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DATE=7/13/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA MILITARY (L-O) NUMBER=2-264392 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: A bureaucratic battle has broken out within Russia's military leadership over the future of the country's nuclear-missile forces. Correspondent Peter Heinlein in Moscow reports President Vladimir Putin appears to have little choice but to fire one of his top generals. TEXT: Armed Force Chief of Staff General Anatoly Kvashnin this week proposed a radical shakeup of Russia's strategic nuclear rocket force. At a meeting of senior generals, the chief of staff unveiled a plan that would eliminate the rocket force as an independent command and unilaterally cut Russia's nuclear arsenal to fewer than 15-hundred warheads. The proposal has been forwarded to President Putin for approval. Military analysts say the Kvashnin plan constitutes a direct challenge to Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, and illustrates an intense power struggle within Russia's military hierarchy. Moscow's respected Kommersant newspaper says the plan - can only be described as an attempted coup within the military. Defense Minister Sergeyev is a former head of the rocket forces. He favors maintaining a strong nuclear deterrent at a time when shrinking military budgets have caused a sharp decline in conventional force readiness. General Kvashnin, by contrast, rose through the ranks of the ground forces. He contends Russia is spending too much of its limited military budget on nuclear defense at a time when the army is embroiled in a costly ground war in Chechnya. The Kvashnin plan is said to be popular among rank- and-file soldiers, the vast majority of whom serve in conventional units. But Alexander Golts, defense analyst for the weekly Itogi magazine, sees the reorganization strategy as part of a power play aimed at ousting the defense minister. /// GOLTS ACT ONE /// The problem is, this fight is not a fight about strategy, or the concept of a rising Russian army. The problem is that this fight, unfortunately, is a pure bureaucratic fight for new positions, for new careers of a few people. /// END ACT /// Mr. Golts says the bureaucratic infighting will force President Putin to make an unpleasant choice between his two most senior military officials. /// GOLTS ACT TWO /// I think Mr. Putin has to fire one of these two men, Mr. Sergeyev or Mr. Kvashnin. It will be a difficult choice. // OPT // If to agree with Kvashnin, Russia will lose its last feature of superpower (status), its nuclear forces. So we lose in this fact our biggest instrument in contact with the west. On the other hand, the situation in Chechnya is very bad. The Russian military has no money and no new ideas how to conduct the situation there. // END OPT // /// END ACT /// In an unprecedented move, the commanders of Russia's rocket forces are reported to have sent General Kvashnin a letter asking him to rethink his proposal. President Putin has remained silent on the issue, but is said to be meeting Friday with Defense Minister Sergeyev, when both men attend a military show in the Ural mountains. (SIGNED) NEB/PFH/JWH/RAE 13-Jul-2000 11:40 AM EDT (13-Jul-2000 1540 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .