Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 39

Speaking yesterday on the eve of Russian Army Day, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev warned of unnamed forces striving to weaken and divide Russia and said that only a strong army was capable of ensuring the nation’s security and integrity. (5) His evocation of such Cold War-style rhetoric was a reminder that the February 23 military holiday, a carry-over from the Soviet period, has served as a catalyst for conflict between Russia’s new and old worlds since the dissolution of the USSR and its Red Army. On Army Day 1993, thousands of hard-line Communists and nationalists, as well as disgruntled military officers, took to Moscow’s streets to vent their anger at the Yeltsin government. Then Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi lobbied for the rehabilitation of the Soviet military legacy, while President Yeltsin argued that Russia had no enemies and that the country needed a small, mobile, and highly professional army. Yeltsin also criticized nationalist groups that confused "national arrogance and haughtiness" with love of country.

Army Day 1994 was less tumultuous but more momentous. The nationalist-minded parliament voted into office in December 1993 chose that day to amnesty the leaders of both the August 1991 coup and the October 1993 parliamentary uprising crushed by government forces. Finally, Army Day 1995 saw thousands of Communist and nationalist supporters back in Moscow’s streets chanting anti-presidential and anti-government slogans. Among those who addressed the demonstration was Gennady Zyuganov, currently leading in Russian presidential polls. In his own remarks to the troops in 1995, Defense Minister Grachev declared that Russia’s armed forces had "entirely fulfilled" their duty in the then two-month old war in Chechnya. Boris Yeltsin vowed that the coming year would see a major push in military reform to save Russia’s "crumbling" army.

Kwasniewski to Lobby for NATO Expansion in Moscow.