In addition to using Russia’s February 23 military holiday to launch a Cold War style verbal attack on the West (see Monitor, February 24), Russian defense minister Igor Rodionov also took the opportunity to assail Defense Council secretary Yuri Baturin. In an inflammatory speech to Russian veterans, Rodionov accused Russia’s "democrats" of having deliberately destroyed the army. He appeared to include Baturin in that accusation, and also charged that Baturin had understated to the Kremlin and the Russian public the crisis in the country’s armed forces. According to several media reports, Rodionov demanded Baturin’s resignation and called for a radical downgrading in the authority of the Defense Council. Rodionov intimated, moreover, that Russia’s president and prime minister had taken heed of warnings from the Defense Ministry and General Staff, and had given their support to a military reform program drafted by those institutions over one prepared by Baturin’s Defense Council. (Radio Russia, NTV, Itar-Tass, February 23; Kommersant-daily, February 25)
Russian media have long carried reports of tensions between Rodionov and Baturin, and on February 7 the two conducted a joint press conference — reportedly at Yeltsin’s behest — aimed at making a show of amity. But Rodionov appears to have become emboldened since a February 17 meeting with the Russian president, after which Yeltsin gave him a strong, public vote of confidence. (See Monitor, February 11 & 8) Rodionov’s February 23 remarks suggest that Russia’s military reform debate will remain highly politicized, and that Yeltsin may be forced to choose between his defense minister and Defense Council secretary.
Assurances that Strategic Nuclear Forces Are Under Control.