On the eve of personnel changes in the Cabinet of Ministers, the plan of Volodymyr Zelenskyy became clear. It's not just about replacing the defense minister, but about trying to reformat the "bunch" of defense departments in a new way.
Earlier I pointed out that there was no final decision on replacing Defense Minister Andrei Taran with Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Reznikov. Because it was not about the post of minister. And about the configuration in the sector, which covers the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Strategic Industry, the General Staff, and partly - the Ministry of Reintegration and the Ministry of Veterans. This configuration has now been found.
Therefore, now the Servant of the People faction should discuss the following appointments: Reznikov as Defense Minister, Acting Head of Customs Pavel Ryabikin as Minister of Strategic Industries, Deputy Irina Vereshchuk as Minister of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories.
So far, there is no decision on only one issue - how many deputy prime ministers will be, and which of the ministers will receive this prefix.
Sources in the "minor faction" of the "servants" and on Bankova told the details of the personnel bidding and the logic of Zelenskyy's decisions.
The defense sector has always had two main players. This is the Minister of Defense and Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. These players constantly - and the war with Russia did not change this - were in a systemic conflict.
This is due to the fact that the minister and the General Staff were military men. Each of them represented his own clan, formed either at the place of study or at the place of service. For 30 years, we had only one civilian minister of defense - Yuri Yekhanurov (a short episode with Andrei Zagorodnyuk does not count, he was quickly crushed by Ruslan Khomchak).
Therefore, the "tankers" fought for influence with the "insular" and together they hated the newcomers from other departments. For example, the top of the Ministry of Defense of the times of Stepan Poltorak in the General Staff was openly called the "regional department", because many of its representatives came from the system of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The reforms of recent years have not destroyed the ground for conflict. The Ministry of Defense has formally become a "civilian" department, but de facto the minister and the main deputies are retired generals. The question "who is more important" remained paramount. Even after the division of the post of "chief military officer", when the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine appeared and, separately, the chief of the General Staff.
In the "civilian" component, apart from the Minister of Defense, the Minister of Strategic Industries arose. Without which it is impossible to ensure the supply of troops with weapons and equipment.
As of the summer of 2021, this entire sector was in a stupor.
Defense Minister Andrei Taran and Commander-in-Chief Ruslan Khomchak were in the deepest personal conflict. The tops of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff were suing each other. Which shocked the international partners.
As for the Ministry of Strategic Industry, Oleg Urusky "did not take off." In fact, his ministry did not work.
It should be added that both the army and industry experts are very skeptical about the personnel and leadership of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security, Defense and Intelligence.
That is, the Ministry of Defense was at war with the General Staff against the background of the paralyzed Ministry of Strategic Industry and a conditionally capable committee. In this situation, it was only a matter of time before the whole structure collapsed. And one personnel appointment could not fix the situation.
It was necessary to build a scheme in which the Ministry of Defense, the General Staff and the Ministry of Strategic Industry work as a single whole, and also effectively interact with the parliament.
Zelenskyy, albeit belatedly, realized the risks and began to take action. In the summer, Khomchak was exiled to the Council of National Defense, and Taran was suspended with the promise that he would soon be dismissed as well. Instead of Khomchak, General Valery Zaluzhny became the commander-in-chief at the end of July. The chief of the General Staff and a number of commanders were also replaced.
The interviewed contacts assessed Zaluzhny as neutral and positive on the whole, but noted an important point: he skipped several steps of the military hierarchy (like other people appointed in the summer).
Zaluzhny has yet to gain credibility precisely as commander-in-chief. In the military environment, not everyone will help him, because a number of generals consider the commander-in-chief an "upstart".
So far, he has chosen the path of harsh statements and decisive actions. People like it. It will work for a while, but the moment has already come when he needs to prove the ability to drive a machine of 250 thousand people. The situation in the troops is, first of all, the question of the commander-in-chief. In our country, by habit, all claims are addressed to the Ministry of Defense, but many issues are within the competence of the commander-in-chief and the General Staff.
