Disgruntled military poses constant threat
YELTSIN ON THE BRINK ARMY'S ROLE
Saturday 28 October 1995
The Russian armed forces have traditionally steered clear of politics, but they have been unable to ignore it since the 1991 coup attempt, when their refusal to fire on their own people and join the conspiracy against Mikhail Gorbachev tipped the balance in the president's favour.
But the views of senior officers vary widely, and it would be unwise for any political leader to count on the support of a vast and disparate organisation which is still in crisis.
The Russian military, still 1.5 million strong, is not a united political body, as its response to the Russian parliamentary revolt against Boris Yeltsin in 1993 showed. To form a force of just 1,700 troops to storm the White House and restore President Yeltsin's authority, the Russians drew from five different divisions in the Moscow military district. The commanders had to pick their soldiers carefully.
Of likely presidential candidates, General Alexander Lebed, the charismatic former commander of the 14th Army, would probably gain most support from the armed forces.
General Pavel Grachev, the Defence Minister, on the other hand, had very little respect within the military before the Chechnya debacle, and now has even less. In August 1994, a poll of 615 generals and colonels showed President Yeltsin was trusted by under 30 per cent, and fewer than 20 per cent trusted General Grachev. But half said they trusted generals Lebed and Boris Gromov.
The poll was revealing: 80 per cent of top ranking military officers favoured an authoritarian form of government. Sixty-four per cent dismissed Western-style democracy as unsuitable for Russian conditions.
General Lebed was widely praised when, as the commander of the 14th Army, he publicly criticised the deputy defence minister, General Matvei Burlakov. He said there was no point General Burlakov coming to see the 14th Army because there was "nothing to steal", and that if he did he would have him arrested. His crusade against corruption is General Lebed's strongest card.
General Lebed has no economic policy and probably would not be a strong enough candidate to stand alone. However, if he joined forces with the technocrats, led by a former Security Council member, Yuri Skokov, with the Civic Union or with Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party, he could be a significant asset.
Below this level, the Russian armed forces are probably as diverse in their political views as the rest of the country. As well as the chronic undermanning, Russian units have been preoccupied with feeding themselves and keeping warm. Training standards and morale appear at an all-time low.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...