POLITICAL CRISIS IS AGGRAVATING DISCONTENT IN THE ARMY

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Kremlin and Defense Ministry are making frantic efforts to support combat ready units in the regions.

According to sources in the RF Defense Ministry, top echelons of the RF Armed Forces are seriously worried by the current level of financing and maintenance of the Army and Navy. In August the troops got mere 10% of what sums they were supposed to receive from the federal budget. Debts to servicemen exceeded 13.5 billion rubles. The problem of social payments and compensations (which total more than 6 billion already) remains unresolved.

During the most critical week of the current crisis when the ruble was at its lowest and the political detente at its highest, the Armed Forces received the minimal sum ever – only 50 million. Actually, almost 3.2 billion are supposed to be channeled into the Armed Forces every month.

Reports from a number of garrisons throughout the country indicate that the financial crisis and devaluation have combined to effectively paralyze implementation of the “Living Accommodations State Certificates” federal program.

Military experts didn’t consider the program all too effective even at the beginning of the year. 11,000 certificates have been so far issued, but only 650 servicemen succeeded in getting flats within the framework of the program. In the meantime, according to the plans of the government, 42,000 officers and warrant officers ousted in 1998 should exchange their certificates for flats. That’s what the plans stand for anyway.

Unable to get the living accommodations they were promised, officers’ families with certificates have already organized pickets in Kaliningrad and Novgorod regions, Far East and the Trans-Baikal region. Similar protest actions may take place in other regions of the country as well. Almost every tenth ousted or retired officer and warrant officer has been issued a certificate. If it turns out to be just a useless piece of paper, former servicemen may dish out some serious rebellions in Russia.

Homeless officers are not the only ones who are going to revolt. Surveys show a considerable increase in the number of men in uniforms who are prepared for radical actions to protect their rights. Almost 40% experts says so – they estimate the moods in the officers’ corps as critical.

Sources in the RF Defense Ministry maintain that officers’ and warrant officers’ vexation with the regime is steadily growing. This tendency is particularly noticeable in the so called “red belt”, in Siberia, Far East and Trans-Baikal region where general public, public movements and political parties are notably “anti-governmental”. Regional leaders are also trying to enlist support of the army.

Given the situation, the Presidential circles, Defense Ministry and General Staff are desperately trying to remain in control and prevent deterioration of combat ability of the Armed Forces. Specifically, the powers-that-be are keeping the troops busy with constant maneuvers and exercises. It should be noted by the way that it is the best combat ready units and formations that are being actively trained and drilled now – Airborne Troops, marines, AF and permanent combat readiness units of the Ground Forces (creation of the latter in the Armed Forces began in 1997 and 1998 according to the existing concept of reorganization).

The latest Airborne Troops maneuvers ended last Sunday near Tula. Officially titled “a command exercise” (meaning that the Airborne Troops command was supposed to improve its control over the units and formations), it nevertheless involved seven planes of the Military Transport Aviation. The planes were used to drop fourteen combat vehicles and a battalion of servicemen.

One gets the impression that like in the crises of August-91 and October-93, they are forming in the closest to Moscow Airborne Troops unit “… the minimum of personnel which will be used on “D” Day and assist Internal Troops and law-enforcement agencies in restoration of order in some “important” regions of the country”, to quote an Airborne Troops staff officer. We can’t rule out a possibility therefore that the political crisis in the country will probably involve the Armed Forces.

Along with the tactic of “permanent maneuvers and exercises”, the Kremlin is creating a “critical financial reserve”. On “D” Day he cash be handed over to the units involved in the “maneuvers” as they did on October 3rd, 1993.

Realizing the necessity of control over the troops in the midst of an aggravating political crisis, President Yeltsin accepted the proposal of acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin retained their posts. Thus the rumors on the Kremlin’s intention to replace force ministers in near future was not confirmed.

Given the detente with the State Duma, the Kremlin understands the danger of alienating deputies even further with personnel reshuffles in the Defense Ministry, Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service. Leaders of the opposition parties and factions already castigate Yeltsin for the unexplained replacement of Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service in the spring and summer of 1998.

One gets the impression that Boris Yeltsin still trusts Defense Minister Sergeev. This trust must have become even firmer after US President Bill Clinton’s recent visit to Moscow. It is already known that the negotiations resulted in new initiatives concerning nuclear disarmament – joint tracking of missiles launched by the third countries, work on the new principles of START-3 Treaty etc. Before his promotion to the post of Defense Minister, Igor Sergeev was Strategic Missiles Forces Commander-in-Chief. He is the best choice when the Kremlin needs to persuade the State Duma to ratify the START-2 Treaty and start working on START-3’s major parameters.

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