THE 2004 MILITARY BUDGET AS A FIELD OF POLITICAL INTRIGUES

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It became clear after the discussion of the 2004 budget that the party of power almost failed to meet its obligations to lobby the plan to increase the Russian military budget. The increase of the defense budget is insubstantial – only by 0.1% of GDP (the military needs 3.5% of GDP).It should be noted that Vladimir Pekhtin, a representative of the Unity faction, stated after negotiations held by the leaders of the centrist parties and the leadership of the Finance Ministry on July 6 that his party would focus on modernization of the Armed Forces and anti-terrorist activities during the discussion of the 2004 budget. He stated: “We plan to propose the government to substantially increase expenses on the state defense order.”

What’s the result? Prospective expenses on the state defense order have increased by 20 billion rubles (originally the Finance Ministry intended to spend 391.5 billion rubles on defense), which is 2.7% of GDP. Secondly, expenditure on military reform will be halved in comparison with 2002. The Finance Ministry proposes to reduce expenses on reforms from 15.1 to 7.2 billion rubles. In other words, it has become clear how the government intends to realize the federal program for the creation of a professional army. As is known, the program costs around 80 billion rubles, and the government must spend 20 billion rubles a year in order to realize it.

The draft defense budget will force the government to revise the State armament program. Colonel-General Alexei Moskovsky, Deputy Defense Minister for Armament, said that the program will be cut by 40 to 42 billion rubles. In the meantime, the leaders of pro-government factions who attended a government meeting on August 14 supported the parameters of the budget proposed by the Finance Ministry and did not comment on problems with military spending. At the same time, Yury Solomonov, chair of the commission for the problems of the development of defense enterprises established by the General council of United Russia, recently criticized the government for insufficient attention to the development of defense industries at a meeting with voters. Vyacheslav Volodin, leader of the Fatherland-All Russia faction, stated in the 76th experimental airborne division in Pskov that he supports the federal program for the creation of a professional army. At present the centrists keep silence. In the meantime, the military is trying to express its discontent with the government’s financial plans. The newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda criticized the government after ministers discussed the draft budget on August 15.

Journalists state that frequent tragic incidents in the Army and the fact that young lieutenants resign from the Armed Forces are connected with the Army’s financial problems. Deputy defense ministers make symptomatic statements. For instance, Alexei Moskovsky hinted at a late meeting with journalists that it is not ruled out that cuts to the state armament program are linked with a subjective factor. The government allegedly has money but some ministers do not want to spend it. Lieutenant-General Anatoly Grebenyuk, Chief of the Construction and Billeting Department of the Defense Ministry, recently commented on housing problems in the Army.

There is a very important circumstance. Oleg Mironov, plenipotentiary for human rights in the Russian Federation, stated that the quantity of servicemen who need housing has not been changing over the past five years. Servicemen’s letters connected with housing problems account for 20% of complaints, which he receives. The defender of human rights proposes to increase allocations for housing and issue as many State Housing Certificates as servicemen need. Judging from the 2004 draft budget, the government did not hear him. Only 25,000 apartments will be built or purchased for the Defense Ministry in 2003. At the same time, 150,000 people need housing. General Grebenyuk said that the quantity of homeless servicemen will not go down because almost all apartments will be given out to officers who resign from the Army; the Army will receive only 4,500 apartments. No comment.

It should be noted that a year ago the chief of the General Staff stated that the Army’s plight was beyond the critical level. Nothing has changed since that time. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov commented on the Army’s financial problems rather diplomatically. According to him, “the state covers the Army’s minimum needs”.

As is known, Russian politicians have been disputing over the sum of the military budget for a long time. At present the Russian defense budget corresponds to foreign indications (the share of GDP allocated for military purposes). At the same time, foreign governments spend more on reforms. To all appearances, Russia does not have much money. In addition, it faces only local military threats. In this regard, Andrei Kokoshin, chair of the national security commission of the General council of United Russia, proposed to reduce the Army’s strength and spend money on new weapons. The Defense Ministry has not welcomed this statement. The Kremlin has not reacted yet…

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