Within the last six years the authorized strength of the Armed Forces was reduced by almost 60%
Six years ago, On May 7 of 1992, President Boris Yeltsin signed decree No. 466 “On formation of the Russian Armed Forces”. This event (half a year after collapse of the USSR) started formation of a qualitatively new military organization of the country, which started moving along the democratic path. Russia inherited almost 60% of all troops of the former Soviet Armed Forces, being the most powerful in the world, deployed in the territory of the republic. After formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States Russia also took part of forces and means, deployed outside of its territory, under its jurisdiction.
Thus, the total authorized strength of the Russian Armed Forces by the moment when the decree about its formation was signed, was more than 2.8 million people. This is a very high parameter. It amounted to more than 1.8% of the Russian population (in the civilized countries the armed forces amount to some 1% of their population). Some 12% of the gross domestic product were spent for defense. (On the average the countries of the world spend 3-4% of the gross domestic product for defense).
It is quite clear that Russia could not bear such expenses. Reduction of the troops became the main direction of the military build up in 1992-1996. During these years the authorized strength of the Russian Armed Forces was reduced to 1.7 million. In 1997 the Armed Forces authorized strength was reduced by another 200,000 servicemen. By January 1 of 1999 domestic Armed Forces will consist of 1.2 million people (this is less than 1% of the country’s population), and expenses for the national defense should amount to some 3.5% of the country’s gross domestic product.
Summing up results of the military build up in Russia a range of the politicians point out that after 1992 the Armed Forces reduction was not so radical, and that along with the troops reduction their global reorganization was supposed to be implemented. We can agree with this thesis only to some extent. Intensive reduction of troops in 1992-1994 was accompanied by their intensive removal from the foreign countries. This demanded big forces and expenses.
According to official information of the Defense Ministry, in 1992-1994 a group more than 300,000 servicemen strong was re-deployed in Russia (together with members of their families these were some 1.2 million people), consisting of 29 mechanized infantry, tank and airborne divisions, 51 missile, artillery anti-aircraft missile brigades, 66 aircraft and helicopter regiments. More than 45,000 pieces of different combat equipment, 3.5 million ton of technical materials and strategic store were removed to Russia.
Specialists admit that this was done under harsh financial-economic conditions. As for the scale, scope and time the re-deployment carried out has no analogies in the international practice. President Yeltsin called its completion the “most important success” of 1994.
It seems that delay in organization of the necessary military build up measures in Russia happened in 1995-1996. Although at this point we can hardly blame the country’s military leadership of that time. As is known, the Armed Forces can not reform themselves. This is done by the state and society.
In absence of the due civil control over the Armed Forces and Defense Ministry leadership the Armed Forces build up was going on only within the frames of what was simply vitally necessary for Russia at that time. In connection with the NATO’s eastward expansion intentions in 1994-1996 a new operational-tactical territorial formation, Kaliningrad special district, was organized; when it was found out during the Chechen war that the armed forces units have a low armor protection level, additional tank and artillery units were added to them; after demands of Ukraine about division of the Black Sea Fleet construction of a new Navy base was started in Novorossiysk; expatriation of the Russian forces from Azerbaijan it was necessary to create the military infrastructure in Astrakhan, being a new place of the Caspian Flotilla deployment.
Russian military bases were created in Georgia and Armenia in accordance with the corresponding agreements to counteract Turkey. To fulfill the peacekeeping tasks and the tasks of the national interests protection, as well as in accordance with the international obligations Russia formed its own peacekeeping forces group.
Meanwhile in 1995-1996 the country’s leaders and politicians were to some extent far from the real problems of the Armed Forces reforming. Absence of an organ, coordinating the military build up in Russia, disease of Boris Yeltsin, parliamentary and presidential elections, arguments about the Chechen war, all this distracted the public opinion ad the politicians to the other problems.
Only after the President’s recovery and nomination of the new Defense Ministry and general Staff leadership in May of 1997 the attempts were made to carry out an accelerated and global military reform in the country. By this time the socioeconomic crisis in the society and Armed Forces has reached its peak. Besides the Strategic Nuclear Forces and some airborne units there were practically no units in the Russian Armed Forces, ready for immediate fulfillment of combat tasks. Practically all funds, transferred to the troops, were so to speak “spent for food”. The debts were growing. 1/2 of the aircraft,40% of the anti-aircraft defense systems and helicopters were (and unfortunately still are) in bad repair. Although the command structures of the troops are manned completely, 1/3 of the platoon and company commanders posts are vacant. Among the officers who retired from the service ahead of schedule officers younger than 30 accounted for 70%. The system of the higher military education turned out to be ineffective, because 1/3 of the young people, who entered a military school, did not graduate from it.
