, chief of the army’s general staff, told the Duma what needs to be done. With plans already approved to cut the armed forces by 350,000 over five years, including a 180,000-man reduction in the army’s ground troops, consolidation of remaining forces and “assets” under a unified command will promote efficiency and modernization. Kvashnin urged conversion of the army’s general staff into a “joint staff” with authority over forces now under the control of the various security ministries, including the border guards and the troops of the interior ministry (MVD). The Ministry of Defense, said Kvashnin, should be completely civilianized and relegated to “purely political functions.”

General Kvashnin has been skirmishing for months with General Igor Sergeev, minister of defense and former commander of the strategic missile troops. Russia’s National Security Council, which is set to meet on military reform on December 10, seems to favor Kvashnin. The Council has apparently decided to fold Sergeev’s elite missile troops into the regular air force, cutting their strength, budget and prestige. And the Council and Putin are believed to be leaning toward replacing Minister Sergeev, who is well past retirement age, with a civilian.