Recently-named Russian defense minister Igor Rodionov has thus far advanced no comprehensive blueprint for military reform, but his public remarks since being appointed may shed some light on his priorities. Rodionov has intimated that he views the current period, characterized by internal Russian weakness and a relatively benign international environment, as a breathing-space during which Russia can strengthen itself internally and prepare the way for its eventual reemergence as, at the least, a dominant regional power. "It is very important that at present Russia maintains normal relations with the overwhelming majority of world states," Rodionov has said, because "this gives us a chance to restore order in our own house, raise the country’s defense level to that required in the present day, and organize the integration processes within the CIS." (Krasnaya zvezda, July 25)
With this imperative in mind, Rodionov is apparently ready to endorse further reductions in the size of the armed forces, possibly to under the current level of 1.5 million men. (NTV, July 28) Rodionov appears also to have accepted the related requirement to eliminate many of the Russian military’s understaffed "paper" units and to concentrate their personnel and equipment in a smaller number (probably 10-15) of battle-ready divisions. In more concrete terms, Rodionov has been described as backing the development of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces, maintaining the military’s existing five-service branch structure, and increasing the General Staff’s role both in the operational command over the armed forces and in the army’s restructuring. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 18) He has spoken on several occasions of the need to increase Russia’s naval strength. (Krasnaya zvezda, July 25; Interfax, July 27)
But Rodionov had also made statements that belie his implied readiness to accept a leaner military for the short-term good of the economy. He recently said that a good army cannot be maintained "cheaply" and that an all-volunteer professional army would be especially expensive. Indeed, his commitment to the all-volunteer force remains questionable. Rodionov has also taken a darker view of emerging threats along Russia’s periphery, warning against NATO enlargement in Europe, instability in Tajikistan and throughout the Caucasus, and the prevalence of revanchism in Asia. (Krasnaya zvezda, July 25) Rodionov remains, in other words, a question mark, in terms of his future role both in Russian domestic politics and as an influence on Russian foreign and security policies.
The Accuser Accused.