Russia's Communist Party is calling for nationwide demonstrations against a major restructuring of the military.
Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced the reforms in October. They envision cutting as many as 200,000 of 355,000 military officers and disbanding nine of every 10 army units by 2012.
General Nikolai Makarov
, head of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, said the war with Georgia in August revealed poor communications and faulty coordination between branches of the military. Makarov said the plans were drafted before the war, but added that "the conflict with Georgia worked as a catalyst [that] confirmed the reforms were necessary."
As I have written here
, the changes have already sparked a mini-rebellion and resignations in the officer corps. Now it appears that the disgruntled officers have found some allies.
In their statement
, the Communists call for Serdyukov to be fired:"This reform is likely to become the most destructive in the three centuries since Peter the Great set up a regular Russian Army. While our army became stronger after going through the severest Great Patriotic War, it could lose its capacity to defend Russia as a result of Serdyukov's reform being pursued in peacetime."
The Communists today are a far cry from their post-Soviet heyday in the 1990s when the controlled the State Duma and could put tens of thousands of people on the streets. But with Russia's economy battered by the global economic crisis and low oil prices, and now with a hundreds of thousands of nervous soon-to-be ex-military officers in the mix, Serdyukov's reform could turn out to be a major headache for the authorities.
-- Brian Whitmore