| Last Friday, members of the Yabloko party criticized both
the government's military reform plan and the alternative proposed by the
Union of Right-Wing Forces.
Alexei Arbatov, Deputy
Chairman of the Party and deputy chairman of the State Duma defense committee,
described the current military reforms as "stagnation and profanation".
He noted that according to the Defense Ministry plan, implementation of
the reform requires 130 billion rubles to transfer 30% of privates and
ensigns over four years to contract service. At the same time, Arbatov stresses, only "20% of these means are allocated for increasing
money allowances - the rest are to be spent on the aims that should be
pursued regardless of the reform", such as purchasing equipment,
combat training, and providing accommodation for the military. All this
is necessary for both professional and regular army and these expenses
should not be included into reform expenses, Arbatov says.
According to Arbatov, the idea of the Union of Right-Wing Forces for
six-month conscription is "useless and harmful". Arbatov stresses
that in the immediate future, most recruits will be those born in the
late 1980s and early 1990s, when the birth rate substantially decreased
in Russia. That is why that the government would, in order to recruit
enough soldiers, have to "cancel all deferrals, and conscript drug
addicts, criminals, the mentally retarded, and women." The Yabloko
thinks it is possible to combine conscription with contractors for only
one or two years while the reform is being carried out.
Yabloko members are convinced that military reform can be carried out
with less expenditure and more efficiently that the Defense Ministry proposes.
Alexei Arbatov says that in order to transfer the present Russian army
on a contract basis it is necessary to increase the present defense budget
by 5%; it is to be increased by 25% if wages for the military are doubled.
However, Yabloko says the best option is to decrease the number of the
Armed Forces from 1,200,000 people to 800,000 people - then, the military
budget is to be increased by only 15%.
Alexei Arbatov and Grigory
Yavlinsky believe that this money would be enough for severance pay,
housing for servicemen who resign, for transition of the remaining units
to the contract system, and for "doubling the monetary allowance
of all servicemen, from soldier to general". Yavlinsky is convinced
that all this can be done within two years.
Deputies believe that an important step toward reforming the army is
the introduction of public oversight for appropriation of budget funds:
consequently it is necessary to make the military budget transparent.
A specific step in this direction would involve amending the law on budget
secrecy, as Arbatov has said. He said: "Let the military budget be
described not by three figures but by 850 items so that everyone could
see these figures. At present, it is so secret that I don't even have
a right to say how many enlisted me then are in the Army now."
The Yabloko leader finished the conference with a pessimistic forecast:
"In 2015, rearmament and reform of the Chinese Army will finish.
If we sabotage serious efforts to reform the Russian Army, it will be
difficult to talk about a future for the nation after 2010."