Civil-Military Relations in Russia and Eastern Europe

Civil-Military Relations in Russia and Eastern Europe

Civil-Military Relations in Russia and Eastern Europe

Civil-Military Relations in Russia and Eastern Europe

Excerpt

This book had its beginning in 1996 when I was the programme officer on the Canadian Department of National Defence's Democratic Civil-Military Relations Programme. This programme which brought twenty or so East European defence officials to Canada annually for approximately one month of seminars, government briefings and visits to various Canadian academic departments, governmental and non-governmental agencies having to do with civil-military relations was aimed at assisting in a small way the transformation of civil-military relations in the former Soviet bloc. A curious fact struck me at that time - and not only me, I must admit. While both civilian and military defence officials in the transition states faced a great challenge in learning to manage civil-military relations under the rules of a democratic game, civilians faced a double challenge. For them, military matters had long been a kind of terra incognita because under the old system such things were traditionally the preserve of men in uniform.

The gap in confidence, and competence, between the average military participant and the average civilian participant in the programme was usually quite apparent. Generally, the military participants had better language skills, better knowledge of international affairs, more familiarity with the theory and practice of civil-military relations in the West, a much better sense of strategy (naturally enough), and certainly no less - and often more - of an understanding of democratic governance than their civilian counterparts. Practical reasons why this should be the case were not hard to find. Many military officers had received language training in military academies. Most, having joined the military during times when a military career was a relatively socially and financially rewarding occupation represented the privileged and educated stratum of their societies. By the mid-1990s many had already had opportunities to interact with their counterparts in the West through any one - and quite often several - of a multitude of military to military exchanges, bilateral or through the auspices of the Partnership for Peace. Civilian officials, on the other hand, generally shared few of these advantages. Many obtained their positions precisely because they had opposed the former regime and did not profit from the study of foreign languages, let alone international relations, strategy or defence studies, in its elite institutes. For most, the only experience they had of military life was a decidedly negative experience of conscript service in the lower ranks. And there were relatively fewer opportunities for civilian officials to interact with their counterparts in the West.

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