President Vladimir Putin fired Russia’s top military commander, three days after ousting the defense minister, removing the architects of the biggest overhaul of the armed forces since the Cold War.
Nikolai Makarov, who served as the head of the military’s General Staff, was also dismissed as first deputy defense minister and discharged from the military, the Kremlin said in an e-mailed statement. Valery Gerasimov, a 57-year-old former Soviet tank regiment commander who had been Makarov’s first deputy, was named the new military chief at his meeting with Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow today.
“Comrade Commander-in-Chief, the General Staff’s entire task is to achieve one key goal, to maintain the armed forces’ military capability,” Gerasimov told Putin at the meeting.
Russia plans to spend 23 trillion rubles ($729 billion) this decade on the largest rearmament since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The ousted defense minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, was unpopular in the military because he sharply reduced headcount and overhauled procurement as part of a drive to make the armed forces more efficient, according to Ruslan Pukhov, head of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow.
The Russian leader criticized the outgoing Defense Ministry command for imposing too many changes on military contractors.
“We need to focus on cutting-edge equipment but we also need a certain degree of stability here,” he said today.
The ousted military chief had been “very enthusiastic” about the efforts to reduce waste and make the armed forces more professional, said Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent defense analyst based in Moscow.
“This signifies the end of the Serdyukov reforms,” Felgenhauer said by phone. “Putin’s main task is rearmament, which is what the Soviet Union was doing.”
The former defense chief, who reduced military personnel by 300,000 to about a million and cut the officer corps by almost 40 percent, had set the goal of increasing sevenfold the ratio of “state-of-the-art” equipment in Russia’s arsenal by 2020, including by buying foreign weapons.
Then-President Dmitry Medvedev called for an overhaul of the armed forces and their communications systems after the five-day war with U.S.-ally Georgia in August 2008.
Putin also dismissed First Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Sukhorukov, according to the Kremlin statement.
Serdyukov, 50, who became the first Russian defense minister with no military or intelligence background in 2007, was removed after a probe into an alleged $95 million fraud at the ministry.
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