Interview with Major-General (retired) Vladimir Mikhailoch Dudnik (1994?)
Interviewer: Alexander Kalinin
Major-General Dudnik is one of the founders and leaders of “The military for democracy” movement and active participant of discussions on the military reform and security issues, a military reviewer of “The Moscow news”. In the morning of August 19, 1992 I called him up and invited to come to Moscow City Council emergency staff and to act as the military adviser to the emergency staff. On August 20 General Dudnik prevented the Bolgrad airborne division, already on its way to the downtown of Moscow, from advancing further. The Bolgrad division was probably the last reserve of the putschists and because its late appearance the officers and paratroopers were ignorant of the situation and very aggressive. General Dudnik is highly respected person closely connected with different democratic movements and organizations. He is staunch pro-Yeltsinist though not a blind supporter of the President. I hope his thoughts will be interesting for you.
The interview was taken on August 22, 1992.
Q: Vladimir Mikhailovich, we’ll talk about the military reform but not only about it. To make my questions more comprehensible I should explain that I’m interested in three interrelated to my mind problems: the military reform in itself, the decision-making process in this country (the most fascinating problem, for, though I’m a member of Moscow City Council I feel that the real decisions are passed not where they have to be passed theoretically or, if you please, legally but elsewhere, and finally influence of some new ideas on the structures of power and government. But I asked you for an interview, of course, because your involvement into the military reform activities. You see, I’m a little perplexed, for once every 6 months I read in newspapers: “At last the military reform begins”. Then 6 months elapse and I read once again the same encouraging words. What is the most stunning that nothing visible occurs and I’m sure that half a year later I shall read these very words. Please explain, what happens if something happens at all? Actually I as a citizen is fed up with stories about the military reform that I read for at least four years. And what are the goals of those who speak of the military reform? In fact, what do they mean when they speak of it?
A: When you read about the beginning of the military reform you have to know that these words are hypocrisy. Even if they are uttered by the Minister of Defense, General of the Army Pavel Grachev who occupies this position instead of a civilian as it was promised to us. Certainly you noticed that in media, especially in newspapers and magazines all mention of military reform has disappeared recently or, to be more precise, during the last year. What is particularly interesting: before August 1991 the problems of military reform were discussed very widely and a very wide spectrum of people took part in these discussions, from an ordinary taxpayer, an average person for whom the reforms have to be done, to academicians, journalists, specialists in the political sciences. Now, and I suppose not without a command, these discussions came to end. I guess, the true reason of this curtailment is the following. Quite recently the Committee of the Supreme Soviet of Russia discussed the draft of law on defense…
Q: You mean the Committee or rather Commission presided by Stepashin.
A: Well, the Commission presided by Tzarev.
Q: But, if I’m not mistaken, the nominal chairman is Stepashin.
A: Yes, true. At that gathering the General Staff was massively represented, especially the highest level generals from the Chief Operational Department of the General Staff and among them Baryn’kin, then the under-chief of the mentioned department. Now he is promoted to the position of the chief of this department and to the next rank. In his exceptionally aggressive presentation which in fact was the principal report, for the official rapporteur didn’t come, Baryn’kin said that our main trouble was that previously a draft of military reform had been elaborated either by people with unsuccessful political careers or “the third assistants of the second aides” or just generals in retirement. But, he went on, we would not allow anybody to interfere into this work which could be performed only by the General Staff.
Here is the position. This position has been advanced by Pavel Grachev, who at a meeting of the Highest Certifying Commission (where Yuri Skokov is the chairman and which is a cover for those in power to reject undesirable persons and to sanctify the presence of the good guys in the highest echelons of power) when the candidatures of Colonel Smirnov, former people’s deputy of the USSR and the chairman of “The military for democracy” movement, and of a prominent politician, the people’s deputy of Russia, Sergei Yushenkov, were examined for filling positions in the Ministry of Defense. The hearings were long, dull and obviously biased toward discreditation of these two men who, of course, were rejected while the generals who occupied high positions were formally recommended and nominated.
Q: What positions had Smirnov and Yushenkov to fill were they recommended by the Highest Certifying Commission?
A: Smirnov was proposed to be one of advisers to the Minister, and Yushenkov was proposed presumably for the position of chief of the cadre department of Ministry of Defence that time. Earlier we tried to promote him to the position of chief of the Humanitarian Academy.
Q: Oh, they will never give these positions up to you. Too serious to be occupied by alien guys…
A: Sure, they will not surrender these positions. You know, Yazov reached the military throne through cadres’ structures where he served as the first deputy of the head of the Chief Cadres Department, then the head of that department. He has placed his men everywhere and now it’s very difficult to make a way through all these barriers. And even now we feel results of Yazov’s cadre policy, for it’s not by chance the new cohort of generals, “the rooks with the Afghan syndrome” as we call them, have been promoted to the highest positions in the Army and the Ministry of Defence. All of them are fledgelings of the Yazov’s nest.(There is a play of words: the name of Grachev is derived from the Russian for “rook” and Dudnik makes a transparent hint at the collective identity and similarity of records of the generals who have been promoted since the August putsch).
Well, during the meeting of the commission Grachev asked Major Smirnov: “What have you done for the Armed Forces?”
And when Smirnov answered that he had elaborated the conception of national security and the conception of the military doctrine as well as series of other documents, Grachev retorted: “What? Who has elaborated these conceptions? I, we (he pointed to the generals) have elaborated these conceptions. What are you able to perform? Where are your conceptions?”
It’s necessary to say that there’re several conceptions of the military reform. They were elaborated by various independent groups. But all of then obviously haven’t reached Pavel Grachev, to say nothing about the Supreme Soviet or the President. None of them reached the people whom they were sent to.
Q: Wait for a while. It’s very important. You’ve said that there were several conceptions.
Q: How many conceptions exist?
