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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reform Now and Rescue Future Lives

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The latest incident with the mini-submarine trapped in the Pacific and rescued with British help should be not just an occasion to consider what lessons have been learned since the sinking of the Kursk and what still needs to be done to secure the safety of the submarine fleet. It should be an opportunity for President Vladimir Putin to spur forward the military reform that by and large still remains empty talk.

In 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev used the scandalous landing by German pilot Mathias Rust on Red Square as a pretext to fire the entrenched Soviet top brass, including Defense Minister Sergei Sokolov. In doing so, Gorbachev also opened the military, a sacred cow of the Soviet Union, to critical public scrutiny.

When the Kursk nuclear submarine sank in 2000, killing all 118 sailors on board, Putin missed an opportunity to bring change to the military and arguably its most closed and rigid branch, the Navy. Instead, he offered reassurances to the Navy commander, Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, that he would suffer no unpleasant consequences.

Since then, Putin has replaced his defense minister, the commander of the Northern Fleet and other senior naval officers. But the personnel changes were made only much later and in such a way as to make it impossible to tell whether there was any connection to the disastrous management of the Kursk crisis.

Military funding has dramatically increased in recent years. Yet when the Priz mini-sub got stuck last week, the military was unable to come up with the piece of equipment, costing as little as $1 million, that was needed to save the seven seamen from death and the nation from embarrassment.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Monday that Russia had robotic devices similar to the one used by the British. Well, then it is not a question of money. But he said it could not have been brought to Kamchatka in time to save the crew. Then it is clearly a question of management.

The military needs reform, which means not just providing more money but establishing accountability. It is a daunting task, and only Putin can give the military the push it needs.

Reform is in the military's own interests. Because if the president continues to miss opportunities for reform -- even those offered by incidents such as the trapped mini-sub, which shake the nation out of its apathy -- serving in the armed forces will become increasingly less about guaranteeing Russia's security and more about saving the lives of its men in uniform.



http://www.themoscowtimes.com/indexes/2001/09/05/89.html The Kursk Tragedy