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Anatoly Serdyukov

On February 15, 2007, a Presidential Decree appointed Anatoly Serdyukov as Minister of Defense. Serdyukov was appointed by then Prime Minister Putin as Russia’s first civilian defense minister. In connection with the formation of a new composition of the Government of the Russian Federation, by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of May 12, 2008, he was re-appointed Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation. In connection with the formation of a new composition of the Government of the Russian Federation, he was re-appointed Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation by presidential decree of May 21, 2012.

Serdyukov oversaw an attempted streamlining of the military, which caused resentment within the armed forces. When he arrived, he began purposefully to replace people at all important positions in the ministry. In two years, Serdyukov had replaced all his deputies, all-in-chief of the Armed Forces, commanders of all the armed services (except for the commander of the Strategic Missile Forces), all regional commanders and fleets.

Anatoly Serdyukov was born on January 8, 1962 in Krasnodar region. Graduated from Leningrad Institute for the Soviet trade (1984). Later, he graduated from Saint-Petersburg State University, Law Faculty. From 1984 to 1985 he served in the Armed Forces. From 2000 to 2001 he occupied position of deputy head of the inter-district Inspection of the Taxes Ministry (St.Petersburg large-scale tax-payers). In May 2001 he was appointed deputy head of St.Petersburg Tax authority, later head of St.Petersburg Tax authority of the Ministry of Taxes. In March 2004 became deputy head of Russian Federation Tax Ministry. According to the order of the Head of Government as of 27 July 2004 Anatoly Serdyukov was delegated the duties of head of Federal Tax Service.

Appointed Minister of Defense 15 February 2007, Anatoliy Serdyukov was allied with the Kremlin's siloviki wing, including Igor Sechin and Viktor Ivanov, as well as with Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. Serdyukov belonged to the group that opposed former Defense and First Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov.

In the new system it was hoped that the military customer was to become dominant, free to purchase abroad if the domestic defense industry is unable to meet its demands. Serdyukov to a large extent civilianised the leadership of the MO. He favored personnel already close to him – as colleagues in his previous post, head of the Federal Tax Service. This civilianisation represented a sharp break with past practice. It is not likely to be reversed.

Serdyukov promptly drew fire from senior military officers, though only retired officers did so openly. Serdyukov's lack of military experience or security credentials was the main reason for their dismay, and many looked upon his surprise appointment as an affront to the military establishment. Others, in and out of the Ministry, mocked his previous experience as a "furniture dealer" from Putin's hometown, who arrived at his position solely through fealty to Putin.

His connections to Financial Monitoring Service Director Viktor Zubkov, another of Putin's former St. Petersburg colleagues, was frequently mentioned as the primary vehicle by which Serdyukov came to Moscow three years earlier and eventually become head of the Federal Tax Service (FTS). As head of the FTS, Serdyukov had established a reputation as a detail-oriented micromanager and ruthless policy administrator in his zealous pursuit of Yukos and its former CEO, Mikhail Khodorkovskiy.

Serdyukov's inexperience on military issues would undermine his credibility with the General Staff and other senior officers, hindering his ability to push through needed reforms. Former DefMin Ivanov had many weaknesses, but his intelligence background, along with his personal ties to Putin, had gained him some respect, albeit grudgingly, from the brass.

Serdyukov tendered his resignation on 18 September 2007 due to his relationship to new Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, who is his father-in law. Putin did not accept Serdyukov's resignation, as he had just begun his efforts to clean up the Defense Ministry and transform it into a civilian-led, post-Soviet, modern entity.

On 14 October 2008, during the meeting of the Military Collegium of the RF Ministry of Defence (MD), the Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced the major parameters of the large scale reform of the RF AF structure. During two years of MD “cleansing”, Serdyukov developed the scheme which was expected to minimize military retirees’ dissatisfaction, and also to neutralize possible speculations that “civilians grabbed all the posts”. Its two main elements were: the principle of the “smooth downward social mobility” and the replacement of disloyal “armchair” generals by “combat” generals or at least by those generals, who have long-term service experience distant from Moscow garrisons.

It would have been premature to claim that Serdyukov’s “cadre revolution” had completely eradicated the Generals’ Fronde. The proof of still remaining dissatisfaction with the policy of “Civil Minister” was the information circulated in mass media that in November 2008 several high-rank MD officials handed in their resignations in protest against reforms, including the head of RF Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) General of the Army Valentin Korabelnikov. Korabelnikov, among the other potential retirees, was the Chief of the Central Command Centre District, Lt. General Vladimir Goshkoder, and also six heads of the General Staff’s operational departments. And although this information was promptly disproved by MD representative, still another fact, confirming existing disagreements between generalship and the Minister of Defence was Serdyukov’s decision to start in November a new stage of cadre reshuffle.

