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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Security Council Approves Army Cuts

The Kremlin’s Security Council approved controversial large-scale cuts to the military Thursday that President Vladimir Putin said were long overdue and essential for Russia’s security and limited finances.

Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov said the overall cuts would involve 600,000 people over five years as Moscow sought to create leaner but more mobile, better equipped and more cost-effective forces.

Ivanov applied reforms to himself, asking Putin to remove his rank of lieutenant general in the Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR. Putin agreed to the move, which Ivanov said was to make his Security Council job easier.

"A unanimous decision has been taken that we need to carry out military reform in the broad sense," Ivanov said in remarks carried by news agencies.

The cuts included Defense Ministry reductions of 365,000 servicemen already announced. Another council official said the overall tally amounted to nearly a fifth of the defense forces.

Ivanov said there were more than 3 million people in uniform in Russia. That includes police and others not usually included in lower Western estimates of the country’s defense strength.

"That is an excessive burden for our economy," Ivanov said. "A mobile, well-equipped military organization is an insurance against any threat to the country."

Speaking at the start of the session on military reforms, Putin told its members — including ministers and intelligence chiefs — it was crunch time after months of acrimonious debate.

"We must draw a line under this," Putin said. "The future of the country’s armed forces and military institutions depends on this, as does Russia’s very security. We have discussed this for a long time and moved toward this decision. Our time is up."

The new element in Thursday’s cuts — and the one that forced Putin to cancel the last council session — is a planned reduction of 130,000 in civilian staff and 105,000 military personnel from the 11 armed organizations not under Defense Ministry control, such as interior troops and more obscure branches such as the railway troops.

One of Ivanov’s deputies, Vladimir Potapov, said the cuts were not necessarily proportional to the size of each service, but were based on a detailed analysis of which agencies could parry which perceived security threats.

The cuts would allow Russia to spend more on each serviceman because funding was not being cut, he said. Putin said the price of military reform was high, literally and figuratively, and would need to be strictly policed by the government and Ivanov.

Ivanov said no changes to military leadership were discussed at Thursday’s Security Council session