Russian Defense Council secretary Yuri Baturin on January 29 completed a week-long inspection tour of Russia’s Transbaikal and Far Eastern Military Districts. During his trip Baturin held consultations with commanders and headquarters personnel representing Russia’s regular army troops, as well as its Border Forces and Interior Ministry troops throughout the region. He also met with regional leaders and managers of defense industrial plants. Baturin has been heavily involved in the drafting of a Defense Council program for radical military reform, and the avowed purpose of his trip was to discuss with military leaders some of the ideas contained in that program. These high-level consultations were noteworthy for the fact that, as a civilian, Baturin appeared to be playing a role more commonly filled in the past by uniformed military leaders. They were also of interest because Baturin has clashed with Russia’s defense minister and General Staff chief — traditionally the two most powerful figures in Russia’s military establishment — over the future course of defense reform. Indeed, Baturin’s efforts appeared to be aimed at least in part at winning support for his draft reform program prior to a still unscheduled Defense Council meeting at which his and the Defense Ministry’s competing draft are to be discussed.
Although he and Russian defense minister Igor Rodionov have denied any conflict on the subject of defense reform, published reports of Baturin’s remarks on the trip highlighted several key differences in the approaches of the two men. The Defense Council secretary reiterated his conviction that Russia’s economic woes compel the Kremlin to launch troop reductions now in order to lower defense spending. Rodionov has argued instead that reductions — and serious military reform as a whole — must await increased funding that would fully finance social programs for demobilized officers while allowing Russia’s smaller army to be re-equipped with modern weaponry. The two men also apparently differ in their underlying assessments of the military danger that confronts Russia. Rodionov, as well as General Staff chief Viktor Samsonov, continues to believe that Russia must be prepared to repulse large-scale aggression (and that force reductions would thus endanger national security), while Baturin sees no major threats currently confronting Russia.
Baturin seems to have been put on the defensive during his trip over a proposal that does not divide him from the Defense Ministry but that has set him at odds with Russia’s other "power" ministries: his call for greater integration between Russia’s regular army and the various military forces not subordinated to the Defense Ministry. Baturin continued during his trip to speak of the need to eliminate parallel structures in these other military and security organizations as a means of cutting costs. But he denied claims that the Defense Council draft reform program calls for all of Russia’s power structures to be brought under a unified command. Baturin’s remarks appeared to confirm that Russia’s powerful security forces are unwilling to give up their independence as part of a broad, military reform effort, and are probably also opposed to accepting the manpower reductions now being forced on the regular army. (Itar-Tass, January 23-27; Interfax, January 23-24, 27; Nezavisimaya gazeta, January 28)
Human Rights Report Critical of Russia, Some Other Former Soviet States.