On June 7, the Duma supported the governmental proposal regarding implementation of the flat tax rate of 13% on incomes of all private individuals, including the servicemen. The new governmental initiatives regarding the military, such as the cancellation of benefits in payments for public transportation, payments for public utilities, and so on, are waiting for their turn. In his interview to Krasnaya Zvezda on June 7, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said that implementation of monetary compensations after implementation of the new tax and cancellation of such social benefits as the free use of public transportation, low payments for public utilities, and so on, “are necessary to balance the budgets of all levels, and to give money for education, health care and so on to the local budgets.”
According to reports from garrisons, the Armed Forces are very averse to the intention of the government to cut the social guarantees for servicemen. Officers and warrant officers are not sure that the compensations will be paid on time. They fear that after the tax novelties their already bad financial condition will be worsened.
At present it is difficult to say how will cutting of social benefits influence ability of the Armed Forces to function, but it is already evident that the troops’ morale will worsen. Military ideological structures already predict growth of suicides in the Armed Forces. We also cannot rule out that politicization of the Armed Forces and their opposition attitude may also grow.
The recent elections have demonstrated an exceptional loyalty of the Armed Forces to their President. Sociologists predict that due to cutting of social benefits the rating of the President and his government among the servicemen may sharply decrease, and the Communists and LDPR may become more popular.
Some other factors, besides the benefits’ abolishment, will also aggravate financial condition of the servicemen and their morale. The first factor has to do with Chechnya. From May 31, financial subsidies for the group of federal forces in the North Caucasus are seriously reduced. Henceforth, servicemen will receive the so-called “war money” only for real participation in the antiterrorist operation. The rest will receive only the so-called “field money,” twice as much as their regular pay.
Meanwhile, servicemen are still dying in Chechnya, and combat operations will hardly be stopped soon.
The second factor is the real financial condition of the Armed Forces. The military budget is still scarce. It is lower than 3% of the GDP, which is set up by the relevant presidential decrees and resolutions. In 2001, military expenditures will total just 2.63% of the GDP. Along with this, the debts of previous periods for the Armed Forces have already reached about 20 billion rubles, which is slightly less than 50% of the entire defense order value in 2000. The Armed Forces assign practically nothing for combat training, and buy only a handful of new armament and materiel. In the first half 2000, the defense order was financed only by 6%. About 80% of the sums transferred to the military accounts in 2000 was spent on social needs. Almost one-third of this sum was spent on the troops in the North Caucasus. At any rate, even these sums are far less than enough for full payment of money allowances. Officers and warrant officers have not received yet the compensation for food rations and the so-called “13th wages” (a yearly bonus).
The housing problems of servicemen represent the third factor. About 210,000 families of servicemen and retired officers and warrant officers need housing, two-thirds of them in the Armed Forces. These figures are included into the new version of the special federal program “State housing certificates.”
According to the program, every year 42,000 families of servicemen and retired officers and warrant officers should receive housing. Unfortunately, the government fails to meet this requirement. In 1998, more than 26,000 officers and warrant officers of the Armed Forces were eager to buy apartments with state housing certificates. The Finance Ministry has issued the necessary documents only for 10,200 servicemen, and only 4,800 of them received the real apartments. In 1999, 18,400 state housing certificates were issued. In 2000, the federal government plans to issue 24,000-25,000 certificates for retired officers of the Armed Forces, and other security agencies, like the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service, and the Ministry of Justice. This figure is 50% less than the figure stated in the program.
The fourth factor is represented by the political steps of Russian authorities aimed at further reduction of strategic arms. The military can take this policy, which is right for the country, as a weakness of the country’s authorities and making advances to the US and the West. Moreover so, that the US has not signed the comprehensive test ban treaty yet. The US is averse to the Russia’s offers of nuclear inventory limitation to 1,500 warheads.
Thus, the threat is looming that the Armed Forces will not be loyal to the Kremlin. Are the servicemen capable of active support of some opposition forces, like this happened in August 1991 or October 1992? Analysis of answers to this question leads to the conclusion that, if the government seriously infringes on social rights of the servicemen, the negative processes will dominate in the troops’ morale. So far the servicemen believe Putin, and officers and generals hope that the government and the Duma will not liquidate the social benefits.
Meanwhile, if the social condition of the Armed Forces worsens, and massive unrest against the ruling regime begins in the country, in certain circumstances the Armed Forces may be unable to obey the law enforcement orders of authorities partially or fully.
At any rate, military analysts again conclude that the Armed Forces are not capable of independent open anti-Constitution actions. Open disobedience in the Armed Forces can start only if a comprehensive chaos begins in the country.