Russian History


Prospects for the Military

In the mid-1990s, Russia's military establishment included a number of influential holdovers from the Soviet era, together with incomplete plans for reform. That inauspicious combination of elements was not reconciled because there was little agreement among military or civilian policy makers on the appropriate speed and direction of change, and because economic conditions offered no flexibility for experimentation.

To the extent that the Chechnya conflict of 1994-96 was a fair test of combat capability, Russia's armed forces were far from fighting form, even by their own evaluation. As they received pessimistic assessments of the current and future situation, Russian policy makers faced a complex of other adjustments. In 1996 the shapers of policy on international relations and national security could not agree on Russia's status in the post-Soviet world (see Foreign Policy Prospects, ch. 8). Utilization of the military's very limited financial resources would require a consensus on the areas of the world most vital to national security. For example, would a second Chechnya-type uprising within the Russian Federation merit the kind of effort expended on the first one? What sort of response should the seemingly inevitable expansion of NATO elicit? Should Russia seek a permanent military presence in other CIS nations, to bolster national security? In answering such questions, military policy makers confront a national psyche still damaged by the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union itself. They also are tempted to divert attention from fundamental problems by renewing campaigns against old enemies.

No redirection of national security priorities could have meaning without a strong commitment to reorganize the military establishment that was inherited from the Soviet era. Only a leaner force could recapture the Soviet-era reservoir of skill, pride, and dedication that was dissipated in the first half of the 1990s. Through 1996 the budgetary strategy was to finance selected high-technology R&D projects and MIC enterprises capable of satisfying foreign arms customers (together with internal security "armies" such as that of the Ministry of Internal Affairs), while literally starving conventional troops and neglecting maintenance budgets. With the formation of a new government in mid-1996, the voices of reform became louder, but consensus on the basic requirements had grown no closer.

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The Russian CFE Data Exchange , supplied in concurrence with the terms of the CFE Treaty, provides current and accurate information on the organization, deployment, equipment, and staffing of Russia's armed forces in the European sector covered by the treaty. Translations of Russian military periodicals and press releases in the military affairs section of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service's Daily Report: Central Eurasia are an invaluable primary source of current material. The best recent monograph on the Russian armed forces is Richard F. Staar's The New Military in Russia , which evaluates recent policy shifts and prospective changes of doctrine. Jane's Defence Weekly and Jane's Intelligence Review provide articles on specific issues of military policy. The annual The Military Balance contains detailed listings of force strength, weaponry, and deployment, and the annual World Defence Almanac addresses the same information with background on treaties such as START I and START II. The journals Military Technology and Defense News articles on the Russian defense industry and arms trade. A study by Graham H. Turbiville, Jr., "Mafia in Uniform: The Criminalization of the Russian Armed Forces," is a detailed report on post-Soviet criminal activity in the military. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)