Publication: Prism Volume: 1 Issue: 19

The Race for the Military Vote Heats Up

by Aleksandr Zhilin

Russian political parties and movements havebegun the contest for the army’s vote in the upcoming parliamentaryelections. With this goal in mind, parties across the politicalspectrum are including on their election lists military generalswho are able to exert any sort of influence over the militaryelectorate. Strikingly, both right-wing and left-wing politicalparties are recruiting into their ranks military leaders who opposePavel Grachev, the minister of defense, whose popularity amongofficers leaves much to be desired. Only one leading politicianhas placed his bets on Grachev — the defense minister’s covertally, Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

And based on materials which have come into my possession, the Defense Ministry itself is not standing idly by while thepolitical race heats up.

The Military Electorate

Today in the Russian Federation there are approximately 110 millioncitizens who have the right to vote. According to calculationsof the Ministry of Defense, "almost 50 percent of the Russianelectorate is made up of voters, directly or indirectly linked,if it is possible to speak in this way, by a defense world-view,consisting of people directly or closely ‘related’ to the armyor the military-industrial complex. These people — and they numberover 40 million — today make up Russia’s military electorate,which is able to exert very serious influence on the results ofthe parliamentary and presidential elections."

Army analysts note that the military electorate has its ownspecific corporate psychology. One of the characteristics ofthis part of the electorate has been a traditionally high levelof voter turnout. These analysts emphasize that in the last fouryears, the military has never been in such a negative mood asit is today. It is predicted that "the army will take revengeon the present authorities, the president, and the governmentfor their pitiful situation, made even worse by the war in Chechnya."

At the beginning of this year, polls examining the attitudesof army personnel towards various politicians were conducted regularly.There was a special entity, run by military sociologists and psychologists, which was responsible for conducting these polls.(Afterleaks to the press of the results of this polling, the entitywas disbanded.)

A poll conducted by this group on March 20, 1995 showed thatamong the Russian military, the politicians were ranked:

Vladimir Zhirinovsky 15.6 %

Viktor Chernomyrdin 14.6 %

Gennady Zyuganov 14.2 %

Mikhail Lapshin 10.3 %

Boris Yeltsin 9.8 %

Vladimir Shumeiko 8.7 %

Aleksandr Rutskoi 7.4 %

Gennady Yavlinsky 6.6 %

Ivan Rybkin 6.5 %

Yegor Gaidar 6.3 %

In the General Staff’s analytical service’s commentaries on thesenumbers, it was said that the mood of the armed forces indicatesthat they are edging closer and closer towards the national-patrioticforces. In the army, the conviction is getting stronger that theprobability of these forces winning the election is quite high.

The Ministry of Defense and the Elections

In order to influence opinions among the military establishments,the Ministry of Defense is now actively using materials on thevoting records of political factions on military questions forpropaganda purposes. For instance, the publication titled "Resultsof Duma Faction Voting For Changes in the April 7, 1995 MilitaryConscription Law" provides the following summary of votescast:

Democratic Party of Russia – 0% "for"

Yabloko – 0% "for"

"Women of Russia" – 4% "for"

"Russia’s Choice" – 5% "for"

Non-fraction deputies – 33% "for"

Party of Russian Unity and Accord – 40% "for"

"Russia" – 42% "for"

"New Regional Policy" – 64% "for"

"Stability" – 80% "for"

"Russian Way" – 81% "for"

APR – 84% "for"

Communist Party (KPRF) – 93% "for"

LDPR – 94% "for"

Derzhava -100% "for"

The Defense Ministry’s commentary on these numbers is quite striking:"If you add up all these percentages, the results are extremelyeloquent: the centrists and national-patriots beat the democratsby a score of 711:9! And this is not just the score in the battlefor the amendment to the military conscription law. It is, inessence, a victory on the question of who wants the Russian armyto be strong, and who doesn’t."

