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Russian Defense Reform: Current Trends

Russian Defense Reform: Current Trends - Cover

Authored by Dr. Irina Isakova.

December 2006

75 Pages

Brief Synopsis

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the topic of Russian defense policy has not received great attention. The rebuilding of Russian military strength is a high priority of President Vladimir Putin, and one to which he and his subordinates have devoted considerable time and resources. Therefore, inattention to Russian defense policy is unwise and even dangerous because it causes us to overlook potentially major changes not only in Russian policy, but in international affairs more generally. This monograph encompasses virtually all aspects of the reform of the forces, their organizational structure, the financing of the military, reform of the defense industrial sector, etc.


The Russian government has demonstrated a serious intention to address the issue of defense reform and modernize the military. Russia’s defense reform is being implemented now, though it is far from being complete. The pace of the reforms and the sequence of measures needing to be taken have been adjusted to the fast-moving political and economic environment. The present stage of the reform process is a transitional phase to radical systemic changes in defense posture planned for 2011-15. It also reflects the political dynamics of the forthcoming elections in Russia. The key new developments are:

• Setting clear parameters and timing for radical Command and Control (C&C) transformation, including abandoning the Military Districts, transferring control to the operational commands and strategic “directions” (i.e., strategic areas) in 2010-15;
• Establishing a joint headquarters for special purpose forces;
• Reforming military intelligence;
• Adjusting Russia’s new nuclear posture;
• Reforming the defense industry and opening doors for private investments; and,
• Establishing new forms of civil control over the military (increasing presidential influence).

Russia’s political establishment, in setting a goal of reforming the defense system by introducing transparency, accountability, and civilian control over the military, is concentrating its efforts on sustaining and modernizing nuclear strategic forces and creating robust counterterrorist special-purpose forces. These are judged to be the initial and essential tools for responding to both global and regional/local security challenges. Training is increasing, changes are being introduced to command and control and mobilization policy across the defense and security sectors, and new weapons systems are coming on line. Modernization of Russia’s defense and security establishment is considered to be one of the primary national development programs. The business community is expected to join the government’s efforts in funding this process, especially the procurement programs. This monograph attempts to describe the framework and current patterns of Russia’s defense reform.

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