Situation around TSSKA director Alexander Baranovsky activates the struggle between the clans in the Kremlin and in the Defense Ministry
Situation around the acting Defense Minister is getting heated. Last month newspapers published the information that Igor Sergeev sent a report to President Yeltsin with the request about resignation due to his health condition. Such articles appeared when at the beginning of July Yeltsin met with the Defense Minister and had a long conversation with him. Mass media reported that the conversation was devoted to the financial situation in the Armed Forces, and Sergeev allegedly requested the Supreme Commander-in Chief to increase the military spending. The conversation was evidently very heated, and, probably, for the first time the Minister manifested “the independent will lack of understanding”. This way or the other, some people in the Defense Ministry connect this conversation with appearance of the rumors about the possible replacement of the Defense Minister in the society. These rumors got more persistent, when the Federal Security Service director was replaced by a person from Yeltsin’s entourage.
On July 31 Defense Minister’s press secretary Anatoly Shatalov officially disproved the rumors that Sergeev is ill and wants to resign according to his health condition. A day later, when the staff command exercises in Severomorsk were over, the Defense Minister himself decisively refuted the reports about his possible resignation.
Meanwhile the public and the mass media see more analogies in August of 1991, “riot” of 1993 and possible unrest in autumn of 1998. Recently Boris Yeltsin announced: “People say that some kind of coup is prepared. Before the TV cameras I can definitely say that there will be nothing like this. There will be neither a coup nor the Constitution amendments. The power will be firm, like it is now, until the next elections. There will be no early elections and no disbanding off the State Duma”.
Probably Yeltsin is not going to disband the Duma, however he might probably plan to get rid of the marshal, who suddenly grew self-willed, on the eve of the “hot autumn”. According to the Kremlin, in the current complicated situation, when the miners, teachers and defense industry employees strike, when railways are blocked, and when the State Duma started procedure of Yeltsin’s impeachment, Sergeev demonstrates an outward “complete indifference” to the executive power problems and “dares” to ask something for the Armed Forces. Meanwhile Sergeev now is different, for example, from Sergeev in May of 1997, when he promised to organize the military reform under condition of 3.5% of the gross domestic product spending for defense, unlike former Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, or in spring of 1998, when he waited for prolonging of his service time, having reached the pension age, and told the parliament members that any new privileges for the officers are a bluff. Now Sergeev feels that the executive power is “down and out”, that contradictions between the oligarchs and the Kremlin grew, that the Armed Forces patience reached its limit, and the power is indifferent towards the Armed Forces problems. In July the Armed Forces received less than 1 billion rubles, that is just 7% of the funds, necessary for the Armed Forces maintenance. Nobody in the Armed Forces believes usual promises about the debts repayment. Evidently Sergeev himself does not believe the promises too. In this situation he is not against the President, but he already tries to maneuver and seem “good” to the opposition movements and to the troops. He is soft and intelligent. He failed to fulfill the President’s demand to convince the State Duma to ratify the START-2 treaty, because he told the parliament members not only about the positive, but also about the negative aspects of the treaty. Deep inside he is against the Armed Forces transition to the treasury system of financial provision. He is concerned about the fact that military installations, released during the reform process, are stolen away, and the government did not start selling them yet. He demands the Finance Ministry to finance receiving of free of charge housing for the servicemen along with the state housing certificates.
Meanwhile Sergeev understands that he has the rivals. Today there is no corporate spirit in the Defense Ministry, characteristic for the era of Pavel Grachev. During his era there were no “outsiders” in his entourage. Under Sergeev’s rule everything is the opposite. His diversified entourage is composed of several generals from the Strategic Missile Forces, some candidates, imposed by the Kremlin, and the people, who remained since the eras of Igor Rodionov and Pavel Grachev. The present Sergeev’s entourage is selected “from above”, proceeding from the possibility to control activity of the Minister and his deputies, as well as the Kremlin’s possibility to secretly influence the Minister and his deputies when they make certain decisions. Clans in the Defense Ministry struggle between each other, reflecting to some extent the interests of political and financial clans in Russia. Unlike the former teams of the ministers (Grachev and Rodionov), generals of the Defense Ministry and general Staff are more politicized. However their participation in the politics is completely controlled by the political groups in the country’s power. On the one hand, this allows predicting and modeling of the “necessary” situations (for example, to support this or that idea of the government or the Presidential administration in the argument with the legislative power, regional leaders and so on, by some domestic and foreign political steps), on the other hand, when the contradictions between the ruling elites (in the Kremlin and in the government or in the whole country) grow, this reduces the degree of the Armed Forces controllability, and hence, its possibilities of the main stabilizing force in the country.