On February 28, 1995, the President signed Order No. 228 "Onthe Special Program to Increase the Civic Awareness of Both Votersand Election Organizers in the Russian Federation." On thebasis of this Order, the Minister of Defense issued DirectiveNo. 11 "On Increasing the Civic Awareness of Voters and ElectionOrganizers in the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces." Inthis document, there is a most interesting point: "…2.The Head of the Chief Administration of the Military Budget andFinance of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation [isinstructed] to demand funds from the Central Election Commissionof the Russian Federation to carry out the special program toincrease civic awareness of both voters and election organizersin the Russian Federation’s armed forces and the participationof armed forces voters in elections and referenda."[emphasisadded]

In other words, the Ministry of Defense has "election money"at its disposal, and is forming the "election culture"of servicemen in its own interests.

Military analysts think that the Minister of Defense is tryingto organize the elections "by command from above." Notlong ago, the Ministry of Defense increased the number of closedelectoral precincts where they would exercise control. Expertslinked this with an attempt on Grachev’s part to increase pressureon military voters, and failing that, to "regulate"the vote count afterwards. (It was Stalin who said that it wasnot important who voted or how, but who and how the votes wouldbe counted.) But strikingly, the Defense Ministry has now changedits tactic. Grachev now opposes the plan to have military personnelvote in closed precincts. He is now taking the opposite approach,trying to make sure that as many military men as possible votein open electoral districts. Analysts think the reason for thechange in policy is the following: if the military personnelvote alongside civilians, it will be possible to conceal thenumbers which reveal for whom the army voted. This will allowGrachev, who has formed an alliance with Zhirinovsky, to escaperesponsibility for the army’s support of the LDPR. If the militaryvotes are not verifiable, (as they would be in closed precincts),the Minister of Defense cannot be held accountable by the president,who has openly said that Zhirinovsky has to be restrained.

The Military’s Sympathies and Antipathies

A poll of about 3,000 servicemen, conducted in the summer of1995, shows that only six percent of those polled gave the presidenta positive approval rating, compared with nine percent for the[Chernomyrdin] government, and fifteen percent for the nationallegislature.

If the elections had been held in the summer of 1995, accordingto military pollsters’ data, the Liberal Democratic and Communistparties, and their national-patriotic allies, the Rutskoi-ists,would "swallow up" up to 30 million of the militaryelectorate.

Not long ago, the defense ministry held a probe of military sympathiesand antipathies in the Leningrad Military District. Here are itsresults:

Senior officers:

Communists — 21.9 percent

Congress of Russian Communities — 16 percent

Only for military candidates — 25 percent

Won’t vote — 32.4 percent

"Russia is Our Home" — 4 percent

Junior officers:

LDPR — 16.2 percent

Congress of Russian Communities — 12.2 percent

Only for military candidates — 25 percent

Won’t vote — 38 percent

"Russia is Our Home" — 4 percent

Yabloko — 10 percent

Warrant Officers:

Congress of Russian Communities — 15 percent

Yabloko — 10 percent

Party of Russian Unity and Accord [PRES] — 10 percent

"Russia is Our Home" — 0 percent

Only for military candidates — 22 percent

Won’t vote — 40 percent


Communists — 9 percent

Russia’s Democratic Choice — 6 percent

Only for military candidates — 12 percent

Won’t vote — 25 percent

Total (by percent)

Would vote only for military candidates — 44 percent

Won’t vote — 20 percent

LDPR — 13.5 percent

Congress of Russian Communities — 9.8 percent

Yabloko — 4.7 percent

"Russia is Our Home" — 2.8 percent

The negative attitude of military men to the "party of power,"in the opinion of army analysts, is a result of the followingfactors:

1. Military spending has been sharply reduced, which has ledto irreversible consequences in troop readiness and national security. Just 30 percent of all military training plans are fulfilled,which leads to the army’s further professional degradation. Thetroops’ material-technical supply level has never been as lowas in 1993-1995. The military reform failed due to a shortageof funds.

2. Strength levels in the army have declined to the crisis point,and the amendments to the draft law adopted on the government’sinitiative have only improved the problem by 8 to 10 percent.The attempt to introduce contract service turned out to be nothingbut a long shot due to a shortage of funds. The drain of officersfrom the army continues. From 1992 to 1995, about 400,000 promisingofficers left the army, more than half of whom were under 30 yearsold.

3. The housing problem has gotten even worse. The number of servicemenwithout housing has grown to 250-260,000. The waiting time fornew housing has increased from two to five or six years on theaverage. No improvements are in sight.