A: Well, I know for sure that at least three conceptions exist. One has been elaborated by the people from the State Committee of Defense which finished is existence ignominiously on August 17, 1992.
Q: Is it the conception which is called the Lopatin’s conception?
A: No, Lopatin elaborated his conception separately.
Q: Thus, it’s conception of the Committee of Defense.
A: Then, the informal group headed by Academician Ryzhov, now the Ambassador to France, produced its own conception. This group of experts worked under the aegis of the Supreme Soviet (of the USSR).
Then, there is a package of documents on the military reform elaborated under the guidance of Alexander Nikitin from the Federation of peace and accord (former Soviet Peace Committee).
Further, the conception which has been elaborated by the group under the leadership of Professor Yuri Kirshin. And people say there were some other conceptions.
Q: Please tell, is every of these conceptions based upon different ideas of national security?
A: Different in nuances, in methods and in some other positions that could be called the principal ones but they are different in principle in comparison not of these conceptions but with the conceptions that existed earlier and are still dominant. I shouldn’t say these new conceptions are really different, they are variants of some general idea which is their common basis. Such variants are admissible, in fact they are desirable. They’re what we need. For the presence of variants creates space for deliberations and choice. By the way, many people struggled for the military reform under the colors of alternative conceptions.
Q: Naturally, otherwise there will be no reform.
A: And now there is the only draft, the one proposed by the General Staff in a very incomplete form. Significantly, at the meeting I mentioned it was said: “there is no alternative to the General Staff. It is important to point out that in no country (Russia is not the exception to the rule) and never the General Staff has elaborated conceptions of military reforms. It’s natural, for were it otherwise it would he as if the mafiosi would elaborate a draft of a law which would provide for their own elimination. In the USA the military reform of the 60s and 70s was not elaborated by the General Staff.
Q: Probably, for the simple reason — they have no General Staff at all.
A: Yes, they have the Joint chiefs of staffs committee. I have to use the more familiar terms since we don’t have exact analogues.
Well, in Russian history no military reform has been ever done according the General Staff’s plans. The reforms were made on the basis of alternatives competition. And never, I emphasize, never the projects advanced by the military structures have been approved. Some other projects were selected and then the independent experts, the best minds of Russia, were summoned and they combined the various views, gave to them necessary coherence and the Emperor approved this conception and entrusted the same people to implement the conception.
Now we have no alternative. Moreover, if there is conception elaborated by the General Staff, let’s call it the variant of Grachev, it is known to nobody. It has been never published or expounded. If you look for projects in libraries, you can find only the Yazov’s plan for reform which implies a set of measures to prevent the reform. This plan was published in 1990. There is nothing else!
Q: Probably, the General Staff, if we take into consideration its present personnel, is quite satisfied with the Yazov’s conception ?
A: I’m absolutely sure that the generals from that establishment are satisfied with it. The meeting at the Supreme Soviet Commission made it evident that the General Staff envisages up to 2005 nothing hut some very slow quantitative reductions of the Armed Forces and, possibly, some minor changes related to these reductions and directed to the preservation of the existing structures.
Q: But it is impossible.
A: Unfortunately, it is possible. It is already started. It is what they make now.
Q: Some time ago I pondered over the possibility of cuts of military power. I sought to find an answer to the question were the amounts of nuclear and conventional weapons, excessive as they might seem to me, a dilettante, accumulated by chance or by some specific willingness or unwillingness of those in power? Or was that terrible accumulation of weapons the result of some logic inherent to the basic ideas the elites believed in? Ultimately I came to the conclusion that until people believe in the retaliation concept there are the rigid limits to reductions of nuclear as well as of conventional weapons. If you share retaliation doctrine, you’ll inevitably need some reserve of reliability, to put it other way, you’ll always need one warhead or one tank more than your potential enemy has. And you will not cut those precious capabilities below certain and quite high level sufficient for credible retaliation which, in its turn, is inherently unstable, prone to increases rather than to decreases.
A: Yes, you’re right. But we begin to discuss matters of substance and very complicated ones. You see, such matters or issues are always rested on persons who embody the particular interests. And to identify these interests you have to know and to know well the structure of the Armed Forces. I mean not organization but the overall politological view of the army. The picture seems to be the following. At the top there is the uncontrolled group which has unrestricted powers and is responsible to nobody.
Q: As in any governmental structure…
A: Yes. And this top group will never surrender its positions. This is the first clement of structure. The second is the multimillion mass of soldiers deprived of all rights. They have no interest in the service but they can be used irresponsibly by the top group. They constitute the second, bottom clement of the structure. And there is the third element, the main engine of the system — the medium level, the officers who are deprived of rights but, since they’re already integrated into the system, they have no choice but to go on, to make the system to function to the extent their professional skills, their personal abilities and their legal status allow them to do this. They are the chief ferment of reform and the source of discontent. They are striving for reform but in vain. The desperate situation.
Well, this structure suits the top group. For in this situation they may do whatever they like and to accuse of the loss of the fighting efficiency those who demand of the reform. Did you insist on the reform? You have corrupted the army. And until the army will be in the state described, it will be unmanageable and at the same time it can be directed wherever the generals will like because all the rest are deprived of rights and powerless. We still have no law on the illegal command…
Q: I believe the norm on illegal or criminal command has to be inserted into the military oath…
A: No, first of all it has to be incorporated into the Constitution. It is a constitutional norm. In all other states, including the USA and FRG, the constitutions don’t provide the military with the rights equal to that of other citizens. On the contrary,the rights of the military are and should be curtailed, especially in this country and taking into account the August coup. But at the same time the norm on illegal or rather anti-legal in its most general form has to be incorporated into the Constitution and then, of course, into the oath of enlistment, field manuals etc. Then the formula of one-man management. It is terrible formula. Do you remember how the troops were brought into Moscow? The military gave the uniform answer to all questions: “We have got the order” as if a command could be an absolution of all sins and crimes. Can you imagine a free citizen of a free country who will fulfil a command and advance God knows where and for God knows what purpose which despite its obscurity is blatantly anti-popular?
