What Kind of Army Does Russia Need?
No. 1 2003 January/March
Alexey Arbatov

Full Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Director of the International Security Center at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations; a member of the Russian delegation to the START I negotiations (1990); and Deputy Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma (1994-2003).

Alexei Arbatov, Doctor of Science (History), is a Deputy
Chairman of the Russian State Duma Defense Committee, Head of the
International Security Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences’
Institute of the World Economy and International Relations, a
member of the Editorial Board of Russia in Global

Alexei Arbatov

In this exceptionally difficult question, put forward in the
title, one may give either a very brief or a very long answer. The
brief answer is that Russia needs an army which would be antipodal
to the one it now possesses: smaller, yet better trained and
technologically equipped armed forces which are highly capable of
performing explicit short- and long-term missions. At the same
time, it would ensure a respectable financial and social status for
the servicemen.

Russia’s need for a markedly different military organization
became obvious, as never before, in the wake of the hostage drama
at the Theater Center in Moscow. This unprecedented event prompted
the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to articulate the need for
profound changes in Russia’s traditional military doctrine, as well
as the adaptation of its armed forces and security agencies to
fight international terrorism and the threats posed by it.

However, any arguments on this subject will remain purely
scholastic if they ignore the real requirements of national
defense, on the one hand, and the available resources (above all,
finances and manpower), on the other. Viewed as a whole, it is
logical that military doctrine, strategy, a plan for the
development of the armed forces and armament programs are nothing
more than links between requirements and resources. In other words,
it is by necessity a reasonable compromise between what one desires
and what one can afford.

What Kind Of Army Can Russia Afford?

The shroud of secrecy, which obstructs information about the
real state of affairs in the Russian armed forces and defense
industry, has given rise to a variety of public projections for the
military requirements over the next ten years (this is the minimal
amount of time necessary for a major reform of the large armed
forces). Ideas concerning what shapes these requirements vary
greatly as well. Let us address this question from a different
aspect, taking as our starting points two theses with which most
analysts will agree, irrespective of their ideological views or
military and political tendencies.

Within the Russian strategic think tanks (including specialists
both in and beyond the civil service) the consensus has been
reached that the acceptable level of defense spending – according
to Russian and international standards of defense sufficiency –
must be approximately 3.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
This level was described as optimal in several decrees issued by
President Boris Yeltsin, which were later validated by President
Vladimir Putin. Nevertheless, this percentage was never actually
realized in the federal budgets proposed by the government for 1998
through 2003 (actually, the figure remained between 2.4 and 2.7
percent of the GDP).

Russia’s federal budget for 2003 allocates approximately 350
billion rubles, or 2.7 percent of the GDP, for national defense
(this sum does not include spending on other forces related to
internal and external security and financed from the budget’s Law
Enforcement and Security section. For the 2003 fiscal year, this
figure has risen from 1.5 percent of the GDP to 1.9 percent). To
all appearances, the maximum level of defense spending that can be
achieved in normal conditions is about 3 percent of the GDP rather
than the anticipated 3.5 percent. If the 2003 budget allocated 3
percent of the GDP for defense, that would mean an extra 40-odd
billion rubles, bringing the total defense spending figure to 390
billion rubles. This decisive factor is the starting point for
subsequent analysis.

The second indisputable premise is that the servicemen of the
Russian army must enjoy a respectable standard of living, at least
by Russian standards. For example, the monthly salary of a junior
officer must be at least 10,000 rubles, which is in line with the
current level of prices (that is, if the government abolishes
benefits granted to servicemen for their public utility and other
expenses). Agreeably, this sum is very modest, yet it would provide
a minimal level of sufficiency for a young officer who has decided
to answer the call of duty, as well as raise a family. And the
increase in salary would also provide the additional motivation to
serve his country well. Presently, the monthly salary of a junior
officer is about 5,000 rubles, or a under 200 dollars.

