A top Russian security official said Thursday that 600,000 civilian and military posts will be slashed from the nation's three-million-strong armed forces over the next five years.
Security Council Deputy Secretary Vladimir Potapov's announcement followed a senior defense meeting chaired by President Vladimir Putin that was called to decide the fate of long-mooted army reform plans.
"Today we must make a final decision" about army reform, Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying at the start of the Security Council meeting.
"The fate of the army and Russian security depends on this. We have no more time," said Putin. "The importance of deciding this question is great -- both literally and figuratively."
Putin added that a future Russian army must be "more mobile and effective" in order to swiftly notch victories in regional campaigns like the 13-month offensive in separatist Chechnya.
Potapov said a decision had been reached to eliminate 470,000 military and 130,000 civilians positions in a bid to convert Russia's bloated Soviet-era military into a capable fighting force.
Potapov added that because its armed forces are in shambles, Russia will not be able to fight a large-scale war without reverting to "non-conventional" arms until 2010.
And he pointed out that Russia this year has adopted both a national security and a military doctrine in which Moscow reserves the right to use its nuclear arsenal in case it comes under attack.
Officials said Russia also intends to keep to its current military spending levels in a bid to boost the amount of cash allocated per serviceman, Potapov said.
Russia has set seven billion dollars in the 2000 budget on defense spending compared to a 270 billion dollar annual military spending budget in the United States.
Thursday's meeting is meant to decide years of debate about army reform which were first launched under former president Boris Yeltsin in 1997 but have been hurt by infighting between competing branches of the Russian armed forces -- MOSCOW (AFP)
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