IS CIVIL WAR POSSIBLE IN RUSSIA?

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Stake of the Kremlin on security agencies can become the main reason of country’s disintegration

For the first time during the post-Soviet history among the top ranking officials of Yeltsin’s entourage are professional militaries (Vladimir Putin in the Security Council and Sergei Stepashin in the government). The role of force methods in the country’s administration grew. Threatening to dissolve the Duma the Kremlin is trying to impose approval of unpopular economic laws upon it, implements the pricing limits for monopolies, organizes militia raids on gasoline stations and so on. The government of Stepashin is trying to revive the defense industry and repay the debts to the servicemen, which conditions their sympathies.

Meanwhile we can notice that the defense spending in 1999 is the lowest during the whole post-Soviet era, that is 2.6% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is much less than has to be spent on defense in accordance with presidential requirements (3.5% of the GDP). The ex-budget funds will probably be needed for the Armed Forces financing.

This will evidently be done on account of the armament export, and probably on account of cancellation of privileges for the population.

In the present structure of the military budget the wages of officers and warrant-officers account for 50%. The overall debts to the Armed Forces amount to at least 50 billion rubles. This is almost a half of the annual military budget. Untimely payment of servicemen’s wages persists. All this generates tension and discontent in the troops. Agitators from the opposition again appear near the military units. For example, the leaflets of the Movement in Support of the Armed Forces (DPA), headed by Duma Security Council Chairperson Victor Ilyukhin, are distributed near the entrance to the General Staff of the Armed Forces. The propaganda of the DPA coincided with activities of the Duma itself, which is going to debate financial problems of the Armed Forces and send a special message to the President with demands to increase financing of the defense budget of the country.

Against this background sending of troops to Yugoslavia is being prepared and the biggest military exercises of the post-Soviet history are organized. Strategic staff command exercises are to be conducted in the European part of Russia on June 21-26. Besides the Armed Forces Interior Forces, militia, border guards, special services and so on will participate in them. The exercises will include the transportation of large groups of personnel, including their transportation to the unstable zones (North Caucasus), which shows that along with the purely defense tasks the tasks of interior conflicts resolving will be also fulfilled.

This does not contradict to the current legislation. According to the military doctrine, approved by Presidential decree No. 1833 of November 2, 1993, the Armed Forces can be used for counteraction to the “illegal activities of nationalist, separatist and other organizations, targeted at destabilization of the situation in the country, attempts to violently overthrow the Constitutional system and so on.”

How likely are such actions in the near future in Russia? Is disintegration of the country and a civil war possible? The unprejudiced analysis shows that there are preconditions in Russia, which can destabilize the situation.

The failure of President’s impeachment procedure and changing of the left-wing opposition tactics, which is currently targeted at the broad anti-Kremlin propaganda of its ideas among the population, the problems with formation of the new cabinet, further aggravation of the situation in the North Caucasus and persistent economic crisis in the country increase the social contradictions in the country. Although the failed impeachment of Boris Yeltsin reduced the degree of confrontation between the Kremlin and majority of Duma deputies, development of uncontrollable processes in the country is still very likely. The multi-thousand meetings and demonstrations during the holidays in May demonstrate that given the organizing role of the opposition parties and movements and further decline of the living standards people can openly revolt against the present regime.

Are the present authorities able to counteract to the possible factors of destabilization in Russia? Deputy Commander of Interior Forces Lieutenant General Stanislav Kavun told the author of this article that the Interior Forces are able to fulfill their tasks of security and public order enforcement in the country. According to him, in 1999 formation of mobile units was started in the Interior Forces. Their arrival to the destination area on the aircraft of the military transport aviation is possible within less than a day. Director of the Main Operational Department of the General Staff points out that a few airborne units are currently in the state of permanent combat readiness too. If there are not enough military transport aircraft, the paratroopers can be transported by civil aircraft.

Meanwhile the situation analysis shows that in case of simultaneous active mass revolts of the population in different regions ability of Interior Forces and Airborne Forces to restore order there will be doubtful. On the eve of the Soviet Union breakup Interior Forces were around 400,000 strong, the Airborne Forces included almost 100,000 servicemen, and the KGB possessed several divisions and brigades of special forces. The population of the USSR at that time was more than 250 million. However in 1991-1992 even this big contingent failed to prevent civil wars in the Middle Asia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, Trans-Dniester region and so on. The Soviet Union has broken up. At present Russia has around 150 million of population, Interior Forces of about 203,000 and Airborne Forces of 32,000. Four of the five operational divisions of the Interior Forces are deployed in the North Caucasus. We can see that while the territory and population of the country fell 40% in comparison to those of the USSR, the quantity of troops, capable of Constitutional order enforcement, fell almost three-fold. Almost all of them are concentrated in the European part of the country.

Meanwhile, the processes are developing in security agencies, which can boost the centrifugal tendencies in Russia under certain conditions. The system is currently being built, which increases dependence of the military districts upon the local governors, businesspeople, politicians and so on. The Armed Forces depend upon the regional problems very much. This year the merger of military districts and formation of operational-strategic (operational-territorial) commands is to be completed. Their borders primarily coincide with the borders of territorial inter-regional associations, organized by the regional leaders. According to the plan of the military build up, all troops, deployed in the territory of his responsibility are operationally subordinated to commander of an operational-strategic command. Given the current instability we can hardly be sure that if the negative events develop further some “breakneck” separatist governor will not use the situation and will not dominate his military “friend.” In his letter to former Premier Sergei Kirienko in July 1998 Krasnoyarsk Governor Alexander Lebed already “threatened” with “privatization” of the Strategic Missile Forces division, deployed in the Krasnoyarsk territory, and with undertaking of this division maintenance if the government does not repay the wages arrears to its servicemen.

Thus, understanding a possibility of destructive processes development in the country, the Kremlin currently stakes at security agencies. Meanwhile, in case of further aggravation of the situation and development of the conflicts, similar to those, which started before breakup of the Soviet Union, and which currently go on in the North Caucasus, a possibility to stabilize the situation by force will decrease. Hence, it is evident that the Kremlin will still have to look for the ways out of the crisis using the civilized civil political-economic institutions, norms and principles.

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