Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 213

More than a few discordant notes were struck over the past several days as civilian and military leaders huddled in Moscow to discuss the army’s financial crisis and military reform. During a second meeting of Russia’s recently created Defense Council on November 11, the heads of Russia’s various "power ministries" reportedly complained that the government has already fallen behind in its commitment, made just last month, to clear up wage and payment arrears to military personnel. In response, First Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Petrov pledged to the meeting’s participants that the entire wage debt to the armed forces would be repaid by November 15. (RTR, November 11)

But the meeting was more noteworthy for a sharp clash that occurred between Defense Council secretary Yuri Baturin and Defense Minister Igor Rodionov. While few details were available, differences reportedly arose because of Baturin’s efforts in recent weeks to force a reconsideration of a 1993 document on the fundamentals of Russia’s military doctrine. Baturin, whose views ultimately prevailed at the meeting, argued that the old document no longer provides sufficient guidance for Russian defense planners in coming to terms with changing geopolitical circumstances and the obvious weaknesses — s evidenced during the war in Chechnya — of Russia’s conventional forces. One Russian report suggested that Rodionov’s opposition to Baturin’s proposal was based less on any loyalty to the substance of the 1993 military doctrine than on the Defense Ministry’s unwillingness to cede control over military policy to the Defense Council and civilian defense experts. (RTR, ORT, November 11; Segodnya, November 12)

Harmony was in no greater evidence yesterday. In remarks covered by NTV, Rodionov told a meeting of military leaders that Russia’s armed forces "had reached a point beyond which any further lowering of their combat readiness could lead to unpredictable and catastrophic consequences." Rodionov also suggested that Russia’s "deepening economic crisis" and "social instability" had exacerbated readiness problems in the armed forces, and he warned that the nation could be caught unprepared if global or regional tensions worsened. (Reuter, Itar-Tass, November 12)

Rodionov’s alarmist remarks, which reflect both real problems in the army and an effort to influence the defense budget debate, were an inauspicious curtain raiser for Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who addressed a separate meeting of military leaders later in the day. Chernomyrdin told the officers that defense reductions are a painful but necessary means of ensuring the country’s security. The prime minister, who had chaired the previous day’s Defense Council meeting, also discussed the situation in the armed forces in a telephone conversation with President Boris Yeltsin yesterday. (Reuter, Itar-Tass, November 12)

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