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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Affirms Will To Cut Back Military

President Vladimir Putin told the top brass Monday he planned to keep a tight grip on military reforms that will slash troop numbers and reorient some defenses to deal with potential new Chechnya-style threats.

In a carrot-and-stick speech to commanders and government officials, Putin criticized the military establishment in Moscow for not promoting officers from outside the capital, but praised the armed forces for their role in the conflict in Chechnya.

"Key decisions about building the armed forces have been taken," Putin said in televised remarks from a Defense Ministry podium, his face eerily lit from beneath.

"Now we have entered the implementation phase. It will be under unfailing control," he said, referring to recently agreed troop cuts that will reduce the size of the overall armed forces by a fifth over five years and free up money for new equipment.

The president said military reforms, which have been repeatedly attempted since the Soviet Union collapsed, had been "marking time in many areas" and implemented piecemeal.

Putin lashed out at the West for criticizing the war against rebels in Chechnya as Soviet-style imperialism and said no one should flex their muscles at Moscow. He said the military operation in Chechnya, which began in mid-1999 and has cost thousands of lives, was not over and would not be rushed.

By 2006, new groups of combat-ready, freshly equipped forces should be deployed on Russia’s flanks facing Central Asia and the southwest, he said.

"These forces should use the most modern technology and planning methods," he said.

The geographical areas Putin identified are ones Russia perceives as a possible source for a growing threat from Islamic militants. It says rebels in Chechnya fit into this category and that similar groups could threaten Russian security elsewhere.

Putin did not just take aim at the West and complacent Russian generals. He took Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin personally to task for failing to tackle military perks such as free travel that compensate for low armed forces pay.

"There must be no experiments in this work," Interfax quoted him as saying after the speech. "Let them experiment on rats and not humans."

Putin has devoted much attention to defense in recent weeks, eager to keep the military on his side but to introduce reforms that will make Russia’s security more effective and less expensive.

He has also made a virtue out of economic necessity by proposing missile cuts last week to the United States as part of negotiations about Washington’s anti-missile defense plans.

Russia can ill afford to maintain its vast nuclear arsenal but is eager to make sure its deterrent is not undermined by a U.S. Star Wars-style shield.