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Experts Describe Failure of Military Reform in Russia


Press Release

EDITORS' NOTE: Journalists are invited to attend the panel discussion by contributors to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences' new volume, The Russian Military.

When: Thursday, December 2, 2004 at Noon
Where: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC

Russia's military, among the world's largest and with nuclear weapons and stockpiles that remain a global concern, suffers from severe desertion problems, a lack of qualified officers, a breakdown in the conscription system, rampant corruption, and a deficit of training and effectiveness, according to the contributors to The Russian Military: Power and Policy, a new volume from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Russian leaders have yet to shape a defense posture to fit the country's current security threats after more than a decade of attempted reforms. The Russian Military examines the intense debate over military reform in Russia, demonstrating the myriad ways that political and social conflicts at home, and international pressures, have prevented much-needed change. The volume is co-edited by Steven E. Miller (Harvard University) and Dmitri V. Trenin (Carnegie Moscow Center).

According to Miller, "Russia is still in the early stages of a long journey from the military it inherited to a military suitable to Russia's internal and external realities." The Russian Military is a comprehensive guide to this journey, assessing the present state of Russia's military, examining the factors, past and present, that shape it, and presenting a road map for needed reforms. The six contributors to the volume each tackle a key feature of Russia's military and security policy, bringing a new understanding to the complex issues that have stymied reform.

The volume, which former National Security Agency Director Lieutenant General William Odom (U.S. Army, retired) has called a "timely and remarkably comprehensive assessment of the contemporary state of the Russian military," is intended for policy makers and scholars working on problems of international security and anyone with an interest in contemporary Russia.

Among the many reasons for failed military reform in Russia, the authors point to a lack of action and awareness on the part of political leaders. As contributor Pavel Baev (International Peace Research Institute) discusses, key decision-making is often left to military leaders, who are less inclined to support the needed "radical modernization" of the Russian military. Aleksandr Golts (Editor-in-Chief, Weekly Journal) writes, "The military elite's desire for a mass army stands as Russia's largest internal impediment to reform."

Former Duma member Alexei Arbatov (Carnegie Moscow Center) offers an insider's perspective on the reform debate in the Russian government, which he believes has been constrained by a lack of both information and resources. He advocates transforming the Russian military into a smaller, all-volunteer force with a well-paid and professional officer corps. The need for a fundamentally changed force has been vividly demonstrated in the two Chechen campaigns since 1994, as a discussion of these events by Roy Allison (Oxford University) makes clear.

The volume addresses two specific legacies of the Soviet military that are threats to stability both within and outside of Russia and should provide significant impetus to reform. The first, according to Vitaly Shlykov (Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, Russia), is the military industrial complex inherited from the Soviet era, which he argues has not only prolonged military reform problems, but also deepened Russia's economic malaise. "As it is currently structured and managed," he argues, "Russia's so-called defense industrial complex has become a huge drag on the country's economy."

The Soviet legacy that looms large in the minds of Western leaders is the state of Russia's nuclear capabilities. Rose Gottemoeller (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace) addresses this component of military reform, noting that Russia's nuclear arsenal has become a crutch, allowing leaders to put off the reforms that would transform the Russian military into a more effective force.

The American Academy Studies in Global Security Series is published under the direction of the Academy's Committee on International Security Studies. Following its US publication, a Russian language translation of The Russian Military will be printed in early 2005. More information about the Global Security Series and The Russian Military is available online, at

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an international learned society with headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Academy is composed of 4,000 Fellows and 600 Foreign Honorary Members representing the academic disciplines as well as the arts, business, and government. Through its multidisciplinary research projects, the Academy addresses major issues of both scholarly and public concern, including international affairs, economic and environmental issues, and the changing nature of higher education, science, and scholarship. (


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