Publication: The Military Balance 2014
05 February 2014
Just over four years after the ‘New Look’ defence reform process started, the Russian Defence Ministry and armed forces began 2013 with new civilian and military leaders. President Vladimir Putin appointed Sergei Shoigu as defence minister on 6 November 2012, after dismissing Anatoly Serdyukov, ostensibly over a corruption scandal. Putin said Serdyukov’s removal would allow an ‘objective’ investigation into allegations that defence-ministry-controlled military contractor Oboronservis was selling off ministry assets at below-market prices. Serdyukov’s replacement, Shoigu, is a former long-term emergencies minister and loyal Putin ally. General Nikolay Makarov, Chief of General Staff, was also removed from his post, as was First Deputy Minister of Defence Aleksandr Sukhorukov.
Despite speculation that these changes at the top might prompt a wholesale revision of the reform process spearheaded by Serdyukov and Makarov, leaders in the Kremlin and the defence ministry are still pursuing most of the key objectives. One year on, it is clear there has been a change of tack rather than direction for the military reform process.
It was signalled early on that the fundamental organisational changes begun by Serdyukov, which finally broke away from the Soviet model, are irreversible. In a much-quoted speech, Putin told the Defence Ministry board: ‘Once made, decisions must not be constantly changed. This is all the more important now that we have reached the stage of polishing and fine-tuning the many components in this complex military machine.’