News

IGOR RODIONOV IN SEARCH OF AN ENEMY A. GOLTS
(Itogi Nos. 1-2. Abridged.) January 1997

Only the President's illness has postponed a new scandal involving the Russian Defence Minister, Igor Rodionov. According to well-informed sources, something unprecedented would have happened at the session of the Defence Council of the Russian Federation which was to be chaired on January 8 by Boris Yeltsin. The participants in the session would have been offered two mutually exclusive variants of the military reform concept. One of them has been drafted by the defence ministry and the General Staff and the other by the staff of the Defence Council. All this means that Igor Rodionov has come into open struggle with the secretary of the Defence Council, Yuri Baturin who has been assigned to exercise control over the implementation of the presidential decree "On Measures to Secure Defence Building in the Russian Federation".

The essence of the conflict which will almost certainly break out in the Defence Council, no matter when it sits in session, is that a number of its members backed by the central staff insist that the military reform must be started immediately on the basis of the funds which are available in the budget now. This said, it should be added that one of the major components of the reform should be a 30 per cent reduction on average in all armed structures, including the armed forces, the interior ministry forces and the frontier forces. As far as one can understand, these proposals are a result of a document prepared by a group of military experts.

As for the defence ministry, it believes that the reform can only be started under the condition of the allocation of colossal additional funds. According to some reports, the defence ministry demands that the government should spend on the armed forces 15 per cent of the gross domestic product of Russia. This effectively means that the country should use all its free resources not on economic development, but on financial backing of the armed forces. Moreover, the top brass of the defence ministry insists that the reduction of the army and the navy by 1.2 million men is premature, whereas the Defence Council believes that this is the inevitable least.

... ... ... ...

... to justify the need to retain a big army, the defence ministry started looking for external enemies.

Speaking at the international conference called Development of Strategic Partnership and Politico-Military Integration of the CIS Member-States on January 25, Rodionov made a sensational statement. In an apparent wish to contribute to the aforementioned integration, the defence minister started proving that the entire post-Soviet environment was in a circle of enemies. Among the most serious potential threats to the CIS Rodionov named the growth of US global influence and the NATO expansion plans. At that, Rodionov included in the list of potential enemies such countries as Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Japan and China.

By design, this long list of potential enemies has been meant to justify the approach which the defence ministry is trying to uphold in the Defence Council. The essence of this approach is as follows: Russia needs an army which would be a scaled-down copy of the Soviet armed forces. This implies an army capable, just like in the past, of waging war in all directions at once. One proof of the possibility of such a war is the exclusively theoretical capability of some state or a group of states to inflict damage upon Russia.