CIAO DATE: 12/00
No Place For A Civilian: Russian Defence Management From Yeltsin To Putin *
University of Glasgow
International Studies Association
41st Annual Convention
Los Angeles, CA.
March 14-18, 2000
For a decade now, scholars, policy-makers and journalists in both the East and the West have pondered the problem of Russia's civil-military relations. In the beginning, the question on the minds of most observers was simple, "will the military rule Russia?" 1 It was not only in Western or academic circles that such questions were being asked, but in Russia too. As early as September 1992, prominent members of the Government such as Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev were asking "why is the military deciding highly important political questions? When tanks become an independent political force it is a catastrophe!" 2
Nonetheless, by the mid 1990s as the military failed to do what the standard models of military intervention suggested they should - try to topple the already shaky regime which had overseen its decline from a military superpower to a ramshackle, third-rate force - efforts shifted to "explaining Russian military quiescence". 3 The prevailing view came to be that the military was essentially passive. There had been no attempt at a military take-over because, despite ample cause, the senior command was too corrupted to lead one, the officer corps was too divided internally to join one, and the Army as a whole was too weak, relative to the array of other armed formations which might oppose it, to carry one out without touching off a civil war. In short, the military posed no immediate threat to Yeltsin's regime and appeared to be resigned to a fate of increasing marginalisation and potential disintegration.
The Army's surprise occupation of Pristina Airport in June 1999 ahead of advancing NATO forces, and the second Chechen war, however, have lead a few analysts to claim that the Army is no passive force. On the contrary, the armed forces are said to have already carried out a "silent coup" 4 and are now the de facto rulers of the country with acting President Vladimir Putin as their "willing stooge". 5
This paper takes a different view of civil-military relations in Russia. The bulk of the interviews on which this paper is based were conducted in December 1998 and January 1999 - before NATO bombed the Yugoslav Army out of Kosova and before the breakout of the second Chechen war. At that time, the conclusion was that the Army would be passive in the face of malign neglect by the Russian Government to the point of potential disintegration. 6
Recent events, however, give cause to reconsider that conclusion - the Army is still at the point of collapse, but it is taking advantage of the current crisis to press the state for more funds in a bid to avoid that fate and to preserve its long-standing domination of security policy. In no way is this meant to suggest that there will be, or has been, another putsch in Moscow. On the contrary, the research suggests that the "silent coup" scenario is false and misleading.
In fact, if one looks at the measurable aspects of the Russian system of defence management, in particular the role of civilians in the system, it becomes evident that from Yeltsin to Putin very little has changed. The military was not under civilian control in the Yeltsin era, it was personally subordinated to an autocratic and erratic President who happened to be a civilian, nor is it subject to civilian control now. There were, and still are, no civilian executives in the Ministry of Defence of any consequence, while at the same time the military is represented in, or heads, all the main bodies of "civilian" oversight - Duma Defence Committee, Security Council, Military Inspectorate Branch of the Security Council, etc. For the most part, Russian society and politicians, as one Russian defence analyst observed, "do not interfere in military affairs, having put all problems of survival and reform under the control of the military themselves."
Three things have changed recently, resulting in a temporary elevation of military influence: the President, public and political attitudes toward the West have come closer to those of the military, and the country is at war again in Chechnya. In the long-term, the change in President may be the most significant event. Yeltsin was despised by many people in the military and blamed for its degradation. Putin, on the other hand, appears to have some sympathy for the military as a fellow man-in-uniform and to enjoy a measure of its respect for being able to make tough decisions and to take responsibility for them, though there are still reservations in the Army about the nature of his "connections to the 'Family'". It is too soon to tell how things will change in the future, but indications are that Putin is not planning to make any great changes in the way the military is managed. Answering questions at the Russian PEN Centre on 3 December 1999, he stated:
It may be even that a civilian should be at the head of the Ministry of Defence. In a normal state. But we have a weak state, and to make up for this state's weakness we have people from armed structures in places where civilians ought to work. 7
Attitudes in Russia, both of politicians and of society, have also shifted to a more anti-Western stance. As of mid-May 1999, 64 per cent of Russians felt that the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic had increased the military threat to Russia, 8 and even Russian liberal politicians have started to speak differently about the Army. Anatolii Chubais, for example, was quoted in November 1999:
The Russian Army is reviving in Chechnya, faith in the Army is growing and a politician who does not think so cannot be regarded as a Russian politician. In this case there is only one definition - a traitor. 9
There are indications as well that average Russians now recognise that the ruination of the Army is a problem for them too. "They will not respect our country as long as the Army is in disorder", said Svetlana, a 33 year-old housewife participating in a focus group on Russian attitudes towards Europe in Dolgoprudnyi in September 1999. While another participant concluded that "Russia doesn't count any longer in the world" 10
Finally, Russia is fighting a popular war (still, as of February 2000) and this gives the Army heightened political leverage. This is hardly unnatural though for a country at war and should not be taken as a harbinger of military rule. It is important to bear in mind when considering the influence of generals like Chief of the General Staff Anatolii Kvashnin, that his power is derivative of Putin's power and it is unlikely that if Putin decided to dismiss him the Army either would, or could, do anything about it. The Army is in such poor shape and so divided, that no general could be sure if he chose to rebel against the Government that anyone would follow him, especially as according to Pavel Felgengauer "both the Minister and the Chief of the General Staff are hated and disrespected" by the rank and file.
Clearly, the military wishes to continue to set the defence agenda in Russia and to remain free of public scrutiny. For the most part, excepting the power of the President to override them if he so chooses, the generals are succeeding. It would also like to use its political weight to press for greater defence spending. Probably, that is as much as the Army will get out of their temporarily heightened influence. Given that by virtually all objective measures - discipline, morale, training, equipment, etc. - the military is at the point of collapse, an event which would have unpredictable but surely awesome consequences for Russian stability, a measure of military revival should not be seen as a necessarily unwelcome occurrence.
Civil-Military Reform: An Overview
Under both Gorbachev and Yeltsin, the need to reform the military was seen as a key ingredient of the policies aimed at transforming the country from an armed Cold War camp of socialism into a market democracy with no foreign enemies. In the late 1980s, numerous ideas about reforming the military, reducing its size and cost and "professionalising" its personnel policies were mooted and became the subject of heated debate. Stubborn resistance of the Soviet Armed Forces and its allies to Gorbachev's reforms, however, particularly his moves to widen the defence policy-making circle to include civilian experts from the Academy of Sciences and the USA/Canada Institute and to introduce more intrusive institutions of civilian oversight, effectively prevented any real changes from happening. 11 Indeed, in 1990-1991 that resistance became one of the main causes of the political crisis that culminated in the August Putsch and lead to the demise of the Soviet Union.
The end of the USSR also brought to an end the primacy of the Army and the military-industrial complex which had been at the heart of the Soviet system. Instead of the gradual, managed change which they had so desperately resisted, the armed forces were now in for massive, uncontrolled changes - dismemberment into fifteen separate parts, each belonging to a new sovereign state, the sudden return of over a million servicemen and their dependants to Russia where no adequate facilities were available to house them, not to mention the complete collapse of the ideological edifice which had informed the outlook of nearly every officer - all in conjunction with drastically reduced funding.
Of course, the Russian Federation inherited the largest part of the Soviet Armed Forces (3 out of 4.2 million men, the entire nuclear arsenal, the bulk of the Navy, Air and Air Defence Forces, and most of the heavy units of the Ground Forces), but this only meant that Boris Yeltsin's new regime had to deal with the most daunting challenges of restructuring an unwieldy military machine and fitting it into a new political system. The case for comprehensive, carefully thought-out, adequately funded and consistently applied military reform was overwhelming: an unreformed and alienated military amidst massive socio-political and economic upheavals was like a time-bomb waiting to explode and topple the shaky structures of the new Russia.
