The director of Russia’s Federal Border Forces (FBS) complains in a recent article that funding shortfalls have decimated his service’s military technical base and imperiled Russia’s national security. According to Gen. Andrei Nikolayev, the FBS current owes creditors some 733.5 billion rubles, and yet expects to receive only 38 percent of what it had requested from the 1997 state budget. He also claims that funding shortfalls for weapons procurement have precluded the FBS from replacing aging hardware. The resulting deficit of ships, planes, helicopters, and radar equipment, Nikolayev says, has left the FBS unable to defend properly large portions of the Russian border.
Nikolayev’s complaints come amid a bruising budget battle in Moscow and follow charges from Russia’s military leadership that the direction of scarce government funding to the nation’s other "power structures" — the FBS included — has left the regular army destitute. This financial argument has been accompanied by the assertion that, in order to ensure Russia’s national security, the army should be given pride of place in formulating defense spending priorities.
Not surprisingly, Nikolayev paints a different picture. He suggests that, in the wake of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, the FBS is now in many regards the country’s first and chief line of defense. The FBS director claims that Russia’s "natural resources are being ruthlessly plundered in the Okhotsk and Bering Seas, as well as in the Sea of Japan." More to the point, Nikolayev describes Russia’s borders as "the testing grounds for probing the country’s defense and economic potentials," and chides the military leadership for drafting concepts of future wars while "the border guards are already fighting." His remarks suggest that the FBS will fight well-publicized Defense Ministry efforts to win a redirection of state funding to the regular army from the other power ministries, and to force upon those other ministries manpower reductions on a scale equal to those being planned by the army. (Rossiiskie vesti, November 6. See also Monitor, August 26, September 19)
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