Monday, July 9, 2018

Increasing Gap Between Siloviki Pensions and Those of Others Becoming a Problem, Schulmann Says

Paul Goble
            Staunton, July 7 – Employees of the force structures have always been able to retire earlier and with better pensions than ordinary Russians, part of the package of benefits the Kremlin uses to purchase and maintain their loyalty as defenders of the existing system, Yekaterina Schulmann says.

            “Everyone knew this,” of course, the Moscow political analyst says, but accepted it as just one of the facts of life. Now, however, it has become a problem because with the raising of retirement ages for ordinary Russians, the benefits “gap” between the siloviki and the Russian people has widened and become the subject of public discussion.

            Arnold Khachaturov cites her argument at the opening of a new Novaya gazeta article on this subject ( He continues by citing the research of Oksana Sinyavskaya of the Higher School of Economics who supports Schulmann’s conclusions. 

            Sinyavskaya says that “if the raising of the pension age doesn’t touch the siloviki, then they as before will be able to take their pensions at the age of 40 to 45 while all other citizens will have to wait until 65.” They will not only get higher pensions than most others but will receive them for far longer.

            No one can say exactly how many siloviki pensioners there are or what they cost, Khachaturov says. All that information is classified in Russia.  The best estimate suggests that pensions for siloviki veterans now cost the state approximately 700 billion rubles (11 billion US dollars) each year – or about 0.7 percent of GDP.

                Few Russians begrudge such payments to those who have fought on the front lines as it were; but they are increasingly uneasy with the idea that others in the force structures who may have spent their entire careers in offices far from any serious conflict should benefit in the same way, Schulmann says. 

            “Among the millions of siloviki,” Sergey Zhavoronkov of the Gaydar Institute says, “the overwhelming majority are ordinary bookkeepers and laws who have never held a pistol in their hands or stopped criminals.” Even in the defense ministry that is the case, he suggests. And he urges that Moscow raise the pension ages for the siloviki as other countries have done.

            In fact, there has been some slight movement in that direction in recent years and there are many cases when others are able to retire well before the established pension age. Indeed, at present, approximately one in every three Russians – some 14 million people are able to retire before the current established pension age.

            Now, the Russian government is talking about raising the pension age of civilians but not that of siloviki. “Theoretically,” the article suggests, Moscow should be talking about raising both, something that would send a strong message to the population and to the siloviki. But it has as yet proved unwilling to do that – and that is creating tensions between the two groups.

            Unfortunately, Schulmann says, “no one will do this in present-day Russia because the siloviki are not simply the defenders of the regime: they are the regime itself. No one will be able to touch them even in the smallest degree” – and now all Russians can see this and draw their own conclusions.

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