Pe­traeus's Rus­sian dou­ble

The Pak Banker - - Front Page - Leonid Ber­shid­sky

TALK about par­al­lels. To Rus­sians, the adul­teryre­lated res­ig­na­tion of Cen­tral In­tel­li­gence Di­rec­tor David Pe­traeus looks un­can­nily like a scan­dal that re­cently hit their own de­fense min­is­ter, Igor Serdyukov.

Pe­traeus re­signed on Nov. 9, cit­ing his "poor judg­ment" in con­duct­ing an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair, ap­par­ently with his bi­og­ra­pher, Paula Broad­well. Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin fired Serdyukov on Nov. 6 amid ru­mors that the min­is­ter was hav­ing an af­fair with his sub­or­di­nate, Yev­ge­nia Vasi­lyeva.

The si­mul­ta­ne­ous scan­dals show just how dif­fer­ently the polit- ical ma­chines in Moscow and Wash­ing­ton work.

Pe­traeus's in­dis­cre­tion was dis­cov­ered by ac­ci­dent dur­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an e-mail harass­ment case, ac­cord­ing to U.S. news re­ports. By then, the af­fair had ended, and only the in­crim­i­nat­ing mes­sages re­mained. The White House was in­formed, and the fourstar gen­eral ten­dered his res­ig­na­tion amid dis­cus­sions of pos­si­ble se­cu­rity breaches that could be caused by such be­hav­ior. Pe­traeus him­self ac­knowl­edged the dan­ger.

Noth­ing was so straight­for­ward in Serdyukov's case. On Oct. 25, ac­cord­ing to Rus­sian news re­ports, in­ves­ti­ga­tors were greeted by the min­is­ter him­self when they ar­rived to search a 13-room apart­ment that be­longed to Vasi­lyeva, then head of the De­fense Min­istry's prop­erty depart­ment. She was a sus­pect in a ma­jor cor­rup­tion case. In­ves­ti­ga­tors said Vasi­lyeva's depart­ment in­vested vast amounts of gov­ern­ment money in the ren­o­va­tion of De­fense Min­istry prop­er­ties that were later sold off cheaply to pri­vate com­pa­nies. The search turned up $3 mil­lion worth of jew­elry, ac­cord­ing to the state-con­trolled news ser­vice Vesti. The in­ven­tory took sev­eral days to com­plete.

Blog­gers and some me­dia im­me­di­ately trum­peted that Serdyukov was ro­man­ti­cally in­volved with Vasi­lyeva. Af­ter all, the in­ves­ti­ga­tors had found him in her apart­ment at about 6 a.m. Some of the in­for­ma­tion came from sources within the min­istry, where Serdyukov, the first civil­ian to head Rus­sia's vast mil­i­tary ma­chine, was widely hated for his cost-cut­ting ini­tia­tives and his drive for a smaller, more pro­fes­sional armed force. Serdyukov has nei­ther con­firmed nor de­nied the af­fair.

Adul­tery would be po­lit­i­cally per­ilous in Serdyukov's case. His wife is Yu­lia Zubkova, the daugh­ter of long­time Putin ally and for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Vik­tor Zubkov, who cur­rently serves as chair­man of the nat­u­ral gas mo­nop­oly Gazprom. The Serdyukovs and Vasi­lyeva are neigh­bors. "Serdyukov should not have an­gered his fa­ther-in-law," jour­nal­ist Tatyana Ne­treba wrote on the web­site of the news­pa­per Ar­gu­menti i Fakti. "We are all hu­man, but this is not just an of­fice ro­mance, it's an af­fair be­ing con­ducted in plain sight of the law­ful wife, the beloved daugh­ter of a top of­fi­cial."

Some com­men­ta­tors sus­pected that the sex scan­dal might be lit­tle more than a con­ve­nient ex­pla­na­tion for Serdyukov's dis­missal. Alexei Venedik­tov, head of the in­flu­en­tial Echo Moscow ra­dio sta­tion, pointed out that Serdyukov was not the only top de­fense of­fi­cial to go. Niko­lai Makarov, chief of the gen­eral staff, also lost his job, even though "he had not jilted a for­mer prime min­is­ter's daugh­ter."

"Un­der Serdyukov and Makarov, the De­fense Min­istry re­fused the ob­so­lete ar­ma­ments of­fered by the mil­i­tary-in­dus­trial com­plex for un­told sums of gov­ern­ment money. In­stead, it de­manded mod­ern weaponry, in­clud­ing sol­dier-pro­tec­tion sys­tems," Venedik­tov wrote. De­fen­sein­dus­try lob­by­ists "de­manded that the mil­i­tary buy what was al­ready de­vel­oped and pro­duced."

Lib­eral com­men­ta­tor Yu­lia Latyn­ina noted that in­fi­delity is rarely seen as an un­ac­cept­able of­fense among se­nior Rus­sian of­fi­cials. "If Serdyukov was fired for be­ing un­faith­ful," she wrote, "then why is he de­nied what oth­ers are al­lowed? It's been a long time since we saw Lyud­mila Putina by her au­gust hus­band's side, for ex­am­ple."

Serdyukov's ouster comes at a time when Rus­sia is step­ping up the rear­ma­ment of its mil­i­tary. In 2013, de­fense spend­ing is pro­jected to in­crease al­most 15 per­cent to about $71 bil­lion, or 3.2 per­cent of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct. The ex­act break­down of the ex­pen­di­ture is clas­si­fied, but much of it is go­ing to­ward the de­vel­op­ment and pur­chase of new weapons sys­tems.

Dmitry Ro­gozin, deputy prime min­is­ter in charge of the de­fense in­dus­try, gloated in an in­ter­view with the state-con­trolled RIA news agency, say­ing he hoped "the De­fense Min­istry will fix the plan­ning sys­tem for or­der­ing ar­ma­ments, and the in­dus­try will re­sume sta­ble, high-qual­ity pro­duc­tion."

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