Yeltsin: Military reform will help troops, defense
July 29, 1997
Web posted at: 11:51 a.m. EDT (1551 GMT)
MOSCOW (CNN) -- Drumming up support for his plan to drastically cut the size of the Russian army, President Boris
Yeltsin on Tuesday promised soldiers and officers a better
life if they supported his far-reaching military reform.
It was Yeltsin's second public statement in a week on the
proposal, which has drawn opposition from officers, soldiers
Once the Soviet Union's seemingly invincible force, Russia's
military is now crumbling. Stung by humiliating losses in
Chechnya and unable to stop the expansion of NATO, Yeltsin
wants to cut Russia's 1.7 million-strong armed forces by
500,000 by 1999.
He also wants to restructure the army and end conscription,
eliminating an entire layer of mid-level commanders in
pursuit of a smaller and more efficient volunteer force.
Soldiers making do on subsistence wages
In the statement released by his press service Tuesday,
Yeltsin said revenue from the sales of excessive or outdated
weaponry and real estate would be used to build as many as
100,000 apartments for homeless families of career
He also made a statement on his proposed military cuts during
a radio address Friday.
"My soul aches when I think about hungry soldiers, unpaid
officers and their families, who have been suffering for
years without a home of their own," Yeltsin said Friday.
Russia's top guns -- Navy fighter pilots who patrol the skies
over the Barents Sea -- earn just $215 a month for their
loyalty and skill.
"You know what I dream about? Getting a part-time job in
Moscow. If they need street cleaners, I'll take it," said one
Most officers say they understand the need for reform. Still,
"The problem is it's trampling on human lives," said a Navy
captain. "The transition to a civilian life is like a small
tragedy for every officer. All our professional ambitions are
Retired general leads opposition charge
Yeltsin's reforms are stirring opposition, most notably among
many senior generals, career soldiers and politicians.
Retired Gen. Lev Rokhlin is leading the charge.
"I'm not planning to create any new political parties,"
Rokhlin said, "but I'm determined to organize as soon as
possible an all-Russia movement to defend the armed forces."
His statements concern the Kremlin, which is worried that the
military might follow Rokhlin. It is unclear whether their
fears are grounded in reality.
"Everybody knows how bad things are," said an Army major.
"But calling for some 'action' -- a mutiny -- is wrong. We
can't afford that."
Nevertheless, observers have doubts that Yeltsin can carry
out reform while cutting military spending.
"Basically, President Yeltsin is lying to the Russian nation
when he says this army will be effective and it will take
that much money, because it won't," said military analyst
Both Yeltsin and his new defense minister say the clock is
ticking. If reform of Russia's disintegrating military
machine isn't begun now, there may be nothing left to reform.
Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty and Reuters contributed to
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.