Tags: Post-reform | Russian | Military | Will | More | Dangerous

Post-reform Russian Military Will Be More Dangerous

Monday, 07 January 2002 12:00 AM

Last week, Russia's President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of new military reform, which is estimated to take about three years. According to press reports, Russia will reduce its military by more than 15 percent, down to 1 million troops this year, but these cuts will not affect the nation's combat readiness.

Putin has made military reform one of his main goals. His plans include trimming Russia's 1.2 million military personnel by nearly one-third over the next three years, modernizing weapons arsenals, gradually abolishing the draft and turning the military into a fully professional force.

Gen. Nikolai Kormiltsev, the supreme commander of Russian ground forces, said Russia would still be able to defend "potentially dangerous southwestern and Central Asian strategic directions.

"Despite some overall cuts in ground troops, the combat potential of the forces has increased through the build-up of constant combat-ready elements," he added, citing army divisions that have seen action in the current brutal Chechen war, now in its third year.

After these announcements, the liberal American media began to promote the fallacious idea that Moscow's plans for new military cuts could be considered evidence of Putin's intention to reduce the threat from his military to that of the world strategic balance.

However, it is important that we recognize that the new reform will not affect Russian strategic forces and would be carried out only by reducing its conventional forces, mainly ground troops, which are deteriorating anyway because of lack of funds.

Over the last decade, Moscow has been spending sufficient funds for the development of its strategic arsenal, which the Kremlin used and still uses to extort money from the West. Money from this so-called nuclear racketeering was spent to increase the private wealth of the corrupt Russian elite, who simply ignore the needs of Russia's conventional forces, primarily its ground troops.

At the same time, the Russian military has been trained to regard the U.S. and NATO as its enemy, and Moscow leaders continued their war preparations even during the official warming of relations with the West and in the years following.

Throughout the 1990s, Moscow kept the huge Soviet-era mobilization system intended for a global war and preserved the former Soviet Union's ability to draft a 20-million-man army and field 100,000 tanks.

Currently, military depots across the country still hold huge arsenals, but the number of up-to-date weapons has dwindled sharply and troops get little training.

For example, the air force is so short of fuel that pilots fly 25 hours a year on average, compared with the West's minimum of 200 hours. The navy has complained that it lacks funds to even combat poachers in its own waters.

Military morale, which suffered a heavy blow during the botched war in Afghanistan and two wars in Chechnya, has plummeted to new depths amid misery, corruption, rampant theft and vicious hazing. Young conscripts can be seen in Moscow and other big cities begging outside grocery stores for food and cigarettes, and many cases of fatal hunger in remote military camps have been reported.

Former President Boris Yeltsin announced plans for military reform three times, especially to improve the capabilities of Russian ground forces, but all of them failed. Shortage of funds was the main obstacle for any sufficient improvement in Russia's army and conventional forces.

But not any more.

The latest changes in the West's policy toward Russia, and rapprochement with the U.S., have given Moscow an unprecedented chance to cut costs and free up funds for restructuring the Russian military. The new Western economic benefits, as well as foreign policy changes favorable to Moscow, allow Russia to concentrate on military reform and transform its ground forces from their recent troubles into a modern army.

Once reformed, it will be a smaller army but much more combat-ready, with much higher combat capabilities and armed with up-to-date weapons systems. There is no doubt that the new Russian army will be much more aggressive and dangerous for its enemies, or potential military adversaries, as Russian military documents officially designate the U.S. and NATO.

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Last week, Russia's President Vladimir Putin announced the beginning of new military reform, which is estimated to take about three years. According to press reports, Russia will reduce its military by more than 15 percent, down to 1 million troops this year, but these...
Post-reform,Russian,Military,Will,More,Dangerous
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2002-00-07
Monday, 07 January 2002 12:00 AM
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