Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 109

Seleznev also told reporters that three Duma committees are now working jointly with the government on drafting a law on Russia’s strategic forces. He said that the law would offer a blueprint for the strategic forces’ development and must likewise provide for their financing. Seleznev pointed to financing problems related to Russia’s conventional forces as well, saying that budget sequestrations of defense and procurement spending must stop. The Duma speaker suggested that the army’s financing is a higher priority for lawmakers than the START II treaty. “We will talk about other matters only when the government takes very concrete steps in order to avoid a complete destruction of our defense and the army as a whole,” he said. (Itar-Tass, June 5)

Seleznev’s remarks suggest that communists and nationalists in Russia’s Duma may be angling for a deal whereby they trade START II ratification for a greater say in more general defense policies. The lawmakers’ demands in such a case might include higher levels of spending for both Russia’s conventional and strategic forces. They might also include a related call for a change of course in the Kremlin’s plans for military reform. Political opponents of Yeltsin have criticized the Kremlin’s current plans for downsizing and restructuring the country’s conventional forces. These policies, they say, are endangering the country’s security and they cannot consider ratification of START II until their concerns in this area are allayed.

Beyond their implications for defense policy itself, Seleznev’s remarks might also indicate a broader political strategy. A slow-down or reversal of planned defense personnel reductions, together with an increase in defense–and especially procurement–spending, would appeal to a powerful constituency in Russia. It is a constituency including servicemen from Russia’s armed forces and other security structures, as well as the millions connected directly or indirectly with the country’s vast–and failing–defense industrial complex.