Serdyukov minus Baluyevsky

MOSCOW. (Nikita Petrov exclusively for RIA Novosti) - It was reported last week that chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Gen. Yury Baluyevsky was going to retire. There was no official denial of this report, and political analysts have interpreted it as valid.

There was another telltale detail. Baluyevsky always took part in strategic security talks with the United States on a par with Lavrov's deputy Sergei Kislyak. But this time he was conspicuously absent from the recent bilateral two-plus-two summit attended by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and his U.S. counterpart Robert Gates.

His place was occupied by his first deputy Colonel-General Alexander Burutin. Officially, Baluevsky was absent because he was on vacation. It is not uncommon to summon experts for a couple of days when they are on leave, but Baluyevsky was not asked to come for a reason.

The foreign press even carried a report that his absence at the recent summit may mean the Kremlin's decision to ease its stand on the deployment of a U.S. missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

But both Lavrov and Serdyukov said at the final news conference that there are no changes in Moscow's position on this issue.

Baluyevsky celebrated his 61st birthday on January 9, and may have applied for retirement (by law, generals serve until 60). But, most likely, he did this because he openly disagrees with some of Serdyukov's decisions. Replying to a question from the audience at the session of the Academy of Military Sciences on January 19, he described the transfer of the Navy's Chief Command from Moscow to St. Petersburg as "untimely," which was Serdyukov's decision.

Incidentally, this decision is being criticized in letters to the president by high-level admirals and heroes of the Soviet Union, including the former commanders-in-chief and heads of the navy's headquarters. Open discontent with decisions of superiors is not accepted in the military environment, and a resignation tender is only natural.

Baluyevsky's colleagues said that he sent in for resignation several times because he disagreed with the defense minister's views on the military reform, and his decisions to get rid of non-core assets, move the Peter the Great Military Academy of the Strategic Missile Force out of Moscow, to introduce changes in other higher educational military establishments, and to oust the military from a number of historic buildings in downtown Moscow without proper compensation.

Baluyevsky also criticized the situation where more than 30 civilian advisors to the defense minister (who previously headed the Federal Tax Service) were making decisions without consulting military professionals. He and a number of other generals believe that these civilian decisions may reduce the country's defense capability and security. But expert opinions are not heeded. Judging by everything, it was too much for the chief of the to bear.

Before, Baluyevsky managed to get along with many complicated superiors, including Gen. Vladislav Achalov, a former member of the State of Emergency Committee, which staged a coup in 1991, General of the Army Anatoly Kvashnin, and Sergei Ivanov...

It is rumored that Serdyukov has already approved Baluyevsky's resignation, and that now the document is in the Kremlin - only the president has the right to make decisions on the appointment or resignation of the chief of the General Staff.

Few doubt that his resignation papers will be signed. Too much independence and open discontent with the superiors are not favored in the administrative sphere. But will they be signed before or after the president-elect's inauguration in May? Experts have different opinions on this score. In the meantime, Baluyevsky has not been seen in public for several weeks now.

His responsibilities are carried out by the recent presidential advisor on military-technical issues and currently first deputy chief of the General Staff Burutin who may take over Baluyevsky's position. But his appointment is a big question. Burutin does not have combat experience, and served mostly in the General Staff. But, maybe, this will help him occupy the position?

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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