The World Needs Order in the Russian Military. for without It the Most Vicious Dogs of War Will Be Let Loose upon an Already Unstable Society, with Disastrous Consequences

By Lloyd, John | New Statesman (1996), August 9, 1996 | Go to article overview

The World Needs Order in the Russian Military. for without It the Most Vicious Dogs of War Will Be Let Loose upon an Already Unstable Society, with Disastrous Consequences


Lloyd, John, New Statesman (1996)


The armed horde that is now the Russian military is one of the future terrors of the world. We hold a very large stake in its future control. General Alexander Lebed could be a saviour in this. He did not win the presidency he strove for in June, but he may do as important a job in a lesser capacity.

Lebed's pitch was order and discipline. Since being brought into the administration he has continued to press the case for urgent overhaul of the armed forces. The appointment of General Igor Rodionov as defence minister to replace the long discredited General Pavel Grachev was taken after Lebed was appointed national security chief, and probably reflected his influence. Rodionov, shifted aside by Grachev to head the General Staff Academy, was seen as a clean officer in an Augean stable of corruption and graft.

The extent of the corruption has never been made clear. But we know something of its scope. We know that the Western Group of armed forces - the military presence in Central and Eastern Europe, was looted by its senior officers from 1990 onwards, as it withdrew from the Warsaw Pact bases. Military hardware, from MiG 29 fighters to Kalashnikov rifles, was on sale; contracts were signed with suppliers who doubled their charges and split the difference of the excess with the Russian commanders.

In 1994 a young journalist named Dmitri Kholodov began running a series of articles in his newspaper, the Moskovsky Komsomolets, about the corruption. He was killed with a suitcase bomb. Soon afterwards the deputy defence minister General Matvei Burlakov, who had headed the Western Group, was relieved of duty for unspecified reasons.

In Russia itself the feeding was just as frenzied. Senior officers had dachas built for them, using army material and conscript labour. Weapons were sold freely, especially in the Caucasus. The still-substantial state funds allocated to the military are leeched away for private consumption. Recent allegations by General Lev Rokhlin, a member of the state duma (parliament) point a finger at three generals who have embezzled $30m.

The conscripts in this army are a mixture of victims and predators. The draft has fallen as low as ten per cent of the target.

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The World Needs Order in the Russian Military. for without It the Most Vicious Dogs of War Will Be Let Loose upon an Already Unstable Society, with Disastrous Consequences
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