The Geopolitical Context
According to the Ministry of Defense, between 1991 and 1995 the Soviet Union and then Russia withdrew about 730,000 troops from eleven countries: Azerbaijan, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Poland, and Slovakia. Including military families, about 1.2 million people were involved in this shift. Besides the troops, all the paraphernalia of fifteen army directorates, forty-nine combined-arms divisions, seventy brigades, seventy-two aviation regiments, and twenty-four helicopter regiments also were moved from foreign posts.
The unprecedented speed with which Russia's direct military influence shrank had a strong effect on the national psyche. Beginning in 1993, Russia's foreign policy increasingly reflected the views of influential nationalist and communist elements of the government. Those elements sought political support by reviving the memories of Soviet world power, promising an end to the "subservient" role being played by Russia on the world political stage of the 1990s. Inevitably, Russia's real-world application of its military doctrine is an implicit and explicit element in expanding influence in the directions dictated by a revised foreign policy program. (The 1996 Institute for Defense Studies report indicates that viewpoint.) Given severe funding limitations, however, that expansion seemed to have limited possibilities in mid-1996.