Estimates indicate that if salaries are proportionally adjusted
for all officers, and all other expenditures for the armed forces
remain within the aforementioned budget restraints (3 percent of
the GDP), Russia could then afford to maintain its 800,000-850,000
troops – that is, provided the armed forces continue to be
conscription-based, while a mere 30 percent of the budget allowance
is allocated toward investment items (R&D, procurement of arms
and military equipment, capital construction, and armament repair),
as it was in the late 1990s through to the beginning of the present

The amount of the military salary is not, however, the only
factor influencing the quality of the military personnel. Other
factors include, above all, housing (today some 160,000 armed
forces officers alone need housing or improved housing conditions),
as well as combat training, high standards of professionalism, and
general living and service conditions provided to the rank and
file. Irrespective of the varying assessments of threats and
immediate defense requirements, these factors demand that more
funding be set aside for housing programs and a general improvement
in combat training. The latter implies additional spending on
various essential materials such as fuels, oils and lubricants,
spare parts, munitions, and overall general maintenance.

But this does not settle the question. It is generally
acknowledged among the Russian strategic think tanks that the 30
percent of the military budget which is reserved for technical
equipment of the army is unacceptably insufficient for the
revitalization of the armed forces. Insufficient funding in this
critical area will lead to a reduction in the supply of new weapons
and equipment and, finally, to the possible collapse of the defense
industry altogether (or its full reorientation to export). As a
result, under such circumstances, Russia would cease to be a
leading military power. Now a goal has been set to bring the
funding of technological investments to at least 40 percent of the
total defense budget. In this case, in 2003, provided that all
other aforementioned prerequisites are fulfilled, the strength of
the Russian army could be maintained at 700,000-750,000 men. Such
are the conclusions prompted by these two generally accepted

The third premise is a subject of heated debate both among
experts and the public at large.

In order to master the new military technologies and equally
revised methods of modern warfare, not to mention the eradication
of barracks violence (‘hazing’) and other corruptive trends now
present in the army, the armed forces will need higher-quality
recruits. In the opinion of this author, and many other like-minded
individuals, this can be achieved only if Russia starts enlisting
privates and sergeants for its Armed Forces on a contractual basis.
The above calculations imply that a voluntary Russian Army could be
550,000-600,000-strong (provided the contract privates are paid at
least 5,000 rubles a month, the lowest attractive amount for

A contract army has large advantages over a conscription-based
army: it suffers minimal fatalities, while at the same time it
inflicts limited collateral damage. The military operations of the
United States in the Persian Gulf and in Afghanistan, and NATO’s
successful activities in Yugoslavia, clearly demonstrated the
advantages of a professional army. Similarly, the experience of the
United States in Vietnam, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, and
Russia’s two Chechen campaigns in the last decade have proven the
disadvantages of a conscript army. Furthermore, innovations
introduced into the Russian military doctrine after the hostage
crisis in Moscow must now lead strategists away from those
cumbersome forces which require excessive personnel and armaments,
to those with a high degree of professionalism and quality.

Considering the financial constraints discussed above, the
strength of the Russian army can vary within 550,000-700,000
servicemen, depending on whether it remains a voluntary or
conscript army. However, to some people this figure looks
unacceptably low; they oppose any transition towards a professional
army and call for toughening the terms on conscription (i.e.
abolishing the right to a deferment from military service,
increasing criminal liability, enforcing the draconian law entitled
On Alternative Civil Service, and so on). But such an approach is
both archaic and impractical. In the next few years the demographic
decline in Russia will cut the draft-age group by more than 60
percent. If preserved as the main method for staffing the rank and
file, conscription will increase the total strength of the armed
forces only marginally. Furthermore, it will obviously not save
much on their maintenance since any increase in the number of
enlisted personnel necessarily demands an increase in the number of
officers and, consequently, expenditures for their allowances and
housing. This is precisely why all of the advanced armies in the
world, including the armies of the European continent, are going
professional – one by one – following in the footsteps of the
United States and Great Britain. Actually, an all-professional army
is becoming an inalienable, fundamental characteristic of
militarily advanced countries the world over (except for Israel
which has a unique geostrategic position).

At the same time, a gain of 150,000 soldiers in strength
provided through conscription does not compensate for the loss of
personnel quality acquired through a professional army.

In any case, it is not critical by comparison with other
security factors in Russia (for example, the degree of protection
of the borders, the acuteness of ethnic conflicts inside the
country and on its periphery, relations with neighboring countries,
the state of affairs with disarmament and nonproliferation of
weapons in the world, etc.).

The inability to maintain a numerically large and combat-ready
reserve for general mobilization is another argument against a
professional army. This concept, familiar with the traditions of
the Soviet and czarist Russian armies, is deeply rooted in the
mentality of the officers’ corps. Budgetary and technical
assessments alone are not enough for an in-depth analysis of this
issue. Such an analysis also needs strategic considerations.

