Pm: Army To Be Professional

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has called for forming a permanent readiness force in the Russian army on an exclusively contractual basis. The premier said after a meeting dedicated to military reform issues that the armed forces should be formed out of two components: a force stationed on permanent combat readiness to address peace time tasks and a call-up reserve made up of military reservists and young men subject to conscription. Commenting on the results of the meeting, Kasyanov said that the army reform might begin in earnest in 2004. However, he pointed out that it was necessary to make all the necessary calculations now and to determine how long would be needed to implement the reforms, i.e. whether the 2004-10 timetable will be opted for or the plans could be implemented sooner. The premier feels the formation of the armed forces is a "sensitive" issue for society and the country's defense posture. He stressed that the government was aware of the need to provide a considerable funding for this purpose.