Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 228

Russia’s Duma on December 4 unanimously approved an appeal to the president and government urging an acceleration of military reform efforts. The appeal was based on the results of a series of parliamentary hearings on defense reform held in July of this year, and was approved on the same day that Defense Minister Igor Rodionov declined an invitation to address the Duma on that subject. (See Monitor, December 5) In the appeal, the Duma deputies recommended that Boris Yeltsin create a federal department to oversee the implementation of military reform, and that this new department be tasked with drawing up guidelines that will shape the military reform effort to the year 2005. The Duma document also urged that annual defense spending be raised to at least five percent of GDP (it is currently just under four percent), and it recommended that priority funding be directed toward maintaining Russia’s nuclear deterrent and dealing with local conflicts. (Interfax, December 4)

Duma Defense Committee chairman Lev Rokhlin has been the main driving force behind the legislators’ efforts to influence defense policy, and the call for a new federal department to oversee military reform is one that he has voiced in the past. Boris Yeltsin rejected an earlier draft law that would have established such an agency, and in July created instead the Defense Council. It is subordinated to the president’s office and, nominally at least, already fulfills the functions envisioned for the Duma’s proposed federal agency.

Rokhlin also insinuated himself into another major civil-military issue yesterday when he announced his support for Defense Minister Igor Rodionov’s controversial decision to sack Ground Forces commander-in-chief Vladimir Semenov. (See Monitor, December 3-4) But Rokhlin did not base his opinion on the corruption charges that purportedly underlay Rodionov’s decision. Instead, he referred to what he said was Semenov’s failure to properly prepare Russian Ground Forces for the war in Chechnya. Whatever the merit of that charge, Rokhlin seemed to be on dubious moral and legal ground, both for failing to condemn Rodionov’s still unsubstantiated accusations of corruption against Semenov, and for stating — contrary to the law — that Rodionov was correct in sacking Semenov without waiting for presidential approval. (Itar-Tass, December 5)

Some Retired Generals Call for End to Nuclear Arms.