4. The problem of rearmament has reached catastrophic proportions.Virtually throughout the Armed Forces, the level of introductionof new weapons systems and military technology has dropped to20 percent, while in the USA it is at the 60 percent mark andcontinues to rise. Almost all the rearmament programs which hadbeen started have now been cut off. The drastic reduction in thescale of scientific research and construction work funding hasled to the point where Russia now lags 10 to 15 years behind theleading NATO countries.

5. The military-industrial complex has gone into decline. Incidentally,steps to cut off the production of submarines, fighter planes,and other weapons were initiated by the Prime Minister himself.

6. Due to the unfair approach of the government towards maintainingthe prestige of military service, the drain of servicemen intothe other power structures — the MVD, the FSB, the Border Guards,where servicemen’s salaries are noticeably higher — continues.

Will Soldiers Salute Zhirinovsky?

The General Staff’s analysts think that Zhirinovsky is againwinning the sympathies of servicemen. He counts on gaining evenmore resounding success among the armed forces in the coming presidentialand parliamentary elections, than he did in the last election.Zhirinovsky is the only one of Russia’s better-known politicianswho began his 1995 election campaign in the armed forces immediatelyafter winning a place in the new parliament in the December 1993election.

In the interim, Zhirinovsky has undergone a strange metamorphosis.At first, knowing servicemen’s negative attitudes towards theminister of defense, he actively fought to remove Pavel Grachevfrom his post. Later he sharply changed his tactics and becamethe defense minister’s most ardent supporter. Sources in the GeneralStaff maintain that Zhirinovsky and Grachev have agreed to workin tandem, without officially advertising their collaboration.

There are many curious factors in the relations between Zhirinovskyand the army: Zhirinovsky regularly receives Grachev’s congratulationson his birthday. The LDPR leader has received, on Grachev’s orders,the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, skipping the rank of Major. Grachevresponded to the LDPR chief’s request to allow a plenipotentiaryDefense Ministry representative to accompany his delegation onits planned trip to Yugoslavia. In return, Zhirinovsky has supportedGrachev’s actions in Chechnya. Zhirinovsky is the only politicianto have congratulated Air Force pilots on their successful bombingof Afghan bands on the Tajik border.

Zhirinovsky sent the Ministry of Defense an "Appeal of theChairman of the Liberal Democratic Party to the Personnel of theRussian Federation’s Armed Forces," the most important sectionsof which are excerpted below:

"Soldiers of Russia!

In full awareness of the role and responsibility of the Russianarmed forces in securing the sovereignty, independence, and territorialintegrity of our Motherland, considering them to be the most importantinstitution in the existing political system, I turn to the personnelof the army and fleet to tell them of the first measures whichI intend to carry out after my victory in the presidential elections.

1. In the course of one year, the disgraceful housing shortagefor junior officers will be liquidated once and for all. The fundsnecessary for this will be secured by the immediate introductionof a state monopoly on the export of all strategic raw materials:oil, gas, metals, precious stones….

2. The salaries of servicemen will be raised significantly– by three to five times — and its average level will be ofa sum equivalent to 600-700 US dollars. The source for coveringthese expenses will be the introduction of a federal tax on banks,stock exchanges, commercial structures and large private estates….

3. The officer corps will receive the right to carry weaponsfreely for the defense of themselves, their families, and citizensfrom criminal elements. Murder or attempted murder of servicemenin the performance of their military duties will be treated asa most serious crime against the state….

4. The privileges stipulated in the Russian Federation law"On the Status of Servicemen" will be completely realized.The pension age for officers discharged to the reserves will bereduced to 15 years of service. For 25 or more years of service,pensions will be paid at up to 100 percent of the salaries ofsenior and junior officers.

5. The poorly-thought out reduction in the strength of thearmy and fleet, and the withdrawal of Russian forces from theformer republics of the USSR, will be stopped. Any armed provocationagainst Russian garrisons on the part of local national-separatistswill be seen as an attack on the Russian Federation, with allof the consequences flowing therefrom.

6. Harsh economic sanctions will be applied to guarantee thatthe rights of the Russian population and military pensioners inthe [former Soviet] republics are respected.

