October 6, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8304

Conservative Orthodox Media Outlet Tsagrad TV: Shoigu's Interview Sounded Like A Farewell Speech

October 6, 2019
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8304

Alexander Pokrovsky, a journalist for the conservative Russian Orthodox media outlet Tsagrad TV, wrote that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's interview with Moskovskij Komsomolets sounded like a farewell address. Shoigu's detailed interview, the first in seven years, could have been a programmatic speech, if it hadn't given the impression that Shoigu is planning to leave the defense ministry.[1]

According to Pokrovsky, Shoigu seems to be saying: "This is the army that I am willing to put in the hands of a successor and here are its relations with the outside world. And he would like to ... return to Siberia."

Below is Pokrovsky's article:[2]



It Is Difficult To Shake The Feeling That Shoigu Is Somehow... Saying Goodbye

"Indeed, the extensive and thematically very broad interview with the Russian Defense Minister has already been picked clean of quotations. He really said a lot –on military professionalism, on the army's after the terrible downfall of the 1990s, on the Americans who failed to subdue and absorb Russia in their haste and arrogance, and on the possible, although undesirable, abolition of compulsory conscription... In general, many important things were said. And it was not fortuitous that the Tsargrad TV channel accorded priority to Sergei Shoigu's statements.

"But after the comprehensive and full study of the words of the Minister of Defense, it is difficult to shake the feeling that Shoigu is somehow... saying goodbye.

The Revival Of The Army; The Army Began To Respect Itself, Because It Began To Respect The Soldier

"'The rebirth of the army was not instantaneous,' Shoigu said, recalling the 'deplorable' and even desperate state of the Russian army in 1999. At that time, Shoigu was not the minister of defense and he justifiably gives President Vladimir Putin [credit] for the initiative to reform the armed forces to. And today, as the military leader points out, all the issues related to the army and to the military-industrial complex are under the constant control of the head of state.

"But in 2012, when Shoigu took over the army from the previous defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, there were many problems. More precisely, there was one, but complex: the organization and the service [in the army was carried out] according to the old Soviet patterns. Once this was necessary and sometimes it was the only possible way. For example, in the 1950s, soldiers had [only] one bathing day a week, because there were no other possibilities for washing not only in the barracks, but sometimes in the cities where a military unit was stationed. But why did the same situation remain through the 1970s and in the 1980s, and why in the 2010s?

"This also determined some psychological and even political aberrations. Probably, every soldier of the Soviet era will remember inoperative potato peeling machines in the mess halls. He can also remember himself, poor fellow, together with his platoon, peeling hated potatoes, for fifteen hundred eaters. And this platoon had to sit up to 5 a.m. peeling and secretly crushing with his boots those interminable vegetables. And by 6 o'clock they had to resume duty, which no one had cancelled. And the commanders were also proud of how resilience to the hardships and deprivations of the military service was nurtured in the soldiers...

"Then, Shoigu immediately began to ask questions: why should a soldier go to the bathhouse and wash once a week? Why does he have to change his underwear once a week? Why should soldiers hand wash their socks and collars? What harm would it do, to their combat capability, the introduction of a washing machine in each barrack?

"However, this is not a minor thing. Consequently, the Minister of Defense added that 'if the service lasts only one year, then the training should be more intensive', and for this [reason] 'it is necessary to spare soldiers from performing inappropriate tasks.' But for the army, for the soldiers, for the Russian soldier, there was another, perhaps even more important thing: the army began to respect itself, because it began to respect the soldier. This means that they have begun to respect the foundation [of the army], its backbone, its body itself, if you will.

"And the people again began to respect a self-respecting army. Because, deep down in their hearts, people didn't believe that this the filthy pathetic soldier of the 90s who was begging for a cigarette from civilians, in order to fulfill the task of his 'ded',[3] by collecting a certain amount of tobacco can protect the very same people. And when the spirit of a 'good warrior' is directly radiated from a soldier, people sensed it at once and began to believe in their army.

Weapons And The Neutralization Of The Adversary; NATO's Advantage Over Russia Is Melting, If It Hasn't Already Completely Melted

"Already, the military training of the army is tackling this problem.

