Acting Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko delved into military affairs this week during a meeting with another of Russia’s acting ministers — Defense Chief Igor Sergeev. Following two hours of talks on the army’s financial situation Kirienko praised Sergeev and the army for the progress made thus far in implementing the government’s military reform plan.
The meeting reportedly had two slightly more substantive results. The first involved a recommendation to the Russian president that one commission — dealing with military development and formerly headed by then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin — be maintained. Another commission — dealing with the financial side of military reform and previously headed by former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais — will be abolished. The two commissions were created in June 1997 as Russia launched its military reform effort. They were then subordinated to the Russian Defense Council. That council has since been abolished and its functions rolled into a greatly strengthened Russian Security Council. It was unclear from yesterday’s announcement whether the surviving commission will also be subordinated to the Security Council. But, according to Kirienko, it will be headed by the prime minister, with the defense minister as deputy.
A second result of the meeting was a decision to draft a two-part plan on sources for financing military reform. According to Kirienko, one part foresees additional revenues for the armed forces through the sale of excess military property. The second calls for continued internal savings through additional cost-cutting measures. Although Kirienko applauded the army for the steps already taken in this direction, the military leadership is unlikely to greet the news with much enthusiasm. Russia’s generals have long bemoaned dwindling defense budgets. Many in the military — including those now in political opposition to the Kremlin — have complained that defense reform cannot be effectively carried out without greater government expenditures.
Kirienko admitted that, due to financial difficulties, Russian servicemen have not been paid for a month. He said that the government remains deeply in debt for defense orders as well. (Russian agencies, Russian TV, April 3; Nezavisimaya gazeta, April 4)
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