Army officers disunite from Russia's rulers

Robert Gates and Anatoly SerdyukovArmy officers have had enough of United Russia and are looking around for a candidate they consider more worthy of their affections.

Little investment since the Cold War and an unpopular defence minister have not helped morale and the way ahead is red, they say.

"Outrageous efforts by [United Russia defence minister Anatoly] Serdyukov are causing honourable and legitimate outrage in 'the corporation'," Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of the Centre for Analysis and Strategies told The Moscow News.

But Stanislav Terekhov, head of the officers' union, says that although the left offers a backbone of national patriotic ideology that the country needs, the Communist party is not up to the task in its current state.

United Russia must go

Bewailing the state of the country as a whole, Terekhov told the Congress of Officers on Friday, "there is not one sphere of public life where there are not problems, demanding impossible solutions. But the current leadership cannot cope with it," he complained, Kommersant reported.

He warned that things will only get worse and said that the present political regime must "be replaced, or better still eliminated".

But the spectre of a military coup along the lines of those seen in the Middle East recently is a fantasy.

The officers' union is unlikely to wield much clout, "Today it is a marginal, dwarfish party that does not have any proper link with the army or with serious political forces," Makienko wrote in an email.

Red Army

Terekhov called on his comrades to arms to defend citizen rights and to search for political allies.

The party most deserving of soldiers' and officers' loyalty, he said, was the Communist party. It bears the most to the left and of all the parties holds national-patriotic sentiments most dear.

But defences are down among the communist ranks and corruption has weakened its ramparts, he lamented.

The problem is that "the parliamentary communist party has been rapidly losing its political and social significance."

A new purge

To stop the rot, Terekhov advised communist leaders to weed out corrupt senior officials who cling to their posts.

The tide can change, he said, as there are still plenty of good members out there, "decent communists who can rise up and turn the party into a functional force for the opposition.

The communist party is the largest opposition party, holding 12 per cent of Duma seats to United Russia's 70 per cent.

Funding up

Alexei Kudrin, finance minister, announced yesterday that military spending will rise by 1.5 per cent of GDP, taking it up to American levels of defence spending, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported. Wider military reforms are also being touted.

"Increased wages for servicemen, especially officers, is the most important part of the reforms. It is clear that only adequate payment for the arduous and dangerous work of officers can mark a necessary step, although on its own is insufficient, for officers to work effectively," said Makienko.


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