Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 71

Russian President Boris Yeltsin yesterday praised the performance of Nikolai Bordyuzha, the recently named director of Russia’s Federal Border Guard Service, describing him as a great improvement over his predecessor, General Andrei Nikolaev. Yeltsin’s pointed remarks came one day after Nikolaev won an impressive victory for a State Duma seat in Moscow. Yeltsin, who accepted Nikolaev’s resignation from the border forces post in December, yesterday intimated that Nikolaev had been a disruptive influence within the Russian government, one who had battled with the heads of Russia’s various other "power structures." Yeltsin accused Nikolaev of usurping various Defense Ministry’s functions, of expanding the border service’s administrative machinery and of increasing the number of top commanders. In contrast, Yeltsin praised Bordyuzha as a team player, and suggested that the new director had already streamlined and improved the border guards’ operations. (Itar-Tass, April 13)

Yeltsin’s remarks about Nikolaev yesterday were a bit ironic. Although various Russian government sources accused Nikolaev in December of "Bonapartism," Yeltsin himself praised the former border forces director and decorated him personally "For Services Rendered to the Homeland." Yeltsin was also said to be considering a new post for Nikolaev. (Itar-Tass, December 20, 29)

But Nikolaev, who took the top border guards’ post following an impressive career in the regular armed forces, appeared to have been a victim of Russia’s military reform effort. By late last year, the Kremlin had begun moving toward implementing in Russia’s other "force structures" some of the restructuring and reductions it had already imposed on the regular army. Parallel to this, the Kremlin had also begun consolidating the government’s defense and security decisionmaking agencies. That process ended with the naming of Andrei Kokoshin as secretary of a greatly strengthened Security Council. Various other "force ministers" were opposed to much of this. It is probably no accident that two of the more forceful and independent of this group — Nikolaev and former Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov — have both lost their posts.

Yeltsin’s jabs yesterday at Nikolaev may indicate some nervousness in the Kremlin about Nikolaev’s election. Considerable opposition to the Kremlin’s defense restructuring plans has arisen in the armed forces themselves, and a hard-line group has emerged in the Russian Duma that shares — and has attempted to exploit — those feelings. Nikolaev — who is said to be much respected in the armed forces and who cannot easily be dismissed as an extremist — could under such circumstances emerge as a new point man for those aiming to halt the Kremlin’s defense reform efforts.

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