Military Modernization and the Russian Ground Forces
Authored by Dr. Rod Thornton.
Russia’s political leaders are currently pushing a state- and society-wide process of modernization. The Russian military, a deeply conservative institution, is being asked to accept fundamental changes that threaten the very livelihoods of those being asked to implement them. New structures can be created and new equipment and technologies procured, but the crucial element is the degree to which such changes are accepted by the human element. This is often the most difficult aspect in any process of organizational change. It is no wonder that the military modernization process is progressing slowly in Russia. The Russian ground forces will not be very different in the next few years than they are now. Time and future investment will eventually produce the more refined army that a host of Russian politicians have wished to see. But it will take time and investment.
This monograph examines the recent process of organizational change in the Russian ground forces. It begins by charting the whole post-Soviet military reform debate. This debate was dominated, on the one hand, by those seeking to make the armed forces more professional, flexible, and adroit—and thus better suited to the security demands of a major 21st-century power—and, on the other hand, by senior military figures wedded to the concepts of mass and a conscript-based military. It was actually only after the war with Georgia in 2008, and when military opposition was weakened, that change within the ground forces could begin in earnest. New command tiers were established, divisions became brigades, and the idea of absorbing professional soldiers into the ground forces was refined. The problems of generating a suitable corps of non-commissioned officers, of training suitable officers, and of marrying equipment to strategic need are all issues covered here. This work concludes with the thought that even though the changes being introduced in the ground forces look dramatic, they cannot be implemented overnight. The road towards fundamental change where Russia’s ground forces are concerned will be quite a long one.
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