The liberal Russian military expert Aleksandr Goltz criticized the recent Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's interview with Moskovskij Komsomolets. According to Goltz, Shoigu dodged sensitive issues and concealed from the public the true data on the Army's performance and the real state of affairs in the Armed Forces.
First of all, noted Goltz, Shoigu "carefully circumvented" the fact that military reform did not begin with his appointment to head the defense ministry, but it started under the guidance of his predecessor, Russian Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov. According to Goltz, Shoigu preferred to present himself and Russian President Vladimir Putin as the sole authors of the Russian Army's success story.
Goltz also said that with the annexation of Crimea in 2014 that precipitated a new Cold War, the ministry of defense needed to maintain an illusion that a system for mobilizing reservists existed. "According to the minister, ensures the existence of a mobilization reserve among citizens, which is necessary to replenish the army in case of war. But Shoigu is silent about the option of forming this reserve from the demobilized contract soldiers," Goltz said.
Goltz also listed all the contradictions that appeared in Shoigu's interview. Defense ministry officials are so lazy that they do not consider it necessary to even coordinate their own lies in order to avoid contradictions. "[Shoigu] claims that 90 percent of the crew of 'fighter, army, assault, long-range and transport aviation' went through military operations in Syria. This is not possible in principle. About a third of all Russian fighter aircraft (and, therefore, flight personnel) are light MiG-29s. They did not participate in the Syrian campaign at all. How could their pilots fight? Does the minister want to say that the pilots were specially retrained to take part in the hostilities?" Goltz pointed out.
In the article, Goltz also wondered why, towards the end of the interview, Shoigu suddenly scolded the purveyors of "false rumors" of his corruption. "I must say that several materials about the corruption component of his activity did not attract any serious public interest. Why, one wonders, to recall them?" Golz said, advancing the hypothesis that "the super-popular minister" Shoigu may be waiting for the appearance of compromising material against him. If this is the case, Goltz asked, to whom the story that Shoigu wants to return to Siberia is addressed?"
Below is Goltz's article:
Aleksandr Goltz (Source: Youtube.com)
Such Ceremonial Interviews Do Not Imply A Discussion Of Serious Problems
During the interview with Moskovskij Komsomolets political commentator Mikhail Rostovsky. (Source: Mil.ru)
"The Minister of Defense gave a great interview to Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper. As the hero interviewer flirts with the reader: 'The first detailed interview in seven years'. The interview conformed to the tradition : 'Comrade General, how pleasant it is to be so smart?', there were no unpleasant questions.
"Shoigu tells a story of how the Armed Forces flourished under the thoughtful leadership of the president and his minister. The reader learns how, at the initiative of the head of the military department, the army abandoned footcloths, how thousands of washing machines and vacuum cleaners were introduced, how shower stalls appeared in military units, which allowed military personnel to bathe more than once a week.
"The minister talks about the introduction of the 'buffet' in the soldiers' canteens. He also talks about how the practice of snap inspections of troops was introduced, which allowed the country's leadership to discover the truth about the troops' combat readiness. 'We immediately agreed: we must stop, roughly speaking, lying. Distorted information was our army’s scourge. A lot of things were hidden or distorted,' the minister says, not without pathos.
"He goes on and explains that the West intends to destroy and enslave Russia. And that the Main Military-Political Directorate of the Ministry of Defense was created to counteract the constant attempts of insidious foreigners to corrupt our army.
"At the same time, he unobtrusively subsumes the allegations of his corruption under such attempts. The interview ends with a pretentious story that the army general just sleeps and sees [in his dream]how he will return to Siberia and build one, or better, two new cities.
"The genre of such ceremonial interviews, in principle, does not imply a discussion of serious problems. After all, the whole process of leadership is reduced to the struggle of the good versus the best.
Shoigu Circumvents That Military Reform Did Not Begin With His Appointment To The Ministry Of Defense, The Most Difficult Part Of That Process Was Carried By Serdyukov
Former Russian Minister of Defense Anatoliy Serdyukov (Source: Yandex.ru)
"The most difficult, painful part of that process was carried out recently by much criticized Anatoly Serdyukov.
"No doubt, in recent years, the combat effectiveness of the Armed Forces has increased. It is also obvious that Sergei Shoigu's initiatives to humanize military service, which allowed soldiers to live humanely (take a shower and eat normally) –that until recently seemed impossible - played a significant role here. But the minister carefully fails to acknowledge the fact that military reform did not begin at all with his appointment to the ministry of defense.
"The most difficult and painful part of that process was carried out recently by the much criticized Anatoly Serdyukov. He was the one who saw the main problem - the army is not combat ready due to the fact that it adheres to a mass mobilization concept ill-suited to modern conditions. As a result, 80 percent of the combat units and divisions were not at full strength.
"To engage in battle, they had to be assigned millions of reservists, who still had to be called up and taught how to fight again. It was Serdyukov, who mercilessly eliminated the 'truncated' formations, and brought the strength of the remaining personnel up to the needed numbers. Which allowed units to fulfill the order a few hours after its receipt, for example: to rapidly expand along the Ukrainian border in 2014 and in Syria in 2015.
"Serdyukov in his attempts to create a 'new look' of the Armed Forces put a comprehensive task before the army - to ensure military superiority in the post-Soviet space and victory in the local conflict that could arise on Russian borders. Strategic deterrence in Serdyukov’s concept rested solely on nuclear forces.
