Russian first deputy defense minister Andrei Kokoshin, the lone civilian in the upper echelons of Russia’s military hierarchy, has just returned to Moscow from any inspection visit to the Leningrad Military District. In remarks made yesterday to the press, Kokoshin suggested that the primary reason for his visit was to conduct an assessment of the actual numerical strength of military and civilian personnel attached to the various services in the district. Kokoshin said that, on the orders of recently named Defense Minister Igor Sergeev, a similar accounting of personnel will be conducted throughout the Russian armed forces as a whole. Kokoshin made clear that previous efforts to determine the number of Russian military personnel had met with great resistance within the armed forces. He also said that his work in the Leningrad Military District had proven that the army has "considerable reserves which can be drawn on during the army’s reform." (Itar-Tass, June 9)
Kokoshin’s remarks raise two key points. The first is that Russia’s political and military leadership still do not know how many men they have in uniform, knowledge that is essential on the eve of planned manpower reductions. Deliberate obfuscation of this figure has served to justify Defense Ministry requests for larger budgets, while also making more difficult efforts to cut undermanned or redundant military units. Ignorance of manpower levels and distribution has also contributed to widespread corruption in the Russian officers’ ranks. Kokoshin’s reference to potential financial "reserves," meanwhile, paraphrases a formula often used by Defense Council secretary Yuri Baturin, and suggests that the army will be asked to finance military reform by economizing internally rather than by being granted additional state funding.
Another Suicide in the Russian Military.