Russia's Chief of the General Staff Yuri Baluyevsky could be on the way out, RIA Novosti reported March 21. Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning changes for the Russian military that most of the old guard brass — including Baluyevsky — will not agree with.
Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky — now approaching four full years in the position — might be on the way out, RIA Novosti reported March 21, citing a Defense Ministry source. In December 2007, his term at the post was extended for three years. That December extension strikes STRATFOR as noteworthy. Military reform in Russia has long been not just a battle with the atrophy of the 1990s and the challenges of the Soviet legacy, but a battle with the old Soviet military leadership. When Baluyevsky's term as chief of the general staff was extended in December 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin was dealing with Kremlin infighting and orchestrating a transition — cosmetic though it might be — to his successor, now President-elect Dmitri Medvedev. In other words, at that point, Putin needed the military on his side. Putin had already angered the military early in 2007 with the appointment of Anatoly Serdyukov as defense minister. Serdyukov is a tax man; he spent the previous three years running Russia's Federal Tax Service. He is also Putin's man. His appointment was partially a product of complex Kremlin politics, but it was mostly a maneuver on Putin's part in an ongoing battle with hardliners in the military who oppose Putin's brand of defense reform and aspire to reconstitute the Soviet military machine. For quite some time, outside observers speculated that once the presidential transition of power was secured, Putin and his successor would push even harder to institute the military reforms most opposed by the old guard brass. Many issues are on the table; among them are corruption, conscription and not only the scope of reform, but also exactly what the objective of reform should be. To truly reform the Russian military, its leadership cannot think the way Russian generals have thought since the days of Josef Stalin. Russia cannot sustain — demographically or economically — anything approaching the massive scale of the Red Army, no matter how much the old guard brass wishes for such a force. Fundamental changes have been in the works during Putin's entire presidency. Meanwhile, a long-anticipated new doctrine statement for the Russian military — one that will help clearly define the objectives of reform — has reportedly been in development for years, but has been repeatedly delayed. It is widely thought that Putin decided to wait until after the presidential transition that is now taking place. Ultimately, the Russian military's problems can hardly be laid at Baluyevsky's feet. By most accounts, he was a prudent administrator of the Russian military, and he oversaw a significant period of its recovery. But the task before Putin now is no longer arresting a decline; rather, he must build and equip a new military — one fundamentally different from the Red Army. This will take much more than a change at the military's apex, but that change is probably a prerequisite.