MOSCOW, March 4 (RIA Novosti) – General of the Army Nikolai Makarov, dismissed last year as chief of the General Staff, has been appointed as an advisor to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a Defense Ministry representative told RIA Novosti on Monday.
Makarov was appointed to the new post about a month ago but the news was only made public today, the representative said.
Makarov was sacked in November and replaced with former Central Military District commander Col. Gen. Valery Gerasimov. Gerasimov’s promotion followed Shoigu’s appointment as defense minister, replacing Anatoly Serdyukov, who was dismissed amid an investigation into fraud at defense firm Oboronservis.
Makarov was appointed chief of the General Staff in June 2008 and was generally seen as Serdyukov’s “right hand man.”
Makarov was criticized for excessive cuts at the General Staff which purportedly hampered its operation, and for closing an excessive number of military colleges.
He also drew flak for criticizing new Russian tank models which in his opinion did not ensure sufficient protection for their crews, and for failing to strike a balance between the purchase of Russian-made military equipment and foreign weaponry in order to avoid damaging the interests of Russian arms makers.
Commenting on Makarov’s new appointment, a military expert suggested on Monday it might be intended to alleviate criticism of the military reform started in 2008.
“This appointment is designed to show the steps that have been taken as part of the military reform in recent years will not be reversed completely. Also, it shows that all was not so bad when Makarov and Serdyukov were in charge of the Armed Forces and the Defense Ministry,” said Leonid Ivashov, president of the Academy of Geopolitical Studies.
Ivashov indicated Makarov’s appointment could also be read as a signal to put the brakes on the Oboronservis investigation.
He also noted recent remarks by President Vladimir Putin, who said in late February that not all the decisions previously made on Russian military reform had proved to be useful, but constant shifts in the general course of the reform program were unacceptable.
Ivashov said Makarov’s new appointment is largely a figurehead role and the former chief of staff was unlikely to have any real clout.
Last Wednesday Shoigu criticized the performance of some defense-related agencies, as well as mistakes made by his predecessor. In particular he lashed out at Oboronservis, which he said has failed to fulfil its contracts with the state.
The Russian armed forces are in the midst of a major shake-up, including a huge reequipment program, a gradual transition to fully-volunteer armed services, and organizational changes, in a bid to create forces more suitable for future challenges and less like the legacy forces left over from the Soviet era.