Russian president Boris Yeltsin yesterday chaired a meeting of Russia’s military leadership during which he formally presented newly-named defense minister Igor Rodionov. Yeltsin charged the Col. General with rooting out corruption in the armed forces and implementing far-reaching military reform. "Corruption is eating away at the officer corps like rust," Yeltsin said, and fixed particular attention on illegal arms sales by military personnel and the brutal hazing that has long been common in Russia’s military barracks. On the subject of military reform, Yeltsin repeated his pre-election call for the creation by the year 2000 of a professional army. He also threw his weight behind a strengthening of the Russian General Staff — saying that in peacetime it should coordinate the activities and employment of Russia’s various military agencies — and said he had decided to create a Defense Council. The new agency, in Yeltsin’s words, would implement the strategic decisions of Russia’s Security Council.
While it is unclear whether Rodionov supports Yeltsin’s notion of a quick transition to an all-volunteer force, he has advocated a stronger General Staff and the creation of the Defense Council. In his own remarks, Rodionov reemphasized the need to eliminate corruption, and said that the Defense Council should oversee not only the reform of Russia’s military forces, but the broader restructuring of Russia’s defense establishment. In a suggestion that he will pursue force reductions, Rodionov was also quoted as saying that the army should be perceived as neither a burden to Russia nor a threat to the international community. Rodionov’s patron, Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed, was present at the proceedings, which took place at Yeltsin’s sanatorium in Barvikha. (Interfax, Itar-Tass, Reuter, July 18)
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