purge underway in the Russian armed forces, a purge at the very top.
Officially, it's not happening. The latest victim, the head of the navy, was
officially dismissed because he had reached the mandatory retirement age of 60.
Admiral Vladimir Masorin was only on the job for two, and it was customary for
senior officers to be extended, until age 65, by the president. This didn't
happen with Masorin. The unofficial rumor was that Masorin accepted a U.S.
medal (a Legion of Merit) during a recent visit to Washington, without asking
the Defense Minister for permission. The real reason apparently has more to do
with long promised reforms in the military. A new Defense Minister was installed
last February, and since then, the commanders of the air force and navy have
been dismissed, as well as a senior procurement officials, and lots of lesser
officers involved with spending, or misspending, money. No one is saying
anything officially, but actions speak loudly.
Since the fall of the Soviet
Union in 1991, the presidents of Russia have tried, without success, to get the
military to clean up the corruption and incompetence, and reform itself. The
generals and admirals have dragged their feet. So now, those who don't get with
the program, are quickly shown the door. The officers at the top of the heap
now, entered military service in the 1970s, a time when the military was riding
high, and viewed as the most powerful military force on the planet. But it was
downhill from there. Apparently there's still a lot of 1970s nostalgia among
The last purge of the military
was 70 years ago, and it was carried out with firing squads, not retirement
papers. Times have changed in Russia, but problems with peacetime generals have