If these negative tendencies persisted, the Armed Forces could (and still can) lose their combat capability. That it why the unpopular radical transformations of the Armed Forces were started. Command structures of the staffs and departments were reduced by 30-40%. The Armed Forces transited to a four branch structure. In the future it will be replaced by a three branch structure. The units and formations of permanent readiness were defined, which are almost completely manned and combat training is financed by 100%. Within a year 3 divisions, 4 brigades and 21 regiment were formed in the Armed Forces, meeting these demands. Probably for the first time during the whole post-Soviet Russian history regular full-scale exercises of the military districts and fleets are organized, as well as the division, regimental and battalion exercises with the firing practice. Provision of the country’s security is laid primarily on the strategic forces, in particular, Strategic Missile Forces, being the basis of the nuclear deterrence potential of the Russian strategic forces. Strategic Missile Forces is the least expensive branch of the Russian Armed Forces. Some 8% of the military budget are spent for them. Along with this their strength amounts to 10% of the whole Armed Forces. Until 2000 it is planned to create a “nucleus” of the Strategic Missile Forces monoblock group on the basis of the existing missile system Topol and its silo-based and mobile variant Topol-M. this year it is planned to complete the final tests of Topol-M missile system and put the first launchers into operation.
Meanwhile, despite all positive steps of the Armed Forces reforming the dangerous tendencies are preserved. Since April of 1995 not a single basic norm of the law “On the servicemen’s status”, connected with the money allowances indexing and social protection of the servicemen is not fulfilled. To bring the servicemen’s money allowances into correspondence with the law mentioned above, it is necessary to raise them by 100.2%. The state does not have such money.
The debts to the Armed Forces amount to some 40 billion rubles in the new prices (Just compare: the total defense budget for 1998 is 81 billion rubles. Along with this it does not stipulate any expenses, connected with repayment of debts for the previous years). The state owes 4.5 billion of the new rubles for repayment of wages arrears to the military-industrial complex employees. It was promised to repay these debts by July 1. Anyway the fate of the debts repayment to the Armed Forces is not solved yet.
It is hardly possible to repay the wages arrears to the officers and warrant-officers quickly. According to the Defense Industry’s sources, now the total debts of the Defense Ministry to the personnel amounts to more than 11 billion rubles, including more than 4 billion rubles of the money allowances and wages (taking into account the military-construction complex and industrial enterprises) for February-March, 5.7 billion rubles of social benefits and compensations and 2 billion rubles of the annual bonus for 1997.
These are very big digits, if we take into account that the state collects not more than 13 billion rubles of taxes monthly. Probably due to this, for example, in March only 3.4 billion rubles were transferred to the Armed Forces instead of the planned 6.75 billion. Along with this the combat training expenses were not financed at all. Overall, in the first quarter of 1998 only 1/3 of the budget assignments for this period was transferred to the Armed Forces.
The huge debts to the Armed Forces demonstrate a severe economic crisis in the country. Comparing the Armed Forces financial problems with the analogous problems of the state, some competent military experts suggest that in 1998 the federal budget will be sequestrated, and if the economic situation keeps on aggravating due to the international economic crisis, the de-evaluation of the ruble is possible. Against this background many experienced officers consider assurances of some country leaders in rapid repayment of debts to the Armed Forces as another populist step, connected with formation of the new government.
So far the militaries do not complain. This is evidently connected with the fact that the massive reduction of the troops influences the fates of almost all officers of the country. Bog migrations of the servicemen, their reduction and soon are going on. The fact that the Armed Forces social problems are not solved, can negatively influence not only their controllability and combat-readiness, but can even result in the protest and disobedience actions of the troops. The radical parties and movements, who made up their mind to achieve impeachment of the President, call for this.
Discontent keeps on growing in the Armed Forces. The number of officers, willing to retire ahead of schedule is growing too. If the tendency is preserved, the reforms in the Armed Forces will stop, because there will be simply no people left, who could carry them out. It is the stable financing of the troops, which is called by the present Defense Ministry’s authorities the main condition of successful military build up.