Toward a Revolution in Military Affairs? Defense and Security at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century

By Thierry Gongora; Harald Von Riekhoff | Go to book overview

and effective civilian control of the military were, according to Arbatov, the only way to avoid an explosion within the demoralized military. At the heart of the issue was the development of a military doctrine in keeping with the international environment, the conditions of state finances, and Russia's domestic requirements ( Arbatov 1997b).

The first Chechen conflict ( 1994-96) heightened the already high political disaffection of the officer corps from the government and existing order and made the military into an unknown factor in the current political crisis. In short, immediate requirements would seem to make the RMA irrelevant to Russia's armed forces. Military defeat in the Second Battle of Grozny in August 1996 further underscored the low combat capabilities of Russian units and once more revealed the conflict between regular army units and the troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Rumors of strikes and demonstrations by elements of the military are so frequent that they have become almost normal. Creeping coups, minicoups, and rumors of coups dominate the mass media. Officers of the General Staff have sent open letters to the minister of Defense, warning that, unless the government pays the arrears in salaries owed to the military, he may face open revolt. In short, Russia's multiple armed forces are both highly politicized and in desperate need of reform after a decade of much talk and little action. In June 1997 Colonel-General Lev Rokhlin, the hero of the second assault on Grozny and the chairman of the State Duma's Defense Committee, sent an open letter to Yeltsin as commander in chief, charging that military reform was little more than slogans and that the army was dying. He began the organization for the Movement for the Support of the Army, Military Science, and Defense Industry and managed to generate chapters in sixty-nine of Russia's oblasts and republics. In the fall of 1997, the Movement held its first congress, drawing support from serving soldiers, veterans organizations, cossacks hosts, and a wide range of nationalist and opposition parties, including Zyuganov's and Zhirinovsky's parties. In its opposition to the government's program of manpower reductions and military reform, the Movement has adopted the rhetoric of the nationalist-communist opposition ( Radzikhovskiy 1997).


CONCLUSION

Past Russian and Soviet responses to military defeats and periods of intense political and socioeconomic instability suggest that concepts and ideas now being developed will have a profound impact on the Russian military in the first decades of the twenty-first century. In almost every past case, Russia began its response to the challenge of change in a disadvantageous position. In each case the response involved adaptation of "foreign" initiatives, creation of a Russian infrastructure, and the evolution of a distinctly Russian solution. During the previous Times of Troubles, the military emerged as winners, precisely because they were the leading institution in this adaptation to change, even as their structure, size, and costs later became a brake on the further evolution of the system. A key element in that outcome was the perception of immediate threats and the need for military transformation to meet such threats. A capital feature of the position of current reformers within the government, for example, Andrei Kokoshin, and some of the moderate

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