reforms implemented by Serdyukov. There were no official confirmations of this yet. Meanwhile, unstable situation in the Defense Ministry in conditions of changing of the authorities in Russia is a bad symptom.

Assurance of Serdyukov of his actions is evidently confirmed by support on the part of both old and new presidents of Russia. They understand very well that quantity of military threats to the country has decreased in comparison to the Soviet times, their nature has changed but the army remains the same in many aspects. Serdyukov who came to the Defense Ministry from outside evidently saw this too. Hence, he was evidently told to reform it and was guaranteed support. Why the top-ranking generals resist his novelties so actively? Why are they against dramatic reduction of the central staff, privatization and sale out of military objects etc? These questions are very serious because they deal with the military security of the country. In any case, seeing of problems and trying to do something does not mean solving of these problems. There is evidently something right in the position of professional Baluevsky too.

Some sources say that the Commander-in-Chief has not wrote anything yet on the resignation report of the third person in the country responsible for military security of Russia. According to available information, Kremlin officials phoned Baluevsky and proposed him not to hurry and to wait for inauguration of the new president. Authorities of the country understand clearly that change of political leader in Russia should pass painfully and predictable for the society. Of course, top-ranking generals and their representative Yury Baluevsky act as a kind of stabilizing factor in this aspect.

Several questions appear at this point.

First, will the generals be able to undertake active political actions? We think that they will not. Army is apolitical. Officers depend on authorities not only because of requirements of the Constitution not to participate in political life but also due to purely material reasons: they have something to lose. That is why the protests will have an unofficial quiet and temporary nature in the form of resignation reports in the framework of organizational measures and due to diseases. Very few officers will wish to resign due to personal wish because they will lose many benefits (dismissal pay, bonuses to pensions for immaculate service etc).

Second, will the transformations lobbied by Serdyukov and with which Baluevsky and other generals disagree be implemented in reality? It is possible that there will be transformations. Not only Serdyukov wants to demilitarize the Defense Ministry. Top-ranking officials of the country wish this too. However, of course, reforms in the Armed Forces will take place later and will not be as fast, dramatic and public as desired by Serdyukov. There will be a search for mutually acceptable compromises.

Third, the society wonders if Anatoly Serdyukov will remain on the post of the defense minister under the new president and what will be the fate of Baluevsky? Serdyukov will probably remain on the post of the defense minister even after May. Putin is confident of his protege and presence of Serdyukov on the post of the defense minister strengthens his positions and capability for him to pressurize president Medvedev in the role of prime minister. Most likely, Baluevsky will be dismissed from service quietly. He will not release any loud statements and will hardly become the head of the military opposition in Russia. He will not be allowed to do this and he will not wish this too.