The question remains unanswered yet but the army is turning into a police structure

After his meeting with President Boris Yeltsin on September 14, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev stunned reporters by saying that “Cooperating with the Interior Ministry, the military will take an active part in maintenance of law and security in Moscow.” Sergeev explained that this cooperation may “take various” forms on the part of the military: establishment of special commandant’s offices, joint patrols, and so on.

Colonel General (retired) Nikolai Kizyun, in 1987 – 92 commander of the Military Political Academy named after V.I. Lenin: We have already seen it in practice. It was during the August putsch in 1991 and later, in 1993, when troops were deployed in Moscow. At first they deployed the units and afterwards tanks of the Taman Division opened fire at the parliament… If you ask me, this is but a prelude to introduction of the state of emergency.

Retired generals are not alone to discuss the prospects of a state of emergency in this country. Opposition discusses the matter too. Communist leader Gennadi Zyuganov says that he saw with his own eyes the documents on the state of emergency prepared for the president’s signature.

Asked to appraise the state of affairs in the country, ex-premier Viktor Chernomyrdin said that “It certainly seems as if somebody were deliberately pushing us in this direction.” Chernomyrdin categorically objects to the idea of a state of emergency.

Rapidly gaining in rating, Premier Vladimir Putin also objects to the idea. This is what he said in the Duma on September 14.

Putin: I do not doubt that effective use of the acting legislation is what is needed much more than long-winded discussions concerning the prospects of the use of the old law on the state of emergency adopted in 1991… That is why I would ask you to forget all your fears on that score, give some serious thought to a new law on the state of emergency, and adopt it as scheduled…

Mentioning Dagestan where the federals are conducting an antiterrorist operation, Putin said that “a special legal regime is being established there which does resemble a state of emergency in many aspects.”

After his speech in the Duma, Putin met with reporters and stressed that “this is a battle for integrity of the Russian state” and “we do not have much of a choice here because we need results.” The premier called terrorist acts in Moscow and Dagestan “a reaction of helplessness and resentment on the part of the forces which finally got an adequate response they deserved.”

Putin: We must ensure security of our citizens but in a situation like that, this is a matter of the whole people already.

The premier believes that “instead of talking about the state of emergency, we’d better give a thought to what was practiced in the past. Something like tenement committees.” Putin also thinks that veterans of the Armed Forces may share their wide experience in matters of security.

At first sight, the premier’s words and assurances should have allayed the Kremlin’s apprehension, but the turn the events took last week leads elsewhere and cannot help hinting at something altogether different. Specialists do not rule out the possibility of the state of emergency in the country. In the first place, regions are grossly dissatisfied with the federal center. In fact, some deputies are in outright opposition to the president already. This assumption in confirmed by the fact that on Friday some senators moved for adoption an appeal to Yeltsin to step down. The same idea was promoted by Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroyev in his interview with foreign reporters several days before that. The head of state and his closest entourage are unlikely to find it to their liking: more probably, they will see it as attempts of their political enemies to use the growing political instability to lay their hands on as many state industrial structures and natural monopolies as possible. Indeed, the state of emergency may shut up very many regional leaders who still wield real power and are in the opposition to the regime. At the same time, the state of emergency will make sure that the Family still have access to the pie.

The hypothesis described in the media on “orchestrated” terrorist acts in Moscow and other cities of the Russian Federation, war in Dagestan, tainting materials implicating Boris Berezovsky and Abramovich, petty quarrels over new management of the company Transneft, personnel shuffle in Rosvooruzhenie, and many other things – this is just an incomplete list of the reasons that may effect introduction of the state of emergency in Russia.

Secondly, aggravation of the situation in the Caucasus and probability of a new war with Chechnya do not rule out another wave of instability in Russia. It may so happen that the state of emergency will be demanded by the people itself if the series of terrorist acts like the ones that rocked Moscow and some other cities will be continued throughout the country.

