On August 11, the Security Council met to discuss the future of the Armed Forces for the period until 2016. According to official information, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and General Staff Chief Anatoly Kvashnin delivered their reports. Commanders Vladimir Yakovlev of the Strategic Missile Forces, Anatoly Kornukov of the Air Force, and Vladimir Kuroedov of the Navy commented on the reports.
Before the meeting of the Security Council, the Defense Ministry and the General Staff had different approaches to proposals regarding the reform of the Armed Forces. Thus, Sergeev was averse to the reduction of the ground group of the Strategic Missile Forces, but Kvashnin advocated the reduction. After Putin, Sergeev and Kvashnin met in Sochi in late July, the conflicts between the Defense Ministry and the General Staff were reportedly minimized. Statements made by top-ranking officials after the meeting confirm that a compromise was reached. After the meeting Sergeev said, that “not a single missile launcher will be liquidated until it completely spends its resource. The Supreme Commander-in-Chief has made a decision, it is well weighed and justified, and has a prospect of development within the economic capabilities currently available for the state.” What stands behind these words is obvious. The media reported that, according to the resolutions approved by the Security Council, the Strategic Missile Forces would remain an independent branch of the Armed Forces at least until 2006. By 2007, the START-2 treaty will expire. According to START-2, Moscow and Washington should reduce their nuclear inventories to 3,000-3,500 warheads.
While debating the parameters of the START-3 treaty, Moscow proposed lowering the number of warheads to 1,500. The US refused. Meanwhile, Russia has no way out, because it simply does not have the economic capability to maintain a bigger quantity of warheads. Does Russia need these warheads anyway? It was not an accident that Vladimir Putin said at the meeting, “It is necessary to clearly assess the needs and capabilities of the state. All our actions should be absolutely balanced, checked, and economically feasible.”
According to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, the number of nuclear warheads that Russian Strategic Missile Forces will have by 2010, will be not more than 800 (the remaining 700 warheads will be deployed in strategic aviation and in the Navy). Regiments and divisions of the Strategic Missile Forces will be enlarged. Their overall number will be reduced. It is planned to continue production of the Topol-M missile systems, but the major part of assignments for the strategic component of the Armed Forces will be spent on development of weapons based on new technical principles, cruise missiles for the Air Force and the Navy, and a new generation of naval ballistic missiles. The projects for the so-called general purpose forces will be also developed. The ratio of financing between the strategic nuclear forces and forces for general purposes will be approximately 1 to 3.
It is known that after the meeting, Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov announced that participants achieved the most important thing, by making a balanced decision that took into account the real capabilities of the economy and the needs of all Armed Forces branches for further development. Ivanov emphasized that development of the entire Armed Forces was considered from the viewpoint of principle “not to harm.” What does that mean?
Reports say that there will be no priority financing of the strategic nuclear forces anymore, and that the main cash flows will be directed towards increasing the combat potential of the general purpose forces. There are plans to revise the combat composition of the Armed Forces with a view to reduce dependence on mobilization deployment by increasing the number of units and formations of permanent readiness. Participants of the meeting pointed out that these units should be financed first of all to maintain their armament and combat material and to enable them to fulfill their combat training programs.
Interfax reports that, according to the resolutions of the Security Council meeting of August 11, the major reform measures of the general purpose forces will be accomplished by 2006. By that time these forces will have over 800,000 servicemen. The number of units and formations of permanent readiness will be substantially increased. These units will be able to accomplish missions in local (border) conflicts manned according to the peacetime schedule.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta adds that if the US deploys the national anti-missile defense system, the Strategic Missile Forces will probably be armed with MIRV missiles and medium-range missiles again. In this case Russia will also withdraw from the OSCE treaty on flank limitations. Thus, the planned increase of the Armed Forces by 50,000 servicemen will mainly influence the North Caucasus, where troops are currently sent “in shifts” from other military districts.
The other security agencies of the country will also be reformed. Participants of the Security Council meeting also decided to minimize the number of ministries and agencies possessing their own troops. The FAGLI, Emergency Situations Ministry, the railway forces and so on will be transformed into purely civil agencies. The Interior Forces will supposedly become national guards.
All these reforms require money. Will Russia find it?
Government officials say that the defense expenditures will not be raised substantially. Meanwhile, judging from the President’s speeches at the meeting, we will see that he has a different attitude. He wants to spend defense assignments more efficiently and to find reserves to increase the military budget. According to Interfax sources, at the end of the debates on the condition of the Armed Forces, Putin promised an additional 2 billion rubles for the Armed Forces by the end of the year. Nezavisimaya Gazeta adds that defense spending of 3.5% of the GDP may grow if the GDP grows more than 7% a year (like it is currently happening) for a few years in succession. By 2016, the plan is to spend 50% of the funds on Armed Forces maintenance, and 50% on their development (research and development, purchase of modern armament and combat materiel, and so on).
Thus, the main directions of the military buildup in Russia have been outlined, but it is not clear whom Putin will entitle to conduct the reform. Will Putin leave Sergeev in the post of Defense Minister?
Sergeev is already 63, and Putin is surrounded by younger and more energetic people. It seems that Sergeev is doomed. Who will be the new minister?
Observers mention a few candidates. General Staff Chief Anatoly Kvashnin and Navy Commander Vladimir Kuroedov are the most likely candidates, though Kuroedov has much slimmer chances after the “Kursk” submarine accident.
Meanwhile, according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta, officers of the Defense Ministry do not have any information about a possible reshuffle. A top-ranking officer of the General Staff says, “All officials remain on their posts, and they will bring the decrees of President Putin on Armed Forces reforms into life.” This version is also realistic, because under current conditions of political reform in the country, Putin does not need enemies among generals. He may earn such enemies if he decides to fundamentally shake up the personnel in the Defense Ministry and in the General Staff.