The independent resource on global security

4. Russia: military reform




The drive for military reform in the Russian
Federation has been led by economic pressures and the need for savings
on operations and for modernization of the armed forces rather than by
changes in Russia's threat assessments, dramatic as these have been.
For a short period after the spring of 1997, after the appointment of
Defence Minister Sergeyev, some momentum built up for cuts and
reorganization. Reform, paradoxically, involves costs, particularly
those of demobilization and re-equipping the armed forces. With the
continuing shrinkage of the Russian economy and after the financial
crisis of August 1998, it is unlikely that Russia will now meet its
target for reduction in troop numbers to 1.2 million by 1999 or achieve
the change to all-professional forces. 

Russian budget allocation for 'national defence' for 1999 was 93.7
billion roubles, 2.3% of GDP, or about 120 billion roubles (3.2% of
GNP) if some other budget items such as military pensions and
international activities are added. This represents a nominal increase
over the 1998 budget but will not cover the costs of demobilization,
promised salary increases, outstanding salary payments or the
accumulated Ministry of Defence debt to the arms industry (19 billion
roubles in early 1998). Procurement and R&D have been particularly
hard hit. Implementation of Russia's commitments to eliminate nuclear
and chemical weapons is threatened. Above all, it is generally agreed
in Russia that the nuclear forces should have highest priority in the
Russian defence posture to compensate for the absolute and relative
weakening of the country's conventional capabilities, as an 'umbrella'
for implementing military reform and as the only remaining heritage of
the Soviet superpower status.