Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 133

Russia’s troubled armed forces suffered yet another public humiliation on July 10 when a newspaper reported that some 1,000 tons of dog food had been discovered at any army food depot near Moscow. According to the daily Kommersant, military prosecutors also discovered a number of additional irregularities, including butter, fish and other products that had been purchased after their shelf life had expired. When the prosecutors threatened to begin checking other military food depots throughout Russia, Kommersant said, the chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s food service submitted his resignation. (AP, July 10)

The July 10 report underscored yet again the extent to which corruption has spread throughout the Russian officer corps. It also was indicative of why Russian recruits continue to complain of abject living conditions on military bases, and why thousands of young men either avoid the military draft or go AWOL each year. The worst example of this sort of neglect took place on the Far Eastern island of Russky in 1994, when several navy conscripts died of starvation. Since then reports have appeared periodically claiming that some Russian soldiers continue to be undernourished.

The July 10 report also comes amid rising resentment among uniformed soldiers and civilian defense enterprise personnel over funding shortfalls and mounting wage and payment arrears. That resentment led thousands of civilian defense workers–and some of their uniformed counterparts–to take to the streets in last week’s antigovernment labor protests. The July 10 report, moreover, was published on the same day that Russian President Boris Yeltsin assured commanders from Russia’s regular army and other force ministries that the state would ensure sufficient financing for their most basic needs. The report illuminated the wide gap that continues to exist between the Kremlin’s funding promises and the often abject conditions that many uniformed military personnel face every day.