Russia’s beleaguered defense minister, rumored to be fighting for his job, voiced a direct appeal yesterday for military personnel to vote for the incumbent in the upcoming presidential election. During an inspection tour of the Urals Military District, Pavel Grachev told a meeting of officers in Yekaterinburg that only Boris Yeltsin "can ensure a relatively quiet completion of Russia’s transition to a free and open society devoid of new upheavals and dangerous social experiments." Asserting that "stability is the most important thing for Russia at present," Grachev added that most Russian military officers would support Yeltsin for a second term. (Itar-Tass, May 22)
Grachev’s assessment of the officer corps’ current political attitude is dubious. Of greater import, his obsequious praise of Yeltsin went beyond the more tacit support that the politicized high command has offered Yeltsin to date; it bordered on being a violation of legislation prohibiting campaigning on military bases. In additional remarks, Grachev defended his accomplishments as defense minister. He claimed that the army’s 1993-1995 plan of development — which included the redeployment of large force groupings, manpower reductions, and the restoration of command and control — had been completed successfully. He also suggested that the top priority in the current stage of the armed forces’ development would be "to guarantee nuclear deterrence by rationalizing the structure of the strategic nuclear forces." The army would also implement a gradual transition to a system of contract service, as embodied in Boris Yeltsin’s recent decree to that effect, Grachev said. (Itar-Tass & Interfax, May 22)
Primakov in Cuba.