The concept of military reform is not yet approved

On January 20 the meeting of the Defense Council was organized presided over by President Yeltsin, during which the problems of the Russian policy in space exploration were discussed. It is interesting that despite the specific character of the problem, apart from director of the Russian Space Agency Yury Koptev, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev spoke as well.

As is known, the Defense Minister has a direct connection with space. For some time he worked in Baikonur, organized and performed launches of ballistic missiles. Having been appointed as Defense Minister he started the military reform by re-subordinating the Military Space Forces to the Strategic Missile Forces. He is the author of the idea to use intercontinental ballistic missiles, the service time of which has expired and the released silos for peaceful purposes. This program is already being fulfilled. At the end of 1997 a satellite was launched from the new military cosmodrome near Svobodny (Amur region) with the assistance of an intercontinental ballistic missile, the service time of which had expired. However, we cannot talk about the massive use of the missiles, released during the process of the Strategic Nuclear Forces reduction. That is probably why the Defense Council meeting was organized, and devoted to defining the priorities in military space activity, the military industrial complex and the use of rockets and satellites in the interest of economics.

Meanwhile, discussion of the military reform issues during the Defense Council meeting did not take place. On November 29 1997 the plan for conceptual military build-up in Russia was discussed during the meeting of the presidential military build-up commission, presided over by Premier Chernomyrdin. The document was primarily approved, and it was planned that after some improvements (for which a week was given) the document would be signed by Chernomyrdin and presented to the Russian President. However, more than a month has already passed, but the concept of military reform hasn’t been discussed and finally approved. This demonstrates the presence of serious contradictions among the country’s authorities.

Some power structures approved their own concepts of reforming. However, so far there is no common program of the Russian defense space reconstruction. There are only some preliminary plans. For example the Federal Border Guards Service should play the main role in organizing border protection, the Interior Ministry – in the law-enforcement sphere, the Federal Security Service – in provision of the country’s security, and the Emergency Situations Ministry – in preventing and liquidating emergency situations. The plan of the military build-up, which was discussed at the end of 1997, on the basis of which the concept of military build-up will be prepared, suggests amalgamating efforts in the logistics sphere, and personnel training not only for the Armed Forces, but for other troops as well. It is suggested that special attention should be paid to developing information procedures both for peace-time and war-time.

It is planned to reduce the number of ministries and organizations, having their own troops. Today there are 14 such structures. It is planned that conscripts will be drafted only to 5 power structures: Armed Forces, Federal Border Guards Service, Interior Ministry, Railway Forces and FAGLI.

Military education is a special issue of the military reform plan. From here the real military build-up begins. State Military Inspector, Defense Council Secretary Andrei Kokoshin reported about this recently, commenting upon the structural reconstruction of the military higher educational system: “Reforming the Armed Forces begins with military education, it being one of the most important components of military reform. Now we are just beginning.” According to him, discussing the number of military schools and academies is important, but the content of military education is more important: the quality of the educational programs in the military higher educational institutions and the achievement level of these programs.

According to Kokoshin, the qualifications of the professors should be a subject of special attention. Kokoshin stressed: “During the last meeting of the Security Council, President Yeltsin paid attention to this problem”.

Among the key directions of military education there should be the things that commanders of all ranks need – tactics, operational skills and strategy. Along with this Kokoshin said that the economic and legal issues are acquiring special importance, especially for the students of the academies. As pointed out by representatives of the Defense Council staff, work on military education reform is carried out in close cooperation with the Defense Ministry and General Staff.

According to Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, maintenance of every military school needs money, sufficient to maintain a completely manned military unit. As is known, in the near future the number of military higher educational institutions will be reduced by almost 50%. However, not everything is that simple. Reduction of the military schools has a political connection. Military schools concentrate on the military intellectual elite, which plays an important governing role in the political and socioeconomic life of the regions because, as a rule, the military schools are located in large cities, many of which are the capitals of the Federation subjects.

