How Putin’s Anti-Corruption Purge May Result in More Military Inefficencies

Prof. Mark Galeotti has an interesting article this week on the new Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu, who has replaced Anatoly Serdyukov as part of the much publicized anti-corruption purge taking place among the siloviki. Although Shoigu represents the kind of competent civilian that some elites want to weed out corruption in the Russian military-industrial complex, he will be kept in check by a number of careerists who are likely to continue the military’s wasteful spending habits.

Meanwhile, he will have to rely on his new Chief of the General Staff, Colonel General Valery Gerasimov. His predecessor, Colonel General Makarov, had to go with his boss. Gerasimov is certainly a formidable character. His role in the arrest of Colonel Yury Budanov, who was convicted of kidnapping and raping a Chechen woman, shows that he is willing to take a controversial stand. However, he is no closet liberal but a career soldier who takes his profession seriously. Gerasimov has the toughness to fill Makarov’s role, but it remains to be seen whether he will be more concerned with championing the generals than controlling them. It is notable, after all, that Serdyukov’s habit of weeding out generals in the defense ministry and replacing them with civilians already seems to have been reversed.

Beyond that, Putin cannot simply target scapegoats (and even the genuinely guilty), he also needs to shore up sources of support and cultivate new favorites. This is generally dictated purely by political considerations.

For example, the defense industrialists and their patron, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, are in favor. The next stage of military reform depends not on raw military spending but making sure that the money is spent on the right things and not wasted. Indeed, one reason why Serdyukov fell was for picking a fight with the industry lobby and breaking the taboo on extensive foreign imports.

Back to square one?