In the third place, we do not know how healthy the president really is. Probability of death or utter incapableness may also cause introduction of the state of emergency, because they may signify beginning of a period of political instability or vicious power struggle. If it ever comes to pass, the Family will need some time to arrange its own withdrawal and the state of emergency will be perfect for its goals.

In the meantime, all these reasons and motives notwithstanding, introduction of the state of emergency has virtually nothing to do with the position and goals of Vladimir Putin whom the Kremlin promotes as successor to Yeltsin. Moreover, Yeltsin’s resignation will actually give Putin a chance to succeed. His latest moves show that he is aware of that. Putin objects to the state of emergency, he is very patient with the Duma and Federation Council, he does not make any sharp gestures, all his speeches are thoroughly patriotic, he is pointedly loyal, and denies any illegitimate intentions. Perhaps, this way Putin is becoming a “shadowy” opponent of the Family? Or perhaps this is but a game, an element of a large script in gaining political mileage, an attempt of the Kremlin to use Putin to promote its goals related first and foremost to the Family’s eagerness to provide continuity of presidency and prevent a cardinal redistribution of property after 2000?

Deputy Vladimir Shokhin says that Yeltsin will resign on October 19, two months short of the parliamentary election. This will be a perfect moment because all candidates for president will be then busy fighting for seats on the Duma and may be actually licked by the Kremlin’s man. Still, this is only one script of many possible ones.

We see Putin putting some distance between himself and the presidential family and beginning to play his own part in the Russian politics. It is not a coincidence probably that we once again hear the rumors that the Kremlin will soon summon General Lebed to replace Putin. In any case, the premier openly criticizes the Khasavyurt agreements signed by Lebed, advocates air-raids against terrorist bases, and hopes that the next regime in Grozny will be loyal to Moscow. This way Putin clearly demonstrates his harsh position with regard to terrorists all and illegitimate structures in the Caucasus and throughout the country on the whole. The population and reasonable politicians cannot help liking it.

Putin is playing his own part. Time will show how closely he is involved in the plans of the Kremlin, but it is clear that the premier is out to gain confidence and trust of security ministries. On August 25 Putin signed a directive according to which a battalion commander fighting in Dagestan should be paid 32,000 rubles a month and a contract serviceman 25,000. The same salaries are specified for conscripts: gunlayers in tanks, mobile artillery canons, and battle infantry vehicles.

This news was released by the newspaper “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” which thus smashed the rumors that Russian servicemen fighting in Dagestan were paid a pittance. It was also announced that a single day of fighting in Dagestan would be counted as three days of service. The federals also get uniforms and food free of charge, and officers families are entitled to food allotments.

Reports in the media indicate that despite the losses, very many servicemen are attracted by the hazard pay reserved for those who fight in Dagestan. A kind of “queues” of those eager to be sent to the Caucasus exist in every unit and formation. The same can be said about army enlistment and recruitment offices. Many unemployed want to become contract servicemen. Reservist officers even offer to go to the Caucasus as rank-and-file. “Just pay us,” this is their motto. Would-be mercenaries do not even mind the wage arrears that may be encountered…

There are rumors as well that many officers would not mind a state of emergency in the country because the hearsay claims that all servicemen will then be paid the salaries currently promised only to those who are fighting in Dagestan. In other words, Putin’s respect in the army is going up.

Putin needs the army to be loyal to him. So far, there are no signals indicating that the incumbent leadership of the Defense Ministry dissatisfies him in any way. In the meantime, persistent rumors say that the Kremlin plans some personnel shuffle in the top echelons of the military power. Recently appointed commander of the Military Academy of the General Staff Colonel General Viktor Chechevatov, may soon get promoted into the Defense Ministry. The media already commented that Chechevatov may become the next defense minister or chief of the General Staff. History knows such a precedent already when Colonel General Igor Rodionov became the minister after his post with the Military Academy of the General Staff.

Time will show. Meanwhile, top officers of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff are loyal to the Kremlin too. The defense minister is too cautious a man to be anything but. Replacement of the top echelons of the military power in the country will indicate that the Family is ready to act in an illegitimate manner.