Shortage of money caused the overwhelming majority of professional militaries to work freelance. Professors of military higher educational institutions, having a relatively free schedule of work, had and still have many possibilities for this. According to unofficial polls, many military professors became big businessmen. Some servicemen are going to become politicians. For example, two representatives of the Moscow Command School participated in the elections to the Moscow Duma and Moscow local self-government organs. The veterans’ organization of this school alumnus, many of whom are big businessmen, is publishing its own magazine called ‘Officers’.

Analysis demonstrates that the majority of the intellectual military elite has an opposition attitude towards the present power.

For example, the Defense Ministry sent its second-rank representatives to the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Moscow Command School. Meanwhile in the presidium of the meeting, devoted to the school’s jubilee, there sat former Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, being out of favor, and in the hall leader of the Movement in Support of the Armed Forces Lev Rokhlin handed his autographs to the officers and students. Against this background the greeting message of the President to the school’s personnel looked like a mockery. Representatives of the Presidential Administration evidently noticed this. It is no accident that several days after the jubilee, information reached the press that the school would be liquidated. Recently the State Duma addressed the country’s authorities with an offer not to liquidate the school. It is quite evident that in the future this school will become a political playing card.

We think that the concept will not be formed in the near future. At least this is confirmed by the fact that according to Boris Yeltsin’s initiative a working group was organized from representatives of the Duma deputies, government and power structures, which will prepare the draft law “On military reform”. Everybody knows how long the preparation of laws in the Lower House of the Russian parliament can take. As one of the participants of the working group, Duma deputy Eduard Vorobyev said, in the prepared document it would be stated that all measures of the military reform should be taken in 1997-2005. According to the draft law, the Armed Forces will transit to a voluntary basis during the reform process. The document also clarifies the authorities of the state organs during the reform organization. According to Vorobyev, it is planned to discuss this draft law only in the first reading at the end of January/beginning of February 1998. Meanwhile, despite the almost complete absence of a legal basis, some steps of military reform have already been taken. These are confined to the simple reduction or re-subordination of certain forces and troops. For example, in 1997 the authorized personnel number of the Armed Forces was reduced by 200,000 people. From January 1 1999 it should consist of 1.2 million people. In 1997 the Strategic Missile Forces, Military Space Forces & Missile Space Defense Forces, and the Anti-Aircraft Defense Forces were united into the Strategic Missile Forces. These consist of the missile armies, military units and institutions launching and having control over spacecraft, as well as the units of missile space defense. As a result of the integration, command structures were reduced by 30% and the parallel structures were liquidated. Along with this the combat-readiness level grew by 15-20%. On account of reducing maintenance expenses of the forces, optimizing the composition of the scientific-research and experimental-design work, serial supplies, and cooperation of the industry it is planned to create an annual economic effect of some 1 trillion rubles. But this is a small part of what has to be reformed. Reorganization of the Ground Forces is currently taking place. On the basis of liquidating the staff structures of this branch of the Armed Forces the Main Department of the Ground Forces is organized. By January 1, 1999 the Air Force and Anti-Aircraft Defense Forces will be merged into the Air Force. In 1998 the military districts will receive the status of operational-strategic (operational-territorial) commands of the Armed Forces in corresponding strategic directions.

Now it is absolutely clear that while there are different views on the military build-up in the country, there is no common will in Russia, which could have removed the contradictions and moved the military reform forward. We think that there is also one more reason – finance. No matter what the reformers may plan, everything is hindered by the absence of resources. Probably it was not accidental that during his visit to France, Defense Minister Sergeev said that the reform of the Russian Armed Forces would probably take more time, than had been planned, and would not be completed by the year 2000. As Igor Sergeev pointed out, this is explained, firstly, “by the problem of financing, because educating professional specialists requires significant expenses”.

However, according to the Minister, the presidential order about a transition to a professional army will be fulfilled. The Minister stressed that the military reform is an objective necessity, and not a subjective wish. Under the new conditions, in accordance with new technology, military equipment is becoming more and more complex, and should be serviced by professionals.

Thus, there is still no common program of military build-up in Russia. As to the random reforming of certain power structures in the country, this merely results in unjustified expense and does not contribute to strengthening the country’s defense capability.