Mobilization For A ‘Big’ War?

Presumably, in some imaginable scenario of another ‘big’ war –
such as World War II or the thirty-year Cold War of the last
century – a hypothetical situation with Russia could only arise
with NATO or China. In either case, hostilities would soon escalate
into a major conflict and would involve the use of weapons of mass
destruction, which is provided for by Russia’s military doctrine.
The doctrine unequivocally presupposes first use of nuclear weapons
“in response to large-scale aggression involving the use of
conventional weapons in situations critical to the Russian
Federation’s national security.” Understandably, mobilization in
this case would be both impossible and pointless.

But even supposing that there was a delay in implementing
nuclear weapons in such a hypothetical war, in favor of
conventional combat operations, this would leave little opportunity
for general mobilization all the same. Recent conflicts have
demonstrated that in any engagement with NATO forces there could
not be an invulnerable rear, as was the case in both world wars.
Today, conventional long-range, high-precision missiles and other
airborne weapons are capable of quickly destroying defense industry
facilities, the infrastructure of storage facilities,
transportation and logistical support systems throughout a given
territory; all of this could be accomplished before the target
country has had time to mobilize, arm, train and dispatch millions
of its reservists to the front. Russia does not even have, and is
unlikely to have in the foreseeable future, enough weapons and
equipment in satisfactory condition for these reservists, except
for light armaments which do not matter much in a ‘big’ war

Even if a country succeeds in activating a full prewar
mobilization of its industrial might, the production of modern
heavy weapons takes too much time and effort to build up in
conditions of intensive deep missile and aircraft strikes, not to
mention a permanent nuclear threat. The most that the industry
could accomplish during a big war is to replenish the stocks of
ammunition, spare parts, fuels, oils and lubricants.

A hypothetical big war with China would be of a different
character. In the foreseeable future, this country will hardly be
able to raise conventional forces comparable to those of NATO,
especially in terms of its long-range, high-precision weapons. But
any competition with China in mobilizing reservists in a prewar or
wartime situation would be absolutely hopeless considering China’s
unlimited manpower resources, as well as its geostrategic
advantages in the likely zone of some hypothetical conflict (the
Transbaikal region and the Far East).

Other possible flash points which must be given consideration,
such as regional or local conflicts, peacekeeping missions, and
antiterrorist operations, do not require a general mobilization at
all, at least the kind of general mobilization which was carried
out during World War II, and is still being planned by the Russian
Defense Ministry (requiring several million people). Of course,
giving up the traditional idea of a massive military reserve is a
very difficult and painful transition for any military organization
which is largely built upon this principle, as is the Russian
variety. But ongoing pleas for the rationalization of the military
may not be enough to persuade the Defense Ministry of the need for
change; this will probably require a resolute and unequivocal
decision made at the highest levels of government.

It should be noted, however, that during some of the more recent
global conflicts, the United States and its allies activated their
reservists (National Guard) in unison with their professional
troops. But a limited reserve is quite compatible with a
professional army. Russia, too, may require an additional
contingent to reinforce its regular troops, or replace them when
they are deployed at remote regions. Such a reserve contingent (an
additional 50 to 70 percent of the regular army’s strength) is not
ruled out at all; indeed, it is supposed to be implemented when the
conscripted armed forces finally become a professional army.

This category of servicemen may include those who have already
served as volunteers, and their contract should bind them to duty
in a combat-ready reserve until they reach a certain age. Also, the
personnel of other forces, whose strength is now comparable to that
of the armed forces, must be duly trained to reinforce the regular
army. Naturally, these servicemen will excel in terms of
professionalism the present-day reservists (recalled occasionally
for training and appropriately nicknamed ‘guerillas’ by the regular
troops). Of course, there must be a sufficient stock of armaments
and military equipment for a professional army’s reserve and these
forces must regularly refresh their weapon-handling skills.

In approximately five years, there will be some four million
first-category reservists who will have served out their
conscription terms before 2003, and an additional two million in
ten years – which is enough to solve all of the reserve problems
associated with an all-volunteer army.

Therefore, from the viewpoint of manpower and other resources, a
550,000-600,000-strong professional army could ensure the highest
quality for Russia’s armed forces for the next 10 to 15 years. But
will such an army meet Russia’s security interests?