Q: But the men were dis- and mis-informed in August. Some of them were sure that they were rescuing Yeltsin, defending him from the American troops that had landed somewhere.
A: True, I know. And we in our appeal which was published on August 23 (it was the first post-putsch document) used the word “indoctrinated” to describe the men’s state of mind. And they are still the objects of indoctrination though it is done now in slightly different ways. But we deviate from our theme. We still lack of the civil control over the military which has to be incorporated into the Constitution too.
Thus, if these desirable elements are incorporated into the Constitution, then the military reform may be commenced. And one more point. We don’t need to wail for reductions to start the reform. the new army can be created only by supplantation of the existing one, which is too rigid, inflexible to be reformed. We reached this conclusion as early as in February, 1990, when we organised an independent expet analysis. It cannot he reformed, it has to be restructured — oh, it’s wrong word.
Q: Well, you’ve used the term “supplanted”
(Metta, the interview is two hours long and some details are obviously technical and of minor interest.)
I take liberty to summarize some parts of the interview.
For next 10 minutes General Dudnik expounds his views on the supplantation of the existing army with the new one. His idea is to create companies instead of battalions, brigades instead of divisions, place them in the barracks where old detachments stayed previously, to provide new detachments with necessary material and legal basis, to change the military uniform for the present one is “the shameful one, tainted with invasions into Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia”, to recruit new brigades strictly on the local basis and thus to restore the old Russian army tradition to have strong connection of a unit with a particular locality where it is deployed in the peacetime and which provides men for “its” unit. These local ties will be useful in many respects for they will make the civil control over the army possible and will allow to exercise the normal social controls over officers and soldiers and to dismantle the wall which separates now the civil society and the armed forces.).
Q: But it means that two armed forces would exist side by side for some time. This situation seems to he potentially dangerous, especially so because the old army knows it is doomed.
A:ll is not dangerous. Actually nobody is going to attack us. The external circumstances are propitious for the reform. Anyway Russia still has quite impressive retaliatory capabilities — I mean airborne and assault divisions and brigades and the Strategic Nuclear Forces. It’s true that these forces experience difficultics, shortages of men. But it’s quite possible to make them up with the best officers and mcn from the units that are to be disbanded in accordance with the treaties on reduction of nuclear and conventional forces and to maintain them at the highest level of war preparedness and war fighling apabilities.Sure, what we lack of is the clear well known to everybody doctrine of the use of the nuclear weapons. The USA has such doctrine. We don’t have it. Everyone has to know under what circumstances Russia would use its nucJear weapons and in what fashion. We don’t know this.
You asked who takes decisions in this country. My answer is: nobody knows. Nevertheless decisions are taken. It means that they’re taken in undemocratic ways, they’re out of the public and parliamentary control. And until this problem is solved, there will be only talks about the military reform, about sanction of the armed forces etc.
The Strategic Retaliatory Forces that are very powerful, excessively powerful are the guarantee of our militarey reform. Russia has some period of invulneralibility.
(Then Gen.Dudnik elaborates his views on the locally based and locally recruited military units.He hates the present exterritorial system of recruitment which makes soldiers and, to a lesser extent officers, absolutely irresponsible and unaccountable to civil society. Under the system Gen.Dudnik prefers the men in uniforms will be under the surveillance and control of their own neighbors, will retain the ties with the civil society. Gen.Dudnik adds that this arrangement will be particularly feasible in relation to the problem of privatisation, of giving to officers some private property. The local deployment of the military units in the peacetime will allow the officers to acquire the property exactly in the areas of their units’ deployment and thereby to acquire the roots, the real local loyalties, to become a part of local society. Then Gen.Dudnik dwells on his own and his father’s life experiences that were quite bitter. His father was a colonel who served in the army for more than 30 years. As Gen.Dudnik puts it, he died an absolutely destitute man. When General began his own service in 1952 the parents could provide him with a single item of property — a pillow. When he retired he had to live on his pension of a little more than 2000 rubles a month (the minimum standard of living is now approximately 2300 rubles a month) and he was lucky enough to have an apartment and a tiny plot of land near Moscow. It is what he got for 40 years of service. Gen.Dudnik emphasized that if the government really wanted to have a good professional army it had to provide officers with property which would be the strongest incentive to perform well. Then I interfered again and said that the traditional way the empires rewarded their veterans was by granting to the veterans plots of land. I wondered why this way was not used by the Russian government, for the ex-officers would get at least some degree of social protection, could be easily involved in productive activities or, if they didn’t want to cultivate their plots by themselves or were unable to to do this work, they might to rent their land to the farmers who experienced a shortage of land. Thus, a space for new market agricullure could be created far more easily than now, for the local people would obviously accept such land grants to ex-officers as a just thing.
Moreover, the granting of property to the officers will ensure their independence, will provide them with a chance to terminate their service whenever they like. Now the officers are doomed to continue their service even if it’s intolerable to them which is not a rare case, for quite often the officers have connections with their superiors and have to reconcile themselves with humiliations, frustrations etc. It will be very different if the officers are men of property, of independent means. At the same time such officers can be easily mobilized in emergency situations.They will be always available for the service to their Motherland with which they are connected not only by their oaths of allegiance but by their property as well. They will have stakes in the country while now they are rootless people who are instruments of manipulations by their superiors.
