Staunton, October 20 – More details about the Russian government’s plan to save money by “optimizing” the military are now emerging, and not surprisingly, cuts which will affect regular soldiers, contractors, as well as senior commanders are sparking outrage in the military, according to Aleksey Polorotov.
The Daily Storm journalist even quotes one source in the defense ministry as saying that if the cuts, which involve reducing pay and requiring longer service before being able to go on pension, shifting many tasks to civilians, and reducing the number of senior commanders, “people will simply stop joining the army” (dailystorm.ru/vlast/lyudi-prosto-perestanut-idti-v-armiyu-v-minfine-podgotovili-reformu-armii-i-pravoohranitelnyh-struktur).
Other commentators have already suggested that reducing spending on the military will cost United Russia votes from uniformed personnel at the next election (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/10/draft-russian-budget-cuts-spending-for.html) and raise questions about the Kremlin’s much-ballyhooed support for the army.
According to Polorotov, the current plans for “optimizing” the uniformed personnel of the defense ministry, the interior ministry and the Russian Guard are intended to save the budget “no less than 20 billion rubles” (280 million US dollars) a year and likely even more in the outyears.
The plan calls for cutting the number of people in uniform by ten percent by shifting responsibilities to lower-paid civilians, to increase the length of service required for a pension by ten years, and to reduce by attrition the number of senior officers in a military that has long been top heavy as far as such officers are concerned.
But the cuts also affect the upkeep of soldiers including food and uniforms by reducing government spending on these and shifting the burden to uniformed personnel. All these things, but especially the moves against senior officers and toward longer service requirements for pensions are certain to outrage many in the military.
In reflecting upon this proposal, there are three things that should be kept in mind that may make it less radical and more politically palatable than it appears. First, much military spending is classified, and it is entirely possible that this proposal is more for show than anything else as Moscow may compensate for public cuts by increases in secret payments.
Second, the military is not without friends in the Duma, whose membership includes numerous military and security personnel. They will certainly limits the cuts as much as they can. And third, as this was a finance ministry initiative, Putin may take the occasion in the coming weeks to intervene and win points by again showing himself a champion of the military.
Nonetheless, even if all this proves true, the willingness of the Russian government to talk about going after the budget of the holy of holies in Russian thinking, the military, will have an effect on the attitudes of those who not only help promote Putin’s aggressive foreign policy but also serve as his last line of defense against an increasingly unhappy population.