Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 153

In separate remarks made yesterday in Moscow that highlighted the many difficulties facing Rodionov, the Duma’s defense committee chairman warned that underfunding of the army was leading to a potentially explosive situation among military personnel. General Lev Rokhlin, who commanded Russian troops in Grozny in January of 1995 and who was in the news more recently for leveling a series of spectacular corruption charges against top military leaders (See Monitor, July 8-9), told reporters that Boris Yeltsin and the government needed to intervene immediately in the army’s affairs in order to defuse an increasingly critical situation there. According to Rokhlin, the government now owes the armed forces more than 15 trillion rubles, and the payments crisis, he said, has bred increasing resentment in the ranks. "The number of servicemen is growing who openly voice discontent over substandard material provisions…[and] there are cases of open protest and even of setting up strike committees," Rokhlin claimed. He also linked nearly 400 non-combat deaths in the army thus far this year to the military’s financial crisis, and said that nearly a third of those deaths were suicides. Rokhlin called for prompt payment of debts to the army, an upward revision of the military budget for the final quarter of 1996, and a commitment to fix the defense budget next year at a level not less than 5.1 percent of Russian GDP.

Charging that an absence of oversight was also responsible for the army’s problems, Rokhlin urged the creation of a single agency under the president’s leadership that would be responsible for coordinating the activity of all of Russia’s "power structures." A similar proposal had been contained in a defense bill drafted earlier by the Duma and sent to the Russian president, and, although it was rejected by Yeltsin as unconstitutional, supporters had hoped that either the Russian Security Council, led by Aleksandr Lebed, or the recently created Defense Council, would assume that role. Instead, Rokhlin complained, the authority of the Security Council has simply been dispersed between the two agencies, leaving the Defense, Interior, and other "power" ministries working all too often at cross-purposes. According to Rokhlin, last week’s conflict between Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed and Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov had been, at least in part, a consequence of this failure to consolidate control over the "power" ministries. (Interfax, Itar-Tass, August 19)

IMF Mission Said to be Broadly Satisfied with Russia’s Tax Progress.