Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 153

While still failing to reveal in detail his views on a number of the Russian army’s most intractable problems, newly-appointed Minister of Defense Igor Rodionov has begun in a series of recent interviews to flesh out the principles that will apparently guide his efforts to rebuild Russia’s tattered military machine. In a fashion very different from his predecessor, he has seemingly managed also to link those principles in a reasonable fashion to Russia’s currently weakened economic and geostrategic position. Thus, Rodionov has repeatedly declared that Russia would prioritize maintenance of its still-robust strategic nuclear forces as the nation’s primary military deterrent, while making increasingly clear that Moscow’s conventional forces face additional reductions. In moving towards what he — and Boris Yeltsin — have described as a "compact, mobile, well-trained and well-equipped army," Rodionov has specified that Russia can maintain only 12 full-strength and battle-ready divisions and that reductions — albeit of varying sizes — will be made in all of Russia’s service branches. Rodionov suggests that this smaller army will be able to repel an initial attack, and that the country would rely on mobilization of its vast human resource base for subsequent military actions.

Indeed, while pointing in an earlier interview to significant potential military threats around Russia’s entire perimeter, Rodionov nevertheless implied that he views the current international environment as being stable enough to permit Russia a breathing space to pursue economic and military reconstruction. (See Monitor, August 1) That longer-term perspective may explain his relative equanimity with regard not only to force reductions, but also to Russian procurement policy. In a more recent interview Rodionov declared that "it is better to postpone rearmament for ten years and then to supply the armed forces with 21st-century weapons and equipment." Russia’s military-industrial complex could survive financially during this period through increased foreign arms sales, he added. That same relative equanimity was also evident in his remarks on NATO enlargement. While Rodionov made clear that he opposed the alliance’s plans and that Russia would take adequate measures in response, he also spoke of Moscow shedding its "megalomania" and of pursuing a policy of cooperation with NATO and the West.

Given his emphasis on the Defense Ministry’s current financial constraints, it is difficult to say whether Rodionov is committed to Yeltsin’s professed goal of creating an all-volunteer army by the year 2000. Rodionov has spoken of that transition as an expensive one, and deflected the issue to some extent by praising Yeltsin for at least having provided the army with a long-term goal. In more pragmatic terms, Rodionov complained recently of government funding delays to the army, and said that the money earmarked in 1996 for salaries will carry military personnel only through the first eight months of the year. According to Rodionov, that issue, and the related one of scarce state funding being devoted to expansion of Russia’s other "power ministries," is to be discussed at an upcoming meeting of the nation’s Security Council. The outcome of that last discussion will say much about the current "correlation of forces" in the Kremlin. (Moscow News, August 11-18; Interfax, August 16 & 19)

Rokhlin Warns of Discontent in the Army.