DEFENSE MINISTER CALLS FOR BIGGER DEFENSE BUDGET.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 162
Voicing complaints identical to those uttered repeatedly by his disgraced predecessor, recently-named Russian defense minister Igor Rodionov told radio listeners yesterday that military reform cannot advance without increased defense spending. Pointing to this year’s budget, Rodionov said that the Defense Ministry needs some 2 billion rubles to pay soldiers for July alone, and that a "considerable portion of the troops have not been paid yet for June." He warned that delays in the payment of salaries to military personnel are destroying morale in the armed forces, and cautioned that while we can "stop buying new weapons and hardware, we cannot stop paying people in military uniform." Rodionov also argued against the belief that force reductions in themselves will automatically reduce defense spending. Presumably because of benefits associated with demobilization, even the planned reduction of military personnel from 1.7 to 1.5 million by the end of 1997 would require four trillion rubles beyond that budgeted, according to Rodionov.
During the live radio interview Rodionov also reiterated his opposition to NATO enlargement. But unlike his predecessor, Army gen. Pavel Grachev, Rodionov did not speak in bellicose terms of military counter-measures. Instead, he expressed pessimism over Russia’s ability to match NATO in military might. Rodionov suggested that while enlargement might drive Moscow to renew the arms race and to increase its military forces, the country would be hard-pressed economically to travel very far down such a path. (Itar-Tass, September 2)
Rodionov’s somewhat downbeat remarks come as some in the media begin to criticize what they consider to be the slow pace at which he has moved to address the army’s most pressing problems. But if resolute action from the Defense Ministry in the area of military reform has been stymied by financial constraints and the war in Chechnya, it seems also to have been held hostage by Kremlin politics. Indeed, according to one Russian daily, Rodionov long ago selected candidates to fill a large number of vacancies in key posts in the Defense Ministry and General Staff, but has thus far failed to receive approval for the appointments from the Kremlin. Some military leaders reportedly blame presidential chief-of-staff Anatoly Chubais for the delay. (Verchernaya Moskva, August 29) The larger truth, however, may be that Boris Yeltsin’s fragile health and the resultant political skirmishing in the Kremlin has paralyzed policy-making in the military sphere as much as it has in a number of other key areas of government.
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