The Legislative Basis of Defence. The Government did take some steps to reorganise the military, to place it within a new administrative framework and to change the military doctrine after 1991. An examination of the legal basis of defence shows, however, that the concentration of the President was not focused on creating a viable system of civil-military relations; rather, it was on assuring that the Army's loyalty to him personally was assured during a time of stormy political struggles for power. At issue was not civilian control per se, but which institution - President or Parliament - would exercise control. Unarguably, the victor in this contest was the President, as is seen in the incremental accumulation of powers to the Presidency mandated by the three main documents concerning the management of defence in Russia: the 1992 Law on Defence, the 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation and the 1996 Law on Defence.
According to the 1992 Law on Defence, the President and the Supreme Soviet (Parliament, later called the State Duma), had roughly approximate powers. The President was the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, but responsibility for such issues as the direction of state military policy and doctrine, deciding the size and structure of the military, overseeing promotions, discharges and awards of high military posts within the military, ordering partial or complete mobilisation of the armed forces and declaration of a state of war, were shared. The President was in control of the "nuclear button", but Parliament had a say in defining the conditions under which nuclear arms could be employed. 12
The 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation changed everything. It became the sole prerogative of the President to: appoint and remove the Army's high command; 13 introduce martial law and states of emergency throughout the Russian Federation or in individual localities with notification of the Federation Council 14 ; and, approve the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation. 15
The Federation Council retained some authority, mainly the capacity to confirm the introduction of martial law or a state of emergency by the President, as well as the right to decide on the possibility of employing the armed forces outside the territory of the Federation. 16 In practice, however, as the President controlled the military doctrine and military policy which defined what would constitute a state of emergency, Yeltsin had no need for the Federation Council to confirm anything, including both Chechen wars. The State Duma was left with virtually no powers except passing and providing oversight of the Federal Budget, of which the Defence Budget was a part, and adopting laws on various matters concerning defence and on issues of war and peace. Duma decisions on these matters, however, were subject to the "compulsory examination" of the Federation Council. 17
To underline the sea change in relative powers of the President and Parliament, twelve days after the Constitution was approved by a national referendum on 12 December 1993, Yeltsin issued a decree declaring that of the sixteen paragraphs of the 1992 Law on Defence which outlined the powers of the Parliament, paragraphs two, four, six, eight to twelve, fourteen, fifteen, and part of the first were invalid and "un-implementable" (podlezhaschimi - not a literal translation) under the new Constitution. 18
Seen in this light, the 1996 Law on Defence gives the impression of tying up loose ends, putting into law what was already implied by the Constitution. The powers of the President are extensive, accounting for twenty paragraphs. 19 The Federation Council merits four paragraphs, retaining the right to "confirm" declarations of the President on martial law and states of emergency, passing the Federal Budget, overseeing the passage of laws by the Duma on matters of defence and war and peace, and deciding on the use of military force abroad. 20 The State Duma gets only two paragraphs (3 lines) covering the Federal Budget and the passage of laws on defence. 21
A new law entitled On Control of the Military Organisation of the Russian Federation has been drafted by a group of experts working for the State Duma Defence Committee, but it remains a working document only and has not been formally introduced or discussed in the legislature. Article five of the draft law states that the President will appoint civilians to administer the military organisation of the state and that he will approve a list of higher offices in the MOD which should be filled by civilians. Provision 3 of Article 8 specifies that these civilians would hold posts where political decisions, or decisions concerning control over the military organisation are taken on behalf of the President. 22 Combined, these provisions of the draft law might have created in Russia an institution of civilian political appointees of the President in the military organisation very similar to that which exists in the United States. An interviewee who was involved in drawing up the draft law, however, stated that he "was not very optimistic about the chances of the new bill: the Duma might adopt it but the President will veto it."
Turning points in civil-military relations. A number of key events in the 1990s have affected the attitudes of the political and military establishments towards each other: the October Crisis in 1993, the first Chechen war from 1994-1996, NATO's enlargement and involvement in Kosova in 1998-1999, and the second Chechen war.
The October Crisis of 1993, the culmination of the political battle between President Yeltsin and the Parliament lead by Ruslan Khasbulatov and Aleksandr Rutskoi, was finally brought to a definitive conclusion by the Russian Army firing on the White House and, after two days of fighting, the arrest of the Parliamentary leaders. The lasting impression left by the crisis was, as Aleksandr Lebed summed up in 1996, that ultimately political outcomes in Russia were decided by:
The commander of the tank division. It was he who advanced his 125 millimetre political arguments and decided the outcome of the campaign. So if you want to influence politics in Russia today, take good care of tank regiment commanders. 23
The lesson which Yeltsin took from the crisis, however, was somewhat different. The military was reluctant to use force; Defence Minister Pavel Grachev delayed ordering an assault on the White House until Yeltsin issued written orders - the President was "ranting and raving (rval i metal) at the indecision of his generals". 24 The implication of this was that the military really did not want to get involved in politics and still wanted to be governed by some measure of legality, rather than to be wholly at the whim of the President. This meant that the military could be a threat to Yeltsin. The lesson: if you want to stay in politics watch tank regiment commanders very closely and do not let your opponents anywhere near them.
The First Chechen War was another watershed in the continuing evolution of civil-military relations. It was unclear at times who, ultimately, was making military policy for Moscow: Yeltsin, Grachev, the General Staff, one or more of the oligarchs? There were rumours of a "Party of War" which was driving the war against the will of the Government. In hindsight, however, it is clear that there was no "Party of War", it was a convenient camouflage for Yeltsin who controlled events throughout.
The military itself was far from uniformly happy about the war. Indeed, one Russian general, Edward Vorobyev, then Deputy Commander of Ground Forces, refused to get involved at all, claiming that the operation was a "sheer adventure". 25 While another hitherto unknown military man, General Lev Rokhlin, declined the award of Hero of Russia for his part in finally winning the battle of Grozny, became a maverick member of the Our Home is Russia party (he was expelled later), rose to head the Duma Defence Committee as the leader of the "Movement in Support of the Army" from where he launched outspoken attacks on the President's military policy, and then was murdered under very mysterious circumstances in 1998. 26
Understandably, the military fabricated a myth about The First Chechen War that it was lost in Moscow by the politicians, not by the Army on the ground. It is a myth, but one which continues to resonate with many people in the military, perhaps most of all with the Chief of the General Staff Kvashnin who, as commander of the North Caucasus Military District, led operations in the first war. Commenting on the effect of The First Chechen War, Alexander Belkin said it convinced many officers of the malfeasance of the Yeltsin regime - sending the Army in to cover up the disastrous covert efforts of the FSB to unseat Dzhokar Dudayev, then when things began to go wrong leaving the military unsupported to "hold the bag". 27
NATO's Enlargement and Involvement in Kosova have also had a great effect on civil-military relations in Russia. They are reputed in some circles to have "empowered" the military in foreign and security policy-making and lead to: the thwarting of an early political settlement and incremental expansion of the conflict in Chechnya; a commitment to increased defence spending from acting President Putin; and, a new, more anti-NATO National Security Concept 28 and Military Doctrine. 29
None of these moves, however, come out of the blue, or are a specific result of pressure from the Army. It is more true to suggest that NATO's enlargement and its involvement in Kosova helped bring the opinions of the political elite, and of society, closer to opinions about NATO which a "hard core" in the military has long espoused. In short, these two events, perhaps for the first time since the Soviet days, have generated a consensus between the civilian and military elite in Russia.
