By Paul Goble
Army General Anatoly Kulikov has called on the Kremlin to creqate a new body, modelled the National Counter-Terrorism Committee and centered in the military’s general staff, to coordinate the activities of all force structures during emergency situations, natural or man-made.
Kulikov made his proposal at the Military Commanders Club during a conference at the end of May on coordinating force structures during emergency situations. At that time, the general “recommended that the president and government create in the [Army’s] General Staff a permanent organ to coordinate the actions of force structures during emergency situations.”
At present, the Emergency Situations Ministry has primary responsibility for reacting to “technogenic and natural catastrophes, fires, accidents” and similar phenomena, and the Interior Ministry has responsibility for control of any demonstrations or protests. Kulikov’s ideas would give the military a major voice over both (www.ng.ru/politics/2011-05-30/3_kartblansh.html).
The general noted at the meeting that “a certain time ago, the Russian Security Countil had become the coordinating organ among the force structures, but in fact, coordination of actions is being realized only on the basis of decisions taken by the president of the country” rather than in a continuous way.
That is a mistake, Kulikov continued, arguing that “the coordinating organ must be a permanently functioning one like the National Counter-Terrorist Committee.” He added that “the General Staff has already agreed that on its base should be established an operational staff attached to the coordination committee of the Security Council.”
Once those arrangements are made, he said, “the General Staff will fulfill its basic function not only in the sphere of defense but in the sphere of security as well,” something it is “ideally” situated to do by means of the coordination “of the actions of the force structures, including the collection of information, the processing of data, the setting of tasks,” and so on.
As “Nezavisimaya gazeta” notes it its report on Kulikov’s remarks, the general’s formulation, “the General Staff has expressed agreement” is “an interesting way to put the question given that on May 6, President Dmitry Medvedev signed directive 590 which significantly broadened the purview of the Security Council.
That directive specified that the Council “is an independent subdivision of the Presidential Administration with the rights of an administration” and defined its functions as including “the guaranteeing of national security, the organization of the defense of the country, including the construction and development of the Armed Forcdes, other forces, and so on.”
Thus,, that directive means the Security Council “de jure already is playing a coordinating role in ensuring national security and the defense of the country.” What then is Kulikov talking about, especially since he calls for “an operational staff for emergency situations at the coordination committee of the Security Council. But there is no such committee.”
The Security Council has seven inter-agency commissions, “Nezavisimaya” reports, “one of which, for military security is headed by Army General Yury Baluyevsky,” an opponent of the defense ministry. Consequent, “if an operational staff for emergency situations were established” there, it would mean that the Security Council and not the General Staff would “by law play the coordinating role.”
That explains part of Kulikov’s proposal, but it also appears to reflect his rather broader understanding of emergency situations, an understanding that includes not just natural and technogenic disasters but also crimes and protests that threaten to get out of hand, possibly to the point of undermining state power.
If protests like the one in Manezh Square in December were to spread, “Nezavisimaya” continues, “then by themselves neither the interior ministry nor the emergency situations ministry would be able to cope.” But that still leaves open the question as to whether the General Staff could do so more effectively.
It is thus likely that Kulikov’s floating of this idea reflects not only the tensions that have always existed between the Russian military and other force structures but also the concerns of some in the senior officer corps and elsewhere that conditions in the Russian Federation are deteriorating to a point that they may have to play a most unfamiliar role sometime soon.