The Real Strength Of The Armed Forces Has Grown Only Slightly
"Now, as a result of the annexation of Crimea and a secret war in the Donbass, Russia has been drawn into a military confrontation with the West, into a new Cold War. Considering that NATO has a several-fold quantitative superiority, the ministry of mefense was simply doomed to return to the concept of mass mobilization, the implementation of which at least theoretically allows Russia to talk about the possibility of putting millions of mythical reservists under arms. And the military leadership began to produce dozens of new divisions. This is while the real numerical strength of the armed forces has grown only slightly.
"The minister proudly says in the interview that this year for the first time a full-fledged graduation of lieutenants from military schools took place (16 thousand officers, according to official figures). Under Serdyukov, I recall, there was an overabundance of officer personnel. It is appropriate to ask: whom are the lieutenants commanding if the total quantity of the armed forces is growing just slightly? The answer is: they do not command anyone. It is likely that the ministry of defense is again creating 'truncated' divisions, in fact divisions without soldiers, and thereby reduces combat readiness.
"It is no coincidence that, contrary to Putin's statements, Shoigu insists on maintaining the draft in the army. Indeed, this, according to the minister, ensures the existence of a mobilization reserve among citizens, which is necessary to replenish the army in case of war. But Shoigu is silent that this reserve can be formed from the demobilized contract soldiers. This is how the reserve is formed in the United States. As for the preservation of the call, it is needed to sustain the illusion that a 'mobilization resource' exists, in which the generals have no hesitation to register nearly Russia's entire male population.
"I agree with Sergei Shoigu that snap inspections are the most important indicator of combat readiness. One thing though, the Minister of Defense took full advantage of this tool only once - in February 2013, when the troops of the Central District were inspected. The results were truly disastrous: not a single standard or indicator was met. The first snap inspection was the last one, via which it was possible to judge (at least to outside observers) the real state of the armed forces. The idea of snap inspections, presumably, was very popular with the Kremlin PR specialists, who at the beginning of 2013 were busy thinking how to stop the fall of Putin's rating. The participation of a strict but fair commander-in-chief in snap inspections seemed ideal. But under such a scenario, Shoigu himself would inevitably be in the role of a public official. He could not allow this. And the snap inspections immediately turned into the usual window dressing, when everything goes off without a hitch. That is what the minister joyfully reports to the president.
"Additionally, the snap inspections became a ruse by which Russia was able to circumvent the provisions of the Vienna Document, limiting military activities on the European continent. This agreement allows for snap inspections of troops without warning other countries. The deployment of troops on the Ukrainian border in 2014 took place under the guise of a snap inspection. Again, the desire to 'not lie' remained merely a declaration.
It Remains A Mystery Why The Minister Suddenly Scolded The Distributors Of 'False Rumors' Of His Corruption
"Presently, the defense ministry officials have gotten so lazy that they do not deem it necessary to even coordinate their own lies in order to avoid contradictions. It is enough to compare the minister’s speeches at the final boards of the Ministry of Defense in 2017 and 2018. According to plans announced in 2017, the next year, troops were supposed to receive 203 aircraft and helicopters, but received only 126, according to the 2018 report. Long-range aviation received not six as planned, but five strategic bombers. 35 ships and support vessels were supposed to enter the Navy service, but only 25 were received. It was planned to introduce the strategic underwater missile carrier Prince Vladimir, now its deployment has been postponed until 2019. It turns out that the defense order for the most important articles was executed at best by 70 percent. And the minister claimed that different figure - 100 percent. An obvious lie crept into Shoigu’s interview.
"He claims that 90 percent of the crew of 'fighter, army, assault, long-range and transport aviation' went through military operations in Syria. This is not possible in principle. About a third of all Russian fighter aircraft (and, therefore, flight personnel) are light MiG-29s. They did not participate in the Syrian campaign at all. How could their pilots fight? Does the minister want to say that the pilots were specially retrained to take part in the hostilities?
"Shoigu's anti-Western invectives are a topic for a separate discussion. Speaking of 'unceremonious and shameless' interference, the minister starts to argue that in Russia 'there are special forces units that conduct special operations. In these operations, it happens that guys get injured and die, as well as in other units. And now imagine that some people, at some behest from abroad, begin to pry into family matters, into cemeteries.'
"It seems that the minister is talking about the deaths of dozens of soldiers from the 76th Air Assault Division (and not special forces at all) in Ukraine, which became public. It was then that the subordinates of General Shoigu showed amazing unscrupulousness, when without hesitation they reported, that the Russian military travelled to fight in the Donbass [war] for the duration of their vacation, while misleading their own commanders. This lie removed all responsibility from the commanders who, by secret orders, sent soldiers into battle.
"It turns out that the newly created GlavPur must withstand the lies of its own military leaders. It remains a mystery why the minister suddenly scolded the purveyors of 'false rumors' about his corruption. I must say that several materials about the corruption component of his activity did not attract any serious public interest. Why, one wonders, to recall them? Could it be that the super-popular minister, who is therefore doomed to become a participant in the battle under the Kremlin carpets, is awaiting the appearance of compromising material against him? And to whom, in this case, is the story that Shoigu wants to return to Siberia addressed?"
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8303, Russian Minister Of Defense Shoigu: Russia Returned To Her Senses In 1999 To Thwart Western Designs To Destroy And Enslave Her; Thanks To Russia, Today's World Is Multipolar, October 4, 2019.
 Charter97.org, September 24, 2019.