But restoration of the country’s military potential promises to be a difficult undertaking

NATO aggression in Yugoslavia makes leadership of the country turn to the problems of defense capacity of the country as stated in the president’s annual address to the Federal Assembly on March 30. The document reads that “we never witnessed an increase of quality parameters of the Armed Forces in the conditions of decreased allocations and that jeopardizes defense capacity of the country and implementation of the military reforms on the whole.” In the meanwhile, we cannot neglect the fact that now, what with the ongoing events in the Balkans, finances are coming to the troops on a relatively more regular basis, combat training is more active, and maneuvers are mostly organized on a larger scale.

Take the strategic command maneuvers that took place in the Far East, for example. Despite assurances that the maneuvers were organized within the framework of combat training plans and had nothing to do with the events in the Balkans, representatives of the Defense Ministry do not deny the fact that the headquarters drilled the combat training tasks which certainly took into consideration details of NATO offensive in Yugoslavia. it should be noted here that the Far East maneuvers do not have analogues in the post-Soviet history. They were complex and involved various branches of the service and other security ministries.

NATO aggression in Yugoslavia once again bread heated debates over future direction of the military reforms. On March 27, INTERFAX news agency informed that the Balkans offensive might speed up the Russian leadership’s decision on reorganization of the strategic nuclear forces (SNF). That was the opinion of representatives of the Defense Ministry. It was reported that “military experts think that improvement of the SNF combat control system and increase of their effectiveness can be accomplished first and foremost by way of creation of the United Operational Command of the Strategic Deterrent Forces.”

Such reports collide with what Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin announced after the closed parliamentary hearings in the Duma on March 31. Kvashnin said that the issue of creation of the United Operational Command of the Strategic Deterrent Forces (UOC SDF) would not be resolved until 2005. According to the officer, the idea is considered as promising for the future look of the Armed Forces after 2005.

Meanwhile, we also know of statements and opinion of Defense Minister Igor Sergeev who is known to support the idea of UOC SDF creation. Sergeev proposes its creation on the basis of the Strategic Missiles Forces. The UOC SDF are supposed to absorb the Strategic Missiles Forces themselves, nuclear submarines, and strategic bombers.

The assumption that the problem of UOC SDF does exist is confirmed by the following fact. Resolution of the Duma adopted at the hearings at which Kvashnin was present advocates the necessity “of recommending to the president to suspend the decision on creation of the United Operational Command of the Strategic Deterrent Forces and on operational transfer of naval and aviation deterrent forces to the Strategic Missiles Forces.” Deputies are of the opinion that these measures should be suspended until a specific resolution of the Federal Assembly. Signed by Duma Defense Committee Chairman Roman Popkovich on behalf of the Committee, a statement to this effect was forwarded to President Yeltsin even before the closed parliamentary hearings. The message read that the Committee had done a great deal of analyzing of the idea of UOC SDF creation and resolved the idea still needed “some more thought give to it.” The document emphasized that what with this state of affairs in the country and condition of the general deployment forces, facilitation of the work in this direction would only take away from the effort aimed at resolution of the pressing problems of increasing combat capacity of the Armed Forces. “Attempts to facilitate implementation of the idea will only play into Russia’s enemy’s hands, particularly now.” In other words, the Duma sided up with the General Staff.

In the meantime, parliamentarians also emphasize other pressing problems related to the reorganization of the Armed Forces and doctrine. When the issue “On the Condition of the Armed Forces and Urgent Measures Aimed At Increase of their Combat Capacity” was discussed on March 31, deputies of the lower house of the parliament approached the president with the proposal to convene a sitting of the Security Council in April and discuss how the acting military doctrine of the country corresponds with the “new political-military realities”. The resolution reads that a serious change in the situation took place due “United Nations’ inability to effectively oppose to enlargement of NATO functions and increase of this organization’s dictate.”

Parliamentarians seemed genuinely worried over it and Popkovich, one of the authors of the idea to convene the hearings in the first place, proposed to build up the military budget to 5.5% of the GDP (it currently amounts to 2.6% of the GDP). If it happens, Russia will have the highest level of military expenses in Europe.

At his press conference in the Duma that took place right after the hearings, Kvashnin was quoted as saying that all difficulties notwithstanding, Russian Armed Forces could provide safety and security of the country for the next ten or fifteen years.

Kvashnin: Russia does not hold any territorial grudges against anybody… there are no aggressive factors in our policy…

The officer announced that Russia was a self-sufficient state and had at least 50% of all natural resources (raw materials, fuel, and energy).

Kvashnin: Nothing jeopardizes us in this respect.

Kvashnin recalled that the Russian-NATO Pact was signed in 1997 and read that Russia and the Alliance were supposed to build all systems of global and regional security only on the basis of mutual consent.

Kvashnin: But if this principle were neglected and if Russia were subjected to the kind of treatment they now use against Yugoslavia, then it needs all Armed Forces and all military structures, including strategic nuclear forces, so as to be able to respond in kind and protect Russia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

In this light, Kvashnin didn’t even eliminate a possibility of using nuclear weapons.

It’s hard to dispute Kvashnin’s conclusions with regard to Russian Armed Forces’ capacities in repelling an aggression. Despite the socioeconomic crisis, the country’s military potential remains one of the highest in the world. Specifically, Russia has a great deal of nuclear warheads.

According to the official data which corresponds to the parameters of START-1 Treaty, Russia now has no less than 700 ICBMs (almost 3,000 nuclear warheads), 75 strategic bombers (almost 800 nuclear warheads), and over 300 boomers (almost 1,500 nuclear warheads). This potential is comparable only to the United States’ and is enough to obliterate life on the planet in mere minutes.

Meanwhile, we have to admit that what military hardware Russia inherited from the late Soviet Union is too much for it to maintain. Weapons are getting old, and seven or eight years from now we will have to withdraw ICBMs en masse from combat duty. Nuclear submarines and strategic bombers also get old, and the country can spend very little on its defense.

In other words, if the leadership of the country does not turn to face army problems, decrease of its combat capacity is inevitable.