Leadership: The Snow Job


April 15, 2013: The Russian government tries to keep stories about corruption in the military out of the news, but sometimes the thieving is so obvious that it cannot be ignored. Such an example occurred recently, as Russia was buried in record snow falls. This caused problems because a major scam in the Defense Ministry was recently uncovered. This time several senior officials stole nearly $200 million that was allocated for base maintenance. In some cases military commanders were not able to scrounge up funds to replace the missing maintenance funds, at least not quickly enough to placate angry suppliers. In most of Russia the suppliers just have to suck it up. But not in the “wild east”. One contractor in the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (on the Pacific coast, near Russia’s largest submarine base) was owed $31,000 for removing snow from military facilities. After nearly a year of waiting he informed the local military commander that if the money was not forthcoming he would take snow removed for his paying customers and dump it around the headquarters for the local military region. This appears to have gotten the attention of military officials out there.

Corruption investigators believe that about 20 percent of the military budget is lost to corruption and outright theft. This causes all sorts of problems, from lack of maintenance on equipment and weapons to delayed repairs on buildings and less fuel (in the cold weather) and food (causing some cases of starvation and increased desertion). Worse, many, if not most, Russian arms manufacturers are corrupt and incompetent. This has gotten so bad that many reform minded generals and admirals prefer to buy foreign weapons. This means paying more but the quality is much higher and you get your order on schedule. Getting the corrupt officers out of the military may prove more difficult than any of the other problems the armed forces have.


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