BEST DEFENSE OF KVASHNIN – ATTACK

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In February, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov was moved to a lower post. There are different versions of this event. The version related to the problems of defense order financing also deserves attention. On February 15, parliament members discussed the fate of the money assigned between 1997 and 2001 for development of the Strategic Missile Forces. Parliament members also debated the need to check the deals on commercial launches of satellites struck by the former command of the Strategic Missile Forces.

Deputies representing the pro-government factions proposed discussion of these issues. For example, deputy chairs of the Duma Lubov Sliska (Unity) and Georgy Boos (Motherland-All Russia) presented information of the League of Defense Enterprises stating that between 1997 and 2001 the defense order was allegedly financed incompletely. The Duma supported their proposal to send a request to the Prime Minister to check about and to try to understand why and how this happened. The deputies explain that the US is withdrawing from the ABM Treaty and does not want to ratify the START-2 treaty, but ballistic missile research and development programs were financed only by 2% in 2001. Serial supplies of parts for production of the Topol-M missiles were financed by 18%. Along with this, between 1997 and 1999 the Strategic Missile Forces accounted for almost 40% of the defense order. Why are the figures so different? Who is to blame for this? These are the questions which the deputies want the government to answer.

Duma deputies also wish to find out what the Strategic Missile Forces spent the money received for commercial launches of satellites between 1997 and 2001 on. Alexander Venidiktov of Russian Regions faction submitted such an inquiry. Before election to the Dumas, Venidiktov was Director of the State Testing Cosmodrome in Svobodny and was one of the technical executives in commercial programs of the Strategic Missile Forces. Between 1997 and 2001, subordinates of Venidiktov launched three commercial satellites using the former Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles. According to Venidiktov, “the troops did not receive a single kopeck for the launches, although every launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile cost at least $1 million. The costs amounted to not more than 10% of this sum. It is necessary to find out where the profit is.”

Such unexpected activity of a deputy is surprising. The government released results of fulfillment of the defense order in 2001 more than a month ago (there were no questions then), and the problem of commercial launches of satellites by military missiles had been discussed in Russia and abroad at least for five years. Why is the Duma concerned about the problems of the Strategic Missile Forces and the defense order only now?

Sources close to the Defense Ministry and entourage of former Defense Minister Igor Sergeev consider reanimation of the inquiry about the “missile business” of the Strategic Missile Forces to be “mosquito bites.” According to them, these are only products of information from other struggles that are currently underway in political (including Duma), military and military industrial circles of Russia over development of principles of further national nuclear policy due to the withdrawal of the US from the ABM Treaty and non-observance of the START-2 treaty. Now, like three or four years ago, two teams are actually colliding. These are the teams of incumbent Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin, who has managed to persuade the government of the need for priority development of combined arms, and the team of Igor Sergeev. Sergeev has proposed and still proposes revision of the program of strategic nuclear forces development “imposed by Kvashnin” and organization of an integrated united command of strategic deterrent forces. Sergeev also says that Russia should not discard and destroy the intercontinental ballistic missiles, the service life of which has not expired. According to him, it is also necessary to place not six but ten new Topol-M missiles on combat duty annually and accelerate research and development programs to be able to parry possible threats on the part of the US. Kvashnin, who is supported by Klebanov, proposes spending not more than 16% of the state defense order on strategic nuclear forces. This figure is included into the state armament program for the period until 2010 signed by the President on January 20.

Supporters of Sergeev do not agree with this. It is known that all of them have either been fired from the Defense Ministry or are excluded from its staff. However, they have not given up their views and are attempting to inform the government about them, using also the aforementioned parliamentary inquiries. The General Staff also takes measures in the form of “mosquito bites.” Its officers say that it is necessary to ask former Defense Minister Sergeev and Commander of the Strategic Missile Forces Yakovlev where the money from commercial launches of satellites organized between 1997 and 2001 is, and so on.

It is difficult to say if Boos and Sliska support the present ideas of the General Staff and Kvashnin and Klebanov personally, but their initiative shows that, first of all, they want to check everything themselves, and, second, they want to attract the government’s and the President’s attention to the problem. At any rate, it is clear that use of the Parliament for discussion of nuclear strategy issues and further directions for development of the national defense (this is in the competence of the President) represents a threat that the consciousness of not only Duma deputies but also the whole of Russian society will turn in the direction of excessive militarization.

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