The Russian government’s interdepartmental commission for CIS affairs has approved recommendations to expand the training of officers and cadets from CIS member countries in Russian military schools. At a meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Bolshakov, the commission decided to increase the number of places set aside for CIS countries in Russian military schools, offer many of those places free of charge, apportion them to individual CIS countries in annual agreements, and finance the whole program from a special chapter in Russia’s state budget. The commission found officer training to be of "strategic importance to Russia" — needed in order to outbid western military academies — and indispensable for maintaining Russian arms sales to CIS countries. Col. General Vladimir Zhurbenko, deputy chief of staff of Russia’s armed forces responsible for international cooperation, reported to the commission that military schools under Defense Ministry and border troops are currently able to admit 1,000 students from CIS countries annually. (14)
In a document leaked to the press recently, the commission had criticized a Defense Ministry proposal to scale down the officer training program for CIS member countries. Such a move would prompt them to turn to the United States, west European countries, or Turkey for assistance and would also shrink the CIS market for Russian arms, the document warned. It called for expanding the program and reserving places for each CIS country in accordance with its political and military situation, as well as with Russian interests in that country. The Defense Ministry had complained that trainees from CIS countries are poorly educated, speak Russian poorly, and insist on observing religious rites. According to the Defense Ministry, some are so underpaid by their governments that they sometimes "commit criminal offenses out of extreme need." (15)
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