Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 157

In a sign of rising tension between Russia’s regular armed forces and both the Finance Ministry and the nation’s other "power" agencies, Russia’s defense minister complained on August 23 that the army is getting short-changed in this year’s budget battle while scarce resources are being wasted on "parallel" military structures. According to Igor Rodionov, appointed in mid-July to the Defense Ministry post and expressly tasked with launching radical military reform, the High Command’s "painstaking calculations" of the army’s most pressing needs have been ignored by government planners responsible for drafting the 1997 state budget. Their niggardliness toward the armed forces, Rodionov implied, will undermine plans for the broad-based re-equipping of the armed forces and their transformation into a force capable of guaranteeing Russia’s security into the next century.

Rodionov pointed with particular exasperation to the growth of those military formations not subordinated to the Defense Ministry, calling them "parallel armies" whose separate networks of command, logistical, and training structures duplicate those of the regular military. With one eye clearly on recent developments in Chechnya, Rodionov also charged that these non-Defense Ministry forces have proven ineffective, and he suggested that their budgets were the obvious place from which to draw increased funding for the regular army. (Reuter, Interfax, Itar-Tass, August 23) That view, not surprisingly, dovetails with Rodionov’s long-held belief that "military reform" must encompass not only the army, but Russia’s vast complex of defense and security related structures, and that the Defense Ministry should play the leading role in a reformed defense establishment.

Rodionov’s complaints followed a recommendation to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, issued by Russia’s Security Council and made public on August 22, criticizing the Finance Ministry for allocating to the armed forces only 100.8 trillion rubles ($19 billion) of the 260 trillion requested by the Defense Ministry. (The total draft state budget is reported to be 511 trillion rubles) The Council, headed by Rodionov’s political sponsor, Aleksandr Lebed, specified that the draft budget would provide only 43.6 percent of the army’s 1997 construction and maintenance costs, 36 percent of its procurement costs, and 19.7 percent of what it hoped to earmark for research. The recommendation reportedly urged a reworking of the budget in order to allocate more money to the defense sector. (Interfax, August 22)

The 1997 budget debate appears already to be reprising those of recent years, in which then Defense Minister Pavel Grachev complained endlessly about defense spending levels and warned of his inability to implement real military reform without greater funding. The ensuing contest will thus be of interest in part because it will provide some indication of the real political clout wielded by Lebed and Rodionov — seemingly stronger players than their predecessors. But this year’s budget debate is also of interest insofar as it follows a presidential campaign in which Boris Yeltsin promised greater funding to a number of military constituencies, and because it comes as a military humiliated by the war in Chechnya seems to be viewing low pay and poor living standards with increased disgruntlement.

Optimism on Russian START-2 Ratification.