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Russian Minister of Defense Plans for a Smaller, Highly-trained, Modern Army Within a Decade
Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS.
|A version of this article appeared in
Armed Forces Journal International
|Russia's Minister of Defense General Igor Rodionov wants the Russian Army kept out of contingency missions beyond Russia's borders.|
General Igor Rodionov, the new Russian Minister of Defense, recently outlined his plans for a much smaller, mobile, highly-trained, professional army which will become a significant force within ten years. To do so, the Russian senior officer corps will be cut, new force structures will be adopted, expanded arms exports will provide funds for research and development, and the Russian Army will try to avoid contingency operations which detract from reform, restructuring and combat-readiness.
General Rodionov plans to put his scarce financial assets into paying, training and feeding his forces and he calculates that he can adequately pay, train and feed only twelve divisions. He currently has approximately 80 divisions, although many are little more than some combat equipment and a flag. General Rodionov plans to push and expand arms exports as a means of keeping the defense industry alive and generating needed research and development funds. Integrated cartels within the defense industry will concentrate on prototype development. There will be few orders for new equipment from the Russian Army in the immediate future.
General Rodionov favors the establishment of a strong, professional NCO Corps for the Russian Army. Most of the training, discipline and performance difficulties of the Russian Army can be traced to their reliance on conscript NCOs. Although this is an expensive proposition, General Rodionov realizes that if a truly professional NCO Corps can be developed in the Russian Army, the potential for building an expandable force is realizable. If the NCO is capable of assuming lower-level leadership positions, the current force can be
|Rodionov's predecessor, General Pavel Grachev, preserved skeleton divisions at the price of combat readiness. The ill-trained, unpaid, starving army that stumbled into and out of Chechnya was the result.|
designed for expansion where platoons expand into companies, companies into battalions, battalions into brigades and brigades into divisions. General Rodionov will probably retain some division-sized equipment bases to support an expanding force. This concept worked for the Reichswehr in the 1930s. With modifications, it can work again if the challenge is to deliberately expand over time to meet a vague danger as it grows into a real military threat. The strong, competent NCO is the key.
Training and Combat Readiness
General Rodionov wants to pull the Russian Army out of contingency missions and concentrate on national defense. Over the past seven years, the army withdrew from the Afghanistan stalemate and deployed to Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Abkhazia, Ossetia, Azerbaidjan, Turkmenistan, Armenia and Chechnya. During these contingency deployments, training and combat readiness of the deployed forces slipped drastically. Further, the non-deployed forces were unable to train since all the training funds went to support contingency deployments. General Rodionov realizes that no nation can train, reform and restructure an army in the midst of contingency operations. General Rodionov hopes to concentrate on rebuilding his army for national defense and let the Minister of Internal Affairs and other Russian ministries worry about contingency operations (he is also likely to seek cuts in the forces of these ministries to finance his army reform). However, withdrawing the Russian Army from all contingency missions at this point is problematic.
|If Rodionov survives, his reforms have a chance of implementation and could lead Russia back to a position of military strength and competence within the next decade|
How likely is it that Rodionov will be able to implement his vision? Currently, his vision looks like the only realistic plan that can save the Russian ground forces. However, his former chief supporter, Security Chief Aleksandr Lebed, was recently ousted in a bout of Kremlin in-fighting. Lebed looked to Rodionov for strategic vision and sponsored his recent promotion to four-star rank.3 As the question of President Yeltsin's control of the country becomes more problematic, Lebed's power as an outsider should increase, and Rodionov seems well situated to survive within the current government or a future government. Rodionov is recognized as a competent Defense Minister and his potential replacements lack his credentials. If Rodionov survives, his reforms have a chance of implementation and leading Russia back to a position of military strength and competence within the next decade. His chief opposition will come from the Chief of Ground Forces, the airborne community and from the competing military and paramilitary establishments of other ministries and agencies such as the Ministry for Internal Affairs, the Border Guards, the Presidential Guard, the Federal Security Service, the External Intelligence Agency, the Federal Agency of Press and Information (similar to a National Security Agency with armed troops) and the Emergency Command. His reforms will initially prove expense and will undoubtedly meet political opposition as well.
If Rodionov implements his reform, it will continue Russian reliance on nuclear deterrence, create changes in the way that Russia performs peace enforcement missions and encourage membership in regional security alliances. Financial reality is driving this change, but this may also be a response to the potential fragmentation of the Russian Army along regional lines.
2. For a biography of General Rodionov, see Lester W. Grau and Timothy I. Thomas, "Russian Minister of Defense General Igor Rodionov: In With The Old, In With The New", The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, June 1996, 442-452.BACK