Today there is an evident separation of the top ranking generals from the main mass of troops. Now commanders of the military districts and fleets depend less upon the center, and possess good and stable relations with the regional leaders. This peculiarity is supplemented by the radical personnel reduction, when many commanders try to discuss and hinder fulfillment of the orders and directions of the Defense Ministry and General Staff, regarding the Armed Forces reforming. Along with this the pressure on the Kremlin and Defense Ministry is already exerted by the heads of the Federation subjects according to their example. Armed Forces transition to the territorial principle of command will tremendously increase the separatist tendencies, and under the certain circumstances (people’s unrest, massive disobedience, strikes) it will increase the probability of possible breakup of Russia. Do the present generals’ clans in the building in Arbat understand that their behavior and actions are directly connected with the threats to the national security and territorial integrity of the country? Most probably they do, but what they do now is, unfortunately, defined not only by their inner consciousness, but also by the corporate interests of the clans.
Due to these circumstances the arising scandal between director of TSSKA (Central Sports Club of the Armed Forces, – translator’s note) colonel general Alexander Baranovsky and chef of the Main Educational Department of the Armed Forces colonel general Vladimir Kulakov is seen in a different light. The commission, presided by Kulakov detected serious violations in the TSSKA financial-economic activity.
Kulakov is one of the important persons of the team of General Staff chief general of the army Anatoly Kvashnin, whom many people predict to become the Defense Minister instead of Sergeev. Kvashnin is the best friend of acting Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, who has the access to the President. Kvashnin is loyal and obedient to the Kremlin. According to the officers of the Defense Ministry, he is ready for everything for the sake of his personal career. Meanwhile the information “leaked” to the newspapers that inspection of the TSSKA was started when Alexander Baranovsky conflicted with famous hockey coach Vyacheslav Tikhonov. Previously Pavel Grachev leased him the Ice Palace of TSSKA for 49 years. According to the press service of TSSKA, the son of Sergeev plays in Tikhonov’s team.
It is possible that Tikhonov asked the minister for assistance. This way or the other, inspection of the TSSKA was started according to the Defense Minister’s order, and, besides Kulakov, assistant to the Defense Minister lieutenant general Vyacheslav Meleshko participated in the commission’s work. The goal of Kulakov was to raise as much scandal about the TSKSA in the mass media as possible (incidentally, this finally happened). The function of Meleshko was to resolve this conflict.
Baranavosky was unofficially offered to retire. He has something to lose. People say that the director of TSSKA is connected with the Moscow criminal structures, and that he receives much money from the TSSKA objects, leased to commercial structures. People also say that Baranovsky has some influential patrons. For example, after breakup of the USSA present Deputy Emergency Situations Minister, notorious “hero” of the White House bombing in October of 1993 colonel general Georgy Kondratyev “pulled” Baranovsky from Turkestansky military district (which he previously commanded) at first to Samara, then to the TSSKA in Moscow. Since Kondratyev was the curator of sports issues in the Defense Ministry until December of 1994, it was easy for him to nominate his friend Alexander Baranovsky as the TSSKA director. People say that the businessmen from the TSSKA paid for the election campaign of Kondratyev, when he ran for a State Duma seat in Bryansk in 1995.
Outwardly the scandal around TSSKA is not beneficial for Sergeev. However this is evidently not quite so. Replacement of the TSSKA directorate will result in re-division of the spheres of influence, regarding the club’s objects. For somebody it seems to at this point it is possible to sacrifice the career to the future dividends. It is difficult to say how true this is with regard to Sergeev. However the fact that under conditions of the socioeconomic crisis aggravation in the country a secret struggle is going on around the property objects in the Defense Ministry manifests the unhealthy situation in the Russian military leadership. In turn this once again confirms the criminal character of the current Russian regime.
Meanwhile the troops are waiting for the visit of their Supreme Commander-in-Chief. The staff command exercises at the end of July, commanded by Igor Sergeev, were devoted to this possible visit. At that time Yeltsin went to Moscow instead of Severomorsk, because conversations about the conspiracies and military coups grew frequent there. The new naval exercises are scheduled for the second decade of August. Servicemen again wait for Yeltsin. Anyway, it is difficult to say if Boris Yeltsin arrives to these exercises. Yeltsin announced that he is not afraid of a mutiny. However the common sense prompts to anyone that the officers, who do not receive their wages for months, are to some extent dangerous for the politicians. That is why it is possible that another planned visit of Yeltsin to the Northern Fleet will not take place.