WHAT STANDS BEHIND THE PRESIDENTIAL DECREE ON REFORMING OF THE ARMED FORCES

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After publication of decrees on reforming of the Federal Security Service, Interior Ministry and other security agencies of the country, before going on vacations President Vladimir Putin issued the decree entitled “Issues of the Defense Ministry.” This decree approved the new statute of the Defense Ministry. The statute of the General Staff of the Armed Forces formerly signed by Boris Yeltsin lost its power. According to Putin’s decree, the General Staff becomes a structural division of the Defense Ministry. Commenting on this decree, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov emphasized that “The President preserved the role of the General Staff as coordinator of development and buildup of the entire military organization and not only the Defense Ministry.” Ivanov fully denied the previously published information saying that after changing of the top-ranking officers the influence of the General Staff would decrease noticeably. According to Ivanov, only a few divisions of the General Staff will be transferred to the central staff of the Defense Ministry. First of all, these are maintenance and human resources services having no direct relations with the role of the General Staff.

At his meeting with senior commanders of the Volga-Urals Military District, Ivanov said, “The General Staff retains the main operational department, the main intelligence department, the main organizational and mobilization department and some other main departments.” The Defense Minister stressed, “The tasks set for the General Staff by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief are to think what the Armed Forces should be like and to plan buildup of not only the Armed Forces but also the entire military organization of the state including the Interior Forces, Border Guards and other troops.”

It seems that these steps should strengthen the one-man command in the Armed Forces and hence authority of the Defense Ministry. However, it is obvious that Ivanov has made reform of the central military governance bodies and has included the General Staff into the structure of the Defense Ministry due to personal reasons. It was known to everyone that former Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin and the incumbent Defense Minister had different views on the role and meaning of the general Staff in the military organization of the country. Kvashnin was striving for increase of its role and actually wanted to separate the General Staff from the Defense Ministry. Kvashnin said that the General Staff should command the troops and the Defense Ministry should supply the troops with the necessary things and exert civil control over them. Now the Defense Ministry both commands and controls the troops including fulfillment of such functions through the General Staff, which is its structural element. Time will show how efficient this will be but it is already clear that a person being far from the troops has been appointed on the post of the Chief of the General Staff. This is Colonel General Yury Baluyevsky, who has practically no experience of commanding of large military formations of the size of an army, military district and so on. Organization of the military inspectorate, the only controlling body in the Defense Ministry, failed to solve the problems of improvement of combat readiness of the Armed Forces. Crimes and theft still take place in the Armed Forces. There is practically no one who can protect servicemen except for the military prosecutors. The due control over actions of commanders is absent.

All this leads to growth of crime among offices. Thus, according to Chief Military Prosecutor Colonel General of Justice Alexander Savenkov, in the current year alone almost 20 commanders of military units, 43 officials of food, material supplies and financial services were taken to court and 35 of them were already stated guilty and sent to prison. The general notes that unfortunately there are facts of theft and service power embezzlement practically in all military districts and branches of Armed Forces.

According to Savenkov, among the people taken to court is Director of the Yekaterinburg Artillery Institute Major general Shpangel, former director of the border guards department of the group of the Russian Federal Security Service in Armenia Lieutenant general Aboimov. Among the sentenced there is also director of the food service of the North Caucasus Military District Colonel Serkin, who has misused the powers for two years in purchase of food for the troops. Buying food products of poor quality at excessive prices he incurred damage bigger than 34 million rubles. Director of the food base of the Far Eastern Military District Lieutenant Colonel V. Ivannikov and director of the food service of the hospital of this district V. Voichik were sentenced to long terms in May. In ten days of October 2002 alone, these officers wrote false information in the documents and stole food products worth 1.3 million rubles. The General Prosecutor’s Office disclosed these crimes. Facts of misspending of money in the Defense Ministry are regularly revealed by the Accounting Chamber. The military are somehow afraid to speak about their own sins. It is not beneficial for officers of the Defense Ministry to wash their dirty linen in public; that is why control over observance of laws in the Armed Forces on the part of the top-ranking officials of the Defense Ministry is reduced.

The President reduced the number of deputy defense ministers to four. The Defense Minister is allowed to have two senior deputies among these four. Senior deputy defense ministers are Chief of the General Staff Yury Baluyevsky and Colonel General Alexander Belousov, who also has no experience of commanding of a military district. In capacity of deputy commander of a military district Belousov worked only for four years. It is also already known obviously who will be ordinary deputy defense ministers. It is very likely that commander of logistics will remain General of the Army Vladimir Isakov and commander of armament will remain Alexei Moskovsky. Hardly anything will be radically reformed in the departments subordinated to the Defense Ministry. Three months are allocated for the entire reform of the Defense Ministry. This period is too short. In any case, new services will appear during this period. These will be troops quartering service, financial service, human resources policy service and ideological service. Of course, they will not be born on an empty place. The staff of the deputy defense minister for construction and quartering and the main military budget and financing department will be transformed into service. Officers of the main ideological department will be unluckiest because their department will be included into the main personnel department. Reforms will also touch on the staff of the defense minister.

It is planned that money allowances of officers and employees of the central staff of the Defense Ministry will be increased significantly. But will their activities become more efficient? Is it possible that this will create a gap between those who serve in the troops and those are serve in the so-called “Arbat Military District?”

In the post-Soviet history the Defense Ministry has been reformed for five years. This means that beginning from 1992 a new structure of the Defense Ministry has been approved once almost every 30 months. The structure changed but the contents of the troops governance somehow remained the same. We do not wish everything happen according to the old scenarios this time again.

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