ANNIVERSARY OF THE RUSSIAN ARMY

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Seven years since the foundation of the Russian Armed Forces.Source: WPS

May 7, 1999 is the seventh anniversary of the Russian Army. On this day, Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin signed the decree founding the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Nowadays this date is seen as a matter of course, as a certain stage in the development of the country. Whereas seven years ago the foundation of the Armed Forces was an enforced measure. It happened almost half a year after the Soviet Union disintegrated. Before the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation were established, security in the CIS was managed by the amorphous headquarters of the United Armed Forces of the CIS. There were also military districts across post-Soviet territory, and considerable military forces were concentrated beyond the Russian Federation. The armies of other ex-Soviet states were later formed from these: Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Uzbekistan, etc. Armed forces of these countries existed de jure, whereas in reality chaos and suspense reigned in military structures, and local wars started one after another, in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Trans-Dniester Region, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, etc. It is due to the disorder in the United Armed Forces of the CIS that Dudaev’s thugs managed to “privatize” enough weapons and military equipment in the North Caucasian military district for a whole light army. The troops were not Soviet any longer, but officers of these troops, being basically representatives of Slavic nations, did not want to move under the national “roofs”. Thus, signing the law on foundation of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation was a natural reaction to the disintegration processes in the armed forces of the former USSR, which grew increasingly more tense, and in May 1992 it was evident that such a situation threatened the security of the Commonwealth.

As Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes, the foundation of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation was a stabilizing factor for the CIS and Russia. And even now, in spite of all the current problems, the Russian Army is the main guarantee of stability across the whole of the post-Soviet territory. However, its role is not what it was. And unfortunately, it is fading year by year.

This is due in no small part to the fact that Russia’s military strength is gradually declining. The objective process of reduction is over. Army personnel numbers have been reduced from 2.8 million to 1.2 million over the last seven years. According to the General Headquarters of the Russian Federation, this figure is an absolute minimum, and further reduction in numbers of the Russian Army will be hazardous for the country’s security. However, the economic crisis does not allow the state to maintain even this minimal force. If the personnel numbers have diminished by 2.3 times compared with 1991, military expenditures have been reduced by 4.3 times, despite the fact that military detachments require more money when they are being reformed than under normal circumstances. But in 1999 the level of defense expenditure is the lowest in the history of the Russian Federation: 2.6% of the GDP. This money will be enough to pay allowances to servicemen and maintain the defense industry of the country. But there is no talk about any large purchases of military equipment and weapons.

Meanwhile, the Russian Army does exist and despite all financial troubles displays the ability to solve problems set before it. For instance, in 1992-1994, when Russian forces were withdrawn from abroad, 29 motorized rifle, tank, and land divisions, 51 artillery and missile brigades, 66 aviation and helicopter regiments (all in all, 300,000 servicemen, about 1.2 million people including families) were relocated within a two-year period.

A number of politicians hold the opinion that the withdrawal of Russian forces from abroad was a pointless stampede from regions where Russia had geo-political and strategic prevalence. Much money was spent on transportation, forces were relocated practically in the wilderness, whereas perfect military infrastructure was left behind abroad. If Russian forces had not been withdrawn so quickly, perhaps the NATO expansion in Europe would be not so intensive now.

Military authorities are reproached today for delaying with reconstruction of the Russian Army. But the experience of civilized countries says that it is the senior authorities of the state that should manage these issues. And there is hardly anything in this connection to reproach the Defense Ministry for.

In 1992, the General Headquarters of the Russian Federation presented detailed proposals on perfecting the Armed Forces and a concept for their structure through to 2000. This concept was approved by the president, and was the basis for the plan of formation of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation for 1993-1995. But the plan was never implemented to the full extent because of the lack of an appropriate legal basis for military formation, as well as the crisis state of the Russian economy. In fact, the Armed Forces had to reform themselves on their own, without proper financial and technical support from the state.

The actual formation of the Russian Army began in 1997, when Igor Sergeev was appointed as defense minister. In 1997, the Strategic Missile Forces, Military Space Forces, and troops of space missile defense of the Anti-Aircraft Forces were merged into one kind of force: the Strategic Missile Forces. Later, the Air Forces and Anti-Aircraft Forces were also merged. A number of military districts were abolished. The military concentration of the Armed Forces in the north-west of Russia was reduced by 42%. According to Igor Sergeev, the number of servicemen in the Leningrad military district has been reduced by 52%, in the Kaliningrad special district by 57%, in the Northern Navy by 19%, in the Baltic Navy by 29%. Four out of five command points have been abolished, the number of military plants has been reduced by 20%, the number of warehouses by 50%, the number of fuel reservoirs by 15%. According to Sergeev, 167 military bases and air-fields with artificial runways have been spared. The greatest reductions have been made in detachments located at the borders with the Baltic states, Poland, and Finland. “These actions prove that Russia’s measures for reducing its military presence in the North-Western region were of a radical nature,” Sergeev noted.

The main result of 1998 for the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation is the launch of the main defense document of the country, the Fundamentals of the Russian Federation State Policy on Military Formation for the Period to 2005. After the Supreme Commander-in-Chief signed the Regulations on Military Districts, the General Headquarters became the coordinating center for managing issues of the country’s security. According to the document, other territorial security structures regularly report to the General Headquarters. Borders of these structures will coincide with the current military districts, and their heads will become full members of those territorial foundations.

Senior authorities of the General Headquarters hold that a significant increase in the powers of military district force commanders is connected with upgrading the quality of planning, organization of cooperation, government, and provision of forces and other security structures, for the sake of the country’s security. In particular, centralization of government is connected with Russia’s transition from a state of peace to a state of war, and the necessity to upgrade the quality of measures of operative and military training is accounted for by political, military, and purely economic reasons.

This year, Russia’s new military doctrine will be worked out, the Privolzhsky and Uralsky military districts will be amalgamated, a reform of military education will be held, and the number of detachments of permanent combat readiness will be increased.

Due to the NATO expansion to the east, and the events in the Balkans, the military budget of Russia may be increased by 10 billion rubles. The Duma has already developed the corresponding bill. The government and the president will apparently approve this document.

Thus, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are celebrating their seventh anniversary with modest results and a lot of urgent problems. Solutions to most of these problems are connected with state authorities. The Army and the Navy are supported solely by their traditional Slavic tolerance and faith in the future. And it would be much better if this happy future should come as soon as possible.

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