The political controversy over reform of Russia’s troubled armed forces deepened on July 18, as a trio of influential former generals criticized the series of reform measures recently approved by President Boris Yeltsin. (See Monitor, July 17-18) One of the three, former defense minister Igor Rodionov, charged in a newspaper interview that the emerging military reform program signifies not a reduction in Russia’s armed forces, but their collapse. Rodionov accused the political leadership of pursuing military reform irresponsibly, and opined that the beneficiaries of the reform program would be the U.S., NATO, and "anyone else bearing unfriendly feelings" toward Russia. He also strongly intimated that others, such as Defense Council secretary Yury Baturin, constitute a "fifth column" that seeks to reduce the combat capabilities of the Russian army.
Similar sentiments were voiced by the chairman of the Duma’s Defense Committee, Lev Rokhlin. He described Yeltsin’s recent decrees as a "great error," while suggesting that they are being carried out hastily — in just two weeks time — and in a willy-nilly fashion by a succession of top defense leaders. "It is arbitrary when military reform is carried out first according to Yury Baturin, then according to Igor Rodionov, and now according to [Defense Minister] Igor Sergeev," he said
The similarity of Rodionov’s and Baturin’s criticism is no surprise. The two were allies during the brief period that Rodionov served as defense minister (he was dismissed in May) and Rodionov has joined an organization recently created by Rokhlin, ostensibly to protect the interests of Russian military personnel and defense industry workers. (See Monitor, July 11) Despite its claims to political neutrality, the leadership of the new organization is dominated by hard-line extremists and it appears to be seeking to exploit — rather than to address — deepening dissatisfaction in the officer corps over collapsing living conditions. Indeed, Rodionov’s dismissal was at least in part a result of his repeated public warnings that the army was unmanageable and on the verge of a crisis, and he clashed openly with Baturin and the remainder of the Kremlin leadership on defense reform requirements.
The third ex-general to involve himself on July 18 in the military reform debate was former Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed. A presumptive candidate in Russia’s next presidential election who is seen as popular in the armed forces, Lebed said in a public statement that what has been revealed thus far of the government’s military reform program gives little reason for optimism. His complaints, however, were vague. Lebed pointed to what he described as an absence of concrete mechanisms for implementing proposed restructuring of the army, and said that sources for financing the reform had also not been clearly identified. (AP, Russian agencies, July 18)