This year's reform has reduced Russia's Armed Forces by 30,000. As of January 1, 2004, our Armed Forces will number 1,132,000. This was disclosed here today by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, as he reported on all the main military-development results of 2003.
We have done our best to streamline the organization of this country's Armed Forces and army groups along strategic axis, Ivanov continued. The most difficult structural transformations inside Russia's Armed Forces have now been completed. Meanwhile their numerical strength is nearly optimal, Ivanov stressed.
We now have every chance to focus on everyday combat training programs and ways of enhancing the combat readiness of our Armed Forces, the Minister added.
The Government of the Russian Federation has passed a federal targeted program "On Recruiting Contract Servicemen For Some Military Units And Formations" to be implemented in 2004-2007, by its resolution. According to Ivanov, this is a highly important step in overhauling the country's Armed Forces.
In his words, 147,000 sergeants and soldiers will switch over to contract service within the next four years during this program's implementation. In the long run, our Armed Forces will have 244,000 contract soldiers by 2008.
The President would be expected to submit a bill on changing the status of servicemen to the State Duma in the near future; this will make it possible to launch systematic work in this sphere, Ivanov said in conclusion.
Military expert Vladimir Orlov expressed the opinion that the Pentagon is preparing to strike at least four Russian regions.