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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Declares Military Goals Fulfilled

Russia's impoverished military has achieved two goals for 1998: reducing the size of the army and introducing a new ballistic missile, President Boris Yeltsin said Monday.

Yeltsin made the remarks after hearing a report from Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev at the Kremlin on the reduction of the army from 1.5 million a year ago to 1.2 million now.

"This figure has been achieved, and the task fulfilled," Yeltsin said. Russia can no longer afford its huge military left over from the Cold War and is trying to cut its forces to a more affordable level.

Sergeyev also told Yeltsin that 10 of the new Topol-M nuclear missiles officially went on duty with a unit near Saratov on Sunday. The Topol, a single-warhead missile intended to replace multiple-warhead missiles to be banned by the START II arms control treaty, is one of the few new weapons systems the military has managed to bring into service.

A former head of the strategic missile forces, Sergeyev fought hard for the new missile, which is several years late entering service and suffered a setback when one of the weapons exploded during a test flight in October.

Yeltsin expressed approval, saying that "with this we have accomplished a very important goal."

The START II treaty was signed in 1993 and ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1996. It would eliminate land-based multiple-warhead missiles - the mainstay of Russia's nuclear forces. Ratification of the treaty has been blocked in the State Duma, where Communist deputies say it would put Russia at a disadvantage. Indignation over the U.S-led attack on Iraq earlier this month has blocked the treaty's chances for passage this year, though deputies say a vote is possible in the spring.

As its military capabilities have dwindled due to lack of funding from the cash-strapped government, Russia has come to rely more and more on its nuclear forces as a deterrent against attack. Russia's draft budget for 1999 envisions 573 billion rubles in spending, or about $27.3 billion, with about 3.5 percent of that budgeted for the entire military.

Soldiers go unpaid and most training has been halted for lack of money. Yeltsin said in 1996 that Russia must transform its army into a smaller, professional force. But he has had to abandon the goal of ending conscription by 2000 because of a lack of funds.