An incendiary letter from Gen. Lev Rokhlin, head of the Russian Duma’s Defense Committee, continued to reverberate this week, as Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin denounced the general for his actions while participants of a "Russia is Our Home" political meeting refused to allow Rokhlin near the rostrum. Russia’s latest brouhaha over the armed forces and military reform was triggered last week by a letter from Rokhlin that, among other things, blamed President Boris Yeltsin for the army’s disastrous state and called upon Russian officers to protest against the government’s defense policies. (See Monitor, June 26) Rokhlin is a member of the "Russia is Our Home" faction, and Chernomyrdin on June 30 blasted the Russian lawmaker for failing to consult with the movement’s leadership before issuing his appeal. More to the point, Chernomyrdin called Rokhlin’s letter a "great political mistake" and said that the general deserves to be punished for an action that Chernomyrdin implied could further exacerbate tensions in Russia’s troubled armed forces. The Political Council of "Russia is Our Home," which discussed expelling Rokhlin from the movement, decided ultimately to defer the issue to an upcoming general meeting. (Ekho Moskvy, Itar-Tass, June 30)
Rokhlin’s inflammatory appeal was a double blow to Chernomyrdin because — in addition to opening a rift in the "Russia is Our Home" movement — the Russian prime minister is himself playing a role in the latest of the government’s interminable attempts to draft and implement a far-reaching military reform program. Rokhlin’s appeal comes, moreover, at a sensitive time. Against a background of growing disgruntlement in the armed forces, Yeltsin on May 22 cashiered then defense minister Igor Rodionov for his abrasive behavior and his inability to work with the rest of the government on the military reform issue. Newly named defense chief Gen. Igor Sergeev has since that time worked quickly to put the military reform effort on track and to restore some stability to the army. The Kremlin, meanwhile, is clearly looking to impart a sense of urgency with regard to its defense restructuring efforts. A new military reform draft program will apparently be examined at a meeting of Russia’s Defense Council later this month, but unless Sergeev is a far more astute and able operator than were his two predecessors, the problem of resuscitating the country’s bedraggled armed forces looks likely to remain a politically explosive one.
Killing Two Dogs with One Bone; Yeltsin Sacks Siberian Governor.