Further Gen.Dudnik pointed out the pressing necessity to reform the veterans’ movement which in its present form is a feeding-through for the Marshals and generals.The veterans’ movement and veterans’ organisations have to he self-governed. At the same time they have to have some status regoznised by the Constitution and to have some financial support from the state. These organisations are to be democratic in the sense that its official leaders have to be elected and deposed by the members, responsible and accountable to them. To my remark that the very principle of self-gevernment is strangled in this country Gen.Dudnik replied that it was true and quite natural in the present socio-political environment.The principle is indispensible for any normal society but our society is still far from being normal and this sad fact is especially evident in the army which is hrought down to the state of any other bureaucratic structure and is equally ineffective, dull and wasteful.An officer’s service is in no way directed to the results.An officer has to be obedient, ready to fulfil any order of his superior without any trace of doubt. If he is OK in these respects he may hope to be promoted, but if he demonstrated any inclination to initiative, to independence, then his military career will be ruined, even if his initiatives brings good results in terms of war preparedness, well-being of his soldiers, saving of resources. The armed forces are extremely wasteful. Gen.Dudnik provides numerous examples of waste).
Q: Vladimir Mikhayovich, you have told that the present military system is rigid and rejects innovations. You have attributed this characteristic to the interest of individuals, members of what you’ve called the top group. Don’t you think that there are other, structural reasons for this inflexibility of the system or, to put it differently, is the system inherently rigid, unadaptable ? I have exactly this feeling…
A: You’re absolutely right. I should compare the present situation in the armed forces with architecture. Look at Moscow: Tcheremushki are incompatible with the Kremlin, they are absolutely different. Similarly, the Palace of Congresses is alien to the rest of the Kremlin. Even if it were not so ugly, it is out of place. And over Moscow, Russia or the CIS and ex-Soviet Union you may see the same inability to combine organically the old and the new architecture. Recently I’ve visited Belgium…
Q: Did you make friendly talks with the NATO?
A: No, I took part in the END Convention. I went there with the help of the “Civic Peace”. It was the second time I took part in the END Convention. The first time was just before the coup. I made a presentation and warned of the impending coup, named its leaders and appealed to the international community to help us to get rid of these guys. Well, the Belgians are very skillful in the art of preservation of their heritage and its combination with the new architecture. They maintain old buildings, sometimes they modernize them, restore them but with the greatest care and tact, without any damage to the history embodied in these buildings. Moreover, they are able to make wonderful alloys of the ancient and the new — very comfortable and unique entity.
Coming back to the army problems, I should say that you cannot preserve the old without modifying, modernizing it. If you try, you’ll have something obsolete, ineffective, anachronistic. At the same time you cannot destroy everything old just to clear space for new construction. For you’ll lose many useful, even indispensable roots or pillars irretrievably. You will get a Tcheremushki. Thus it’s necessary to take everything useful and viable from the past, from the old Russian Army that existed since Peter the Great’s reign, to modify these robust traditions and to add them to the alloy of which the new Russian Army will be forged.
Q: But it is necessary to understand these traditions correctly. Otherwise we’ll have another myth or mythology. For history may be studied in order to prove that the present state of the armed forces and the General Staff wisdom are exactly what we need and conform the best Russian traditions.
A: Yes. You remember the depressing story about the Commission on military reform which was created by the President (Yeltsin) and chaired by General Kobetz. By the way, the President’s ordinance on creation of the Commission was written by my own hand. It is not significant. What is significant is that only first two paragraphs of the ordinance were realized: one paragraph was devoted to appointment of Kobetz to the position of Commission chairman, the other entitled the chairman to form the commission which had to report directly to the President. But the other two paragraphs have been never realized. One of these “forgotten” paragraphs contained the mechanism of the Commission formation, the other called for a rapid creation of the legal basis for the Commission activities and for appointment by the President of deputies to Kobetz (for we knew Kobetz was unable to perform in that capacity).
Q: I have heard complaints of Kobetz’s indifference to the Commission. Probably, that duty was beyond his abilities or desires.
A:Yes, it’s an illustration of what you’ve mentioned earlier. The result was impotence of the Commission. In order to carry out military reform or at least to elaborate a sound conception of it we need independent experts, the people of indisputable reputation who possessed good special military knowledge combined with socio-political experience and united by the mutual interest and, I emphasize it once again, totally independent of the existing military structures. The group of experts has to be subordinated to the highest authority, that is to the President.
Q: Well, but at this point some delicate problems arise. How can we identify, promote such people and make them appointed to the positions you described? I’ve noticed that despite raging democracy in this country the people have been and still are very deferential. Consider an election situation: now we dislike the conservative Supreme Soviet or the Congress of people’s deputies, but actually everybody has forgotten the way people voted. And in their voting behaviour people expressed their respect and deference to their superiors. That is in order to be elected a person had to achieve some not insignificant level within the old system, to be something and the higher was the personal position within the system, the higher were chances of that particular person to be elected. It means that a general always had advantages over a colonel and overwhelming odds against, say, a captain. In the same way the people were by far more prone to elect a secretary of a CPSU committee or a chief of some executive structure or, what was the same to all practical purposes, a director of an industrial plant or a minister for they were already “the elect“— appointed leaders who knew the best or at least more than ordinary citizens. Excuse me for talking so much, but I hope my point is clear: to be elected or promoted one has to be integrated into the system which has to be reformed, one has to achieve some not insignificant position within that system which was possible (and, I’m afraid, still is possible) only if a person was compatible with the system, shared the dominant values, was imbued with the prejudices of the system and served it well.
And, as you know too well, the system rejected and sometimes persecuted noncoformists and dissidents, frustrated their careers, made them shadows, actually non-existent figures who could not achieve any important position or gain any reputation. Where are you going to recruit experts from and how are you going to make them influential, to give them reputation and popularity?
A: We have to make a special law basis for such group, immediately. It can be done either by the Presidential decree or by the Praesidium of the Supreme Soviet ordinance. In any case such act has to define the tasks of the group, scope of its activity, its relationships with other structures of power and government. It has to be ad hoc group entitled to elaborate the conception of military reform and the package of drafts of pieces of legislation necessary to implement the reform. And no Congress can disrupt this group’s work for the group will fulfil the task set by the highest legitimate authorities and not by the Congress. This group has to be responsible to the President. It will be not a permanent body. It has to fulfil its duty and to go into history.
