Shoigu has just made his first report as Defence Minister to the Duma. Here is a report about it from Itar Tass. http://www.itar-tass.com/en/c142/746077.html If one judges by this report then Serdyukov was not just a corrupt minister but also a very incompetent one. He seems to have had no understanding of the need for long lead times in military procurement contracts, which doubtless provides one reason, if not the main reason, for the repeated yearly failures in the procurement plans. I cannot think of a more certain way to disorganise a complex procurement process than to shift money around continuously from one assigned purpose to another, which is what Shoigu says was happening. Given that this is money that was provided from the Federal budget I wonder about the legality of the practice. This gives rise to a number of questions: 1. Firstly, given what we already know, there has to be the unhappy possibility that this shifting of money around was being done deliberately to make it easier for Serdyukov's "assistants" and obviously for Serdyukov himself to help themselves and himself to it. As anyone who has worked in a large organisation knows, there's no better way to lose track of money than to move it continuously around. Proper accounting and budgeting becomes impossible making it far easier for some of the money to stick to someone's fingers. It also becomes much easier to conceal bribes and kickbacks. If this is true then the Oboronservis affair could be simply the tip of the iceberg and we may be in for far more dramatic revelations to come; 2. Putting that unfortunately very real possibility for the moment to one side, it is beginning to look as if Serdyukov was totally out of his depth and never established proper control over his ministry. Instead the whole ministry over which he supposedly presided seems to have descended into chaos. Taking for a moment a charitable explanation of the Oboronservis affair, it would be hardly surprising in that case if given the breakdown of control some officials took advantage of the situation to enrich themselves. It would explain why Serdyukov, out of a sense of desperation, turned to purchases of off the shelf foreign equipment as a way out of his problems and why he focused so much time on trivial questions such as redesigning the army's uniforms instead of concentrating on the big questions, which he obviously had no answers to. None of this is surprising. Serdyukov's background was that of a salesman and bookkeeper not a projects manager. Looking back it's clear that he was a disastrous choice and it is a mystery why such an unsuitable individual was appointed to such a key post at all. Beyond question his was the worst appointment of the Putin era, and it is remarkable and very disturbing that he remained in office for so long. I have to say that all this does not reflect well either on Putin (who originally appointed Serdyukov to his post) or to Medvedev (who kept him there and grotesquely continued even after his dismissal to refer to him as a "good minister") or to the country's and the government's control mechanisms, which failed to detect the spreading chaos in one of the country's critical ministries even as one annual procurement plan after another failed. Of course if you believe (which I don't) that Russian government appointments are simply the result of clan politics and krysha then the question of why Serdyukov was appointed and remained in his post for so long disappears, only to be replaced by the new question of why in that case he came to be dismissed. The national media also fell badly down. Not only did the corruption and chaos in the Defence Ministry go largely unreported but the more liberal parts of the media instinctively sided with Serdyukov in his conflicts with the country's military and industrial leadership. The fact that he appeared to be a "reformist" was apparently enough to guarantee him support. I recall reading at least one article that referred to Serdyukov as one of the successful reformist stars in Medvedev's government. For far too many people "reform" has become a fetish that excuses everything with the results we have seen. Historically the most effective and successful Russian Defence Ministers in the modern era have been individuals who were good organisers, strong managers and technocrats. Examples include Voroshilov (an unjustly maligned figure because of his loyalty to Stalin who however largely created the Red Army that defeated Hitler), Bulganin and Ustinov. The one good thing that seems to have come out of the Serdyukov affair is that Serdyukov has been replaced by Shoigu, who seems to be someone of the same sort.