RADICAL DECISIONS REGARDING MILITARY REFORM POSTPONED

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Last year a number of mass media outlets reported that important decisions regarding the future development of the military have been postponed. Officers of the General Staff had announced that documents on reform of the Armed Forces would be approved in December.

According to the Internet site strana.ru from December 20, the President has postponed approval of the Armed Forces development plan for the period of 2001-2005 and the state armament program for the period of 2001-2010 until at least March. The reasons for this decision have not been released. Most likely the interagency working group organized for this mission under the aegis of the Security Council failed to complete its tasks.

The future functions of the Security Council, Defense Ministry, and General Staff, have not yet been outlined in detail. Thus, the military development plans may be approved when the draft concept for the state policy regarding military development for the period until 2010 is prepared. The Security Council plans for this to happen in June 2001.

The bill on the Security Council and amendments to the law, and probably the new law “On defense” will be prepared by that time, and these documents will describe the functions of the aforementioned agencies.

Meanwhile, postponement of final decision-making regarding military reform does not mean that the country’s military organization will remain unchanged. First, in 2001 the Armed Forces and other troops will undergo large-scale reduction. For this purpose the federal budget for 2001 assigned 4.24 billion rubles for this purpose within the section on expenditures on military reform. The assignment includes 0.61 billion rubles of retirement bonuses for officers and warrant officers, and 0.425 billion rubles for benefits and compensations. The remaining sum is intended for purchase of housing for retired officers (See Rossiyskaya Gazeta, December 30, 2000, p. 23).

Second, Russia will begin transition to a standardized interagency logistics, military education, and research system in order to eliminate duplication of functions. For example, Colonel General Vladimir Isakov, Deputy Defense Minister and Logistics Commander of the Armed Forces, says that the draft governmental resolution “On establishment of a unified body for organization of military transportation in the Armed Forces” has been prepared for this purpose, and is currently being studied by the federal executive power bodies. The unified system of military trade and cargo delivery to northern territories of various power agencies is already operating. Unification of medical, food, and materiel logistics divisions of security agencies is next on the list. Implementation of such a system will save about 10% of the budget for this purpose, or 4-5 billion rubles.

Third, the new mobilization deployment system will become effective in the country. The budget assigns almost 2.3 billion rubles to this purpose (including military training outside of the troops), which is much higher than similar expenditures in 2000. To support the mobilization deployment in 2001 the President signed the decree “On drafting of citizens from the reserve for military training assembly in 2001” in late December 2000, and in 2001 the Duma will prepare the bills on the state of emergency and state of war.

What is the interagency work group working on? Sources in the Military News Agency report that the group is working on several issues, including legislation. The group is preparing the bills “On Security Council” and “On defense,” including the new functions of the Security Council, Defense Ministry, General Staff, and other security agencies.

The Security Council currently is considering several versions of legislative documents on reform of the Armed Forces. One scenario makes provision for application of paragraph 2 of clause 15 of the law “On defense,” which deals with giving the coordinating functions and part of the role in planning currently performed by the General Staff in organization of the country’s defense to the Security Council. Officers of the Defense Ministry oppose this proposal. They say that functions of the Security Council “should not exceed the limits of the Constitution,” and the entire coordinating, planning, and governing role in the country’s defense should be given to the General Staff. The Defense Ministry should perform only administrative functions. Hence, clause 14 of the law “On defense” which outlines the functions of the Defense Ministry, should exclude the provisions on the functions of the General Staff duplicated in clause 15.

There is also a proposal to entitle the Defense Ministry to organize and conduct mobilization, draft, and personnel work. Some officials of the Security Council support this option.

The role of other security agencies may also be radically changed. The future of the Interior Forces is still unclear. The General Staff insists that the Interior Forces be separated from the Interior Ministry and called the National Guard. Along with this, according to the General Staff, it is not necessary to include Interior Forces in the Armed Forces, because in accordance with the treaty on conventional arms in Europe the whole armament of Interior Forces would immediately be counted as part of Russia’s quota, which Moscow obviously opposes.

For the same reason the border guards will not be included into the Armed Forces either. However, the Federal Border Guard Service will also be reformed radically. One of the proposed options makes provision for inclusion of the Federal Border Guard Service into the Federal Security Service. Another option makes provision for subordination of the federal immigration and customs services, as well as other bodies which secure control over the border (veterinary, vegetation, environmental, and so on) to the Federal Border Guards Service.

Thus, almost a decade after breakup of the Soviet Union Russia is only beginning to shape its Armed Forces. It is easy to decide to reduce the Armed Forces, but it is much more difficult to chose the optimal organization form for the country’s military. Although the Commander-in-Chief is a former colonel of the Federal Security Service, it is very difficult for him to make a decision regarding the future shape of the Armed Forces and other troops of the country. However, the active search for the optimal military reform option is indisputably a positive development.

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