The problem is that ambitious persons who run the business accuse us of ambitions. Us, independent experts!
Q: And of ignorance, first of all.
A: Sure, but it’s usual trick for ignorant people. It’s well known historical paradox.
When I related my sad story about draft of law on conscientious objection and alternative civilian service as example of standard attitude of the people within to the people outside. The outsiders are always treated as dangerous mentally deranged and psychologically unbalanced, ignorant, malignant, ambitious and ready to sacrifice the national interests to their ambitions. Actually Tzarev outmaneuvered the working group under pretext of the group ignorance, its inherent inability to solve the problem since no member of the group represented the interests on the Ministry of Defence).
Gen. Dudnik: That is what has happened with the numerous plans for the military reform. It’s typical. Regrettable, but typical.
Q: But explain me please how can it happen. OK, no doubt there must be some procedure for presentation, consideration, preliminary discussion, amending and finally presentation of a draft to the Supreme Soviet. I cordially agree with all these formal rules. But I suppose the rules have to be uniform for everybody irrespective of rank, position etc. And I’m sure that if some group elaborated a draft it has to have a chance to present it to the legislative body or some of its specialised commissions or agencies, the more so because it wasn’t our initiative, but we were asked to do this work by the Supreme Soviet’s commission on youth affairs. This is minimum minimorum. In real life we see constant attempts to eliminate all alternatives, to secure preponderance of the vested interests by some procedural tricks or absolutely intolerant rough squeezing opponents from the turf. It was not me who was afraid of open discussion of different drafts, but Tzarev who insisted on the position that only one draft deserved discussion as Ihe draft which had been elaborated by experts and responsible persons.
Note:responsible for defence and thereby for the conscientious objector and alternative civilian service! It’s something beyond my understanding.
A: You’re right. But it’s the essence of power in this country, the essence of its omnipotence. The Supreme Soviet is not an exclusion from the rule. On the contrary, it is more obsessed with acquiring greater share of power than with the problems of producing of good laws. And here is one more problem, that of involvement of the independent experts into law-making process and of making this process more transparent for the public at large.
And if we come back to the problem of the armed forces reform I take the liberty to put a question: is it feasible or actually possible to entrust the cause of the military reform exactly to the same generals who for decades persecuted the advocates of reform and ousted them out of the army? And yet they arc entrusted to fulfill this task! Despite their obvious well known in advance inability to do the work!
Q: But can this work be done without them? Is it possible to push them aside?
A: OK, they’re indispensable. But there is a simple mechanism which allows to use their knowledge without letting them to prevent the military reform. The special piece of legislation which I mentioned earlier and which will define the powers of the special commission on the military reform will fix the limits of the generals’ power and their responsibilities. Firstly, they’ll be responsible for the war preparedness for the duration of transition period as well as for operative command and daily management. Secondly, they will be disallowed to interfere into the work of commission and to impose their will on it. The decision on the military reform has to be taken by the the supreme authority with the advice of the commission. And that’s all.
And the further development is simple too. Imagine you’re a chief of some department of the Ministry . You have all necessary documents in your safe box. You know all chains and channels of command. One wonderful day I appear in your room and I fill the position you occupied before. But you’re not removed as trash. You’re appointed to be my adviser. And you will pass over to me all details you know so well. This transfer of skills and knowledge will take quite long periods of time, up to a year. You will have your full pay, you will be not retired. And you will help me to implement the military reform.
Suppose you had 12 subordinates, 4 of them will be retained in their former positions while 8 others will share your fate. They’ll be advisers to 4 new guys who will perform their duties. Thus, in a year we’ll reduce number of the Staff and the Ministry personnel at least by half. And thereby we’ll decrease the flow of papers. We’ll make the whole machine more manageable, more streamlined, more efficient and less expensive.
And then when the period of transition will elapse the advisers will be sent to retirement with due honour, with sufficient pensions, with the property about which I told you earlier, with new jobs and new professions that they will acquire while still in military service, and finally with some gleam of glory for they facilitated the military reform. No one will be thrown out of the army and sent to the labor market without vocational training, without new civilian professions, without some and not inconsiderable independent material resources. You may say that such preparation will be expensive. Well we have to bear these expenses and, it seems to me, we can do it without increasing military expenditures, probably, with their decrease, for the number of battalions and divisions will be drastically reduced.
By the way, nobody knows that last year the military, the Ministry of Defence spent money that had been allocated earlier, by the Union. They didn’t know what to do with the enormous sums they had at their disposal.
Q: I’ve heard that during this financial year the military will spend by far more than they have to get officially. You know that for the first quarter of 1992 the military had to get 50 billions of rubles. But it’s impossible to calculate the military expenditures for this year by multiplying 50 billions of rubles by 4. The result of such operation will be grossly misleading…
A: Probably so, but I’m not ready to go into details of the current military expenditures. I don’t know exact figures and in fact under the existing system nobody knows and will not know. I tell you frankly…
Well, I pointed out the way of painless reduction of the military establishment. It’s blatant lie that the generals are indispensable, that the army or even the nation cannot exist without them. You know the Americans got rid of no less than one third of their generals and admirals in the 70s and early 80s and didn’t damage the national security. You see, the American independent analytics made studies in order to evaluate the the professional level of the military. And they found out that the generals were professionally incompetent. Actually the generals constituted the most incompetent group. Being a general, I’m ready to admit that the Russian generals are different, superior to their American counterparts. Nevertheless, the armed forces and the nation can survive without the generals. It’s obvious fact. And anyway it’s necessary to change the top echelon of the military and to change it quickly. The generals are appallingly unable to adjust to the changing environment.
Why did Americans do that ? For simple reason. They wanted to renew the top level of the military commanders. And they took into consideration well known fact that the chief who shared old conceptions, values etc. would inevitably select as his deputy and possible successor a person with the same values, prejudices, conceptions. Thus the successor to the chief would be no different from him in all most important respects. And if you need some progress you need quite new, quite different people. In fact, the personal changes on a major scale at the top level are the prerequisite of the reform.
