The Russian government reportedly agreed on December 9 to raise projected military spending in 1999 to 3.1 percent of GDP. According to Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, the decision was made during a Russian cabinet meeting. A previous budget draft had reportedly set defense spending at 2.5 percent of GDP. That decision had provoked sharp criticism from Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev (AP, Russian agencies, December 9; see the Monitor, December 9). Russian legislation sets 3.5 percent of GDP as the minimum level of defense spending, and Sergeev and other defense officials have referred repeatedly to that figure in their complaints about funding shortfalls.
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, meanwhile, said in his own comments to the press on December 9 that the Russian defense budget in 1999 will, in fact, not be less than 3.5 percent of GDP (Itar-Tass, December 9). It was unclear why his and Maslyukov’s comments on the draft budget failed to coincide. It seems likely that the government’s decision to raise defense spending was intended not only to mollify irate military leaders, but also perhaps to nudge reluctant lawmakers into ratifying START II.
RUSSIAN LAWMAKERS CONTINUE TO NAYSAY START II RATIFICATION.