The surprise move of Russian forces to seize Pristina Airport ahead of NATO is another significant incident which has been misinterpreted. According to the "silent coup" scenario, it was as much a surprise for Moscow as it was for NATO. It may have been a surprise for Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and even Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev, but it was no surprise to Yeltsin. According to Yevgenii Volk of the Heritage Foundation in Moscow, the operation was Kvashnin's idea, Sergeyev and Ivanov were kept in the dark, and Yeltsin loved it. "The President likes such unpredictable decisions - to put a hedgehog in the trousers of the enemy as we say in Russian." 30 The significance of the event is not that the military was acting unilaterally - Yeltsin knew of the operation and could have stopped it if he wanted; rather, it is an indication of a rift between the General Staff and the Ministry of Defence - an example of the internal power politics of a fractured military which is not subject to consistent oversight.
The Second Chechen War provoked even more consternation and conspiracy theories than the first. Allegations abound that the security services engineered the conflict themselves, 31 perhaps, according to one theory, by organising the apartment bombings which killed 300 Russians in Moscow, Volgodonsk and Buinaksk that have served as the main rationale for the war. 32 The Army was also accused of threatening the Government with civil war or mutiny if it were thwarted in its aim to be revenged on the Chechens for their humiliating defeat in 1996. Yevgenia Albats in the Moscow Times, for example, wrote that "the military won't allow the politicians to take away its victory" 33
When he was asked on the television channel ORT on 7 November 1999, what he would do if he was ordered to halt the advance of his troops by the Kremlin, Major General Vladimir Shalamanov replied "I would tear off my shoulder boards and go and do something in civilian life. I would no longer serve in such an Army." 34 It is strange though, and does not fit with the picture of military domination of the Government drawn by Albats and others, that he also underlined that "the Army will fulfil its orders, no one should doubt this." Why would a general threaten to resign if the Army was making all the decisions in Chechnya with or without the support of the Kremlin? Moreover, threatening to resign is hardly the same thing as not allowing the politicians to take away one's victory.
It is true that the Army's attitude toward the media throughout the war has been hostile, manipulative and heavy-handed. As one of several examples, in response to allegations of atrocities against civilians committed by Russian troops in Alkhan-Yurt, Shalamanov warned the press:
I'll tell you what. Don't you dare touch the soldiers and officers of the Russian Army with your dirty hands. They are performing a holy duty today, they are defending their motherland. 35
Throughout the campaign the military has hounded and manipulated the press, particularly over casualty reports. When the television channel NTV became the first major media outlet to seriously question the veracity of the official version of the war by interviewing a Russian combat officer who confirmed significant losses of Russian troops, it was kicked out of the military journalist's pool and denounced by the MOD for "spreading lies". 36 There is no evidence to suggest, however, that the Government disapproves of the way the military is handling the media war. On the contrary, the Government has not been taken over by the military because of any timidity in its Chechnya policy; a hard line on the Chechen war is the heart and core of the new civilian regime's policy outlook.
The Carrot and the Stick. The general pattern of civil-military relations in the Yeltsin era was twofold. With respect to other political actors, mainly the State Duma, the goal was to deny any one other than the President control over the military. In this Yeltsin was successful - the military is subordinate to no other political actor except the President - and Putin has inherited the same power.
With respect to the armed forces, Yeltsin's approach was a rather crude mixture of the carrot and the stick. The stick was reduced funding, which impacted hard on the troops and the bulk of the officer corps, backed up by the cultivation of powerful parallel armed formations like those of the FSB, MVD or Federal Protection Service to monitor the military and to protect the Presidency from attack. The carrot was corruption, which benefited the top military leadership, combined with a carte blanche to make policy in the defence sphere, 37 provided it did not contradict any specific desires of the President or cost too much money. A Minister of Defence, service commander or important unit commander who could not manage within such a system would not remain in command for very long. It is too soon to tell how Putin will approach the issue. There are strong indications, however, that he will carry on in the same vein, although perhaps more openly. On 7 February 1999, in a decree entitled "Status of the Controlling Sections of the FSB in the Armed Forces" (author's translation), he ordered that the FSB will monitor the military for, among other vaguely-defined things, "manifestations of negative phenomena". 38
No Place For A Civilian: The Ministry of Defence
Forty years ago, Morris Janowitz emphasised the importance of civilian involvement at various levels of military activity to the maintenance of civilian control. In particular, he noted the need for civilian experts on defence in order that there be an alternate (non-military) source of advice to the Government on security aspects of international relations. 39 Nowadays, in most Western countries civilians are at the heart of the defence establishment. It is ever more difficult to draw a line between civilian and military: civilians perform tasks that previously were the preserve of the uniformed military and vice versa. Defence management in a democracy has come to be about integrating civilian and military decision-makers. As Chris Donnelly wrote "it does not matter how good in theory the democratic structures for control are if there are no competent civilians to man the ministry of defence or who can talk to the military on equal terms" 40
On the one hand, Russia has acknowledged in political rhetoric and in international agreements that it seeks to establish a system of democratic civilian control, which would include working toward an integrated civilian-military structure of defence management. For example, the most recent military reform plan called "The Basic Principles (Conceptual Outline) of State Policy on Military Development up to 2005", which was signed by Yeltsin while Andrei Kokoshin was still Security Council Secretary, reportedly deals at length with establishing civilian management of defence, anticipating that civilian control would make for better political and economic management of the armed forces. 41 The Council on Foreign and Defence Policy - a Russian, non-governmental research and lobby group - has also called unambiguously for a "civilian defence ministry [that ] could deal in greater detail with the social and political problems of the armed forces which seem to concern nobody now". 42 And, moreover, Russia is a party to the OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Affairs which states that:
The participating States consider the democratic political control of military, paramilitary and internal security forces as well as of intelligence services and the police to be an indispensable element of stability and security. They will further the integration of their armed forces with civil society as an important expression of democracy. 43
On the other hand, there is little evidence to suggest that Russia has made much progress toward this normative end over the last ten years. In fact, for much of the military and political elite in Russia the concept of civilian management of defence remains alien and superfluous.
The Minister of Defence. The obvious place to begin building an integrated civilian-military decision-making structure for the Russian Army would have been with appointing a civilian as the country's first Minister of Defence. Aside from being a clear indication of the intent of the new post-communist regime to put civil-military relations on a democratic footing, such a move would not have been impractical. Although neither Russia nor the USSR had a tradition of civilian Ministers of Defence, the quasi-civilian tenure of the military-industrialist Dmitrii Ustinov at the head of the Soviet Ministry of Defence provided a fairly recent precedent. Moreover, there was at least one civilian - First Deputy Minister of Defence Andrei Kokoshin, who could have filled the position.
Nevertheless, with the appointment of General of the Army Pavel Grachev as Minister on 7 May 1992, the prolonged debate over whether or not to have a civilian Minister of Defence was brought to a close. In interview with Izvestia shortly after his appointment, Grachev himself explained why a civilian Minister of Defence would have been a premature development for Russia:
Let us look at it with a clear head. Is this the right time in Russia's life to have a civilian at the helm of the Ministry of Defence? I will say frankly that people in the military would not understand it. Not just the brass, but the ordinary officers too, the lieutenants and captains. That is the first thing. And second, right now, when the Army is flooded by so many problems, for goodness' sake let someone who has breathed its air all his life deal with them. 44
At the time, Grachev's view was not without merit. The Army was in the process of adjusting to some massive psychological blows as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The most immediate problem was mainly technical in nature - the re-deployment of former Soviet forces from Eastern Europe to Russia - which few Russian civilians, lacking intimate knowledge of the Army and its capabilities, would have been intellectually equipped to solve. Moreover, in such a volatile situation combining a confused and unstable officer corps with a mammoth, forced reorganisation of the Army, having a military man as an interim Minister of Defence was probably not a bad decision. Grachev was a good compromise between continuity of leadership in the military sphere and loyalty to the new regime - he was not unpopular with the military 45 and was trusted by Yeltsin as a result of his support during the August Putsch. Indeed, it was not at all an unusual development in a post-communist context. Poland, Czechoslovakia and other transition states had also begun transition with a military officer as Minister. 46 There are indications also that some politicians did, in fact, view Grachev as a temporary, transitional Minister who would be replaced by a suitable civilian when the ground was more fertile. 47
The situation only worsened, however, and the ground grew less, not more, hospitable to a civilian Minister. It is impossible to say if Yeltsin intended to appoint a civilian at a later stage. Nonetheless, it grew increasingly clear that Grachev's longevity as Minister had less to do with providing continuity of military leadership than it did with the highly personalised pattern of civilian control which Yeltsin had created. According to a defence analyst at the Institute of the USA and Canada, Yeltsin's understanding of civilian control was very simplistic:
The President controls the Army by appointing the Minister of Defence. Even though all Russia's Defence Ministers have been military, they have served as the President's political appointees making sure that developments in the armed forces follow the directives of the President. Proceeding from his understanding of what the President wants, the Minister appoints those generals to the top MOD positions who are able to help him fulfill those tasks. This assures the loyalty of the MOD leadership - and of the armed forces as a whole - to the head of state.
