Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 22

Indeed, Putin also moved over the past fortnight to launch what could become a major restructuring of Russia’s entire defense establishment. The creation of Rosoboroneksport appeared to be aimed not only at installing Putin’s own people in key slots atop what will be Russia’s main arms export company, but also to increase centralized Kremlin control over the lucrative and sprawling arms export sector as a whole. What was unclear was whether the move was entirely a political exercise, or whether it would actually improve the prospects for Russia’s beleaguered arms producers.

The Kremlin appeared also to finalize radical plans to cut the country’s armed forces by some 600,000. The move involved not only Russia’s regular army, but also the armed formations subordinated to the country’s myriad security ministries and civilian employees of both sectors. The regular army was nevertheless tabbed to absorb the brunt of the reductions; Russia’s land forces, navy, air force and strategic missile troops together are to shed some 365,000 personnel over the next five years, a plan which could generate considerable resentment within the officer corps. Many observers, meanwhile, speculated that the decision to restructure the arms export establishment and to begin military personnel reductions simultaneously was no coincidence. They pointed to the Kremlin’s unexpected decision to hand oversight of the arms export trade to the Defense Ministry, and suggested that Putin may be planning a move to civilianize the ministry and to enhance its authority. Against this background it was perhaps no surprise that Ivanov and Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov–who oversees defense industrial issues within the cabinet–were identified as possible candidates for the Defense Ministry post.