The military brass and the military industrial complex stalwarts regarded him as an incompetent civilian endangering national security. He allegedly called them “little green men” and allowed his protégés, such as the young Vasilyeva, to occupy a three-star general’s position and yell and curse at her general officer colleagues.
No military in the world forgives such abuse. Hence the interior-ministry investigation, which so far has cost Serdyukov his job and may cost him his freedom.
In the end, it is likely that the opposition to Serdyukov reached a critical mass, prompting Putin to look for his replacement. But there is more to this than the firing of a defense minister. Over 200 years ago, when visiting Paris, the father of contemporary Russian historiography, Nikolay Karamzin, was asked, “What’s going on in Russia?” Karamzin famously replied, “Ils vols” (“they steal”).
Two centuries passed, and today the graft-ridden bureaucracy keeps Russia’s investment climate at the bottom of the World Bank’s Doing Business rating: 112 for the year 2013. In the Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom, it remains at an abysmal 144 for 2012.
Until such time that Russia undertakes a fight against corruption in earnest, foreigners will continue to pursue mostly the country’s mineral riches, while popular support of the government will remain questionable. Firing one minister and arresting a couple of greedy bureaucrats may just not be enough.
Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy at The Heritage Foundation.