Grachev's tenure is illustrative of the first and most important requirement of a Minister of Defence under Yeltsin: personal loyalty to the President. This relationship was symbolically underlined by Yeltsin on "Defenders of the Fatherland Day", 23 February 1996, at a ceremony in the Kremlin, when he awarded Grachev a large gold medal with an image of himself on one side and the inscription "from the President of the Russian Federation" on the other. Handing the medal to Grachev, he said "this is not a state award. This is from me personally." 48
By July 1996 when, as part of a political bargain between Yeltsin and Lebed, General of the Army Igor Rodionov became Minister of Defence few people lamented Grachev's passing. "Pasha Mercedes", as he had become known - because of his penchant for expensive automobiles - was widely reviled. Rodionov, by comparison, was thought to be an excellent choice by most observers. "This is a man who merits respect" said Defence Committee Chairman Lev Rokhlin who went on at length about the many fine qualities of the new Minister. 49 In December 1996, Rodionov, having reached the mandatory retirement age of sixty, became Russia's first "civilian" Minister of Defence. Yeltsin hailed this development as an "external sign of the democratisation of Russia." 50
Despite, or perhaps because of, Rodionov's ideas and energy for military reform he was not a very effective Minister. A brilliant military mind and, having spent seven years from 1989-1996 as head of the General Staff Academy working on the problem of military reform, Rodionov had a lot of ideas about how to rebuild the armed forces. Unfortunately, he never seemed to figure out his place in the new Russian regime of Boris Yeltsin. By the Autumn of 1996, his patron Aleksandr Lebed had been removed from all his official posts, including Secretary of the Security Council, and Rodionov was without allies in powerful places. Quite quickly, the new Minister of Defence came into conflict with Yeltsin over the firing of Land Forces Commander General Vladimir Semenov; 51 and more publicly with Secretary of the Defence Council Yuri Baturin over defence reform and funding. What ensued was a bruising political battle which Rodionov was ill-equipped to fight.
"As Minister of Defence" said Rodionov in January 1997, "I stand on the sidelines as a spectator to the process of destruction of the Army, and am unable to anything about it." 52 The gist of Rodionov's conflict with the Government was simple: he maintained that without money, there could be no reform of the armed forces, while the Government argued that the military had to utilise as yet untapped reserves from the Soviet era to survive, make less demand on the Federal Budget and reform at the same time. In his efforts to pressure the state for funds, Rodionov made dramatic pronouncements about the disastrous state of the Army which embarrassed and blamed the Government, such as when he told reporters that "if the military has been reduced to a desperate state, this is primarily the fault of the country's political leadership which has completely removed itself from the management of military reform." 53 .
Ultimately, he and Chief of the General Staff Viktor Samsonov were publicly humiliated and fired by Yeltsin who judged their efforts at reform in a televised meeting of the Defence Council saying, "I am not simply dissatisfied. I am indignant over the state of reforms in the Army and the general state of the armed forces... The soldier is losing weight while the general is getting fatter." 54 Rodionov's time as Minister confirmed the first rule of civil-military relations under Yeltsin about the personal loyalty of the Minister - he was forced on the President by Lebed and so could never be fully trusted as head of the MOD - and suggests a second: the Minister must not bother the President with demands on the Federal Budget, or embarrass the Government by talking too loudly about the degradation of the armed forces.
The current Minister of Defence, Marshal Igor Sergeyev, seems to understand the rules. Oleg Odokolenko, wrote about Sergeyev in Segodnya that the major distinguishing characteristic between him and Rodionov was that,
he did not link the success of military reform to the amount of funding provided to the Russian Army. The President and the Government probably surmised that such a link existed, and that it was a very direct one, but the Minister did not press the point. 55
Until early 1998, when he sent a memo to the Government saying that the military urgently needed funding if it was to avoid collapse, Sergeyev could be described as the perfect Minister of Defence. He was loyal, quiet and did not ask for too much money. As a reward, when Sergeyev reached mandatory retirement at sixty years of age, Yeltsin amended the Law on Military Duty and Military Service so that marshals, generals of the army and colonel-generals were not required to retire until the age of sixty-five and, therefore, Sergeyev could continue to serve as Minister in uniform. 56
By the time Sergeyev was appointed, nearly all discussion of a civilian Minister of Defence for Russia had disappeared. It had simply become a non-issue - virtually no politicians, either in Government or in the Duma, have pushed for it, perhaps recognising the futility of making proposals about the military in the face of the President's overwhelming and exclusive authority in the sphere of defence. As a senior specialist at the Institute of USA and Canada who has worked as an advisor to the Duma Defence Committee said, "Duma members will not and cannot do anything, since as soon as they make any proposals they get a kick in the neck from the President, who thinks he has exclusive authority over the military."
Duma Deputy and member of the Defence Committee Sergei Yushenkov - a former instructor of Marxism-Leninism at the Soviet Military Political Academy - is one of the few politicians to consistently call for a civilian Minister of Defence - but his is a lone voice in Russian politics. 57 The fact of the matter is that if the over-arching requirement of a Minister of Defence is loyalty to the President in a corrupt system, a military man who is bound by a lingering sense of obligation to the state and fearful of touching off even greater instability if he should act against the Government, is a better choice for Minister than an ambitious civilian politician who might use the MOD as a power-base independent of the Presidency. It is even better if the Minister and the top military leadership can be personally seduced and co-opted through corruption. In short, a military Minister suits the political reality of post-Soviet Russia better than a civilian.
The indications are now that no civilian Minister of Defence is envisaged by Russian policy-makers. The fundamentals of the situation have not markedly changed for Putin, who must also be concerned about pretenders to the throne. As of February 2000, it appears likely that Sergeyev is on the way out. Assuming he can deliver victory in Chechnya, it is most likely that the current Chief of the General Staff, Anatolii Kvashnin, will be the next Minister.
The First Deputy Minister of Defence for Questions of Military-Technical Policy. In the structure of the MOD there are two First Deputy Ministers of Defence, one is the Chief of the General Staff, the other is a civilian responsible for the MOD's relations with the military-industrial complex (normally there are two or three Deputy Minister as well - all generals - who rank below the First Deputies). 58 Andrei Kokoshin held the latter post as the first and only civilian of consequence to serve at the highest levels of the MOD leadership from 1992-1997.
Prior to his appointment as First Deputy Minister, Kokoshin was Deputy Director of the Institute of the USA and Canada. Most of the well-known civilian experts on security and defence issues, like Kokoshin or Georgi and Alexei Arbatov, and so on, today as in Soviet times, were based at the USA/Canada Institute or the Institute of World Economics and World Trade (IMEMO). Unlike these others, however, only Kokoshin made much of a mark on Russian defence policy. Moreover, he is the only civilian to have been seriously put forward as a candidate for Minister (in February 1992 by the "Democratic Russia" and "Soldiers for Russia" movements).
