GENERAL KVASHNIN AS THE MAIN OPPOSITION FIGURE FOR THE GOVERNMENT

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General Anatoly Kvashnin, Chief of the General Staff, may soon be dismissed. Being very cautious in his statements, this military leadership has ventured to make several impartial statements about “the supercritical plight” of the Army. In fact, the Army has been shaken by a series of emergency situations connected with desertion over the week after the general’s statements. Kvashnin does not have specific comments regarding these incidents. And what is more, he is hiding from the press. He refused to answer journalists’ questions at the meeting with the Nicaraguan military leader.

Kvashnin, as well as Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, refused to attend “the government’s hour” in the Duma at which parliamentarians wanted to listen to their reports about the Army’s problems. Deputies prepared over 30 topical questions for this meeting. It turned out that these were not easy questions. Parliamentarians intended to express their concern about the plight of the Army and the Navy. For instance, deputies planned to ask the military leaders what has caused this “supercritical” situation in the Russian Armed Forces. Deputies are at a loss about cuts to the Strategic Missile Force. In addition, they need to know why the Defense Ministry reforms the Army using the cut-and-try method, and refuses to reduce the central staff.

It should be noted that the initiative to listen to reports by Ivanov and Kvashnin was brought forward by the Communists. Victor Ilyukhin, a member of the CPRF faction who announced this idea, motivated his decision as follows: “The Defense Ministry always demands that the Duma and the government raise military expenditures. In these circumstances it is not clear why the military leaders ignore parliamentarians and refuse to give us information so that we will be able to support the Armed Forces by legislative measures.”

Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev said that Kvashnin and Ivanov will attend “the government’s hour” a bit later, in July. In the meantime, parliamentarians are worried by another aspect connected with the fact that the number of policemen is increasing from year to year against the background of problems of the Army and Navy.

Ilyukhin stated that “the number of policemen surpasses the strength of the Army”. According to him, the shift of stress toward strengthening of interior forces is very alarming. Representatives of other political factions – Yabloko and LDPR – support him. And here parliamentarians’ discontent coincides with what generals of the defense Ministry say.

Kvashnin, who attended a Cabinet meeting dedicated to the parameters of the 2003 budget instead of meeting with parliamentarians, expressed his dissatisfaction with the government’s activities. He stated that if expenses on purchasing and repairing military hardware and weapons, research and development, and capital construction go down, the Armed Forces will fail to cope with the tasks set by the president.

The government meeting was held in private. However, reports about Kvashnin’s criticism of the Finance Ministry has filtered into the press. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov gas given orders to the Finance ministry and Defense Ministry “to make a compromise”, trying to hush up the scandal. It is hardly likely that the ministries will meet half-way. The number of military threats has decreased, and the state does not plan to raise the sum of military expenditures. However, generals and the defense minister think differently…

Sergei Ivanov, who initiated the most radical military reform, has become a very inconvenient person. He knows about the actual situation in the Army, and reports this to the leadership of the country. On the other hand, the leadership understands that the Army and the Interior Ministry are guarantors of stability in carrying out very unpopular socio-economic reforms.

Russian servicemen are the most socially unprotected layer of society. No one knows what conclusions the president draws from the current situation. However, one objective conclusion has become evident thanks to the parameters of the 2003 budget: the state cannot pay much to its defenders. The state does not want to spend over 2.5% of GDP on national defense. To all appearances, the Kremlin intends to solve other issues connected with improving loyalty and effectiveness of the Army by means of cutting expenditure on weapons and military hardware, and dismissing servicemen.

The chief of the General Staff does not agree to this. Obsolete hardware, lack of money for combat training, and social problems reduce the efficiency of the officer corps. Many officers effectively do not serve at all. This is the main cause of serious incidents and crimes in the Army. Kvashnin sounds the alarm, trying to have the government increase military expenditure. He repeatedly mentioned order and prosperity in the Soviet Army when meeting with veterans. Why did he do this?

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