In an interview with Russian TV yesterday, recently-named defense minister Igor Rodionov revealed that the actual strength of Russia’s armed forces today is about 1.5 million men and that further reductions could be imminent. Rodionov also suggested that Moscow lacks the financial wherewithal to fund the transition by the year 2000 to a fully volunteer force, as Boris Yeltsin had promised during the election campaign. He said that he would pursue corruption investigations launched earlier and that guilty military leaders would be punished.
In remarks that suggested Rodionov views reductions in military manpower as only a prelude to a subsequent reconstruction of Moscow’s military might, the new defense minister also staked out a hard-line position on European security. He suggested that, while Russia might not face a military threat from the West over the next 5-10 years, NATO’s continued existence and its plans to enlarge had to be interpreted by Moscow as a potential long-term threat. Connected to that, according to Rodionov, is the likelihood that economic and social upheaval in the next century could lead foreign powers to consider seizing Russia’s wealth of natural resources. (NTV, July 28)
THE BALTIC STATES