The board of directors of the International Monetary Fund is likely to vote this week to lend another $4.45 billion to Russia. The U.S. Treasury’s representative on the board is expected to vote in favor. The IMF money will not leave Washington. It will be used only to pay back earlier IMF loans. But it will unlock other foreign lending destined for the coffers of the Central Bank of Russia, and thence–who knows?

Since 1991 Russia has borrowed $51 billion in new money from Western lenders. Its gross product is less than half now what it was then. In February 1996, when Russia subjected itself to IMF monitoring and entered a three-year IMF program, per capita income was about $2,500 per year. Per capita income last month, said the state statistical agency Rosstatagenstvo, was 1,462 rubles, which works out to about $720 per year. Nice work, Russia. Attaboy, IMF. I WILL GLADLY PAY YOU TUESDAY FOR A HOWITZER TODAY…. Russia’s top brass feels wimpy no more. Ever since the outpouring of popular enthusiasm for the mad dash across Serbia by 200 troops to Pristina airport in Kosovo, military leaders have grown bolder in their speech and tougher in their demands on the political establishment.

Colonel General Anatoly Sitnov, director of the weapons department in the Ministry of Defense, wants to go shopping: a Tu-160 strategic bomber for the air force; a nuclear submarine and several other new warships for the navy; eighty armored personnel carriers, thirty T-90 tanks and two dozen self-propelled artillery launchers for the army; and for the elite strategic rocket forces, ten Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missiles.

But the Ministry of Defense owes its suppliers 20 billion rubles (about $770 million). Its credit is shot. Sitnov complains that the bean-counters at Finance have released only 20 percent of what the Duma allocated for procurement. His superiors see things differently–there are no beans to count. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov says there is no money for new weaponry, though funds could be made available “to modernize military hardware of the previous generation.”

Better hardware won’t help the army in any case unless the condition of the troops improves. According to one military prosecutor, the overall crime rate in the armed forces last year was up 43 percent, and bribery up 80 percent. Crimes committed by officers were also reported up 40 percent last year. The commander of the Northern Fleet acknowledged in a speech that thievery is “epidemic,” to the point at which “combat capacity is undermined and the lives of servicemen placed in jeopardy.”

Drug use in the military is rising rapidly, as it is in the general population. The chief military prosecutor said the trend in drug-related crime in the army is “terrifying.” Reports have surfaced of rising drug use in the military academies and in the officer corps. A Defense Ministry study found that half of the servicemen identified as drug users acquired the habit only after entering the service. With rising drug use comes a rising incidence of HIV infection, with 128 cases reported in the Moscow Military District in 1997, compared to just thirty-two over 1993-1996. The numbers might be higher, but recruits are not screened and in-service testing is erratic due to lack of funds.