Probably, you know that after the Russian-Turkish war in the 1870s the task to create a regular army for young Bulgarian state was entrusted to a quite young Russian officer in the rank of… Captain. His name was Ivanov. And he fulfilled the task because he was not burdened with old dogmas, prejudices, old ways. He did his work in two years and did it superbly…
Q: You’ve touched extremely important and sensitive problem, that of promotion within the system which, as we agreed, is still intact. Probably I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the system selected and promoted people according to a yardstick of anti-qualities. Well, I don’t mean that idiots or imbeciles could achieve positions of some importance. But I’m nearly sure that no expertise, no knowledge, no skill, no intellectual abilities can secure promotion of a person who doesn’t possess, in addition to some and rather high level of competence, a set of qualities that I don’t like and that are probably despised by the majority of the population. I know the situation in some civilian structures and it confirms my idea absolutely.
A: I’ll tell you more. Bribe, bribe too often determined the career of a person.(Then Gen. Dudnik gives an example of what he said from his personal experience. In short, at some point his promotion was cancelled by his superior who deleted Dudnik’s name from the lists for promotion with the words:“And this man will never be promoted, for he doesn’t take bribes and, what is worse, prevents others from taking bribes”).
Q: Vladimir Mikhailovich, we have not got a civilian Minister of Defence. What do you think of Kokoshin’s appointment? Comment on this appointment please.
A: Kokoshin was actually promoted by our movement (“The military for democracy”). Galina Starovoitova was promoted by us as well. We knew she couldn’t be appointed to be the Minister of Defence. Yet we contacted her, explained our game, she gave her consent for the use of her name in the game. We probed public opinion, we brought forth the extreme demand to achieve something less.
Q: Starovoitova seemed to take your offer seriously…
A: No. We explained to her everything. She said that she would try herself in the capacity of the Minister of Defence, but she understood that such appointment would be impossible under present circumstances. But she gave her consent to use her name in order to exert some pressure, to create a climate propitious for Kokoshin, to make him more acceptable for the public and especially for the military.
Well, the military were really frightened by the prospect of having a woman as the Minister of Defence. And Kokoshin’s appointment was carried out smoothly. However, we are disappointed by Kokoshin. In fact, we had doubts about him. We were suspicious that he had been for a long time engaged by the military-industrial establishment. Yet we placed our hopes on his most elevated, most noble qualities. Unfortunately, our hopes didn’t come true. Almost immediately Kokoshin got involved into intimate relations with the military-industrial complex and isolated from us. We offered him some advisers, councillors, experts, but he preferred to appoint to these positions other people, nominees of the establishment and those whom he knew personally.
Q: Are they from the Institute for USA-Canadian studies and from the Institute of World economy and international relations [IMEMO]?
A: Yes, absolutely correct.
Q: Henchmen of Arbatov-senior and Arbatov-junior ?
A: Yes. We’re very disappointed.
But I should like to go on. I think that the President or any President has to have his own mini-General Staff which has eo consist of aides representatives of various branches of armed forces and consultants. Such group could perform several functions: elaboration of conceptions and drafts, evaluation of proposals, and probably control. They have to be the trusted people of the President.
My next point is that within this new model it’s quite possible to use the potential of the generals. They are to be appointed to the positions of Inspectors-General of the armed forces branches. Thus the continuity will be preserved, the rich expertise will not be lost while the reform will not be blocked.
You see, we too often sacrificed the good elements of our past, Neglect of the past is as dangerous as the blind commitment to it After the revolution all good democratic elements of the old Russian army were destroyed while all bad characteristics were retained and enhanced. The problem of upkeeping balance between experienced and old and innovative and young people is the most difficult one. Anyway the people in the highest command are to be physically fit to perform their duties. Thereby, they have to be comparatively young.
Moreover, there is a sad correlation between age and ability to adjust. It was not for nothing that the first who uttered the very term “the military reform” was a quite young officer, candidate of philosophy , Lieutenant-Colonel Savinkin.
Q: When did it occur?
A: In 1989, in “The Moscow News”. For a long time he suffered persecutions. He managed to survive and to keep himself in the Army, but now there is no demand for his ideas and he edits texts of old Russian military theorists, which is quite good job but Savinkin is able to to do something far more important and it’s pity he has to survive in the wings.
In the think-tank I told you about, Savinkin could be really useful as a generator of ideas. On the other hand, in “The Moscow News” there was an article “The fleet that lies dormant at its moorings isn’t worth much”. It was my article and though I’m ready to admit its shortcomings it is nevertheless the proof of my abilities to analyse and to draw right conclusions that were confirmed by the further development”. Yet I’m ostracized and excommunicated too. It is not matter of my ambitions. I simply wonder why all people who brought forward any innovative idea are removed from the scene.
You may ask who will implement the military reform? Well, people like that commander of a submarine who during the putsch left for the open sea and proclaimed his submarine to be a “free Russian zone” and refused to accomplish orders of his superiors who supported the putschists. By the way, now he experiences troubles too.
Q: It’s depressing that practically all officers who demonstrated their commitment to democracy in August last year are removed, expelled, actually devoured.
A: All ! And the last among them is Lopatin.
Q: Can you tell me where he is? I cannot find his traces anywhere. Nobody knows where he is, what he is doing now…
A: Well, he was simply dismissed from the armed forces. Fired. They even didn’t let him to serve one year more to get full pension. Nobody needs him…
Sure, he is not an easy person to communicate with and many of his personal characteristics may be sometimes irritating but he has bright mind and many merits. He did a lot to promote the military reform and sacrificed his career and personal material well-being to that end. I should say, he was the most staunch and the most consistent advocate of the reform.
