A Communist party parliamentary leader yesterday stepped up his criticism of Boris Yeltsin’s May 16 decree ending conscription by the year 2000. Viktor Ilyukhin, head of the Duma Security Committee, described the decree as a "populist document that violates the constitution and Russian laws." He also charged that the transition to an all-volunteer force of contract professionals would require huge amounts of additional defense spending and would, in any event, be impossible to carry out by the year 2000. Ilyukhin also suggested that Yeltsin be more circumspect "in burdening the future president with such promises." (Interfax, May 20)
Meanwhile, an unlikely pair of Russian generals moved to defend the president’s actions. Unpopular Minister of Pavel Defense Grachev swallowed his past opposition to an all-volunteer military force yesterday and described the decrees as timely and necessary. Following a meeting with the top brass at which implementation of the decrees was discussed, Grachev said there would be no hesitation among military commanders in carrying them out. He also said that Yeltsin would pursue "in-depth" military reform during his next term. The man rumored of late to be a replacement for Grachev also praised the decrees yesterday. Duma deputy and former deputy defense minister Boris Gromov said that they provided a splendid opportunity to raise the army’s combat capabilities. He dismissed speculation that the decrees — likely to be very popular among Russian voters — were merely a reelection ploy. (Interfax & Itar-Tass, May 20)
Real Military Reform or Election Ploy?