One of the main sensations of a decree on the system and structure of federal executive bodies signed by the president on Tuesday is that new functions have been given to the Defense Ministry. Observers note that these functions concern the defense system partly, and are connected with production and exports of military products and advanced technologies. At present the Defense Ministry consists of:

– federal service for military-technical cooperation;

– federal service for the defense order;

– federal service for technical and exports control;

– federal special construction agency.

Judging from the president’s decree the defense Ministry will also control the federal nuclear energy agency, which has become part of the Ministry of Industry and Energy.

The Defense Ministry has been trying to take over these functions for a long time. Sergei Ivanov has finished the reform of military structures of the Armed Forces (a transition to a three-branch structure, expansion of military districts, the creation of the Space Force and the Strategic Missile Force, professional units, and more) and lobbied ideas connected with stricter control over the military-technical cooperation sector and distribution of the State defense order. It seemed that the committees for military-technical cooperation and the state defense order established in 2001-03 coped with their tasks. Meanwhile, the state defense order was compiled by the Ministry of Economic Development, and arms export proceeds were distributed by the government.

At the same time, Colonel-General Vladislav Putilin, former deputy chief of the General Staff, was in charge of the state defense order, and the Army exported weapons from its arsenals and received profit too.

To all appearances, from now on the state defense order will be compiled by the federal service for the state defense order, which is part of the Defense Ministry. Otherwise, it would be senseless to create this service. The same concerns arms trade. To all appearances, the Defense Ministry will control arms sales and distribute revenues. As is known, arms exports reached $5.5 billion in 2003. This is half of the Russian military budget and 1.3% of GDP. In other words, arms sales and distribution of extra revenues in favor of the defense budget may become a powerful factor, which would contribute to Russia’s defense.

As a matter of fact, the federal services for military-technical cooperation and the state defense order reanimate the idea of restoring the Ministry of the Defense Industry. Meanwhile, it is evident that these federal services will be in charge of distributing resources and setting out tasks, and military production will be controlled by the Ministry of Industry and Energy. Its prior task is to support military plants producing double-purpose products. The Kremlin has decided to abolish the ammunition agency, the conventional arms agency, the control systems agency and the shipbuilding agency. To all appearances, their functions will be carried out by the Ministry of Industry’s departments, which will cooperate with the Defense Ministry.

In addition, the Defense Ministry will be in charge of building military objects: new secret plants, space centers, missile silos, command posts, railroads and more. The federal special construction agency has become part of the Defense Ministry. In addition, it is very likely that units of the Federal Service of the Railroad Force, which has been abolished by the president, will join the Armed Forces. As is known, Sergei Ivanov made such proposal in autumn.

In other words, the Defense Ministry and Sergei Ivanov have strengthened their positions in the system of government in Russia. They have become more influential. In the meantime, this is a great responsibility for Sergei Ivanov. Will he manage to sit on two chairs (organization of the state defense order and the defense system)?