The day after firing their predecessors, President Boris Yeltsin on May 23 invited newly-named defense minister Igor Sergeev and acting General Staff chief Col. Gen. Anatoly Kvashnin to the Kremlin to discuss military reform. The presidential press service’s account of this meeting aptly illustrates the difficult tasks the two face: Yeltsin was said to have told them he wants the military to be "highly mobile and well-armed, compact but effective," and able to reliably guarantee the security of Russia while still taking into account the "economic potential of the country." A tall order, indeed.
Since neither of the two men is likely to have had any inkling of their recent promotions, it is not too surprising that they are trying to maintain a low profile for the moment. Yesterday the Defense Ministry press secretary, Gen. Anatoly Shatalov, said that both Sergeev and Kvashnin would not be able to meet with the press for at least 3 to 4 days. This official silence at the top has not stopped a flurry of rumors regarding possible restructuring of the armed forces. As Sergeev was chief of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF), analysts suggested that he might now move quickly to bring the Military Space Troops back under SRF command. Others broached the idea that Ground Forces aviation — made up of assault and transport helicopters — might be taken over by the air force. (Interfax, May 23, 25, 26)
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