Putin Fires Armed Forces Chief, Names New Defense Minister

 @MayaErgas
on November 09 2012 3:26 PM
Russian President Putin Leads Endangered Siberian White Cranes as Parent Crane
Russian President Vladimir Putin sits in a motorized deltaplane at Yamalo-Nenets district Reuters

Just three days after Russia's President Vladimir Putin fired his defense minister over a corruption scandal, the premier has now dismissed the chief of the nation's armed forces.

General Nikolai Makarov will now be replaced by General Valery Gerasimov – who gained prominence for leading Russian forces during the Chechnya conflict in 1998-2003 – as the new armed forces chief of general staff.

 

On Tuesday Putin jettisoned his defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov and gave his job to key ally Sergei Shoigu.

 

Serdyukov allegedly sold ministry assets to commercial firms at below-market prices, costing the government a cool 3 billion roubles ($95 million). These questionable transactions are now being investigated by Russian authorities.

 

Several employees of Oboronservice, that state-controlled military contractor made sold the assets, have been arrested. Serdyukov is believed to be linked with the company.

 

Shoigu praised Serdyukov's successor Gerasimov as having “colossal experience, both on the general staff and directly in the field and of course he has battle experience," according to the Kremlin's website, BBC reported.

 

Makarov and Serdyukov, the outgoing duo, were less-than-popular among the military for reforms they were trying to push through. Serduykov had been tasked with modernizing the army, Russia Today reported, but the way he chose to go about the task, including the planned shedding of jobs, elicited mixed reactions.

 

The appointment of several women to top defense ministry positions had also sparked a furor, with opponents claiming the women had little or no military experience, RT said.

 

On top of the "women battalion" scandal, Serdyukov spent over $700 billion on foreign-made weapons, on a budget that was supposed to be spent on contractors in the motherland.

 

Gerasimov, the incoming Chief of Staff, has been a vocal critic of Serdyukov's reforms, RT reported, but he and Shoigu are still tasked with transforming the Russian army into a more modern fighting machine.

 

As The Moscow Times put it, Shogiu has inherited "a military at a crossroads, torn between tradition and the half-completed reforms of his disgraced  predecessor."

 

Nicholas de Larrinaga, Europe editor at Jane's Defence Weekly, told the Moscow Times: "Shoigu comes with a reputation as a strong administrator, but his position on reform is less clear. Immediately, however, it is likely that Shoigu will continue where Serdyukov left off on reform as Putin has considerable political capital invested in improving the state of the military."

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