Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 43

Russian President Boris Yeltsin launched yet another reorganization of the country’s defense and security decisionmaking apparatus yesterday when he abolished the Defense Council and folded the State Military Inspectorate into a resurgent Russian Security Council. (AP, Itar-Tass, March 3) Yesterday’s announcements appeared to finalize the reemergence of the Security Council, which was created in 1992, as Russia’s preeminent defense and security decisionmaking body.

The Security Council’s rising fortunes were foreshadowed in December of last year when the Kremlin announced that it had approved a "National Security Concept" — a lengthy document setting out Russia’s national security interests and goals — that was drafted by the Security Council. The security concept appeared to invest then Council secretary Ivan Rybkin and the Council itself with considerable powers in the formation, implementation and oversight of Russian security policy. In administrative terms, it appeared also to raise the status of the Security Council relative to Russia’s various "power structures," and to confer upon the Council’s secretary a coordinating role in their activities. The "power structures" include the Defense and Interior Ministries, the intelligence services and the country’s border forces.

Yesterday’s announcements appear to have brought the structure of Russia’s defense decisionmaking apparatus back to that which existed prior to the tumultuous entrance of retired General Aleksandr Lebed into the Russian government — and Boris Yeltsin’s reelection team — in mid-1996. Lebed was himself named Security Council secretary at that time, and the influence of the already powerful agency reached its zenith soon thereafter.

Antagonism toward Lebed quickly grew among Kremlin insiders, however, and in July of 1996 the Russian president announced the creation of a new Defense Council. The Defense Council was clearly intended to serve as a counterbalance to Lebed and his Security Council. It had virtually the same membership as the Security Council and was handed most of the Security Council’s responsibilities in the area of defense policy and military reform. By the time Lebed had left the government in October of 1996, the Security Council’s responsibilities had been reduced largely to dealing with Chechnya. (See Monitor, January 5-6) That long diminution of its authority appears now to have been reversed.

Kokoshin Named New Security Council Secretary.