Putin Begins ‘Unprecedented’ Purge Of Generals In Baltics

REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin/Files.

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Russia’s defense ministry began an unprecedented purge of nearly fifty senior Russian officers in charge of Russian military operations in the Baltic Sea.

The public ousting of so many senior military officers is unprecedented in modern military history, and comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the fleet’s performance against NATO’s growing presence.

“The Baltic Fleet is performing its missions well — not just here in the Baltic, where it is based, but is also carrying our flag with honor in other parts of the world’s oceans,” Putin told reporters nearly a year ago while visiting the fleet.

The defense ministry told Russian media that senior officers were dismissed for “dereliction of duty” and “distortion of the real state of things.” Valentin Selivanov, former deputy head of the Russian military, told the New York times, “This is the first time in Russia’s modern history that commanders have been dismissed in such a way.”

The Panama papers revealed an immense network of Putin’s patronage, spanning luxury apartments, shell companies, and lucrative appointments to oil companies. The firing of such senior Russian officials indicate they will likely lose access to this network, significantly depressing their future under Putin’s regime.

The Baltic Sea is now a flashpoint of tension between Russia and NATO, after relative quiet in the inter-cold war period. NATO recently announced a deployment of four battalions to the Baltic States, in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and Georgia. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called the decision “the biggest reinforcement of collective defense since the end of the Cold War.”

NATO intends the battalions will be strong enough damage to halt a Russian advance before a NATO rapid reaction team arrives to assist. The deployments will also allow NATO to position heavy weapons to assist the rapid reaction teams.

After announcing the senior officer purge, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, told reporters, “These actions of the Western colleagues undermine the strategic stability in Europe and force us to take retaliatory measures, primarily in the Western strategic direction.”

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Saagar Enjeti