A new scandal is beginning, which involves incumbent Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin. Web site Grani-Ru reported that Kvashnin approved expenditures of the military budget connected with road construction with detriment incurred to the Defense Ministry. Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Kosovan spoke against such a conclusion. He asks, “What does the Defense Ministry have in common with road construction?” It is difficult to argue with such an opinion. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov agreed with this too, when he invalidated the resolution of Kvashnin. Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry does not have any clear mechanism for making of decisions and their fulfillment. Hence, anything may happen due to the will of any state official. Quite recently, the leader of the Union of Right-wing Forces Boris Nemtsov announced that incumbent Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin should be dismissed from the position of supervisor of the military reform, “to avoid its complete discrediting.” Such proposals are not new. Not only politicians, but also all generals fired in the middle of scandals keep speaking about Kvashnin. Thus, the image of this military leader is exposed in a light that is not very favorable for him. At present, there are serious grounds for criticism of the Armed Forces command. However, it would be too simple to lay the blame on Kvashnin, or the General Staff that he heads, for all mistakes. Let us consider passing of the bill on alternative civil service. Let us recall how many critical statements sounded after the speech of Kvashnin regarding the bill on alternative civil service in spring 2002, during the meeting of the government. The document was discussed in society and in the political elite in the democratic manner with a lot of noise and proposals in opposite directions. What was the outcome? President Putin signed the bill in the final reading practically in the version that was proposed by the General Staff. It is not known how the law will work. At any rate, it is clear that the law only approximately corresponds to requirements of a civil society. It is clear that the General Staff is not to blame, because the legislative and executive powers adopted the law in the form offered by Kvashnin.
and especially in their transition to the contract basis. On November 21, Kvashnin supposedly had to report to the government about the draft conceptual plan of gradual transition to manning of the Armed Forces mostly with servicemen serving under contract. By now it has been decided that Ivanov will do this. It is known that this document had to be improved by June 2002, and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov had to acquaint President Putin with this document. However, Kasyanov did not report to the President. The conceptual plan was born within the General Staff only in mid-September, when the experiment for conversion of the 76th Pskov Airborne Division to contract manning was already started. Incidentally, the experiment was not started according to an order from the General Staff, but according to the order from the government No. 842-r.
Two months of the experiment passed. The measures taken by the General Staff already have brought on active criticism from their opponents. Why is the General Staff to blame? For example, why was the experiment in the 76th Airborne Division launched before discussion of the conceptual plan of gradual transition to service by contract? Why did preparation of this document take so much time? The experiment was started, but why did Duma deputies not assign any money for the experiment in the defense budget for 2002? Why did the government decide to finance the experiment from the current clauses of the military budget for 2002, hindering assignment of money for other items? Why, why, why?
There are many questions, and there are no answers. Or else these answers do not fit a common sense kind of logic. The government reassigned to the General Staff problems and measures that it had to define and plan for during shaping of the future appearance of the professional army. The problem of the housing of contract servicemen (barracks or service apartments) is not solved yet too. At any rate, what does the General Staff have to do with this? The problem of housing for professional servicemen is a conceptual, political and economic issue. This is not a fault, but a problem of Kvashnin, that nobody but he himself can solve these problems now. Excavation for foundations is already being carried out for the housing, but the conceptual plan got lost in the governmental lobbies.
Now there is a situation in the state, in which neither the Security Council, nor the government, nor the Presidential Administration, nor the Defense Ministry solves the problem of forming of the basics and principles of military organization of the country. According to the proposal of Sergei Ivanov, this year a military inspectorate was formed again within the Defense Ministry. According to the principles of democratic armed forces development, this inspectorate should remain outside of the Defense Ministry. If we recall history, the problem of the place and role of the chief military inspector in control over the Armed Forces was solved repeatedly. When Georgy Oleinik was the Director of the Main Department of the Military Budget and Financing in 1997, a so-called financial inspectorate was established. Had this monitoring inspectorate been objective, probably there would have been no criminal case of theft of over $60 million by the chief military accountant.
It is possible to make similar comparisons with regard to other inspecting organs and divisions of the Defense Ministry. For example, the flight safety service of the Defense Ministry now belongs to the Ministry and does not have inter-agency status. If governmental structures had such a service, we probably would not have had the catastrophe of the Mi-26 military helicopter in August 2002 that resulted in deaths of more than 120 people.
There are no public or state bodies in the troops now besides the Prosecutor’s Offices that monitor activities of commanders. Now, in majority of the military districts and fleets, officers and warrant officers receive wages with a month-long delay (civil personnel receive wages with a two-month delay). What can officers and their families do? Can they not come to some kind of service, complain to the UN or to the International Court in The Hague? Although the role the military leadership and generals is playing is not popular among politicians and a part of society, at present we should take into account their dominating influence on the government and on the Kremlin. The leadership of the country trusts the military commanders, their proposals, concepts and programs. At any rate, is this possible, if Russia is attempting to build a civil society?