Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 113

Recently appointed Russian defense minister Gen. Igor Sergeev is beginning Russia’s military reform process with the part of the armed forces he knows best — the Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF). Yesterday the former SRF commander outlined some of the first steps he plans to take, and one of these involves the "optimization" of the SRF and the space troops. Although Sergeev only implied that the two services might be completely merged, he did specify that overlapping functions would be eliminated — such as by only having one military representative monitor defense contracts at the enterprises building both missiles and space launch vehicles. "We are returning to the time," he also said," when the rocket forces had their own [space] delivery vehicles department."

Military construction troops are to be another early target for reform. Sergeev called this complex "excessive" and said it would be "fundamentally reformed." Traditionally a dumping ground for below-standard conscripts, the construction troops have helped the military reduce its housing shortfall but have also all too often provided a source of cheap labor for other ministries and jurisdictions. Other cost cutting measures mentioned by Sergeev include reductions in the number of bases and depots and the selling off of unprofitable enterprises now run by the armed forces. He also plans to delay paying the relocation allowances given to retiring officers.

Sergeev met yesterday with President Boris Yeltsin, and the president’s press service indicated that Yeltsin had endorsed the new defense minister’s first reform efforts. This would suggest that Sergeev is getting the high-level access to the president that his predecessor lacked. In an interview soon after he was fired, former defense minister Igor Rodionov complained that he waited for more than a month to get a reply from Yeltsin and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to letters he had sent outlining his reform proposals. "I don’t think that the President had been shown the letter," he said, "and the copy sent to the premier was never found at all." (Interfax, June 9; Obshchaya gazeta, No. 21, May 29-June 4)

Russia’s Defense Council Expands Authority.