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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zyuganov Calls Army Reform All Talk

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov attacked President Boris Yeltsin's recently announced plans for military reform Friday, saying they would change nothing and blaming him for endangering Russia's national security.

Zyuganov told reporters and Communist sympathizers at a news conference that Russia's security cannot be improved without changing the government's social and economic course. He said Yeltsin's attempts to carry out a military reform were "just talk."

"One needs a different economic policy, a totally different tax and budget policy, a different spiritual and moral policy. That would have created different conditions for carrying out the military reform. Mr. Yeltsin's team is incapable of such reforms," he said.

State Duma Deputy Lev Rokhlin, leader of an unofficial movement set up to oppose Yeltsin's plans to cut the army by 500,000 men and merge several units to eliminate bureaucracy, was present in the audience but did not speak.

Actual defense spending this year is just about 2 to 2.5 percent of GDP.

While Yeltsin has ordered that defense spending be limited to 3 to 3.5 percent of GDP, Zyuganov said his "national-patriotic" forces insist that at least 5 to 7 percent be allocated. "Otherwise, not a single aim of the military reforms will be achieved," he said.

He painted a catastrophic picture of the condition of Russia's national security, blaming Yeltsin for failing to resist the Western plan to break up the Soviet Union and destroy its defense complex.

While NATO expands eastward and Russia is shouldered out from the Black and Baltic seas, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, Russia's general purpose troops have been "all but liquidated" and only the "nuclear umbrella" remains, he said. He estimated that Russia currently has only about one-third of the Soviet Union's defense system.

"Over the last 50 years, three generations of Russian citizens have invested about one-third of our national wealth in the country's national security. To allow Russia's foes to destroy all this would mean to make a mistake that neither our children nor grandchildren will ever be able to forgive," he said.

Though the government has not submitted the draft state budget for 1998 to the Duma, Zyuganov said only two to three pages are dedicated to defense expenditures. Presidential aide Alexander Livshits said Friday that defense spending will grow 38 percent next year, reaching 3 percent of gross domestic product.

The Communist leader said the national security should not be a prerogative of the Defense Ministry or the Security Council and called for a broad national discussion that would involve "all key institutions, including State Duma committees." He said that when the Duma reconvenes this fall, it will hold broad hearings on the issue.

A policy paper titled "Military Reform: Assessment of Threats to the National Security of Russia," drafted by experts affiliated with the Communist Party, was presented at the conference.

The paper, which concedes Russia's defeat in the Cold War, lists the United States and NATO as major global threats to Russia's security as well as Russia's neighbors and separatist movements within the country as local threats. It calls for expanded military spending and the creation of a special mobile force that could deal with local conflicts. Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev has said Russia faces no major threats in the next 10 years.