Change of guard as Putin fires top military officers


President Vladimir Putin replaced the head of the Russian military’s general staff and a number of top generals yesterday, continuing an overhaul of military leaders that began with the removal of Russia’s defence minister earlier this week.

Gen Valery Gerasimov will replace Gen Nikolai Makarov, who has served as chief of the general staff since 2008. The move was not unexpected, since the new defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, has the right to install his own team in top military posts.

Still, the shuffle has shed light on simmering disagreements within the military, which is about to receive an infusion of 20 trillion rubles (about $634 billion) to be spent on new weaponry.

Mr Putin is known to dislike internal dissent and appears to have taken steps to calm a backlash against reforms implemented by the departing defence minister, Anatoly Serdyukov.

Though Mr Serdyukov was dismissed amid a corruption scandal, some analysts said the real cause of his removal was a systemic problem: he had alienated many in the uniformed military with deep staffing cuts intended to streamline and update Russia’s vast conventional forces.

During a meeting yesterday morning, Mr Putin alluded to another apparent disagreement, urging Mr Gerasimov to smooth over relations with the defence manufacturing sector. Defence plants have complained that top military brass too frequently update their orders for weapons and other military hardware.

“The situation in the scientific-technical sphere is changing quickly and new means of armed warfare are appearing,” Mr Putin said.

“We should orient ourselves toward optimal means, but still need to maintain a certain stability.”

Political considerations

Some analysts conclude that Mr Gerasimov was being instructed to accept outdated weaponry. Defence industries dominate large areas of Russia, many of them places Mr Putin counts on electorally.

Government orders boosted many of these areas last year, helping him to win about 64 per cent of the presidential vote. – (New York Times)