“Azimuths” Of Threats And Conflicts

Events are demanding that Russia chart a new course. Following
the tragedy of September 11th, Russia began an intensive political
and economic rapprochement with the United States and its allies in
Europe and the Far East. Not long afterwards, following the tense
hostage experience in Moscow, the Russian army and its affiliated
agencies were reoriented to address challenges of a new breed.
However, Russia’s revised foreign policy and doctrines are a far
cry from its established military policy and organization. It would
not be an exaggeration to say that Russia’s armed forces – with a
troop-strength projected to be over one million by 2004 – are
70 —;;;; 80 percent oriented for a war with the West (as well
as Turkey and Japan) in terms of a general mobilization strategy,
as well as a long-term armament program.

Fairly speaking, U.S. and NATO approaches to military and
disarmament issues and use-of-force policies are not encouraging
Russia to pursue a change in its present military policy. On the
contrary, these developments are only promoting serious trouble.
But that is another subject. This article deals specifically with
military policy and military reform, and since this problem is much
more acute for Russia than other countries, overcoming this inertia
is a must for building a modern and strong army.

The Gordian knot of problems afflicting the Russian military
policy and military reform will not be cut unless the political
leaders make a historic decision and translate this into action.
Namely, they must instruct the military, in a firm and unequivocal
way, to exclude from its present military doctrine, strategy and
basic operational plans, the armed forces’ deployment, combat
training and procurement programs all scenarios for a large-scale
conventional war with NATO in Europe, as well as with the United
States and Japan in the Far East. European-based military districts
and fleets, which rely on a well-developed rear infrastructure,
must be viewed mainly as a base of troops and forces intended for
operation on other theaters, for peacekeeping operations in the
Commonwealth of Independent States and other regions of the world,
and for counterterrorism operations wherever needed.

The probability of Russia becoming involved in a war with NATO
in the foreseeable future is almost non-existent. The reasons are
due to the objective interests of both Russia and the member NATO
nations, not to mention the catastrophic consequences such a
conflict would have. However, as long as NATO exists as a
military-political alliance, maintains a formidable structure of
military force, sprawls eastward without inviting Russia to join as
an equal member, the pragmatic military view will not permit Russia
to pretend that NATO does not exist. Nor can it blindly rely upon
the verbal assurances of Western leaders concerning their
non-aggressive intentions. As a result, the need for Russia’s
military potential in the European strategic sector will persist
despite Russia’s consistent economic and political rapprochement
with the West — that is, until the alliance transforms its basic
structure (unilaterally or by means of new agreements).

The nearly infinitesimal probability of a Russia-NATO conflict
could be further reduced through an optimal nuclear deterrence
potential at the strategic and theater/tactical levels. The
general-purpose forces in this region are required only to support
and cover strategic nuclear forces, whereas theater/tactical
nuclear weapons are mainly used with dual-purpose carriers of the
Ground Forces, Air Force and the Navy. Besides, a highly efficient
and mobile group of general-purpose forces, oriented to other
theaters, will be deployed heavily in the European part of the
country. Naturally, theater air defense and antimissile defense
systems, and – possibly in the future – additional elements of a
strategic ABM system, will also be deployed in the defined zone,
thus defending it against threats from both the south and the

The Russian strategic think tanks are actually unanimous in
their belief that the main threat to the country’s security now
derives from the South along an extended “arc of instability.” This
area stretches from the Dniestr Region in Moldova, to the Crimea,
to the mountain ranges of the Pamirs and Tian Shan in Central Asia.
However, this threat does not take the traditional form of
aggression by organized armed forces. It derives from extreme
nationalist and religious organizations which use guerrilla tactics
to wage ‘transnational warfare’ (in which internal and external
conflicts merge) against Russia in the Caucasus and its allies
throughout Central Asia. Russia is also facing other threats of a
new type which may cause conflicts: terrorism, arms and drug
trafficking, illegal migration and organized transnational crime,
poaching and smuggling.

