The shake-up of Russia’s defense and security establishment continued over the weekend, as Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree on March 28 streamlining and reorganizing the country’s powerful Security Council. According to a Council source, Yeltsin has ordered that Council staff be cut to no more than 200 persons. The number of department chiefs and higher officials will likewise be cut, from some twenty-one to just ten. Despite the reductions, the Council is also to incorporate some staffers from Russia’s former Defense Council and State Military Inspectorate. The Security Council has been granted the right to requisition up to seventy army and Interior Ministry officers. (Xinhua, Russian agencies, March 28)
This weekend’s action would appear to continue the Kremlin’s recent efforts to consolidate Russia’s security structures — n this case, those subordinated directly to the president’s office. On March 2, Yeltsin named the civilian defense intellectual Andrei Kokoshin to the post of Security Council secretary. At that time, he also merged the two bodies then overseen by Kokoshin — the Russian Defense Council and the State Military Inspectorate — into the Security Council. The latest decree appears to be aimed at finalizing that merger and integrating into the Security Council’s structures both the functions and some of the personnel of the State Military Inspectorate and the Defense Council. The Inspectorate will reportedly survive as a separate office under the Security Council. The Defense Council, which for over a year had responsibilities for drawing up Russia’s military reform program, has been abolished.
The precise number of staff affected by this latest measure is unclear. In a lesser staff reduction carried out this past February, the Security Council was said to have lost twenty-five people, leaving it with a total of 182. (Itar-Tass, February 13) The State Military Inspectorate, meanwhile, which was created only last year, was slated at that time to receive a staff of about 100. (Kommersant-daily, September 4, 1997) However, the agency never seemed really to get up and running. It is unclear how many staffers it ever took on. The Defense Council, created with much fanfare in July 1996 as a political and administrative counterweight to a Security Council then overseen by Aleksandr Lebed, was reported to have had a staff of just over fifty persons. (Itar-Tass, July 25, 1996)
Yeltsin’s decree underscores once against the considerable authority that has — in formal terms at least — been conferred on the Security Council. In addition to advising the president on threats to Russia’s security, the Security Council will apparently play a major role, inherited from the Defense Council, in advancing Russia’s ambitious military reform efforts. These efforts, it is worth noting, are to extend beyond the regular armed forces to include Russia’s various other "power structures" — including the military forces that are subordinated to the Interior Ministry. At the time of its creation, the State Military Inspectorate was given responsibility for monitoring the implementation of military reform measures. Its major task in fact was to ensure that all of Russia’s "power" ministries operated lawfully, particularly with regard to the proper use of government funding. (Kommersant-daily, September 4, 1997) Such anti-corruption responsibilities will presumably also fall to the Security Council.
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