Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 144

In an article published on July 22 by the daily Segodnya, one of Russia’s best known and best connected defense journalists savages the military reform program now being drafted and implemented by the government. According to Pavel Felgengauer, President Boris Yeltsin’s unexpected decree "On Emergency Measures to Reorganize the Armed Forces," announced on July 16, constitutes neither a first step in the radical restructuring of the armed forces nor a blow against reactionary generals within the defense establishment, as many in the media have portrayed it.

Instead, Felgengauer claims, the decree was drafted by a small clique within the Defense Ministry — organized around Col. Gen. Valery Manilov, a senior General Staff officer — as a means by which to pursue its own narrow bureaucratic interests. As one example, Felgengauer cites the proposed amalgamation of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF) and Military Space Forces, which he claims is aimed not at streamlining or cost-cutting, but at giving SRF commanders access to the considerable commercial revenues being generated by the Military Space Forces. Felgengauer warns that the amalgamation could drive away foreign customers, ultimately reducing desperately needed revenues and endangering Russia’s commercial space ventures.

Felgengauer suggests also that Yeltsin’s decree was railroaded through a military reform committee chaired by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and that the Defense Council, which had been given the dominant role in drafting Russia’s military reform program, was by-passed. According to Felgengauer, Defense Council secretary Yury Baturin — a civilian — has denied having anything to do with the decree and Defense Council officials, speaking privately, have dismissed the substance of the document as "nonsense." Moreover, Felgengauer quotes Defense Minister Igor Sergeev as saying that it will not be necessary even to convene the Defense Council to promote the new reforms. The Russian journalist draws the disturbing conclusion that the hasty adoption of the reform decree has been aimed expressly at excluding civilian experts from participating in the development of Russia’s defense reform program. (Segodnya, July 22)

Felgengauer brings an element of respectability to criticism of the new defense reform plan being voiced by the Kremlin’s nationalist and Communist opposition, particularly on the question of whether the reform has been conceived and is being implemented with undue haste. However appropriate his comments and conclusions may be, they suggest that the government’s new military reforms could draw fire from groups across the political spectrum.

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