Unfortunately, Kokoshin was not a catalyst for the further civilianisation of the MOD. In theory, the First Deputy Minister of Defence was supposed to: represent the military-industrial complex in the MOD; lobby for the MOD in the Parliament; and, supervise the arms trade. These tasks, however, either overlapped with the duties of other officials in the MOD, were vaguely-defined, or clearly impossible to achieve. In the case of the first mission, as another analyst at the Institute of the USA and Canada explained:
due to the absence of funds, MOD orders to defence industry are not financed. The industrialists are not happy and put part of the blame on the Deputy Minister. Then they use more traditional channels such as through the Chief of Armaments. As a result the Deputy Minister's connections with the military-industrial complex weaken, which reduces his weight in the MOD.
It is a vicious circle, which is still unbroken. The Army has a Chief of Armaments who is a general. It also has a civilian First Deputy Minister with the same responsibility. Neither of them has much money, but industry is more accustomed to dealing with the Chief of Armaments. What else is the difference between them? One of them should do the job, not both.
His second job, to lobby for the MOD in the Duma, was even more unfeasible. Kokoshin was, as far as the Army was concerned, supposed to have good relations with the Duma (particularly in comparison to Grachev), but he was unable to get any money out of them for the MOD. This inability to deliver the goods undercut his credibility with the MOD. "Sometimes I wanted to go into Kokoshin's office and ask him: 'Andrei Afanas'evich, here you are all these years telling cheerful stories about new weapons, so why is the Army crying that all they have in their hands is a rusty old piece of iron?" 59 Finally, Kokoshin had practically no way of supervising the arms trade. Too many more powerful people in Russia are interested in this lucrative business for it to be controlled by a Deputy Minister of Defence.
Like most large organisations, one good indicator of the influence of the Deputy Minister within the MOD is the size of his staff. When Kokoshin's post was first created, in addition to regular military adjutants, he was to have a staff of twenty civilian aides, each equivalent to a lieutenant-general - a substantial rank. In fact, the numbers in his office never reached this level and, according to one insider, gradually began to fall, to twelve, eight, and then to only four civilian staff members. Finally, the remaining civilian staff were demoted from "Aide to a Deputy Minister" to "Chief Specialist" - equivalent to only a colonel or lieutenant-colonel. In the MOD, there are hundreds of officers at the rank of Chief Specialist. "Thus the actual influence of the civilian staff of the First Deputy Minister was cut down to a size which corresponded to the military's idea of what the desirable role of the civilian First Deputy Minister of Defence should be."
On the other hand, one of the military officers interviewed, also a Chief Specialist in the MOD, who was in a position to work with Kokoshin's staff, while acknowledging that the reduction in staff occurred, put a different spin on the story:
Kokoshin brought in a whole bunch of civilian idiots with him. After a year he had to fire them himself and replace them with military officers. They were inefficient and arrogant. They were like loose cannons, you couldn't manage them, you could only fire them. They just didn't care about anything. Corruption was a big issue. The sphere they were operating in - dual use technology, arms sales, German money for housing - they started a lot of "shadow projects". It just didn't work. I liked Kokoshin but dealing with his office was a pain in the neck.
In 1996, by an edict of the President, the First Deputy Minister of Defence was also named a State Secretary. That is, Kokoshin became the state's (meaning the President's) representative in the MOD up until the time he left to become Secretary of the Defence Council and State Military Inspector in August 1997. The role of the State Secretary, however, is still poorly defined. In the words of a former Assistant First Deputy Prime Minister, it equates to a formal role as "the Tsar's eye in the MOD, or a 'Commissar' if you will." Theoretically, the State Secretary has a degree of independence from the Minister because he has the right to represent the MOD in the Duma and the Presidential Administration. In practice though, the relevance of the State Secretary as a representative of the MOD depends a "great deal on the personality of the Minister. Grachev would never go into the Duma, which gave Kokoshin a wider and more stable representative role. Sergeyev, on the other hand, likes to do all the political work himself and spends a lot of time in the Duma. This marginalises the current First Deputy Minister."
Summing up, the First Deputy Minister of Defence does not have a lot of bureaucratic weight in the MOD. The MOD bureaucracy regarded Kokoshin as an outsider and "used all kinds of means to push him even further away from real power." His successor, Nikolai Mikhailov - a former top executive of NPO-Vimpel, a corporation specialising in anti-ballistic missile and space defences - is thought to be closer to the military which considers him one of their own: "he wears shoulder-loops [flaps of fabric for holding an officers shoulder boards] under his jacket" said one interviewee. Outside of questions of the military-industrial complex, however, Mikhailov probably has no more influence than did Kokoshin. Indeed, few of the military officers interviewed seemed to know what Mikhailov is supposed to do. As one senior naval officer put it, "the only civilian official in the MOD I have ever heard of is Mikhailov, but none of us know what his duties are or what he is doing." Another naval officer claimed more simply that "I am not aware of any role played by civilians in the military organisation."
The Rank and File of the MOD. For several years now, the Russian research group "Panorama" has been publishing a "Who's Who?" of the MOD that gives biographical information on about 75-100 of the top officials in the Ministry. 60 During that time the only civilians to have made the list were Kokoshin and Mikhailov. All the other entries were for military officers including many positions which could, or should, have been filled by civilian bureaucrats. For example: the head of the Main Administration for the Military Budget and Finance is a colonel-general, the head of the Main Administration for Building Maintenance is a lieutenant-general, as is the Head of the Central Administration for Foodstuffs, and so on. Although according to the Deputy Chief of the Department of Contract Workers and Civilian Employees in late 1998, the MOD employed a little less than a million civilians, according to our interviewees "[their] role in the Ministry is close to zero. Apart from State Secretary Mikhailov, most civilians employed in the Ministry are typists, janitors, etc."
Aside from clerical and janitorial duties, civilians perform a range of support roles in the armed forces such as scientific personnel in research facilities and defence laboratories, provide specialised technical service and repair on certain equipment, or are teaching staff at military universities and institutes. But, "they do not occupy any key positions and the entire decision-making process is in the hands of the military." Military officers tend to hold the view that civilian managers are "not meant to have command authority over military personnel." Or, as another officer explained it:
If someone is in the chain of command they must have a rank. It is a wartime system. When you are at war you get a rank. Maybe our system is still in the Cold War, but you can't change the system, even from the inside. Guys like Kvashnin have so much power, and they don't want civilians. There is a stereotypical position in the military about civilians: Why do we need them? They don't know anything.
In the West, although it is increasingly difficult to draw a line between civilian and military occupations, there is a key difference between civilian and military personnel. Civilian personnel are intermediaries between the military and Government, and between the military and society. Their effectiveness, and hence their career prospects, are determined by how well they play this mediating role. If they perform well, they can rise within the bureaucracy to the highest levels, particularly in directorates of an administrative nature. This cannot be the case in the Russian MOD where to occupy a high position one must have a military rank. "If civilians are always subordinate to military officers, and if a civilian wants to make a career in the MOD, he literally has to turn himself inside out to represent the interests of the military", said a civilian analyst working on the "Law and Administration Program" of the Open Society Institute (Soros Foundation) in Moscow. Obviously, under such circumstances civilians cannot play an independent role and mediate between the interests of the military and the Government, or society as a whole.
