In a move likely to please Russia’s military leadership, President Boris Yeltsin has decreed that the army and all other military agencies must reduce their personnel strength by 15 percent over the next year. Russia’s military leadership had already resigned itself to the personnel cuts, which were announced some weeks ago, but had long complained that similar reductions were not being forced upon Russia’s other "power ministries." Yeltsin’s decree, announced by his press office yesterday, appears to address that complaint. The decree also ordered that all draftees be sent solely to the armed forces, border forces, and railroad security troops, a provision that is also likely to be welcomed in the Defense Ministry. Russia’s high command has argued that chronic manpower shortages in the armed forces have been in part a consequence of a policy that dispersed the nation’s shrinking number of available draftees to all of those same "power ministries."
Yeltsin’s decree also tasked the Defense Council with drafting a new concept of military development through the year 2005, and ordered it to forward that document to the president’s office together with recommendations on the future composition, structure, and strength of Russia’s national security forces. (Itar-Tass, November 26) That order appears to reflect the growing influence of the Council, which was created in July of this year as a counterweight to Aleksandr Lebed’s Security Council. Since that time Lebed has been ousted from the government. But, as Segodnya security analyst Pavel Felgengauer has observed, the Defense Council nevertheless seems set to become the main coordinating body for Russian defense policy. The Security Council, on the other hand, has been "exiled," more or less, to the more limited area of policy toward Chechnya. (Segodnya, November 21)
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