And there are many other people of this kind…
By the way, our ideas gain great support among the military experts of NATO. Recently we had a meeting with the US Navy Supreme Commander. It’s important that he met us prior to his visit to the Ministry of Defence. His first meeting was with Kozyrev and then he met with us and listened to us for 4 hours. He listened us very attentively and we know that he passed our ideas to the high level American armed forces commanders.
There are many other problems. Unfortunately we don’t have any NGOs in the armed forces. Such organizations are effectively forbidden. Those that exist nevertheless have no recognized status and thereby no role to play…
Q: Probably, that is why they too often become hysterical like the “Shield” docs.
A: Right. You see we stubbornly reject the experiences of other countries and the norms of the international humanitarian law that permit and encourage the existence of numerous NGOs and provide them with status of different kinds. Our organisations don’t aspire for something more than consultative status which would be sufficient for them to have a say in debates and decision-making, to enjoy a right of legislative initiative,to send their representatives to the meetings of government or to parliamentary sessions. And then we could have a real competition of ideas brought forward by different NGOs that would send their proposals not to nowhere or to some dark abyss but to the government. And nobody would say as Grachev says now, where are your proposals? We haven’t seen any of them. These proposals will be examined by official bodies.
Q: Well,as I feel it, our government or parliament or its commissions don’t know how to work with experts and unfortunately we hate alternatives. I judge by my Mossoviet experience: every time the City Council has to choose between two or more variants of resolutions it is paralysed. And everybody who offers an alternative is considered to be a bad guy, eager to subvert the universe or at least law and order, with the emphasis on the last word.
A: Yes, it’s an illustration of the old Army rule: “The superior is always right. If he is wrong, see the first point”.
Q: Well, but I agree that the military system is somewhat different form the civilian systems in the sense that under certain critical circumstances you have to accomplish orders without discussing them. At the same time I cannot agree to the current practice to equate any situation with the combat situation and to demand of everybody to obey any command of authorities as a ____ command. But look at our newspapers, they arc full of the military terminology and they teach us to think in the military terms.
A: You don’t have to exaggerate the specific nature of the military system.True, it’s different, but to a point.
And many people tried their best to create a false understanding of the military system. What is the real embodiment of the so called peculiarity of the military system? It is that protected from the eyes of the profane, from the public alienation safe where the war-fighting plans and codes necessary to carry them out are held. It is that extreme situation you told about. The second aspect of the peculiarity is the military-technical side of war-fighting or war preparedness. But essentially it’s no different from any other type of human activities for each of them requires special skills, knowledge, rules etc. It’s not peculiarity, it is the quest for professionalism which we lack now. Look at the American high commanders, say Colin Powel1. He has three academic degrees, two of them in social sciences. An officer has to be an intellectual with flexible mind, ability to adjust, to innovate. And these characteristics can be acquired or developed through education. Actually what is specifically military (commands, field manuals, chains of communications) can be easily learned by any rational person. Sure, the division of labor in the army is desirable, for one cannot be equally efficient as a specialist in technical maintenance and, for example, chains of command that arc really complicated. But our army avoided such professionalisation and now we desperately need it. As always, we deliberately go on contrary to the concepts of common sense
Q: You certainly know the new law on security. Are satisfied with it?
A: In no sense. It reproduces all old dogmas without any attempt to modernise them.
Q: And recently I have seen an issue of “The military thought” magazine. The issue contained records of presentations made at some conference held in late May,1992.It is depressing reading. Especially the contribution by Gen. I. Rodionov. Is he a “hero” of the bloodshed in Tbilisi in April, 1989 ? Anyway, he reproduces all old dogmas without any, even minor corrections. Marshall Yazov seems to be a great reformer in comparison to Gen. Rodionov, for Yazov paid at least lip service to the new political thinking etc.
A: Gen. Rodionov whom you mentioned is exactly the “hero” of the Tbilisi massacre. True, he is very conservative, to put it mildly. But look at them all. They are the same: each resembles the other.
Q: Do you consider the personal changes at the top level to be indispensable for success of the military reform?
A: Yes, and for many reasons. First, we need people who are free of old dogmas and stereotypes. Second, the command is onerous task and can be performed by healthy people in their prime. Third, we need quite rapid turnover at all levels of the military system and chances for promotion of the best. Of these three reasons the first one is the most important.
Q: Now we have reached finally the most sensitive point. From what you have said and from my own experience I surmise that in order to reform the system you have to be inside of it and to occupy within it some significant position; at the same time the system has very effective mechanisms that make it immune from any impulse for profound reform and reject innovative persons as alien bodies; therefore such people cannot achieve significant positions within a system which is exceptionally resistant to all influences from outside and very resilient, tending to be essentially the same. I suppose it is the case not only with the military, but with any system in this country. And I don’t see any way out of this vicious circle. Do you ?
A: I agree that there are no changes for better. Yet. You’re right when you say that one has to be a “their own man” to be promoted. And it’s the Chief Cadres Department which selects the people as “their own ones”. Previously this department acted together with the Military and the Administrative Organs’ Departments of the Central Committee of the CPSU. But previously the CC of the CPSU exercised at least some control over the Chief Cadres Department’s activities, restrained its arbitrariness. Now this department has absolute freedom of action…
Q: Thus we have unrestricted and unrestrained arbitrariness in selection and promotion of the people.
A: True. The Chief Cadres Department in the Armed Forces is a monster whose power is comparable to that of the KGB. And until it will be dismantled, nothing can change. But this is a separate problem. What is perplexing though is that the damned department makes whatever it likes, it is not responsible for the results of its activities. For example, nobody is responsible for the quite successful military carrier or Gen. Makashov (the President of Russia or even the USSR in the “shadow” Commmunist administration) or of similar obscurantists at the top level of the military command.
Q: Don’t you feel desperate ?
A: Sometimes. But I overcome despair.