The fact that there is no legislation concerning civilians in the defence establishment makes the problem particularly intractable. The same interviewee from the Open Society Institute continued:
There is no legislation governing the rights and responsibilities of civilian personnel in the MOD. The MOD decides itself what the civilians will do. In the absence of appropriate laws specifying who should be given what authority, it is impossible to imagine any significant civilian appointments in the MOD. On the other hand, there is no ban on civilian appointments to important MOD positions, such as the Chief of a Main Administration. But matters of staffing are decided by the MOD leadership on the basis of their internal rules (dolzhnostye instruktsii).
A few words should be said about the presence of civilians in the MOD, in sometimes senior positions, who are described as "volunteer personnel" (vol'nonaiomnye). These officials are not civilians. A former member of the Security Council explained that they are retired military officers, "all of them occupy auxiliary positions and have nothing to do with civilian control over the military... They are military officers without shoulder loops." As another interviewee put it, "they are military officers in spirit, indebted to the Ministry for not being dumped into retirement completely, but instead are allowed to do familiar work in a familiar place." Perhaps the best example of such personnel is former Soviet Minister of Defence Dmitrii Yazov, who is now Chief Advisor to the Main Administration for Military Cooperation in the MOD. 61 The current head of Military Cooperation, General Ivashov, was Yazov's Deputy of Administration in the old days, while the current Deputy Chief of the General Staff, General Manilov, was his head of public relations.
Bodies of Civilian Control?
There are a number of control mechanisms typically employed by democratic states. One is having a civilian Minister of Defence and qualified civilians working within the defence establishment formulating security policy and monitoring its implementation. Another is having civilians officials outside the defence establishment performing similar duties as part of legally-constituted bodies of civilian oversight. That is to say, that in having a democratic system of civil-military relations, the presence of civilians in the MOD is only one side of the coin. The other side is having effective institutions of civilian oversight in the Parliament, the Presidency and the Government. Although Russia has had a profusion of such bodies over the last decade, 62 none can really be described as effective bodies of civilian control. In fact, since the military is represented on, or heads, virtually all of them, they can hardly be called civilian at all.
The Presidential Administration. Without doubt, control over the security forces in Russia stems unambiguously from the President and his administration. Indeed, to the extent that civilian control of the armed forces exists, it is because the President is a civilian and the power of all other agencies is derived, directly or indirectly, from his office. 63 "Generally speaking", said one interviewee, "the MOD is not under the authority of the Government: it is directly controlled by the President." Within the Presidential Administration there are a number of institutions which have some influence on the military: the Presidential Commission on Higher Military Ranks, the military branch of the Personnel Directorate of the Presidential Administration and the military branch of the Main Control Directorate of the Presidential Administration.
Not much is known about the activities of these agencies or how they are staffed. Probably, the most significant is the Commission on Higher Military Ranks. Under Yeltsin, the Secretary of the Security Council or the Secretary of the Defence Council (depending on who was most trusted by the President) headed the Commission. Lebed controlled the Commission only briefly while he was Secretary of the Security Council, before Yeltsin took over the job himself and then handed it on to the more politically-reliable Defence Council Secretary, Yuri Baturin. That Yeltsin was careful to keep the Commission out of the hands of his political enemies suggests that it carries some weight in control of the armed forces.
More generally, it can be said of the various controlling agencies of the Presidential Administration that they could be lead by either a civilian or a military man depending on the will of the President. Yet, although the Presidential Administration is the most civilian of the agencies of civilian oversight, here too members of the security services such as Lieutenant-General Alexander Korzhakov (head of the Presidential Security Service - now called the Federal Protection Service - from 1991-1996), General of the Army Mikhail Barsukov (Commandant of the Kremlin from 1992-1995; Director of the FSB in 1995-1996), and General of the Army Nikolai Bordyuzha (Head of the Presidential Administration from December 1998 to March 1999), have held prominent positions.
The Security Council. From the time it was created on 7 July 1992 by a decree of the President entitled "On Procedures for Implementing Decisions of the Russian Federation Security Council", the goals of the Security Council have been very unclear. Originally, it was supposed to be a consultative body on matters of national security, but gradually it became the main inter-agency coordinating body for the security services and seemed to acquire de facto decision-making powers, although legally it had no mandate for decision-making. Nonetheless, the effectiveness of the Security Council, particularly as a body of civilian oversight, is very low.
Indeed, as early as August 1993 Vitaly Marsov, writing in Nezavisimaya Gazeta claimed that Marshal Yevgeni Shaposhnikov was resigning as Secretary of the Security Council after only three months because he had realised that,
first of all, what was required of him was political loyalty to the President and a minimum of activity, and that the Security Council is nothing more than a part of the President's staff that is intended only to organise conferences between Boris Yeltsin and the heads of particular departments... 64
A Russian defence analyst who is also a member of the State Duma Defence Committee's working group on a new law of civilian control expressed a similar view of the Security Council's real influence in late 1998:
...it is not working nowadays. Actually, it is unclear why the President created it at all. It seems its establishment was connected with the idea of creating the post of civilian Minister of Defence. But today the President won't let anyone but himself control the power ministries.
When Andrei Kokoshin took over as Secretary (after the Defence Council was abolished) there was some talk about Russia having taken a step toward achieving real civilian control of the armed forces. By this time, Kokoshin was already the head of the State Military Inspectorate which became a branch of the Security Council. In combining the two agencies it was thought that a kind of "super, civilian Minister of Defence" who could control all the security services would be created. Moreover, as a public politician, Kokoshin, while remaining subordinate first of all to the President, would also be open to influence from the Duma and the public. Again, it is difficult to say whether this is what Yeltsin intended when he appointed Kokoshin, but it seems unlikely: after only six months as Secretary, Kokoshin was fired by Yeltsin for no stated reason and replaced by Nikolai Bordyuzha.
A likely explanation for Kokoshin's downfall was suggested by Natalya Timakova in Kommersant-Daily. She put forward that Kokoshin was a victim of the political crisis caused by the August 1998 financial collapse. After sacking Prime Minister Kiriyenko, Yeltsin needed a new head of the Government. His first choice, Viktor Chernomyrdin, had been rejected by the Duma twice and Russia was on the verge of another dismissal of the Duma if it rejected him a third time. A compromise PM had to be found. Kokoshin, who had turned the Security Council "into a well-organised body capable of dealing with a wide range of issues ranging from the economic to the political and ... had established quite constructive relations with the Duma" 65 , backed the candidacy of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. When Luzhkov's candidacy died, Kokoshin himself was mooted as a possible successor to Kiriyenko. In the end, Yevgeni Primakov took the job, but Yeltsin could not forgive Kokoshin for two serious infractions: working with the Duma and backing Yeltsin's arch-enemy Luzhkov.
As a body of civilian control, however, the Security Council was not likely to be very effective, under Kokoshin or anyone else, for the simple reason that it is not really a civilian body - a substantial portion of its membership and most of its staff are from the security services. For example, of the 68 officials who have been members of the Security Council since its inception in 1992, 25 were generals. 66 Out of a total of nine secretaries, there have been four generals and one colonel (Putin). And of those five, two have been in active service (Nikolai Bordyuzha from the Border Guards and the current Secretary, FSB Lieutenant-General Sergei Ivanov). The Military Inspectorate Branch of the Security Council is also almost completely staffed by the security services themselves. It is headed by a general, Nikolai Barsukov, and eleven of its thirteen inspectors are generals. 67 Finally, according to a researcher in Moscow who has been following the Security Council for several years, "the majority of the Security Council's staff are military officers who have been posted there by the MOD and whose long-term career prospects depend entirely on their home ministry." Basically, the Security Council is an agency tailor-made for departmental lobbying between the power ministries, not for the exercise of civilian oversight.
