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The Power Vertical

Podcast: Action Man -- Sergei Shoigu Takes On Russia's Defense Ministry

What happens when one of Russia's most popular and enigmatic figures meets one of its most entrenched bureaucracies?
For more than a decade, Sergei Shoigu was Russia's can-do action man. As Russia's emergency situations minister, he cut a calm, confident, and reassuring figure, appearing at nearly every large-scale disaster, either natural or manmade.
Shoigu has also long been one of the country's most popular officials. He has been touted as a potential prime minister, and the Moscow rumor mill has even speculated that he might be being groomed to eventually succeed Vladimir Putin as president.
Whether or not that is the case, Shoigu's next emergency mission is going to be a daunting one. In November, Putin tapped him to take command of the country's scandal-plagued Defense Ministry after the controversial Anatoly Serdyukov was dismissed.
Shoigu inherits a ministry rife with corruption and an increasingly outdated military that is badly in need of reform but deeply resistant to change.
In the latest edition of "The Power Vertical Podcast," I discuss the Shoigu phenomenon and the challenge of defense reform with co-host Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, an expert on Russia's security services, and author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows."

The Power Vertical Podcast: Russia's Action Man -- Sergei Shoigu
Power Vertical Podcast: Russia's Action Man -- Sergei Shoigui
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Tags: Power Vertical podcast,Sergei Shoigu,Defense reform

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by: Ray Finch from: Lawrence, KS
January 13, 2013 18:24
Enjoyed the show and think that you and Dr. Galeotti had some interesting remarks. Couple of additional points from a casual observer.

I think it was George Kennan who remarked that it took 70 years to build the Soviet monolith and will likely take equally long to deconstruct it, especially with regard to mental processes. I think most Russians are tired of revolutions, and the changes in society and political system will take instead an evolutionary path. 2013 will likely be similar to 2012.

The current Putin government derives considerable political legitimacy from its perceived ability to defend Russia from the predatory west. There are some within the Kremlin who truly believe this (i.e. Dmitry Rogozin), and they are increasingly forcing Putin to put real money where his mouth has been. Can a corrupt state, however, field a modern, combat-capable military? While the parallel is not altogether accurate, consider Germany in the 1930s. Although today Russia lacks a unifying ideology, DR continues to refine his belief in nationalism and that the country’s greatness should be measured in military prowess.

I disagree that Russian generals are resistant to change. They are concerned, however, that merely adopting western military practices may not may be the best fix for their armed forces. They are also struggling to prove their relevance within a security system replete with armed formations (i.e. MVD, FSB).

I think the tightening of the screws will continue, but the Kremlin will target and apply pressure to those individual troublesome screws (i.e. see the current smear campaign against the blogger, ‘Drugoi’). This is particularly true of the Kremlin’s desire to both monitor and control the information space.

Alas, with millions of Chinese and Indians buying new cars, oil prices will likely remain high for the foreseeable future and the Kremlin will be able to keep the masses content, while continuing to rearm the military. Putin will be able to provide both beans and bullets thanks to modern man's dependency upon fossil fuels.

by: Ben
January 13, 2013 18:47
This remind me the paparazzi` reports on princess Diana adwentures.The enormous Russian empire moves slowly like the gigantic naval gun(till it collapse )

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or