Russia: What Stands Behind Presidential reforms of the armed forces

Agency WPS
August 20, 2004, Friday


After publication of decrees on reforming of the Federal Security
Service, Interior Ministry and other security agencies of the
country, before going on vacations President Vladimir Putin issued
the decree entitled “Issues of the Defense Ministry.” This decree
approved the new statute of the Defense Ministry. The statute of the
General Staff of the Armed Forces formerly signed by Boris Yeltsin
lost its power. According to Putin’s decree, the General Staff
becomes a structural division of the Defense Ministry. Commenting on
this decree, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov emphasized that “The
President preserved the role of the General Staff as coordinator of
development and buildup of the entire military organization and not
only the Defense Ministry.” Ivanov fully denied the previously
published information saying that after changing of the top-ranking
officers the influence of the General Staff would decrease
noticeably. According to Ivanov, only a few divisions of the General
Staff will be transferred to the central staff of the Defense
Ministry. First of all, these are maintenance and human resources
services having no direct relations with the role of the General

At his meeting with senior commanders of the Volga-Urals Military
District, Ivanov said, “The General Staff retains the main
operational department, the main intelligence department, the main
organizational and mobilization department and some other main
departments.” The Defense Minister stressed, “The tasks set for the
General Staff by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief are to think what the
Armed Forces should be like and to plan buildup of not only the Armed
Forces but also the entire military organization of the state
including the Interior Forces, Border Guards and other troops.”

It seems that these steps should strengthen the one-man command in
the Armed Forces and hence authority of the Defense Ministry.
However, it is obvious that Ivanov has made reform of the central
military governance bodies and has included the General Staff into
the structure of the Defense Ministry due to personal reasons. It was
known to everyone that former Chief of the General Staff Anatoly
Kvashnin and the incumbent Defense Minister had different views on
the role and meaning of the general Staff in the military
organization of the country. Kvashnin was striving for increase of
its role and actually wanted to separate the General Staff from the
Defense Ministry. Kvashnin said that the General Staff should command
the troops and the Defense Ministry should supply the troops with the
necessary things and exert civil control over them. Now the Defense
Ministry both commands and controls the troops including fulfillment
of such functions through the General Staff, which is its structural
element. Time will show how efficient this will be but it is already
clear that a person being far from the troops has been appointed on
the post of the Chief of the General Staff. This is Colonel General
Yury Baluyevsky, who has practically no experience of commanding of
large military formations of the size of an army, military district
and so on. Organization of the military inspectorate, the only
controlling body in the Defense Ministry, failed to solve the
problems of improvement of combat readiness of the Armed Forces.
Crimes and theft still take place in the Armed Forces. There is
practically no one who can protect servicemen except for the military
prosecutors. The due control over actions of commanders is absent.

All this leads to growth of crime among offices. Thus, according to
Chief Military Prosecutor Colonel General of Justice Alexander
Savenkov, in the current year alone almost 20 commanders of military
units, 43 officials of food, material supplies and financial services
were taken to court and 35 of them were already stated guilty and
sent to prison. The general notes that unfortunately there are facts
of theft and service power embezzlement practically in all military
districts and branches of Armed Forces.

According to Savenkov, among the people taken to court is Director of
the Yekaterinburg Artillery Institute Major general Shpangel, former
director of the border guards department of the group of the Russian
Federal Security Service in Armenia Lieutenant general Aboimov. Among
the sentenced there is also director of the food service of the North
Caucasus Military District Colonel Serkin, who has misused the powers
for two years in purchase of food for the troops. Buying food
products of poor quality at excessive prices he incurred damage
bigger than 34 million rubles. Director of the food base of the Far
Eastern Military District Lieutenant Colonel V. Ivannikov and
director of the food service of the hospital of this district V.
Voichik were sentenced to long terms in May. In ten days of October
2002 alone, these officers wrote false information in the documents
and stole food products worth 1.3 million rubles. The General
Prosecutor’s Office disclosed these crimes. Facts of misspending of
money in the Defense Ministry are regularly revealed by the
Accounting Chamber. The military are somehow afraid to speak about
their own sins. It is not beneficial for officers of the Defense
Ministry to wash their dirty linen in public; that is why control
over observance of laws in the Armed Forces on the part of the
top-ranking officials of the Defense Ministry is reduced.

The President reduced the number of deputy defense ministers to four.
The Defense Minister is allowed to have two senior deputies among
these four. Senior deputy defense ministers are Chief of the General
Staff Yury Baluyevsky and Colonel General Alexander Belousov, who
also has no experience of commanding of a military district. In
capacity of deputy commander of a military district Belousov worked
only for four years. It is also already known obviously who will be
ordinary deputy defense ministers. It is very likely that commander
of logistics will remain General of the Army Vladimir Isakov and
commander of armament will remain Alexei Moskovsky. Hardly anything
will be radically reformed in the departments subordinated to the
Defense Ministry. Three months are allocated for the entire reform of
the Defense Ministry. This period is too short. In any case, new
services will appear during this period. These will be troops
quartering service, financial service, human resources policy service
and ideological service. Of course, they will not be born on an empty
place. The staff of the deputy defense minister for construction and
quartering and the main military budget and financing department will
be transformed into service. Officers of the main ideological
department will be unluckiest because their department will be
included into the main personnel department. Reforms will also touch
on the staff of the defense minister.

It is planned that money allowances of officers and employees of the
central staff of the Defense Ministry will be increased
significantly. But will their activities become more efficient? Is it
possible that this will create a gap between those who serve in the
troops and those are serve in the so-called “Arbat Military

In the post-Soviet history the Defense Ministry has been reformed for
five years. This means that beginning from 1992 a new structure of
the Defense Ministry has been approved once almost every 30 months.
The structure changed but the contents of the troops governance
somehow remained the same. We do not wish everything happen according
to the old scenarios this time again.

Translated by Pavel Pushkin