More than a month has passed since the meeting of the Security Council on November 9, which approved the plan to optimize the country’s military organization. During this meeting the president reiterated that “time limit has been exhausted” and it was necessary to finally settle the country’s military restructuring. Speaking on December 20 to the top ranking officers, Putin criticized the Defense Ministry saying that “the flywheel of reform is primarily turning idly, and our concept and task decisions have still been fulfilled incompletely or with distortions.”
Participants of the meeting reported that the Defense Ministry would submit the improved military buildup plans to the president in December. However, almost half a month passed, and no decrees launching the military reform were signed. It is interesting that a number of prominent politicians expressed their views on the military reform in the country in the media. Their interviews showed that the final package of bills on further directions of military buildup was not formed yet.
For example, Yury Baluevsky, Director of the Main Operational Department of the General Staff, announced that the plan of Defense Forces buildup for 2001-2005 divided the functions of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff. The plan must have already been prepared, but, according to Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov, the interagency work group was still working on it.
December 4 and 5, Andrei Nikolaev, chair of the Duma defense committee, shared his views on military reform with journalists. During the press conference at the RIA-Novosti news agency on December 4 he severely criticized the progress of the military restructuring in the country. Nikolaev emphasized that the current military doctrine did not fully meet the current realities, and did not take into account all threats to the country. Nikolaev considers tactical nuclear arms available to the US and some European country to be a threat. According to him, the Armed Forces reform concept proposed by the General Staff is illogical. Formerly the General Staff proposed abolishing the Main Ground Forces Command; three years later it would obviously be revived because the Armed Forces will transit to the three-branch structure. Nikolaev also says that the unification of the Air Defense Forces and the Air Force is wrong. He advocates splitting the functions of the Defense Ministry and General Staff, and is convinced that a civilian should be defense minister. However, a preparatory period of two or three years is necessary for this purpose to write everything in the legislation and test the new laws.
Nikolaev is worried that Russia still has no democratic mechanism for making decisions about military restructuring, and disagrees with the goals of military reform set by the Defense Ministry. He advocates reinforcing the Federal Border Guards Service, and unifying other border structures (customs, migration, and other services) under the leadership of the Federal Border Guards Service.
According to Nikolaev, President Putin has not outlined the final shape of military reform yet, which is why he has not hurried to sign the documents on further directions of military restructuring. Nikolaev added that he has met with Putin and has spoken to him about his views on the military reform.
November 5 Nikolaev organized parliamentary hearings on “legislative support of the country’s defense, its condition and development prospects” during which he criticized the imperfection of the legal base of the military restructuring. According to him, important legislation, which is necessary for regulating the introduction of a state of emergency, military condition, and alternative service, is lacking completely Nikolaev has emphasized that there is no “thorough legislative base for the military reform, including its financing.” Speaking about the law on military duty and military service Nikolaev stressed that conditions should be created for restoring the prestige of military service, keeping professional servicemen in the Armed Forces, as well as manning troops and clearly regulating issues regarding both conscript and contract service.
During the hearings General Staff Chief Anatoly Kvashnin spoke in a similar manner and supported Nikolaev. However, Kvashnin focused primarily on the need to give the power of law to the presidential decree on military restructuring, which will be prepared on the basis of the General Staff’s proposals. Kvashnin also focused on the imperfection of the legal base for social guarantees to servicemen. He says that the current money allowances of servicemen are 61.54% lower than those of state employees. To narrow this gap the Duma needs to pass a pertinent bill. Kvashnin added that he had addressed this issue during his personal meeting with President Putin: “Any serviceman belongs to a risk group, but for his hard labor he receives much less than a civil official of the same rank. This is unjust.”
Kvashnin also expressed his dissatisfaction with the work of the governmental agencies which prepare the scheme for compensation payments to servicemen for use of public transportation. The military says that servicemen should be compensated for transport expenditures in a centralized manner by transferring money from the Finance or Defense Ministry to the regions. Local authorities should divide these sums according to the number of servicemen in the area. Officers and warrant officers should keep using public transportation free of charge. Kvashnin proposed that the Duma consider proposals made by the Defense Ministry during the debate of the package of amendments on depriving servicemen of social benefits. During its meeting on December 8 the Security Council decided that in 2001 servicemen would not lose the right to use public transportation free of charge. Within a year the council will prepare a mechanism of compensations for this kind of benefits.
Kvashnin is also concerned about the draft. At present there is still a shortage of conscripts. According to the General Staff, only 13% of conscripts are currently drafted, whereas in leading European countries this number reaches 50%. If this issue is regulated on the legislative level the Russian Armed Forces will receive 100,000 conscripts annually. For this purpose it is necessary to pass amendments to the law on military duty and military service, and the law on alternative civil service, says Kvashnin.
Meanwhile, there is also a different point of view on these problems with which the President has recently got acquainted. December 5 Yabloko faction leader Grigory Yavlinsky met with Putin and proposed to cut the draft substantially as soon as next spring. According to Yavlinsky, contract servicemen should replace conscripts. Yavlinsky adds that the country has enough money to do this. According to him, the president has confirmed that he is interested in continued dialog about this issue.
According to the General Staff officers, the contract service obviously has not justified itself. Low money allowances of contract servicemen represent a negative factor, which does not contribute to thorough fulfillment of service duties. However, so far it is unknown how Putin will decide about this and other issues regarding the future of the Russian Armed Forces.
Thus preparatory measures, which have been drawn out for almost half a year and are associated with defining the prospects of military re in Russia, have not yet been realized. Now the public waits for the presidential decision, but the president is not in a hurry. This very circumstance makes politicians and military express their standpoints on the military reform and hope that the Kremlin will listen.