What can be expected from military reforms in Russia?


Society and the mass media are waiting for new reforms in the military field. It is evident that they will not have to wait for long because Lieutenant General Vladimir Shamanov, director of the main department of combat training and service of troops of the Armed Forces, has announced recently, “until July 1, the General Staff will determine the future look of the Armed Forces that will include their quantitative composition and qualitative condition.” Shamanov adds that after that, the Defense Ministry will outline certain tasks of the Armed Forces.

The statement of Shamanov looks interesting because, logically speaking, the look of the Armed Forces should be determined by the Commander-in-Chief – President of the country, Security Council, etc. if the army reforms itself, of course, there will be nothing good. Besides, it is necessary to conduct the reforms on the basis of state documents: military doctrine and national security concept. It is only planned to work them out, modify, etc. How is it possible to carry out reforms then if the basic documents determining new military threats and challenges are not ready yet?

The Mass media already discussed the directive of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov of February 21 in which it was proposed to reduce the central staff of the Defense Ministry radically and to include civilian posts in the governing structures of the Defense Ministry, to replace warrant officers and junior officers with sergeants etc. This directive was reportedly abolished but it turned out that the top-ranking officials of the Defense Ministry did not wish to give up the plans for determination of the new look of the Armed Forces. What can we expect from possible reforms?

First, there will evidently be a significant reduction of the army. This idea is lobbied by Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Andrei Kokoshin, deputy leader of United Russia faction in the Duma. Not only the central staff but also the troops will be reduced. In the near future, the strength of the Armed Forces will be reduced to 850,000 servicemen. Kokoshin voiced this idea back between 1998 and 2000 referring to the research done by the General Staff in 1995 (Kokoshin worked for the Defense Ministry then). It is very likely that the idea of radical reduction of the army will be implemented now. According to Kokoshin, it is impossible to develop and produce new kinds of armament without increase of the share of military expenditures in the national GDP in any other way.

Second, a new operational strategic configuration of the Armed Forces will be determined. For example, the troops will be focused on solving of problems in the Arctic region. General Shamanov has reported recently that the Armed Forces have a number of units and formations being prepared for the fulfillment of tasks in the northern and Arctic regions.

Shamanov says, “these are units and formations of the Leningrad, Siberian and Far Eastern military districts.” He believes that the Armed Forces will defend Russian interests in the Arctic region, for instance, on the Arctic seabed claimed by Russia. The Russian Navy will also increase its presence in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and in the northern latitudes.

Shamanov remarks, “for the summer training period, a task was determined for the Navy in the form of presence not only in the Atlantic Ocean but also in the Pacific Ocean and increase of actions of submarine forces of the Northern Fleet.”

Third, Russia will finally start working on the development of a new military doctrine. This is manifested by the fact that the institute of international security problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences established by Kokoshin in 1999 issued a collective work entitled “To the new revision of the military doctrine of Russia” in 1,000 copies in cooperation with the international policy department of the Moscow State University named after M. Lomonosov. Kokoshin is the composer, editor-in-chief and author of the collection. Presenting the book to journalists, the chief military ideologist of United Russia announced that “issues of modification and development of the military doctrine of Russia are very important today.” According to Kokoshin, they proceed “from requirement of creation of modern innovation Armed Forces about which Vladimir Putin has spoken recently outlining a strategy for development of our country until 2020.” According to Kokoshin, this importance is also dictated by the continuing striving of NATO for eastward expansion and by other factors.

In the collection of works presented by Kokoshin, he and like-minded specialists presume that in the new revision of the military doctrine, it is expedient to offer a broad evaluation of “the revolution going on in the military business, especially in commanding of combat operations with combined (integrated) use of diverse forces and means at all levels of the Armed Forces.” The authors also say that the doctrine should classify all types and kinds of operations for the conduction of which the Armed Forces should be prepared including operations outside of the territory of Russia (including humanitarian, peacekeeping, antiterrorist operations, etc). They add that “the military doctrine should cover the role of the Russian Navy as the most flexible and multipurpose political tool of military force especially.”

Thus, the chief military ideologist of United Russia who has been senior deputy defense minister (1192-1996), secretary of the defense council (1997-1998) and secretary of the security council (1198) acts as one of the authors of the new military doctrine on the basis of which a strategy for buildup of the Russian Armed Forces until 2020 will be worked out.