By virtue of a decree issued on June 6 by President Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s Defense Council has been vested with authority over top personnel appointments in the armed forces and other troops. Defense Council secretary Yuri Baturin had earlier headed an agency — the Presidential Commission for Top Military Posts and Ranks — which carried out this same function. In an apparent bureaucratic setback for Baturin, however, that commission was dissolved in March of this year and responsibility for top military appointments was reported to have been transferred to the president’s personnel policy administration. (Kommersant-daily, March 11) The importance of power over key military appointments should not be underestimated. In October of 1996, Yeltsin’s decision to vest that authority in Baturin rather than in former Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed was an early indicator that Lebed’s days in the Kremlin might be numbered.
More recently, Baturin had been involved in a struggle for authority with former defense minister Igor Rodionov. But Yeltsin’s June 6 decree suggests that Baturin’s star is rising once again within the defense establishment. Baturin has been a proponent of far-reaching military reform and modest defense budgets. He clashed with Rodionov on that last point in particular, but all indications are that, at present at least, Baturin has a more congenial relationship with Rodionov’s successor, Gen. Igor Sergeev. Against this background, Yeltsin’s recent personnel changes atop the military hierarchy suggest that the military reform program beginning to emerge (see above item) will be closer to that drafted by Baturin and the Defense Council than to one produced by Rodionov and the Defense Ministry and General Staff.
The June 6 decree also contained provisions on the composition of two Defense Council commissions — one on military development and one on financing the armed forces. The first, to be headed by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, has been tasked with working out a near- and middle-term military reform program. The other will be chaired by First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais and will draft proposals aimed at stabilizing the army’s troubled financial situation. (Interfax, June 6)
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