Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 143

Russian defense minister Igor Sergeev admitted in an interview published yesterday by Izvestia that there is considerable opposition within Russia’s military leadership to the government’s emerging defense reform program. Sergeev said that dissatisfaction with the reforms is centered in the country’s Defense Ministry apparatus, which is slated to undergo severe personnel reductions as part of the broader effort both to slim down the army and to cut defense costs. Sergeev also made clear his awareness of the military bureaucracy’s ability to block the implementation of even well-conceived defense reform plans, and he suggested that he would turn for support to middle-ranking and younger officers in an effort to outflank the central bureaucracy. (Russian agencies, July 22)

The ultimate success of the military reform plan may well hinge, at least in part, on Sergeev’s ability to do just that. The program is already being sharply criticized by Communist and nationalist forces outside of the army, and it is incumbent upon Russia’s new defense leadership to convince younger officers — who undoubtedly harbor their own resentments toward the military’s bloated bureaucracy — that the reform plan will ultimately redound to their benefit. Promises by the military and political leadership not only to pay off wage arrears by September 1 of this year, but also to raise officers’ compensation over the longer term, are clearly aimed at winning the support of this group of servicemen. With this same goal in mind, Sergeev said on July 19 that he would ask the Russian president to make a special radio address to the country’s military forces in order to "secure the support of the reform course by the middle layer of the officer corps." (Itar-Tass, July 19, 22) What remains unclear, however, is whether the government’s abysmal failure over a number of years to launch a credible military reform effort has created an insurmountable barrier of cynicism and disillusionment among military personnel.

Navy Personnel Changes Confirmed.