At a time when the Russian economy is heading for a severe recession, not least because of the heavy burden of NATO sanctions; after vast sums of money have been squandered on a failed foreign policy focused on prestige in Ukraine and Syria, with precious lives lost and ill-afforded outlays of military expenditure wasted; and at a time when the public are more unhappy than ever before with the government since Putin took office, as he withdraws from the INF treaty of 1987, the Minister of Defence has decided to go into the movie business.
The Minister, General Shoigu, is not so much switching careers – though some may have had their hopes raised – as moving his Ministry into the business of making feature films. He is apparently particularly keen, for some strange reason, on World War I, which was not a great success story for the Russian army; rather more for the Bolsheviks who did everything to undermine it. But at least no one gets hurt except the stunt men, even if the Pentagon does decide to retaliate.
An article published on 30 June in Nezavisimaya gazeta – “Sergei Shoigu reshil snyat’ blokbaster? Ministerstvo oborony namereno sozdat’ ‘armeiskii Gollivud'” – by the deputy chief editor, Andrei Riskin, is outspoken on the subject, even for him.
Riskin is known for being critical, from a patriotic viewpoint, of the failings of the Defence Ministry. He has been scathing about the absence of proper openness from that quarter with respect to the fire on board the highly secret Russian submersible that took place only days ago and tragically cost the lives of fourteen submariners. Only hours ago Putin called in Shoigu on this matter, evidently to bring to the attention of the public his deep concern. And although he (Riskin) has never commented on the disaster of the Skrypal’ assassination attempt – we have now found out the full personal details of a very senior military intelligence officer who came to London to direct operations – one can only guess what he thinks, and it is probably unprintable (in every sense.)
“Russia’s army has always gone its own way”, Riskin comments. “I don’t know whether our defence establishment has in its budget the funds for its own cinema studio. But it seems to me that one must leave cinema to the professionals – not the military, but film makers. All the more so because we have enough patriotic directors…And, as I understand it, any spare surplus resources at the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defence should be directed at raising the wages of the military and its retirees rather than towards film people.”