Russia: Military reform failing, Central Asia being lost to USA - general
Source: Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Moscow, in Russian 18 Dec 01
Vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Col-Gen Leonid Ivashov, who until recently was the head of a main directorate of the Defence Ministry, said in a newspaper interview that Russia had no clear geopolitical doctrine and lamented the failure of the military reform and the decision to close two military bases abroad. Ivashov also stressed that Russia was losing its influence in Central Asia to the USA. The following is the text of report by Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 18 December, subheadings have been inserted editorially:
Just a few months ago Col-Gen Leonid Ivashov, chief of the Russian Federation Defence Ministry main international military cooperation directorate, was one of the most influential people in the Russian military department. After the replacement of the leadership there, however, he was removed from office and is now being discharged from military service. In his new capacity Ivashov intends dedicating himself to military-scientific work. He is now vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems. Our conversation focused on some results of the military reform and of military policy and geopolitics.
Results of military reform lamentable
[Correspondent] Leonid Grigoryevich, for a long time you were a key witness to and participant in the organizational development of the new army in Russia, you elaborated, shaped, and implemented the basic guidelines of its military policy and military-diplomatic activity. Could you please tell us the main results of this work?
[Ivashov] In my opinion the results of the military reform are to a large extent lamentable. One of the main aims of military organizational development is to enhance the effectiveness of the armed forces and ensure that their structure, combat personnel, and technical equipment correspond to the scale of the military threat. Unfortunately this has not been achieved. For almost 10 years now we have been doing nothing but talking about the reform of the armed forces and making some incomprehensible attempts in this direction. In 1997 I took part in all the military collegiums which discussed the basic guidelines of military organizational development in Russia. Among the decisions at that time it was considered expedient to eliminate the Ground Troops High Command and to amalgamate the space forces and antimissile defence with the Strategic Missile Troops. Time has passed and what do we see now? All these things are being revived - a Ground Troops High Command has been formed and the military-space troops and antimissile defence forces have been recreated as troop combat arms.
But little by little we have lost our military cadres and thousands of officers' families have been cast adrift, so to speak. In the past few years alone the ill-conceived military reform strategy has meant that around 100,000 young officers have been discharged from the army with no vision of a precise and clear prospect of military service.
I believe that the strategic errors committed in the reform of the army are the result of a bureaucratic approach to the solution of the most important problems of Russia's military security.
Military leadership has been cleansed of independent thinkers
[Correspondent] You are being discharged from the army before the statutory retirement age. Does this mean that relations with the country's new military leadership have not worked out?
[Ivashov] I am still a serving colonel general. And I understand what unity of command in the army means. Therefore I do not want to criticize anyone personally. But I believe that there are things that must be said. In the past two years there has been a campaign to cleanse the Defence Ministry and the armed forces of those military leaders who have their own view on the problems of army reform. This view was distinct from that of the General Staff but these people were able to defend their opinion and not be drawn into various kinds of behind-the-scenes intrigues. Today their stance is being confirmed by practical experience but, as people say, they are not around any more.
[Correspondent] Are the actions of the General Staff really so destructive?
[Ivashov] They can be assessed in different ways. But in my opinion the most important thing is that the General Staff was not consistent in the elaboration and implementation of the strategic areas of the organizational development of the army or in determining the foreign policy priorities and military cooperation. For example our military presence in Cuba is being scrapped. But a year ago /OUR/ [word between slantlines printed in all-caps] facilities there were considered a priority for us.
We are planning an active Russian presence in the world's oceans but for some reason we are also eliminating the naval base at Camranh Bay. We will pay nothing for its lease before 2004. Things are difficult for us now but the base can be mothballed. Basically this is just two moorings for ships and some port and airfield infrastructure...
Russia loses its role as US takes over control of Afghanistan
[Correspondent] How do you assess Russia's role in the settlement of the situation in Afghanistan? Is Moscow losing its influence here?
[Ivashov] Unfortunately Russia lacks a geopolitical doctrine and has no clear model for its geopolitical conduct. This makes our foreign policy inconsistent, which, whether we like it or not, contributes to the subordination to another policy - US, pro-Western, and so forth. We seem to be following in the wake of this policy. Even though Russia's potential today is simply enormous. Especially if we were to operate together with our fraternal Ukraine and our other countries in the CIS. With China, Iran, and the Islamic world. If we were to operate together in the strategic Central Asian sector we would have entirely different results. But what we see is what we get. Today our planes are delivering humanitarian freight to Bagram and are already seeking the permission of the Americans.
[Correspondent] The United States controls almost all of Afghanistan's military airfields...
[Ivashov] Yes, this is true. You know that even if the tragic events of 11 September had not occurred the Americans would still have found a pretext for clambering into Afghanistan. The Americans made skilful use of the potential created by Russia and Iran for the victories in Afghanistan. In carrying out the missions of the antiterrorist operation the Americans bombed the Taleban essentially without any risk to themselves. Subunits of the Northern Alliance and the Pushtun tribes have taken part in the ground operations. The Americans carried out all sorts of public relations exercises there, saying that special forces have landed in various places. But in fact they took hardly any part in active combat operations directly on the ground, they are protecting their soldiers. They will carry out special operations and subsequently will activate other levers - military-diplomatic, economic, via the special services, and so forth. The most important thing for them is to consolidate their position in Afghanistan and establish control over this crucial region of Central Asia. This will not necessarily be done by military methods alone.... This is merely a prelude to a major skirmish to establish control over Central Asia.
USA persistently sidelines Russia in Central Asia
[Correspondent] Do you think that they have gone in there for the long haul?
[Ivashov] Yes I do. Let us go back a few years. A fairly modest peacekeeping contingent - the Central Asian Battalion - was formed in Central Asia. It included certain CIS countries. Exercises were held. The Americans attached the most enormous significance to these exercises. They funded them and took part in them. In 1998, unless I am mistaken, US airborne troops, travelling from US territory, flew over CIS territory without landing and, by means of mid-air refuelling, landed in Kazakhstan. The strategic system of command and control, the command and control of US strategic aviation, was being tried out here and Gen [Henry H.] Shelton, commander of the special forces and a future chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a parachute jump together with his men into the territory of Kazakhstan. Each year they took part in the same way. It should not be forgotten that literally 30 months ago the United States declared Central Asia a zone of responsibility for the US Central Command without asking anyone's permission. They showed an interest in Central Asia long ago and this is no chance interest. Now they have a pretext and they have gone in there. They are in there for the long haul, if not for good.
[Correspondent] Do they need access to Central Asia's rich resources?
[Ivashov] I shall quote a phrase used by US Secretary of Energy [Bill] Richardson in 1999: "The direction of US policy must coincide with the directions of the oil routes." No comment needed here, as they say.
The United States is seeking to build up its military and economic power and has no qualms about this. In its National Security Strategy it writes that it "must have the capability and determination to exert influence on other states' actions for the purpose of ensuring global superiority."
[Correspondent] Has Russia now lost its geopolitical influence in the region?
[Ivashov] Unfortunately it is losing it. But by and large it has an opportunity to preserve or intensify this influence. In my opinion the important thing is to correctly determine the long-term geopolitical line of conduct in this region. At the same time we should not forget what an important role is played for the Russian Federation in this region not only by the CIS countries but also by China, India, and Iran. After all, it is by no means a coincidence that the Shanghai cooperation organization, which has good prospects in regard to the collective security system in Asia, was formed less than a year ago.