Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Putin Successor Dance

Many commentators speculate that Sergei Ivanov is probably quite relieved to escape from the Defense Ministry, even if the new high-profile job gives him a staff of only a dozen aides and secretaries and shrinks his capacity to generate news (Vedomosti, February 16). The problem with his old job was not merely the negative publicity related to the rotten military culture where hazing (dedovshchina) has acquired such extreme forms as forcing young recruits into male prostitution (Newsru.com, February 12). More difficult to explain away are the meager results of implementing the ambitious program of modernization and rearmament that Ivanov presented to the State Duma earlier this month (Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, February 9). Military expenditures during Ivanov’s six years increased more than three times, but instead of a bigger bang for this buck, the military-industrial complex emanates only pathetic squeaks. The recent tests of the much-advertised Bulava strategic missile were unsuccessful, the long promised tactical missile Iskander and surface-to-air missile complex C-400 are not ready for deployment, and the annual delivery of new weapon systems amounts to only a few dozen items (Globalrus, February 8).

This fictitious military might be able to serve some PR purposes but would certainly never support a new round of the Cold War. The commentators who interpreted Putin’s assertive speech in Munich as a turn towards real confrontation definitely got it wrong, since his “multipolar” vision amounts to nothing more than a plea to refrain from interfering in palace intrigues. His chekisty prefer to discard the rejected contenders as too soft against “hostile encirclement,” and he is eager to oblige.

Ivanov as the RF President would not be a good development for the West. Based on his performance as defense minister, I would say it would be great development for the envisioned future of Russia-as-China's-Sockpuppet though.

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