Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 157

On July 30 of this year, Russian President Boris Yeltsin approved a document setting out the fundamental principles–or concepts–of Russian military development to the year 2005. (See the Monitor, August 4) In a long interview granted on August 12 (Federal News Service, August 12), Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev called the document a “landmark” in Russia’s efforts to restructure its military establishment, and the beginning of a “new stage” in military reform. Sergeev also provided an overview of both what the armed forces had accomplished over the past year in terms of military reform, and what the July 30 document means in terms of future developments in Russia’s regular army and in the other security organs. Sergeev said that the July 30 blueprint had formalized the leading role of Russia’s regular armed forces in the country’s military reform effort. He suggested that the other “power structures”–that is, the Internal Affairs Ministry, the Federal Border Service and other security agencies–now face the sort of radical restructuring and downsizing that the armed forces have already undergone.

With regard to the Defense Ministry’s successes in the area of military reform to date, Sergeev highlighted the merging of the countries former Strategic Rocket Forces, Military Space Forces and Space Missile Defense Troops into a single new service branch: the Strategic Missile Troops. He pointed likewise to the merger of Russia’s Air Defense Troops with the Air Force. In addition, Sergeev said that the Ground Forces–the most troubled of Russia’s five former service branches–had become more compact and combat ready. He claimed that the armed forces as a whole are now closer to their optimal administrative structure, and that these positive organizational changes in the regular army had created the preconditions for the reform of Russia’s entire defense establishment.

This broader reform plan is reflected in a restructuring of the country’s military district system set out in the July 30 document. Previously, the regular armed forces had been organized into eight military districts, while the Federal Border Service and Interior Ministry troops had carried distinct structures of their own that were only partially integrated with the regular army. Now the eight military districts are to be reorganized into six military-administrative zones, in each of which all Russian military and security structures are to be integrated. In addition, both a centralized command structure and an integrated system for procuring military hardware and providing logistical support are to be created for all of Russia’s army and security forces, Sergeev said. Other reports (Kommersant-daily, July 1; Segodnya, August 5) have suggested that the Defense Ministry will be given responsibility for coordinating the procurement orders of all the military and security structures.

Sergeev also appeared to confirm what has now long been assumed: that the Russian government has put aside, for the time being, efforts to transform Russia’s army from a conscript force into an all-professional, volunteer one by the year 2000. Sergeev suggested that a scarcity of government funding was responsible for the delay. He also said that the Defense Ministry would make a greater effort to place those contract volunteers it does recruit into posts that will contribute directly to the readiness of armed forces units. He admitted that about two-thirds of Russia’s current contract soldiers are serving in support and service units.