Monday, February 23, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Retired Russian Officers Denounce Regime, Call for Creation of Self-Defense Forces

Paul Goble

Vienna, February 23 – In a move that may prove nothing more than a publicity stunt but one that could turn out to be the start of a far more dangerous trend, more than 500 retired Russian officers met in Moscow on Saturday to denounce the regime for “wrecking” and to call for the organization of independent forces to defend the country.
Such forces, of course, could be used to advance the corporate interests of the officer corps or the Communist Party, all the more so because the meeting which styled itself the All-Russian Officer Assembly, issued an appeal to officers on active duty and indicated by its language its close ties to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF).
On Saturday, 565 delegates, representing “veterans organizations” from all branches of the Russian armed forces, along with “invited guests from the republics of the near abroad,” met to condemn the government’s military reform plans and urge the organization of a “popular guard” to keep Russia safe, a Moscow site reported today (
Speakers told the group that as a result of the irresponsible policies of the current Russian government, the Russian armed forces are “not in a position to defend the country” against foreign enemies and that the situation, already dire, will be even worse if the government’s reforms are fully implemented.
One speaker, Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, widely known for his radical and emotional views, proposed creating a public organization to be called “the People’s Guard,” whose participants could “organize a partisan movement on temporarily occupied territories in the event of military aggression by NATO.”
The meeting adopted a resolution and an appeal to those now in uniform as well as military retirees. Those documents, which the website of the Moscow city committee of the KPRF reproduced in full make for disturbing reading, even if they are only the overheated words of a relatively small number of those in or near the Russian armed services.
The resolution said that the Russian president and the Russian government have adopted policies which undermine the defense capability of the country at a time of rising threats and declared that it considered such actions and the support they had received from all parties except the KPRF “criminal.”
It listed a series of “demands” including the reversal of current military reform plans including the downsizing of the armed services and officer corps, the “immediate” removal of Vladimir Putin as prime minister and the launch of an investigation into his “criminal activity,” and the removal of other officials involved with the current military “reforms.”
And the resolution concluded: “In order to block plans for the destruction of the defense potential of the country and its Armed Forces, and of guaranteeing the security, territorial integrity and independence of Russia, [there needs to be organized] a social organization called the Minin and Pozharsky People’s Guard.”
The appeal to those in uniform, to veterans, and “to the Russian and other native peoples of Russia” repeated these conclusions but in even more inflammatory language, openly asserting that “the current higher military-political leadership of the country, including the Supreme Commander, has entered onto the path of treason and betrayal.”
That is obvious, the appeal continued, to anyone who can see that “the essential feature of the army transformations is to disarm the army of the people, to deprive it of its spiritual-patriotic core, and to convert the army into mercenaries capable of serving money and not the Fatherland!”
The events of 1991, it said, show that if those at the very top of the political system are ready to betray the country, it is extremely difficult to prevent them from doing so. But because of that experience, the appeal suggested, those who lived through it now are in a better position to resist.
Forming a People’s Guard, it added, is one way that “the people can take on itself responsibility for the fate of Russia, guarding and defending their right to life, independence and the right for an independent course of development” regardless of what those at the top of the political and military pyramids may try to do.
“Today is not the time to ask ‘What can such a guard give me?’ Today the patriot must ask only one question: ‘Where is my place in our militant grouping?’ … On us and only on us depends the future of Russia, our children and our grandchildren! Comrade officers! Citizens of Russia! The Fatherland is in Danger!”
While most Russians and serving Russian officers are certain to dismiss this appeal as the work of extremists, at least some are likely to respond more positively because the language of the appeal pushes many of the most powerfully emotional buttons in the Russian patriotic landscape, thereby creating a new threat to public stability in that country.

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