SERGEI IVANOV AS THE MAIN ENGINE OF MILITARY REFORM

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The polls organized among managers of mass media and political scientists with regard to influence of personalities on national policy showed that over the last four months the rating of Sergei Ivanov fell noticeably. At the beginning of 2002 he was in the top three, in February he fell to seventh place, in March to eighth, and in April to tenth place. In April, which was very important for the Armed Forces because the federal law on raising of money allowances of servicemen to the level of wages of state officials was finally approved then, Ivanov was very active. He visited various military units, visited Greece, had a number of important meetings with his Indian and Sudanese counterparts, during which the parties discussed contracts for export of Russian armament and combat materiel worth up to $2 billion. However, according to his rating, Ivanov was inferior even to Federal Security Service (FSS) Director Nikolai Patrushev. At any rate, Patrushev had reasons for growth of his rating, because FSS units caught some important leaders of Chechen militants and contributed to the elimination of Khattab, terrorist number one in Russia.

Meanwhile, people in the entourage of the Defense Minister say that the rating of Ivanov does not reflect reality. The attitude of the President to Ivanov did not get worse. Ivanov still has a strong influence on the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. Moreover, this influence even grew, and observers close to the Defense Ministry emphasize that Ivanov may be one of the candidates for the post of the Prime Minister, whom President Putin criticized recently.

Sources in the Defense Ministry note that according to the initiative of Ivanov the President dwelled on issues of military reform in his message to the Federal Assembly for the first time over the last two years. In his message Putin proposed organization of an experiment related to transfer of the Armed Forces to a professional basis and improvement of the social status of officers. Ivanov achieved the return of the Military Inspectorate to the Defense Ministry. Formerly the Inspectorate existed as a structural division of the Security Council. Some mass media note that the President already made the relevant decision. This circumstance confirms the continuing confidence of Putin in his former colleague. Second, this confirms that the Armed Forces and Ivanov personally serve as the main guarantors of security of presidential power. The current situation is somehow reminiscent of 1992-1994, when General Kobets, one of the allies of Boris Yeltsin, was also the Chair of the Military Inspectorate that was also within the Defense Ministry.

At any rate, it is necessary to consider influence of Ivanov on Putin and their interaction in a broader context. First, they are the main ideologists of Russia’s current security concept, and build international relations of the state and organize military and military technological cooperation proceeding from this concept. Second, both Putin and Ivanov clearly understand the need for integration with the West and NATO and establishment of partnership relations with the US. Third, according to these two politicians, solving of military problems in the interests of the state should not be too expensive.

That is why both Putin and Ivanov speak about the need to build up professional Armed Forces, but do not explain when these forces would be organized. Now, even a mere experiment or transfer of a part of military units to a professional basis requires big expenditures. Some officers of security agencies already do not understand Ivanov.

For example, in early April Director of the Federal Border Guard Service (FBGS) Konstantin Totsky expressed his skeptical attitude to the experiment with transition of some military units to a professional basis. It is easy to understand the doubts of Totsky. In 2002, the FBGS needs to spend a lot of money on coverage of the Chechen part of the Russian-Georgian border, construction of frontier stations on the border with Kazakhstan and improvement of the border guards’ infrastructure in Tajikistan. The budget for 2002 allocates some money, although not quite sufficient for these purposes. And these allocations need to be spent on a kind of experiment “unnecessary” for the FBGS.

Top-ranking officers of the Interior Forces, Emergency Situations Ministry and so on evidently think in the same way. For them the experiment is not vital now, because there are many current problems in the North Caucasus. Officers in the Defense Ministry also understand this. Recently the Defense Ministry sent another document to the Kremlin emphasizing the need to organize the experiment on money specifically assigned by the government from ex-budget sources.

Meanwhile, experts of the Defense Ministry are starting to understand that in conditions of unstable economic development of the country, assignment of money for experiments with professional manning of military units means “wasting of money.” When the Defense Minister spoke to the Federation Council recently, he dwelled on the need to support the military industrial complex, to which the state owed about 8 billion rubles still. Ivanov spoke with alarm about aging of armaments and combat materiel and about the need for rearming. However, now these slogans are not vital for the Kremlin and are not popular with the electorate.

Everyone understands that slogans about a civilized state connected with alternative service and professional Armed Forces are important for the civil society now. Recent meetings and demonstrations of the rightist parties mark the beginning of the campaign struggle for the new Duma and the presidency. The Kremlin obviously will not keep quiet too. Results of the experiment of transition to professional manning of some military units and the corresponding program should be prepared by 2003. It is already clear that this program will be a part of the election program of Vladimir Putin in 2004.

Thus, Sergei Ivanov hopes that the President will hear the request of the Defense Ministry and will find the money to pay for the experiment for organization of professional military units. However, it is necessary to bear in mind that for both Putin and Ivanov this is not the most important aspect of their activities, because transition of the Armed Forces to a professional basis is connected with the need to improve their defense capability, rearming and so on only indirectly.

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