Russian Ministry of Defense Announces Drastic Personnel Cuts

Today Russian Deputy Defense Minister, Army General Nikolai Pankov made public the preliminary results of an unannounced military proficiency test among officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) in the Russian Armed Forces. The results are rather appalling. One in every five senior military officers failed to pass the proficiency test and will be fired. Commenting on the test results General Pankov noted, “We do not intend to keep in the Armed Forces officers, who are unfit for the positions they occupy and with the high rank of an officer. The Minister of Defense made a decision about an unannounced proficiency test for officers and non-commissioned officers of the Armed Forces. And already a significant number of senior officers are considered unfit for the positions they occupy and they will be fired from the ranks of the Armed Forces.”

About 85 percent of officers and 70 percent of non-commissioned officers took the proficiency test as of today. The Central Testing Commission, which was set up to administer the proficiency test in the Russian military, reported that the test results of 249 senior military officers (including generals and colonels, who serve as acting generals) disqualified 50, while 66 will be retained and 133 will undergo rotation. In addition, General Pankov announced that this year alone the officer corps of the Russian Armed Forces will be reduced by some 36,000 officers, who will be dismissed from the military service.

The drastic personnel cuts are in line with the Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov’s program of reforms to overhaul the traditionally top-heavy Russian military. It should be noted that at present the Russian officer corps represents a whopping 32 percent of the total number of servicemen in the Russian Armed Forces. According to General Pankov, out of the total number of 205,000 officers, who are to be dismissed from the military by the target year of 2012, 53,000 will be socially unprotected because by then they will not have reached the mandatory threshold of 20 years of military service, which guarantees social protection by the state, including guaranteed housing. Releasing such large numbers of unemployed military personnel amid growing unemployment and worsening economic conditions is potentially fraught with major problems in terms of social instability.