Politico has an article up from Polina Beliakova of Tufts University about the corruption in the Russian military, and if true, it’s worth a read. Given that Russia is a kleptocracy, it really shouldn’t surprise the world to know there is corruption with regards to military-industrial complex there. But some of what Beliakova states about the corruption and effect on Russian military prepardness made me do a double take.
In the first days of the war in Ukraine, Russia’s performance was notoriously – and unexpectedly – underwhelming. Russian troops were slow and disorganized and failed to establish control of any major cities.
To explain this surprising development, experts pointed out that the Kremlin had wrong assumptions about Ukraine’s willingness and ability to fight. And while that may hold true, there is another factor that might have contributed to Russia’s incorrect pre-war assessments and poor performance on the ground – systemic corruption in the country’s defense and security sectors.
On the operational level, the corruption in defense procurement has also likely undermined logistics, manifesting in soldiers receiving inadequate equipment and supplies on the ground. Poor logistics slows down the advancement of troops, undermines their morale and hinders military effectiveness.
Early on in the invasion, there were accounts indicating that some Russian soldiers received rations that had expired in 2015. Most companies responsible for providing food to the Russian military are connected to Yevgeny Prigozhin – the patron of PMC Wagner, the mercenary organization, and sponsor of the Internet Research Agency, which has been accused of meddling in the United States elections. Several years ago, Prigozhin’s companies were accused by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny of forming a cartel and gaming the state’s bidding system for defense orders, receiving contracts for several hundred million dollars. The quality of food and housing in the Russian military is reportedly worse than in its prisons, with unreasonably small meals and some carrying harmful Escherichia coli bacteria.
Emphasis is mine.
Rations that expired in 2015. Worse than the food in Russian PRISONS. Unreasonbly small meals with E. coli in them.
Russian soldiers are literally eating shit.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had intestinal viruses and even food poisoning once. And I was doubled over and wanting to die when that happens. I cannot imagine having to run around in some frozen place, being shot at, and wondering if I would be better off not eating the food.
And look who is at the heart of that lovely image. Prigozhin of Russian troll farm fame. The guy who helped get Trump in the White House.
But the fun doesn’t stop there for Russian soldiers:
There are also reports that Russian advances in Ukraine were slowed by lack of fuel – and this in a country rich with oil and gas. Shoe ineffective control over fuel consumption in the Russian military actually long preceded the war in Ukraine and had historically created opportunities for embezzlement – that is why fuel is often called the Russian military’s “second currency.” It is plausible that the long-standing tradition of corruption in fuel supply decreased the pace of Russian advancement in Ukraine.
Yeah, those tanks and trucks are running out of gasoline. Nothing like a black market for gasoline to ruin an invader’s dreams of conquest. I’m sure those Russian soldier have enjoyed ditching their vehicles and walking in the cold.
And it’s not just the little things like not having actual food to eat or gasoline for your vehicles that are making life a bit tough for your average Russian soldier. There was supposed to be all these modern weapons developed by the Russian military-industrial complex. Too bad for the Russians it appears that they had more than a few Trump like businessmen to deal with:
For example, in 2012, a Russian arms company received about $ 26 million to develop an aircraft system for the interception of nonstrategic missiles, according to local press reports. But the research never took off, as the firm signed fraudulent contracts with shell companies, some of which were registered to the addresses of public toilets in Russia’s Samara region. In a separate case from 2016, another company which was responsible for the supply of radio navigation equipment and control systems for high-precision ammunition, was embroiled in an embezzlement scandal in which its leadership imitated research and development activities to steal money through fraudulent contracts.
Sounds very Trumpian to me, especially about those businesses with addresses to public toilets.
And then there is the problem of those in the Russian Defense Ministry:
Corruption in Russian defense is not limited to the military-industrial complex. It penetrates the political level as well, likely altering the incentive structure for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s top security officials. Recent investigations show that top officials in the Russian Defense Ministry own property that significantly outmatches their income, pointing to possible involvement in corrupt deals.
Maintaining a luxurious lifestyle disincentivizes top security officials from giving expert advice that might disappoint the autocrat and cost them access to corruption networks. In the case of Ukraine, this would have meant the risk of reporting to Putin that the country he wanted to invade would put up a fight, that civilians were not looking forward to joining the “Russian world” and would likely greet troops with Molotov cocktails rather than bread and salt, as per local tradition. In this way, the corrupt loyalty of Putin’s top officials might have backfired and contributed to intelligence failures and erroneous risk assessments in Ukraine.
That’s the problem with Putin. He made this little pact with oligarchs and bureaucrats. “You give me all the political power, and I will let you keep what you have stolen from the Russian people.” Once you have power and are willing to kill your enemies, it sorta kinda makes those who work for you fearful to ever tell you there is a problem. In other words, you have corrupt “yes men” all around you.
Sounds like a perfect system to create a monumental disaster of a war.