"It turns out that the first snap inspections of combat readiness, as Sergei Shoigu said, showed that the army did not have any real combat readiness. Not a single unit displayed it when suddenly they were taken away from their home barracks and familiar shooting ranges and sometimes transferred for thousands of kilometers! That is, the soldiers served, but was not really preparing for the combat. Yes, the Georgian army was smashed in 5 days in 2008, but many flaws ware noticed in the preparation [of the Russian army]. And during a war, flaws cost blood, and those who, at that time, had access to the real picture of what was going on, knew that the number of our losses could have been much less, had the organization of combat activity been at the required level.

"Right now the army is engaged in combat exercises. According to Shoigu, 'today all shooting ranges are utilized [at a rate of] more than 80 percent.' The guidelines for the consumption of ammunitions have been increased five-fold, just for intensifying combat training!

"And now, in his words, 'we have made our army as it is today - an army of constant readiness' in which 'all units are constant readiness units.'

"And this also means the ability to use modern military equipment, in such a state to make it operational at any time not just for combat, but for modern combat. In turn, this produces demands upon the military-industrial complex - both in terms of organization and work rhythm, and for the creation of new models of military equipment, adapted to the modern battle. The minister of defense said that without a doubt: the level of supply of modern weapons for the troops with modern weapons will be brought up to 70% by 2020. For those who remember the state of the army a dozen years ago, when not even 20% had modern weapons, and in some places there was nothing, this minister's statement sounds fantastic. But in fact, as we see, this is what was achieved.

"But more importantly, these requests grow through the factories into science. This is an inevitable process. And science does not build spherical horses in a vacuum [meaning useless equipment]; it starts from what is required by military people, who, by profession, are also realists. And when our military-political rivals saw how, during the Syrian war, the Russian military equipment suddenly appeared in front of their eyes, these rivals immediately drop their willingness to move to the rank of [Russia's] enemies. And they see. For it is difficult not to see the technical and electronic combat capabilities of, say, an airplane, after having met it in the sky, during a combat mission. Hence the facts: when the highly advertised F-22 scurried to get out of the way of a Russian Su-27. For agreements are merely agreements it is about who will survive in the sky and hence will prove who was right…

"And when the Russian president spoke about the new types of weapons developed in the country, the military of potential adversaries treated his words with respect. In other words they are teaching in military academies and carefully calculating at headquarters, the estimated height, volume and strength of the foundations of the scientific and industrial capabilities of the country, where weapons of such level are forged.

"That's why the adversaries have piped down today. Words are still being tossed about, but their disrespect is gone. On the contrary, as the adversary admits, NATO's advantage over Russia is fading, if it hasn't already completely melted. And it's not the military pressure on us that is intensifying, as was evident during the process of NATO expansion, our adversaries are nurturing an internal enemy in Russia, and yearn to repeat what happened in 1991. Yes, it is clear: when the army is strong, what remains [for the West] is solely to rely on theater directors...[4]

Farewell? 'I Really Do Not Want A Defense Minister Like Shoigu To Leave The Ministry Of Defense'<

"Overall, it was a very good interview. Very clearly and convincingly, Sergei Shoigu laid out on the table the internal issues of the army, the ideology, and the problems and successes of the defense industry…

"But there was a feeling that all this resembled to a farewell report by the Minister of Defense. Who seems to be saying: this is the army that I am willing to put in the hands of a successor and here are its relations with the outside world. And he would like to ... return to Siberia. 'This is my main dream. And I am convinced that I will make my dream come true,' Shoigu announced with a frightening expression.

"'I want to go return to the days of my youth,' – he added, [and this is] a thought which is quite understandable considering his age and career. But then he said something really programmatic:

"'In our present life, fortunately, there is again room for the implementation of such large projects as once were the Komsomolsk-on-Amur, the Krasnoyarsk and Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power stations, the Baikal-Amur main line, large complexes in the Irkutsk region, the Bratsk hydroelectric power station. Without such projects, it is difficult to instill a sense of creativity in young people. Remember how sincerely people went to all these construction sites! I really want to go back to Siberia and build one, better, two more cities. And I believe that my dream will come true.'

"This is very similar to a farewell declaration or a preparation for it. And this is somehow scary. I really do not want a defense minister like Sergei Shoigu to leave the [ministry] of defense without him...

Even though the cities he wants to build will most certainly be nice."




[2], September 23, 2019.

[3] Dedovshchina - is the informal practice of hazing and constant bullying of junior conscripts during their service. "Ded" is a conscript who serves longer than 6 month (generally) and therefore is considered a ded or grandfather.

[4] The author is referring to the Kirill Serebrennikov and the infamous "Gogol-Centre" case.

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