Q: I’ll confess that never in my life I have experienced such despair as I felt during the first week after the victory of August revolution when the organisers of the victory divided its spoils and asserted their power. Nothing afterwards could astonish or depress me. I adjusted to the new environment during that first week and understood that nothing had changed. Or almost nothing. I see nowadays the same division of labor which I observed throughout all my life: some unknown people take decisions while other and known people bear responsibility for that decisions. It’s true we elected some of those who bear responsibility. But we didn’t elect most of those who take decisions. Is it a democracy?
A: Certainly no. We don’t enjoy a democracy whatever it may mean. Yet I still cherish a hope that we’ll break through and will be able to make urgent, long overdue reforms. And the basis for my hope is the mood of the people, of the politically active people. They continue to move in the right direction.
Q: Are you sure that this direction is right ?
A: It seems to be right.
Q: But you seem to contradict yourself. An you have told earlier is very strong argument against your optimism. Do you think that the negative phenomena you dislike so intensely could happen without connivance of the political leaders now in power?
A: Actually I don’t mean them. I mean the ordinary people who got rid of the old dogmas, old habits of mind and bahaviour. I know a lot of such people. They have tasted liberty and they want, in fact need, more and more of it. And nothing can stop this process of liberation or emancipation. Moreover, I see that in human souls the natural desire to have something, to possess has been awaken. My hope rests on these two trends.
(Then Gen. Dudnik explained in details his ideas about necessity to establish an authoritarian regime, to change the electoral law, to have new parliamentary elections as soon as possible and his belief in Yeltsin. Nevertheless he agrees that it is necessary to have some guarantees against degradation of a good authoritarian rule into a dictatorship or a tyranny. However these guarantees are to be granted by the leader who has to devise a mechanism of self-deposition in case of massive dissatisfaction with his policies. He admits the potential danger of such development, but hopes that Yeltsin will emulate De Gaulle — provided Yeltsin is really what he seems to be).
Q: Can you find justification for the promotion to the top level of military system the men whom you obviously dislike?
A: Yes, I can. Russia is an interesting country in the sense that the military have never ruled it, but nobody could rule it without support of the military. Stalin purged the armed forces exactly because he felt that he would never gain support and consent of the military. Yes, support and consent of the military are indispensable for any potential leader of the country. I don’t say it is sufficient, but it is indispensable. And in this respect Gen. Grachev is a good choice, for his presence at the top of the military system satisfies everybody.
Grachev is the only real force within the military. He’s popular in the airborne troops, he’s popular among the generals, he is popular among the officers, within that intermediate level the importance of which I emphasized at the beginning of our conversation. In fact, the officers have to support Grachev, though in the depth of their souls they have doubts about him.
A: Because he doesn’t make urgently needed reforms and tries to preserve the old army which despite of his efforts is falling to pieces. You cannot imagine the mess in the armed forces, even in the Strategic Rocket Forces. And yet the men in these forces consider themselves to be subordinates of Grachev, not of Shaposhnikov (the Commander of the United Armed Forces of the CIS). This is the matter of fact.
And Grachev is apparently loyal to Yeltsin, even in purely personal terms. But unlike previously the President now is effective Commander-in-Chief and is able to exercise his legal power to restrain Grachev and his henchmen. The trend is encouraging.
Q: We had a wonderful talk and I’m grateful to you for your time. But you’ve grieved me very much by your vindication of authoritarian rule. This seems to contradict your other principles and anyway is untenable position if you take into account the gloomy history of this country. How can you reconcile irreconcilable ?
A: In fact, I’m as cautious as you are. I am not blind. I see many inconsistencies in Yeltsin’s policies. I am in no way an ardent advocate of an authoritarian rule. But I think that the crucial issue to be solved is the issue of property. It doesn’t matter who will give me property, President or Supreme Soviet. I guess it will be President rather than the parliament. Thus my support of Yeltsin is quite pragmatic. He will grant us property, he will establish and secure the principle of inviolability of the private property. This is what I and many, many other people are waiting for. We are able to defend our property with the arms in our hands. But we need a permission to do that and we need the property to protect. And that will be done by the President. As regards the parliament, I have not recognize its authority for a long time. It was elected by God knows whom, it represents God knows whom and I hate its members and its leaders. While the President is my President: I supported him from the beginning of the electoral campaign, I delivered speeches in his support on behalf of the Armed Forces and I still believe him.
Q: But don’t you think that it would be more natural and more easy for the authoritarian leader to grant property to a rather narrow group of the close associates, aides and friends than to the mass of ordinary citizens? And I suspect that this is exactly what is going on now.
A: The Supreme Soviet is responsible for any bad things, not the President.
Q: I cannot accept this interpretation. Let’s return to the military doctrine. As far as I know, this country has never had anything like articulated, to say nothing of written, document on military doetrine. It seems to me that new democratic Russia is going to emulate the USSR in this respect. ..
A: You’re only partially right. Though there were no such documents, the military doctrine of the USSR nevertheless existed. Its essence was the old conception of the world revolution backed and initiated by the bayonet. It was the core which in the course of time transformed into the conceptions of nuclear retaliation and the military intervention. And it had quite obvious material embodiments like the Group of the Soviet Troops in Germany, Strategic Nuclear Forces, the blue-water Navy, offensive configuration and deployment of the Soviet military might. And add the Soviet military-political actions; the USSR intervened everywhere the lumpens came to power, be it Somalia or Ethiopia.
Recently at some gathering the first deputy of the Chief of the General Staff Coionel-General Kolesnikov said that it was not necessary to have some documents which would expound the military doctrine of Russia since other countries didn’t have such documents.
Q: But it is not true.
A: Gen. Kolesnikov doesn’t know this. But he believes that it is not necessary to have documents where the conception of the national security and the military doctrine would be written down and made known to the world. I don’t share this position. We need such statements as well as legal mechanisms of use of the military force.
Regrettably, Russia doesn’t have the military doctrine or the conception of the national security and tries to copy the old Soviet military policies despite the lesser resources.