In the 1990s, the direction of change in the Russian armed forces is toward a smaller and more defense-oriented force almost entirely deployed within the borders of Russia. As of mid-1996, that change was occurring faster than military or civilian leaders could manage. The result was a large armed force with too many officers and not enough enlisted personnel, one unable to provide adequate training, and, according to Russian and Western experts, deficient in purpose and direction. The military leadership remained in the hands of holdovers from the Soviet regime who had failed to adjust to new political and military realities. The force's one strength lay in the sheer numbers of its personnel and the size of its equipment inventory.
The performance of Russia's armed forces in the Chechnya conflict provided a glimpse of the capabilities of Russian ground and air forces. The image is not an impressive one, particularly if evidence on training and force morale is considered.