Having rebooted the military, Zelenskyy began to solve the problem of rebooting the "civilians". The replacement of Reznikov with Taran was publicly lit at the beginning of September and had to be finalized in Truskavets.
But, firstly, the question arose - how not to bring down the Ministry of Reintegration, which was prepared to introduce several fundamental laws through the Rada and is deploying large projects (for example, a feasibility study for the construction of a railway in the Luhansk region is already being developed, Reznikov was able to push it through, it did not work for 5 years). Also, Reznikov will drop out of negotiations in Russia, and an equivalent replacement is needed.
Secondly, it made sense to throw him into the embrasure if the entire “bush” was unlocked, where he would be a formal or informal curator. However, until the last moment, there was absolutely no clarity with the Urusky ministry.
Ryabikin's candidacy in the Office of the President was initially considered as a replacement for Reznikov in the Ministry of Reintegration. Ryabikin is a qualified state manager. In addition, he has known Reznikov for a long time, they have normal relations. In the event of his visit to the Ministry of Reintegration, the issue of continuity was decided. However, the stupor in the Ministry of Strategic Industry ruined everything.
Therefore, it was decided to appoint Ryabikin instead of Urusky. At the same time, the Ministry of Integration was going to raise one of Reznikov's deputies. But in the end, Vereshchuk was given this department for her services to the team. On the condition that she picks up the developments.
A source close to Vereshchuk told me that she assessed the situation in the ministry positively, but was puzzled by the number of active projects. According to our information, there is an agreement that she will be helped to get up to speed and insured in the first months. However, in the Ministry of Reintegration, people are not delighted with the future minister. She can start losing staff...
If all these appointments happen, then such a construction will arise.
Reznikov is a civilian. It makes no sense for him to compete with Zaluzhny in the width of the stripes and the number of stars on the shoulder straps. And he is not a pure politician, but rather a technocrat with a good reputation in his profession. Objectively, this will be a valuable acquisition for the military. Because Reznikov has no personal goals in the army hierarchy. But he knows how to play at a level that is inaccessible to the military. And he will play for them.
There will be an opportunity to truly divide the spheres of responsibility: Reznikov will deal with politics in the broadest sense, communication with the Cabinet of Ministers and the Rada, with international partners. And Zaluzhny will command the troops. They are completely different, but both are interested in each being successful in their sector. That is, on the whole, there are prerequisites that the enmity between the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff will subside.
Reznikov will have a hard time. The Ministry of Defense in its current form needs to be disassembled into molecules and reassembled again, cutting off the ballast. It is necessary to dismiss dozens of useless generals and colonels who cannot imagine themselves without posts and parasitize on the bureaucracy. Plus corruption. There will be colossal opposition and sabotage within the department. There will certainly be attempts to portray that "the army is unhappy." Although the well-being of the army will just depend on the purge of the governing body.
It should be noted that the new leadership will come on the budget, which was formed by the predecessors. It is no longer possible to significantly change something at this stage.
Ryabikin's appointment is a chance that there will be no friction between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Strategic Industry for subjective reasons. The two ministers will be able to negotiate normally. This is extremely important, especially when working in a fire mode, when you need to very quickly clear out the rubble with the same state defense order. In the presence of a unified position of the two departments, it is easier to resolve issues in the Cabinet and with the parliament. It is also a positive signal for international relations.
Thus, Zelenskнy found a way to unblock the defense sector. At the level of interaction between structures, there will be fewer problems. The authorities will benefit from these appointments.
However, on the whole, the situation is dire. Energy, tariffs, economic failures will reduce the margin of safety for reforms in the defense industry. If there is too much negativity, the entire government will have to be rebooted in the spring. And this is again a waste of time.
Plus external pressure. Russia may escalate because the West is showing an absolute reluctance to conflict over Ukraine.
The period until April will be critical. The new ministers have little time to heal; after the New Year holidays, they will have to show results.