Serdyukov was appointed by Medvedev to root out graft and corruption within the Ministry, but he was fired by President Vladimir Putin in November 2012. The announcement followed a criminal probe into alleged fraud in selling the country's military assets. Putin replaced Anatoly Serdyukov with his long-time ally and former Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu. Putin made the announcement during televised comments in a meeting with Shoigu, who in May 2012 was appointed regional governor for Moscow.

The scandal which led to the change involves claims of a $100 million property scam at a defense ministry holding company. In October 2012 Russia's top investigative committee raided the offices of a Defense Ministry firm under suspicion it sold commercial assets at a loss of nearly $100 million. The firm, Oboronservice, is a state-controlled company that services military aircraft and arms, and constructs military facilities.

A 33 year old woman Yevgenia Vasilyeva, former head of the ministry's property department, was arrested in a dawn raid on her luxury 13 room apartment. Serdyukov, a former furniture salesman and son-in-law of ex-prime minister Viktor Zubkov, now chairman of Gazprom, was reported to have been found in the flat when police arrived. An expensive collection of rare jewellery was found in the flat.

Putin said Serdyukov was replaced to ensure an unbiased investigation into the fraud allegations. Putin said circumstances unfortunately arose surrounding the defense minister. In order to create the necessary conditions for an objective investigation into all issues that have arisen, he said he decided to dismiss the defense minister.

Critics charged that Serdyukov indiscriminately appointed his friends to all kinds of positions and did not oversee their decisions. As a result, the Defense Ministry became a den of thieves. Several top military officials in Russia had been convicted of embezzlement in recent years.

Serdyukov‘s activity was not referred to as entirely negative by Russian military experts: they highlighted the reform of the Russian armed forces launched by Serdyukov but also pointed out the mistakes made during the reform. For instance, President of the Institute for Strategic Assessments Alexander Konovalov said: „Serdyukov did manage to realise organisational changes. In the sphere of military control he introduced a three-tier command system instead of the former four-tier system and reformed the military education system. And though he made many mistakes, in general I evaluate his activity positively.” It is worth mentioning that even Russia‘s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev called Anatoly Serdyukov an effective defence minister. „Not all the decisions were effective or realized without mistakes, but this is how all serious reforms are pursued“, said Prime Minister. Anatoly Tsyganok, the head of the Military Forecasting Centre, pointed out the essence of main Serdyukov’s mistake: „He perceived governance as an economic phenomenon. He was assigned to take care of budget issues. When he said that army and business are inseparable I was shocked.“ In fact the army has never been a stock company since this is simply impossible, and such an approach could simply kill the army. Serdyukov didn’t manage to fight corruption as well. According to surveys today corruption in Russia amounts to billions roubles. In this context famous political analyst Sergey Markov said: „Serdyukov had two main tasks: military reform and the sales of the Defence Ministry’s assets free of corruption. We can see now that he didn‘t manage to accomplish the second task.“ Though Serdyukov was dismissed amid a corruption scandal, some analysts said the real cause was a systemic problem: Serdyukov had alienated many in the uniformed military with deep staffing cuts intended to streamline and update Russia’s vast conventional forces. Serdyukov succeeded where all his illustrious epaulette-wearing predecessors had failed - he dismantled some of Russia’s ineffective military machine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced his army chief of staff, just days after replacing the defense minister. Putin announced that General Valery Gerasimov would take over the position from Army chief of staff Nikolai Makarov. Gerasimov was a commander in the second war with Chechnya.

Defense manufacturing dominates large areas of Russia, in many of the places Putin counted on as bases of support. Serdyukov refused to accept outdated Russian-made weaponry.

Aleksandr Golts, writing for the Web site Yezhednevny Zhurnal, said that Serdyukov had refused to buy obsolete weaponry. “The stubbornness of the Ministry of Defense has turned into a political problem for Putin,” Golts wrote. “Serdyukov’s position would make it impossible to spend trillions on feeding the obedient part of the population.”

Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, said “Serdyukov was one of those who said, ‘If you don’t produce good and cheap weapons, we will buy it abroad,’ and that was a profound change in the psychology”.

It would seem that after the reform conducted by Serdyukov in 2009–2012, the army was restored to relative order and Russia received troops capable of participating fairly effectively in modern conflicts.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 17:24:45 ZULU