Recently Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, former director of the main department for international military cooperation of the Defense Ministry, shared his view on the problems of Russian Armed Forces reforming. His standpoint is very interesting because Ivashov is the first of the recently fired generals who frankly spoke about contradictions among top-ranking officers.
For a long time Ivashov was one of the main witnesses and participants of buildup of new Armed Forces in Russia. He prepared, formed and followed the main guidelines of Russia’s military policy and military diplomacy. Hence his view is evidently very important for an understanding of what is currently going on in the Armed Forces.
Speaking about results of the military reform Ivashov emphasized that they were mostly sad. In his interview to WPS he said, “Increase of effectiveness of the Armed Forces and adjustment of its structure, combat composition and armaments to the character and scale of military threats is one of the main goals of military buildup. Unfortunately, we failed to do this.”
According to Ivashov, “for almost ten years we have been only talking about reforming of the Armed Forces and have been making non-understandable efforts in this direction.” Ivashov considered liquidation of the Main Command of the Ground Forces and unification of space assets and antimissile defense with Strategic Missile Forces inexpedient. He told this openly in 1997 both to the Defense Minister and Chief of the General Staff. However, he was not listened to then. Some time passed and all these bodies are restored. The Main Command of the Ground Forces was organized and Military Space Forces and Air Defense Forces were organized again.
“But we lost military professionals, thousands of officers’ families turned out to be, so to speak, overboard. Only during the last few years about 100,000 young officers resigned due to ill considered strategy of the military reform because they did not see any clear and comprehensible prospect in military service,” stressed Ivashov.
Ivashov added that between 1997 and 2000 over 1,000 military garrisons and control posts were liquidated, military installations were looted and hundreds of kilometers of expensive communication cables were dug out and scrapped. According to him, if the cost of one military installation is set at 1 billion rubles (just compare, installations of the 42nd mechanized infantry division in Chechnya cost about 3 billion rubles) it turns out that with such reforming “we incurred losses of six to seven national military budgets for the country. Although maintenance of these installations cost much less.”
“At present attempts will be evidently made to restore all this,” said Ivashov. He does not understand, “Why was it necessary to ruin everything?”
Ivashov says that strategic mistakes made during reforming of the Armed Forces represent a result of non-transparent approach to the solving of the most important problems of Russia’s military security. “I have been proving to the Chief of the General Staff that Russia is a continental power and Ground Forces should form the backbone of its Armed Forces. Kvashnin assured that just 60,000 servicemen would be sufficient for the Ground Forces. During a special period, Interior Forces and Border Guards will reinforce the Ground Forces. Time showed that such approach was absurd,” said Ivashov.
“So far I am an acting colonel general and understand what is one-man authority in the army. Hence I do not wish somebody to think that I do this because of offense,” explained Ivashov. Over the last two years authorities were developing a campaign aimed at firing of the officers having their own view on problems of the Armed Forces reforming, different from that of the standpoint of the General Staff from the Defense Ministry and Armed Forces. Now, according to Ivashov, practice confirms their position, but they are already out of business.
Who is accused by Ivashov? He lays the blame mainly on incumbent Chief of the General Staff, General of the Army Anatoly Kvashnin. According to Ivashov, it was Kvashnin who contributed to dismissal of the generals who had their own view on reforming of the Armed Forces. These were Colonel General Anatoly Sitnov, director of the armaments department, Colonel General Nikolai Karaulov, director of the main missile and artillery department and some other officers. “Were I an enemy of Russia and were I given an instruction to ruin the Armed Forces, I would not be worried about giving Kvashnin the task to do this,” said Ivashov bitterly.
Are actions of the General Staff so destructive? Answering this question Ivashov emphasized that General Staff was not consistent in preparation and following of strategic guidelines of the Armed Forces buildup, definition of foreign policy and military cooperation priorities.
Thus, officers appeared in the epoch of Putin who started criticizing the authorities for incorrect military reform openly. Ivashov is one of the few generals who could afford doing this in the epoch of Yeltsin. Now his critique can be considered as open military opposition to official authorities of the country.