WHY THE RATING OF THE DEFENSE MINISTER FELL?

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A regular poll of exports regarding the rating of the most influential politicians of Russia organized by the VP-T public opinion study service in February 2002 registered a sensational conclusion. Influence of leaders of security agencies on domestic and foreign policy of the country fell tremendously. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov (he fell from the fourth to the 11th place in comparison to January) and General Staff Chief Anatoly Kvashnin (his rating fell from the 15th to the 27th place) are among the leaders on this list. Experts of the VP-T service explained this fact mainly by “uncertainty of the Armed Forces reform,” catastrophes of helicopters and airplanes, deserting of conscripts from the troops, stringent attitude of the bill “On alternative civil service” prepared by the General Staff and by the “war” against RAO EES Rossii.

Meanwhile, analysis of events that occurred in February shows that there were much more reasons to speak about decrease in influence of the Defense Minister and his entourage to domestic and foreign policy and the reasons for this decrease were deeper. Although, according to analysts close to the Defense Ministry, mass media, political experts and other experts usually knowing about the pressing problems of the Armed Forces mainly from open sources, which reflect reality only partially, defined the rating of the Defense Minister.

One of the active generals, who got acquainted with results of the rating of Russian politicians in February, told Strana.ru that “Relations between the authorities and the military, as well as relations inside of the Defense Ministry itself, are much more difficult, that outside observers can think.”

Without belittling of importance of the analysis done by the VP-T service but taking into account opinion of other military analysts it is possible to draw the following conclusions about the role of incumbent leaders of the Defense Ministry and general Staff in the life of society and the state.

First, there are a number of objective reasons, which partially justify decrease in the rating of leaders of the Defense Ministry and general Staff. Air crashes and deserting represent more a level of development of society and the state that condition of the military organism itself (Armament and combat materiel were not repaired for ten years, society became excessively criminalized, the state has only started building civil institutions and so on. The fault of the Armed Forces in these processes is only very indirect.)

Thus, it is very difficult for the military leadership to influence these processes immediately, because it is impossible to change the system at once. Hence there is an illusion of weak ability of the incumbent military leadership of the country to influence domestic and foreign policy of the country.

Second, according to some military experts, the military reform is really skidding. It is possible to explain this circumstance by position of the incumbent leaders of the Defense Ministry and General Staff. According to opinion of Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, former director of the main department for international military cooperation of the Defense Ministry, which has been frequently voiced in mass media in February, the reform of the Armed Forces is confined to a simple reduction of troops. Authorities take the measures that are simply not understandable for many officers. For example, at first in 1997 the Main Command of the Ground Forces was disbanded, and the Military Space Forces were included into the Strategic Missile Forces. The Main Command of the Ground Forces was revived in 2001, and the Space Forces received an independent status again. It is also known that in the armament program until 2010 the military leadership of the country decided to spend the main assignments of the defense order on development of general-purpose forces and to spend only 16% on development of strategic nuclear arms. According to a number of generals and officers, this is a strategic mistake. Strategic nuclear arms represent a deterring factor, and if Russia maintains them on a minimum necessary level it will be able to retain nuclear missile parity with the US for a long time. Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, strategic nuclear arms experts, published a whole number of articles in February in which he expressed his disagreement with placing of only six Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles on combat duties a year. According to him, these missiles simply turn out to be gold for defense industry, because due to small-scale production costs of these missiles grows substantially. According to Dvorkin, it is more optimal to place at least 10 intercontinental ballistic missiles on combat duty a year.

Between January and February 2002, General of the Army Makhmud Gareev, President of the Academy of Military Sciences, spoke about his views on accelerated transition to professional Armed Forces in some mass media. Gareev says that the state is lagging behind in transition to professional Armed Forces. He adds that it is possible to reduce the period of active military service for conscripts to 6-8 months in the next two to three years.

Thus, decrease in the rating of leaders of Russian Armed Forces is explained both by objective reasons and by subjective factors, which exist in definition of directions of military reform in the country. There is no doubt that the Supreme Commander-in-Chief will take these circumstances into account to evaluate actions of the military leadership of the country and to make correct conclusions about further steps of military buildup in Russia.

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