The State Duma. Over the last ten years there has been a lot of confusion about the role of "soldier-politicians" - military officers serving as Duma Deputies. Although the legal right of serving Russian officers to serve in the Duma is strange to Western observers whose officers are required in most cases to retire if they wish to enter politics, it does not represent a particularly potent threat to Russian democracy. The "soldier-politicians" are all retired, represent a very small percentage of Duma Deputies, and since they are divided among nearly every political party do not represent a coherent military bloc in the legislature. 68 Moreover, with one exception (the Chairman of the Duma Defence Committee) they do not hold any of the senior positions in the house. 69 The real threat of military men in politics is more subtle. They undermine the ability of the Duma to exercise its only remaining mechanisms for control of the military: review of the Defence Budget and passing legislation which impact on the military.
In democratic theory, to achieve civilian control parliaments must have "substantive and detailed, not just perfunctory, parliamentary oversight over security policy and spending; a parliament limited to a rubber-stamp role betrays poor democratic control over defence." 70 The Duma does not have substantive and detailed oversight of security policy and defence spending. While there is a constitutional provision for parliamentary oversight of the budget, the Duma Defence Committee working group member quoted previously argued that,
in reality this mechanism is not working. First, when the budget is in such poor condition as nowadays, the issue of control loses its meaning. Secondly, while the Constitution does provide for the Parliament's role, there is no developed system for legislators to effectively carry out the task of budgetary control - a system which would compel the military to inform the lawmakers about their plans for military development, and to persuade them to support their proposals and fund them.
The budget request of the MOD seen by ordinary Duma members is extremely short, consisting of no more than one or two pages and including as little as six to nine, or as many as seventeen general spending categories such as salaries, procurement, maintenance, etc. The MOD does not have to justify spending by providing the Duma with a strategic rationale for any particular program, nor is there any detailed audit of whether or not actual spending reflected what was in the plan. Parliament does not know how the military spends its money and it has no means to find out.
Indeed, most deputies are simply uninformed and uninterested in defence and security issues. Since becoming knowledgeable about defence policy would make a deputy a bearer of state secrets and hence subject to restrictions on foreign travel, few deputies are willing to take on a more substantive role in defence oversight. Another Moscow-based researcher of civil-military relations pointed out that:
The Parliament plays no role in the system of civilian control. On paper, the Parliament has a lot of powers in various areas, but no one wants to use them. For instance, the Parliament should be able to discuss the military budget in the 300-line format, but this requires that all MPs have appropriate security clearance. When the MOD offered to the Parliament to adopt the 300-line procedure, the reaction was, no, 17 positions would be quite enough for us. No wonder they refused, because if you get the clearance you become a bearer of state secrets, which would give some petty clerk the power to bar you from foreign travel, and who would want to give up one's vacation on Bali? If you ask Alexsei Arbatov, who shouts the loudest about the need to discuss the budget in detail, whether he has the clearance, he will lower his eyes. Thus, the MPs who do get to see the budget in detail are the people who already have the access - that is, military officers elected to the Duma.
This is one of the main ways in which "soldier-politicians" undermine civilian control. In and of itself, it is not a problem to have retired military officers serving in their national legislature. It becomes a problem, however, when it is only the military members who bear responsibility for oversight of defence spending. Basically, budgetary oversight, such as it is, is provided for the most part not by civilians, but by the military itself through its retired members in the Duma. A few military members of the Duma Defence Committee study the classified Defence Budget, work on it with the MOD, and submit generalised conclusions to the other members of the legislature with regard to the adoption of the budget as a whole. After it has been approved, the same military members monitor spending on the basis of classified data they receive from the MOD, which normal members never see.
The situation is made even more complex by the fact that the process of defence appropriation is very tricky. There are actually three defence budgets, each controlled by a different body: the Federal Budget voted for by the Duma which becomes law; the real budget allocated to the MOD by the Ministry of Finance; and, the actual spending of the MOD. Legally, failure to implement the budget is a crime, but no one has ever been charged because the Government simply does not have the money. The Ministry of Finance disburses whatever funds really exist and then the military spends what it gets as it sees fit. The aforementioned Duma Deputy, commented this way on the state of civilian oversight of the Defence Budget: "The system works with the kind of quality which can be expected in a situation where the Government does not have the means to implement the budget. At the current level of defence spending, there is not much control to do."
Stories of how funds have been misappropriated for such corrupt purposes as the building of cottages for senior officers, or diverted from spending on military housing to weapons development are extremely common in the Russian and Western press and need not be repeated. In 1997, however, Denis Babichenko reported in Segodnya a less colourful, but perhaps more illustrative, example of how the lack of budgetary oversight undermines civilian control of defence policy. In an effort to reduce waste in the military the Government ordered that the number of military schools be halved. Instead of closing the schools, however, the military simply declared half the formerly independent schools to be branches of analogous institutions in other cities. The total number of schools was halved but everyone kept their old positions, nothing was actually closed and no money was saved. 71 Since the Duma has no way of checking up on implementation of the budget, the Army can report honestly that the letter of this or that order was fulfilled while totally ignoring the spirit in which it was given. Presumably, ananlogues to this example can be found in many other areas of defence.
The Duma Defence Committee should be the main body within the Parliament exercising oversight of the military, but it is not. With the exception of Alexei Arbatov and now (after the 1999 elections during which he ran as a member of Luzhkov's "Fatherland" Party) Andrei Kokoshin, the "only members who have any expertise in defence are the 'Duma Generals'". Most of the Committee's chairmen have also been military officers, including Colonel (ret.) Sergei Yushenkov, Lieutenant-General (ret.) Lev Rokhlin, Colonel-General (ret.) Edward Vorobyev, Major-General (reserves) Roman Popkovich, and General of the Army Andrei Nikolayev.
"The Duma system works very simply," said an interviewee who has advised both the Duma and Government on defence and foreign policy issues. "The Committee acts like a military lobby by trying to get the Government to allocate more funds to the military, and in exchange tries to gain some influence in the military." From time to time, the Duma is in a position to exercise some authority over the military through specific acts of legislation. When this occurs, such as when the Law on Alternative Service was being debated, according to a former member of the Security Council, "the military lobby hard to bend the legislation in their own interest, and sometimes use their allies to kill those bills they do not like."
The Duma actually seems in some ways to undermine the loyalty of the military to the new order. Due to the financial constraints on the budget it is forced to withdraw military benefits like free metro passes and income tax exemptions. At the same time, periodic efforts of the Duma to restore some of the benefits of military service usually stay in the realm of populist rhetoric and do not get translated into public policy. "In the end," concluded another Moscow researcher, "the military need the politicians primarily for the money, little as there is of it, and are accumulating resentment against them for their systematic neglect of the Army's needs. Relations between these politicians and the military are those of a mutually unpleasant neutrality."
Over the last year some major media outlets and a few research groups have begun to paint a picture of a reviving Russian military which has snatched control of security policy from the hands of the civilian authorities, and perhaps even staged a "silent coup" which has made the military the de facto rulers of the country. This characterisation is false and misleading. Firstly, it is based on a flawed reading of the significance of the Pristina Airport takeover and The Second Chechen War. Secondly, as this paper has shown, there is no evidence to suggest that any substantial changes have occurred in the Russian system of defence management from Yeltsin to Putin.
The Russian President is a civilian and holds all the major levers of control over the armed forces to the exclusion of any other political actors. When he chooses, he is able to impose his policy preferences on the military whose leadership is bound by a mixture of lingering professional loyalty to the state and personally seduced through corruption. Fundamentally, that is the extent of civilian control of the defence establishment today under Putin, as it was yesterday under Yeltsin. For the most part, however, the President does not interfere in the affairs of the military which makes most policy decisions in the sphere of defence as it sees fit without seriously checking in with public or political opinions.
This paper began with the simple premise that to have real civilian control of the armed forces, civilian decision-makers must be present both within the defence establishment itself and outside of it in legally-constituted bodies of civilian oversight. What emerged from the research is that there are no civilian executives in the defence establishment of any consequence, while, on the other hand, the military has deeply penetrated the various agencies which are meant to be responsible for the exercise of civilian oversight. Excepting the President, civilians, either in Government, the Duma, or society at large, do not have much influence on the military.
