Despite the insufficient financing, the military reform in Russia evidently enters the decisive stage. After his meeting with the President on February 10 Defense Minister marshal Igor Sergeev announced that Boris Yeltsin defined the year 1999 “as the year of the final structural reconstruction of the Armed Forces.” Sergeev also added that the President asked him about fulfillment of his resolution, issued for all security agencies within the framework of the military reform concept and formation of the operational-strategic directions. The minister explained to the journalists that in these operational-strategic directions the whole operational training would be organized in such a way to enable all security agencies of the country to be integrated for fulfillment of the defense tasks in case of emergency. He added that the President set the task to prepare certain resolutions in this sphere by May to complete all transformations already this year. What are these transformations? During his meeting with the journalists on January 13, dedicated to the Day of the Russian press, the minister outlined perspectives of the military build up. In 1999 the Joint Command of the Strategic Deterrence Forces (JCSDF) has to be organized. The minister reported that “if amore perfect system of combat command is not formed, no matter ho many missiles we have, they will be only decorative.” The JCSDF has to include Strategic Missile Forces and the nuclear components of the Air Force and navy. According to the minister, the system of combat command has to be able to quickly react to the changes of the situation and “be able to function” in any conditions. Sergeev called continuation of the permanent readiness units formation and training of their coordination to be another important direction of the military reform of the Armed Forces. He stressed that in the interests of these units it is necessary to modernize and repair the armament and combat equipment, finding the necessary funds. Sergeev also added that reduction of the military districts number and organization of the operational-strategic commands on their basis would be continued.
It is clear that the outlined transformations are supported by the country’s authorities and are definite. Meanwhile the sources in the Defense Ministry report that the military build up plans of the Defense Minister have opponents. In particular, the General Staff disagrees with the idea of strategic nuclear forces unification under the common command. On February 15 the morning news program Vesti reported that in the Defense Ministry a meeting of the working group was organized, during which unification of strategic nuclear forces under the common command was discussed. There are no official results of this meeting, but the sources in the ministry pointed out that its participants did not demonstrate the unanimous agreement.
The first problem is making of decisions in the military reform sphere by the limited circle of people. Due to the objective reasons the Defense Minister has irregular contacts with the president. Recently these contacts were targeted at promotion of his idea of the JCSDF command organization. We need to note that the events are guided in this direction, although not everything is understandable. Independent military experts and politicians are not actively attracted to making of decisions in the military sphere. For example, the Duma surmounted the veto on the law “On the military reform”. The parliament members often announced that they are concerned about the fact that the military reform measures are planned without the broad discussion with the Duma deputies.
The differences of opinion, which exist in the Defense Ministry, are reflected in the mass media, where outstanding politicians and former commanders expressed their views on the problem of the JCSDF formation. Krasnoyarsk governor Alexander Lebed was the first to express his disagreement with the JCSDF organization. He offered the following arguments: ” planning of the combat use of the strategic nuclear forces and their combat command are historically done in the centralized manner. These functions are performed by the General Staff. Much sums of the state money were invested in this. It is impossible to form the JCSDF in the current situation in the country.” Lebed pointed out that organization of the JCSDF would result in duplication of the command (the general Staff and the newly formed command will do practically the same job), waste of significant material and financial resources (it is unprofitable and dangerous to do this under the socioeconomic crisis conditions). (See Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, N 44, 1998)
Retired major general Genrikh Shabanov, former commander of the Main operational Department of the General Staff, winner of the State Prize of the USSR, represented the analogous arguments in one of the issues of Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie as well. He pointed out that “concentration of all nuclear means under command of one command might be justly interpreted by the interested parties as the return to the old policy of preparation of a massive blow, even under the flag of the deterrence forces.”
Retired major general of aviation Valentin Rog, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Academy of Military Sciences, professor, outlined the objective arguments against organization of the JCSDF. He stressed that formation of the command contradicts to the current legislation. According to him, it will harm the controllability of the strategic nuclear forces and lower their combat ability.
Makhmut Gareev, general of the army, also expressed his opinion about the role of the JCSDF. For a long time he commanded the Main Operational Department of the Armed Forces and possesses a good knowledge in this field. Gareev pointed out that “the current system of the strategic missile forces command probably needs improvement towards centralization of combat command, but in the hands of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief command of the strategic nuclear forces through the General Staff should be preserved, and the Armed Forces branches have to be responsible for development and preparation of their nuclear forces.”
Arguments of the supporters of Sergeev sound less convincing. For example, Lev Volkov, retired lieutenant general, correspondent member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that organization of the JCSDF will low the spending for the troops command. Anyway, along with this he added that “no organizational changes can replace the necessary financing of the strategic forces.”
The final decision about the strategic nuclear forces command has to be made in may. However it is evident that we will witness the further disputes about this problem. Opponents of Sergeev, to which allegedly belongs present General Staff chief Anatoly Kvashnin, will evidently manage to influence the situation to prove the untimely character of the JCSDF formation.