Russia: Corruption Cripples Military Reforms

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July 4, 2008: Efforts to reform the military are hobbled by corruption. That's according to the government, which admits it prosecuted 196 senior officers for corruption last year (only about ten percent were generals, all the rest were colonels, who do most of the actual work of buying things). Hundreds of lower ranking troops were prosecuted as well. The government believes that about a third of the military budget is lost to corruption. Like civilian bureaucrats, those in the military tend to demand bribes to do anything. This includes some promotions, and taking care of basic functions like building housing or providing food and fuel. The government is discussing this open secret because it's making a major effort to eliminate the corruption. Russians are very history minded, and Stavka (General Staff) experts point out that the most effective armed forces throughout history, tend to be the least corrupt. The Russian armed forces have, historically, been corrupt. Only during major wars (the last one for Russia was World War II) has the corruption been cleared up. And during World War II, that involved executing or imprisoning nearly a million (994,300) troops (out of nearly 40 million called to service) for misbehaving (desertion, disobeying orders, incorrect political thinking). The Stavka historians have pointed out that more effort will be needed to make a dent in the corruption, so it appears that the government is not yet really serious about cleaning up the military leadership. To do a World War II scale effort today would involve prosecuting over 20,000 people.

Newly elected president Dmitry Medvedev is trying to get an anti-corruption law passed. This would help clean up the entire criminal justice system (from street cops to the highest ranking judges). The basic idea is that you really can't go after corruption if the cops and courts can still be bought off. Medvedev is expecting a lot of resistance to the new law, since so many legislators get some of their income from corrupt practices.

A bomb went off at a music concert in Minsk, Belarus. No terrorists took credit, and police blamed the attack, which wounded fifty people, on local gangsters. Belarus is the last Soviet style police state, with the Soviet era Communist Party bureaucrats still in charge, pretending to run a democracy.

July 1, 2008: On the Norwegian border, not far from a former naval base, two anti-aircraft missiles, of the type used on ships, were found buried. They had apparently been stolen and buried, and never retrieved. After the Cold War ended, Russian weapons stocks were widely plundered, especially in the case of bases being closed.

June 25, 2008: In Chechnya, a feud between pro-Russian clans has been settled in favor of the guy running the province (technically a republic within the Russian confederation). Akhmad Kadyrov, is a religious, as well as a clan, leader and was elected president of the Republic in 2003. Kadyrov was able to shut down most of the separatist and religious violence, but was not able to pacify all the clans and rebellious individuals. The Russians anticipated that, and the army recruited "contract soldiers" from the other pro-Russian clans (that felt screwed by the Kadyrov monopoly on government goodies). The army took these men, who were paid about three times what a policeman got, plus bonuses for special jobs (including some tasks that could be called war crimes), and formed them into the Zapad (West) and Vostok (East) battalions. The Vostok battalion was a particular problem because that outfit was run by the Yamadaev brothers, and the Yamadaevs were bitter enemies of the Kadyrovs. Local army commanders backed the Yamadaevs, while government officials back in Moscow backed the Kadyrovs. As expected, the government ordered the Vostok battalion disbanded, and some kind of deal made to prevent the battalion leaders from becoming rebels.

 

June 24, 2008: The government has promised $5 billion for reconstruction projects in Chechnya over the next three years. While a lot of this money will be stolen by corrupt local officials, that's the point. The promise of these goodies is meant to keep the local strongmen quiet for a while. There is still a lot of violence in the north Caucasus (run by the Russians for about two centuries), with several dozen terrorist related casualties of each month. Most are now in Chechnya's neighbors, as Chechnya has become very hostile to Islamic radicals, and anti-Russian groups in general. The Caucasus is full of ethnic and clan feuds, and these disputes play a large part in all the violence.

June 23, 2008: The Navy has agreed to arm a new frigate design with BrahMos anti-ship missiles. These are a joint venture between Russia and India, but so far India has been the only customer. So Russia will buy a few dozen of these three million dollar missiles to keep India happy.

June 20, 2008: Russia will now cut the military by another ten percent over the next eight years. Currently there are about 1.1 million military personnel, and that will go down to just under a million. The money saved will go to increase the pay of officers (to help recruiting and cut corruption), and recruit more volunteer troops. In the next decade or two the military wants to get enough money to dispense entirely with conscription.

 

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