From the point of view of military coups, this is not a particularly unstable situation. There is no evidence to suggest that the Russian Army wants to rule the country - probably the military leadership is aware that they are no better able to solve the country's problems than the current civilian leadership - and, ultimately, the concept of a military takeover is alien to the Army's tradition and professional outlook. Moreover, the chances of success, given the disastrous state of the Army, are quite low.
In most respects, the current system is quite stable - civilian authorities in Russia have survived despite the shocking provocation to military intervention the Yeltsin regime provided - and it is consistent with Russian traditions of civil-military relations. The problem is that it is incompatible with the democratic system to which, ostensibly, Russia aspires.
*: The research for this paper was funded by the Canadian Department of National Defence as part of its Democratic Civil-Military Relations Programme. The 25 elite interviews which form the core of the research were conducted by the author, or by Dr Igor Sutyagin of the Institute of USA and Canada on behalf of the author, in December 1998, January 1999, with some follow-up discussions in August 1999 and January 2000. The interviewees represented a spectrum of the Russian defence community including serving and retired military officers, journalists, academics, politicians, and their advisors and a Security Council member. The interviewees, most of whom were in official positions or worked as advisors to the Russian Government, were assured that they would not be identifiable from the published text. Unless otherwise footnoted, all quotes are from the interviews.Back.
Note 2: Izvestia, 30 June 1992. Earlier that year, in January 1992, First Deputy Minister of Finance Andrei Nechayev in a an interview where cuts to the defence budget were being discussed pointed out, "we have to be clear-headed about this: we can't demobilise a million soldiers a month. If the authorities cut back the Army too hastily, the Army will cut back the authorities." Megalopolis-Express, 1 January 1992.Back.
Note 3: David Mendeloff, "Explaining Russian Military Quiescence: The 'Paradox of Disintegration' and the Myth of a Military Coup", Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 27, No. 3 (1994), pp. 225-246. Back.
Note 4: "Putin: Yeltsin's Madness or Silent Coup?" Stratfor Global Intelligence Update, 23 August 1999; "Russia's Silent Coup Becomes Public", Stratfor Commentary, 6 November 1999, http://www.stratfor.com. Back.
Note 8: "O novykh chlenakh NATO", Survey (N=1500), 15-16 May 1999, Fond "Obshchestvennoe Mnenie" (FOM), http://www.fom.ru/week/t1048_7.htm. 17 percent felt the threat had not increased, 20 per cent had difficulty answering the question. Back.
Note 10: The focus group was conducted in Dolgoprudnyi, September 1999 as part of the on-going "Outsiders" Project, a part of the ESRC (UK) One Europe or Several Programme. See John Löwenhardt et al, "You no longer believe in us and we no longer believe in you: Russian Attitudes Towards Europe", in Helen Wallace (ed.), Whose Europe? Interlocking Dimensions of Integration, forthcoming, 2000. Back.
Note 22: The legal aspects of civilian control in Russia are examined by Yuri Ivanov in "Legislative and Political Aspects of Civilian Control in Russia", Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, forthcoming 2000. Back.
Note 26: The weird events surrounding Rokhlin's career and murder are well covered by Andrei Rogachevskii in, "The Murder of General Rokhlin", Europe-Asia Studies, Vol.52, No.1, (2000), pp. 95_110; Lyle Goldstein gives a good account of Chechnya and its effect on civil-military relations in "Russian Civil-Military Relations in the Chechen War, December 1994-February 1995", Journal of Slavic Military Studies, (March 1997), pp. 109-127. Back.
Note 29: "Draft Military Doctrine", published in Krasnaya Zvezda, 8 October 1999. The doctrine was approved by the Security Council on 4 February 2000, and is expected to be signed by the President in March 2000. See, Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozreniye, 11 February 2000. Back.
Note 30: Quoted by Martin Nesirsky in "Russian Military Unusually Self-Confident", Reuters, 9 November 1999. Volk's speculation is leant some credence by the fact that a similar thing happened to Grachev during The First Chechen War when his nominal subordinate Chief of the General Staff Mikhail Kolesnikov began to report directly to Yeltsin. The author was told by an advisor to the Duma Defence Committee that this was a warning to Grachev that he might be side-lined. Back.
Note 31: One of the more surprising sources of evidence for this particular theory was the revelation from former PM and Minister of the Interior, Sergei Stepashin, who claimed that the military operation in Dagestan/Chechnya had been planned by the Army well in advance of hostilities. See, The Independent, (UK) 29 January 2000. Another UK paper had earlier editorialised, "Who's in the driving seat?: Ominously, it looks to be Russia's generals", The Guardian (UK) 10 November 1999. Back.
Note 37: Much has been written on corruption in the military. A good description of the way this affects the working of the military is by Ivan Petrov in the weekly Kommersant, he details the way in which the loyalty of each of the service commanders to Yeltsin during Grachev's tenure was bought through corruption and the problems this created for the Minister in trying to control his subordinates. Sergeyev inherited similar problems with his commanders loyalty. His replacement as commander of the Strategic Missile Forces was a secure choice though - they are brothers-in-law. Kommersant, 27 January 1998, pp. 24-27. Back.
Note 38: Decree of the President of the Russian Federation, No. 318, 7 February 2000. The full text is available in the archive of Rossiiskaya Gazeta's website for the same day: http://www.rg.ru Back.
Note 40: Chris Donnelly, "Defence transformation in the new democracies: A framework for tackling the problem" NATO Review, Vol. 45, No. 1 (January 1997), web edition at http://www.nato.int/docu/review/articles/9701_4.htm Back.
Note 42: See "The Current State of the Armed Forces as an Impending Catastrophe" a statement of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy. An English version is available from the council. A Russian version was published in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 14 February 1997. Back.
Note 45: It was only later that Grachev came to be loathed by many in the military as an over-promoted, easily-corrupted, incompetent. In the beginning, he was quite well-regarded. See Baranets' chapter on Grachev, pp. 155-271. Back.
Note 46: Eva Busza suggests, in fact, that the decision of Polish political elites to allow military leaders to direct military reform was a stabilising factor in Polish civil-military relations. Like Russia, Poland had a uniformed Minister of Defence with civilian Deputy Ministers. See Eva Busza, "Transition and Civil-Military Relations in Poland and Russia" Communist and Post-Communist Studies, Vol. 29, No. 2 (1996), pp. 176-179. Back.
Note 47: Although they did not like it, it was also the impression of the military that this was what the Government was planning: "...after a 'probationary period' (stazhirovki) Andrei Afanas'evich [Kokoshin] would be the first civilian Minister of Defence of Russia. See, Baranets, p. 197. Back.
Note 51: Rodionov dismissed Semenov from the Army for acts of corruption. Semyenov, however, refused to acknowledge the authority of the Minister to fire him, arguing that only the President had that right. He was correct. Yeltsin only confirmed Semenov's dismissal five months later. Kommersant-Daily, 12 April 1997. (Semenov is back at the MOD now as an advisor to Minister Igor Sergeyev on ground forces). Back.
Note 62: A not exhaustive list of individuals, councils and committees with some controlling function over the armed forces would include: the National Security Advisor of the Presidential Administration, the State Duma Defence Committee, the Defence Committee of the Federation Council, the Security Council, the Defence Council (abolished), the State Military Inspectorate (now a branch of the Security Council), the Military Reform Commission (abolished), the Economic Support for Military Reform Commission (abolished), the Presidential Commission on Higher Military Ranks, and the Main Control Directorate of the Presidential Administration (which has a branch dedicated to the military), and so on. Back.