Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 43

The big winner in the latest Russian government reshuffle was Andrei Kokoshin, a civilian defense intellectual who had originally made his reputation as a "new thinker" during the Gorbachev period. Kokoshin, named yesterday to the powerful post of Security Council secretary, had been serving since last summer as both Defense Council secretary and as Russia’s state military inspector. He succeeds Ivan Rybkin in the Security Council post.

For Kokoshin, as for the Security Council itself, yesterday’s announcement appears to represent something of a comeback. When Russia announced the creation of its own armed forces in the spring of 1992, Kokoshin and General Pavel Grachev were initially named co-defense ministers of the new army. Reformers quickly lost ground in the Russian defense establishment, however, and Grachev was soon elevated to the top post while Kokoshin was relegated to the position of first deputy defense minister with responsibilities for military-technical policy. The lone civilian in the Defense Ministry hierarchy, Kokoshin remained in that post from 1992 to 1997. During that period he was mentioned regularly as a possible replacement for the much-maligned Grachev. In fact, however, many in the defense establishment described Kokoshin as a civilian figurehead, meant to impress the West, but with little real power.

Kokoshin’s influence, however, seemed to grow during the period of instability that followed Grachev’s departure from the Defense Ministry post in June of 1996. During that time a sharp division arose. On the one side were the hard-liners who opposed plans for reducing and restructuring the armed forces. On the other were those who backed the Kremlin’s efforts to push such changes through. Newly named Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov emerged ultimately as the leader of the first group, which included many in the military establishment. Then Defense Council Secretary Yury Baturin, a civilian, headed the pro-reform group. Kokoshin, a reformer more palatable to the generals than Baturin, was named to replace Baturin as Defense Council secretary in August of 1997. By then, Rodionov had been dumped and a new general more sympathetic to the Kremlin’s reform program — Strategic Rocket Forces commander Igor Sergeev — had been named defense minister. Kokoshin was simultaneously named to the newly created post of chief military inspector.

In the arcane world of Kremlin politics, formal authority rarely translates automatically into real political clout. Kokoshin’s influence, therefore, will ultimately depend less on his occupation of the Security Council secretary post than on the support that he gets from the Russian president. That support is likely to be based in part on Kokoshin’s ability to push the Kremlin’s still ragged military reform plan on an increasingly truculent officer corps. He will probably also be given the equally formidable task of moving Russia’s other "power structures" along a parallel path of reform. Those agencies are unlikely to accept reductions and restructuring with any more enthusiasm than have Russia’s regular armed forced forces.

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