7. By widening the Russia’s military and technical cooperationwith allies and friendly countries, hundreds and thousands ofofficers and warrant officers will be able to see the world andsignificantly increase their material prosperity.

8. Eduard Shevardnadze and Mikhail Gorbachev, as the mainguilty parties in the capitulationist withdrawal of the Sovietarmy from the countries of Eastern Europe, which led to the disintegrationof the postwar security system on the European continent, mustreceive their deserved punishment….

V. Zhirinovsky"

This appeal successfully touches on all of the sore spots ofactive-duty and retired servicemen, and catches their professionaland patriotic mood. Some points in the appeal could appear tosome people excessively populist. But taking into account themarked lumpenization of the army, the appeal, in its essence anddirection, responds to the army’s basic desires and will thereforebe favorably received.

Memories of the 1993 parliamentary elections are still freshin everyone’s mind, in which the servicemen’s powerful supportfor Zhirinovsky was one of the sensations. The analysts of theGeneral Staff think that the LDPR’s chances of victory this yearare quite high. The main reason, they explain, is the army’s growingdissatisfaction with the present government.

How Many Military Men Will Vote for Rutskoi’s "Derzhava"?

Former vice-president Aleksandr Rutskoi is ever more loudly remindingmilitary men of his existence. He is the chairman of the recentlycreated Derzhava movement, in whose ranks are tens of thousandsof representatives of the military electorate.

The deputy chairman of the Dezhava social-patriotic movement,Duma deputy Viktor Kobelev, said that there are 1,200,000 peoplein the movement. The Derzhava leadership has already succeededin making campaign trips through 47 regions of Russia, and ineach of them, Rutskoi had meetings with military men and membersof their families.

Derzhava’s main competitors in the struggle for the armyvote will be the Communist Party and the LDPR — all of whom,according to the results of recent polls, have approximately equalchances of winning the sympathies of military men. But severalmilitary experts think that Rutskoi’s movement will succeed inamassing more votes than Zyuganov’s and Zhirinovsky’s parties– due to Russian instinctive sympathy for the underdog. Accordingto several pollsters’ estimates, Derzhava can count on26 to 28 percent of the vote of the military electorate.

The means by which Rutskoi intends to restore the empire arevery similar to Zhirinovsky’s: "We’ll cut off their gas,their electricity, and in two months, the former republics ofthe USSR will crawl back to us on their hands and knees!"

Speaking on television at the end of August, Rutskoi noted: "I’mashamed to listen to Zyuganov, Yavlinsky, Zhirinovsky, Rybkin,and Gaidar."

Nevertheless, Rutskoi is not saying anything new, and remainssimply one of a long line of banal populists. It is not likelythat his authority in the army could climb sharply.

The Congress of Russian Communities (KRO)

After Aleksandr Lebed joined this political movement, the authorityof the KRO in the armed forces grew sharply. The Congress of RussianCommunities counts on receiving 15 to 20 percent of the vote inthe coming Duma elections. Its deputy chairman, Aleksandr Lebed,announced this in the middle of July in St. Petersburg. He considersthe Democratic Party of Russia and the Union of Industrialistsand Manufacturers to be his allies.

KRO Chairman Skokov, on his movement’s program:

"For us, the Duma elections are not a goal in themselves,but only a means of creating a normal state in Russia, in whichthe government would be controlled by the voters. At the presenttime, the material potential that has been saved up by law-abidingcitizens is being eaten away."

Lebed, on the KRO’s policy of forming alliances:

"Fascists, national extremists, or radical democrats areunacceptable to us."

In the words of Skokov and Lebed, [their movement] seeks to cometo power only by legal means, and will support only common senseat all levels, including the establishment of "real democracy."

The analysts of the General Staff say that the Lebed-Skokov tandemcan win over not only the support of a formerly predominantlypassive part of the electorate, but could also squeeze the communistsand national-patriots out of their traditional positions.

These are the military researchers’ conceptions of the politicalsympathies and antipathies of the army. I will add only that allthis material was constructed exclusively on the basis of theresearch of the General Staff and the Ministry of Defense. Timewill tell whether the predictions of these military analysts willcome true. Not everyone finds this research to be completely persuasive.

Aleksandr Zhilin is the National Security Editor for the Weekly"Moskovskie novosti."