New Russian Defense Minister
On November 6, 2012 Russian President Vladimir Putin fired defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov and appointed Sergei Shoigu as his replacement. Valdaiclub.com interview with Arnaud Kalika, Chief Editor, Confidential Newsletter Strategic Information TTU; lecturer, department for the study of organized crime, University of Paris II event.
What are the reasons behind Anatoly Serdyukov’s resignation?
It is important to keep in mind that after Vladimir Putin was inaugurated as president in May he reconfirmed Mr. Serdyukov’s position as defense minister. Indeed, military reform really began in 2008, under Serdyukov’s initiative. This reform is still hugely unpopular in the Russian armed forces, but Mr. Putin stressed that it was crucial to carry it out. In this area, he trusted his former minister. And it was important that for the first time in the post-Soviet era there was someone who would deliver.
The reasons for his resignation are crystal-clear. First, there is a body of evidence showing that this ministry frequently acted as an open field for widespread fraud and abuse of power. At the same time, Mr. Serdyukov, a former chief of fiscal administration, gave instructions to his subordinates and officers to fight corruption, bribery and money laundering. Second, this is not the first time that Mr. Serdyukov has been suspected of fraud and mismanagement regarding the salaries of soldiers and officers.
In view of Vladimir Putin's campaign to optimize state administration, increasing transparency and efficiency, Mr. Serdyukov was obliged to resign.
Is this resignation Putin’s reaction to the “Oboronservis” scandal, or it is more likely that it is the outcome of a so-called “clan war” in Russia?
I do not believe in a new “clan war” because political power cannot be compared to a kind of mafia system. It would be wrong to analyze the Russian political environment through the lens of “clans,” with a Putin circle against, for instance, a Medvedev circle. I suppose the only thing we could say is that this government seems to be very weak on the political chessboard. And if this impression remains, a cabinet reshuffle cannot be ruled out in the next six months.
What kind of a minister will Sergei Shoigu be?
If I am right about the cabinet reshuffle, Mr. Shoigu could turn out to be a transitional minister. Anyway, this is just a scenario. The situation is not easy for Mr. Shoigu, because Mr. Putin could have chosen Mr. Nurgaliev or Mr. Rogozin to continue the military reform. Is this choice a default choice rather than a personal choice? Only the president knows the answer…
Mr. Shoigu comes from the “old guard,” and he is quite popular in Russia, famous for his devotion to the people. As a new minister, he will face many challenges. First, he must set up a dialogue with his military counterparts in order to move forward with the reform, especially in regard to social welfare. Second – and this could be a severe blow to the Russian military – he should launch a so-called “purge” within the ministry, tracking embezzlement and bribes. This move could impact on the export field (Rosoboronexport, Rosoboronzakaz, etc.), and temporarily hamper investment and international contracts… In this, he should work together with Mr. Rogozin. Third, he has to sustain the military industry in its new developments, especially in space.
I think Mr. Shoigu is capable of meeting all these challenges even if, for some people, he is a man from the past. As we say in France, it is sometimes better to be from the past, than to be an “inexperienced novice in politics...”
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