On May 7, 1992, Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed decree No. 466 “On organization of Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” This document appeared approximately six months after signing of the Belovezhye agreement of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, which started breakup of the USSR. The former Soviet republics acquired sovereignty quickly, but the super-centralized military machine of the former Soviet Union could not break up instantaneously. The semi-amorphous Command of the United Armed Forces of the CIS was the “boss” of the military heritage of the former USSR before establishment of Russian Armed Forces.
Historians will have to analyze and evaluate what happened after breakup of the USSR, but hardly may people doubt that it was not Russia that acted as the main initiator for establishment of national armed forces in the former Soviet republics. Signing of the decree on organization of Russian Armed Forces was an obvious reaction to the disintegration processes in the Armed Forces of the broken Soviet Union, which started growing by May 1992, and started threatening security of the CIS itself. Due to the fact that troops in many regions of the former USSR turned out to be as if uncontrolled, local wars in Nagorno Karabakh, Trans-Dniester Republic, South Ossetia and Abkhazia became realities, and the Chechens managed to “privatize” armament and combat materiel for an entire light army in the North Caucasus Military District.
The fact of establishment of Russian Armed Forces played a stabilizing role in the CIS and in Russia. Due to persisting problems Russian Armed Forces still remain the main guarantor of stability in the former Soviet republics. However, unfortunately this role is getting less significant. Georgia often speaks about withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the zone of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. Trans-Dniester Republic is also discontent with the Russians. Russian troops will quit the Trans-Dniester Republic soon. Moscow reduced its peacekeeping contingents in Kosovo, as well as in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and liquidated military bases in Cuba and in Vietnam.
These events are evidently primarily connected with the gradual deterioration of Russia’s military power. The objective process of the troops reduction is over. Over the last decade, the strength of Russian Armed Forces fell from 2.8 million to 1.2 million servicemen. It is expected that by 2005 the troops will be reduced to 1 million servicemen. According to Russian General Staff, this is the minimum that should ensure ability of the country to defend itself, and the country should not fall below this level. However, the economic crisis does not allow normal maintenance of even this minimum of forces. Whereas the strength of Russian Forces fell, for instance, in comparison with 1991 by 56.57%, the military expenditures during this period fell by 76.75%. In conditions of reorganization and reforms in the troops it is normally necessary to spend much more than usual. However, since 1999 Russia has been spending 2.6% of its GDP on national defense. This money is enough to pay money allowances to servicemen and to somehow support the military industrial complex. Large-scale purchase of armament and combat materiel is out of the question.
According to the armament program until 2010, signed by the President in January 2002, between 2002 and 2006 the main assignments of the defense order will be spent on upgrading of armament and research and development. On which money is the government going to convert the Armed Forces to a professional basis during this period? President Putin named this direction as the priority of the military reform in his annual message to the Federal Assembly in April 2002. To transit to professional Armed Forces Russia needs to increase its military budget at least by 25%. Even this increased budget will be sufficient only to pay wages to officers and servicemen serving under contract. Purchase of armament and combat materiel also requires substantial sums. The share of the defense budget should grow at least to 3.5% of GDP. This is a very big level of defense expenditures. Stable economy is needed to support it. So far it has been absent in Russia. It is possible that the fate of the plans for conversion of Armed Forces to professional basis will repeat the events of the 1990s. In 1992, President Yeltsin issued a decree introducing contract service in Russian Armed Forces. Hardly anyone doubts usefulness of contract service for society, but experts note that this has been done at an untimely point. At present servicemen serving under contract occupy only 20-25% of scheduled positions of soldiers and sergeants in Russian Armed Forces. Meanwhile, now efficiency of contract servicemen in Russian Armed Forces does not always correspond to the required level. There is no material interest of contract servicemen in their military work. Meanwhile, Russian Armed Forces will face transformation of the logistics system, and money allowances will be slightly raised for servicemen. This means additional expenditures again.
Thus, the speed and directions of military development in Russia depend very much on economic condition of the country, like ten years ago. The Kremlin planned radical steps for accelerated social and economic development of the country. It is not known if these plans will come true. Hence efficiency of the military reforms remains doubtful too.
Russia is experiencing a difficult path of its establishment as a state. It proclaimed democratic principles and peaceful foreign policy. This means that Russia will keep following the course aimed at demilitarization of economy and society. At any rate, it is quite clear that the Kremlin will attempt to maintain the Armed Forces in combat readiness spending the minimum necessary money. Of course, in any case these are burdensome tasks for society. However, Armed Forces are the guarantee of sovereignty and stability of the state. The authorities obviously understand this. Hence there is a hope that Russian Armed Forces will be rearmed in the planned period, and combat capability of the troops will be improved. Still, it is hardly possible to hope that transition to contract service will prevail in the policy pursued by the authorities in the next three to four years. Estimates show that the country will not have enough money for this, even despite the favorable trends in the national economy.