Leadership: Another Military Purge in Russia


September 17, 2007: There's a purge underway in the Russian armed forces, a purge at the very top. Officially, it's not happening. The latest victim, the head of the navy, was officially dismissed because he had reached the mandatory retirement age of 60. Admiral Vladimir Masorin was only on the job for two, and it was customary for senior officers to be extended, until age 65, by the president. This didn't happen with Masorin. The unofficial rumor was that Masorin accepted a U.S. medal (a Legion of Merit) during a recent visit to Washington, without asking the Defense Minister for permission. The real reason apparently has more to do with long promised reforms in the military. A new Defense Minister was installed last February, and since then, the commanders of the air force and navy have been dismissed, as well as a senior procurement officials, and lots of lesser officers involved with spending, or misspending, money. No one is saying anything officially, but actions speak loudly.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the presidents of Russia have tried, without success, to get the military to clean up the corruption and incompetence, and reform itself. The generals and admirals have dragged their feet. So now, those who don't get with the program, are quickly shown the door. The officers at the top of the heap now, entered military service in the 1970s, a time when the military was riding high, and viewed as the most powerful military force on the planet. But it was downhill from there. Apparently there's still a lot of 1970s nostalgia among the generals.

The last purge of the military was 70 years ago, and it was carried out with firing squads, not retirement papers. Times have changed in Russia, but problems with peacetime generals have not.


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