To counter these threats, the armed forces must perform unusual
missions and operate jointly with the Interior Ministry, the Border
Guard troops, law enforcement services and intelligence agencies.
Operations of this kind demand a moderately large, yet highly
mobile, well-trained and well-equipped professional army. The
largest and most successful regional operation – Operation Desert
Storm in 1991 — involved some 500,000 U.S. troops, about 1,000
aircraft, and 5,000 armored vehicles. A Russian force of the same
size and quality would be enough to defend Russia’s interests
against the largest possible threat in the Caucasus and Central
Asia. Russia could deploy a similar variety, 550,000-600,000-strong
force, provided reservists from among former contract soldiers, and
from other forces, are mobilized.

Units from such an army would be capable of operating
effectively in low-intensity local conflicts, support the Interior
Ministry and Border Guard troops, as well as participate in
peacekeeping and counterterrorism operations, on their own and
jointly. In the future, a group of this kind may be needed at
another theater, which is Russia’s vast Far East.

It is very difficult to imagine any sort of realistic threat
coming from China even in 10 or 15 years. Economic, political and
military relations between the two countries are now progressing at
a very successful pace. China is now the largest buyer of Russia’s
state-of-the-art conventional armaments (which are lacking even
within the Russian army), and has even acquired the licensing
rights to manufacture them. Yet, some generally acknowledged
factors and tendencies in the Far East may in the future provide
the prerequisites for a conflict of interest between the two

For economic and political reasons, which are bound by
international agreements, Russia is not ready to restore the mighty
military force in the Far East, similar to the one it had in the
region during the 1970s and the 1980s. Likewise, it cannot
reinforce its Far Eastern force with troops from its European
region, since the transportation of even one motorized or armored
division across the country would require two months and 500
railroad trains [2].

The only way to counter unfavorable developments in the Far East
is to have ammunition and heavy armament depots in the region;
these would need to be well-guarded and covered by air defense
troops and the Air Force, but at the same time would not violate
international agreements. In the case of an actual military threat,
troops could be moved into the region by air and land, using
military and civil transport, in order to double or triple the
force within several months, and then deploy the forces to the
threatened areas. A 550,000-600,000-troop army can quickly build a
well-trained and well-equipped 200,000-250,000-strong force in the
Far East, while reservists would replace troops in the European

Russia’s geostrategic problems within this theater make the goal
of achieving indisputable nuclear superiority at strategic and
tactical levels particularly vital. Such superiority will enable
the general-purpose forces, provided they have superiority in the
air, to defend the nation’s interests for at least several weeks
until the peace is restored, or the decision is made to implement
the use of nuclear weapons.

Considering the limitations imposed by available resources on
the strength of general-purpose forces when their quality is
markedly improved, an optimum nuclear deterrence potential acquires
special importance. Globally and regionally, nuclear weapons are
the most effective deterrent against attacks involving similar
weapons and, possibly, other types of weapons of mass destruction.
As regards the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons on
general-purpose forces, this is a debatable issue, especially if an
enemy, having superiority in general-purpose forces, also has
strategic forces and tactical nuclear weapons of its own.

One can be truly confident about one thing: in the above
situations, theater/tactical forces per se, even in large numbers,
will not be worth much without adequate cover provided through
invulnerable and powerful strategic nuclear forces. Without them,
tactical nuclear weapons will rather play a provocative role,
prompting the enemy to deliver a preemptive strike at Russia’s
tactical and strategic forces.

So, out of the anticipated 550,000-600,000-troop army, 200,000
of these troops would be equipped with the most advanced weapons,
as well as have the highest proportion of officers and contract
soldiers, and/or other troops on high alert: the Strategic Missile
Forces and other components of the strategic nuclear forces, the
Military Space Forces, the Space Missile Defense Forces, Air Force
air defense units, as well as Airborne Troops and nuclear technical
support units. These arms must be the first to be made
all-professional, which would not cost the country much: an
additional three percent of the 2003 defense budget.

The remaining 350,000-400,000 troops would be divided among
general-purpose forces of the Ground Forces, the Air Force and the
Navy, as well as centralized military bodies. Their conversion to
voluntary enlistment, which would entail higher allowances for
servicemen, would necessarily increase the 2003 defense budget by
about 10 percent. A respective cut in the strength of the armed
forces, which would entail an increase in military pensions and the
transition of recruits to voluntary service, would cost almost as
much. If this reform were to be carried out resolutely over three
years, the expenditures would not exceed 10 to 15 percent of annual
additional allocations for national defense and law enforcement
activity (the calculation is based on the 2003 figures).

The current plan of the Russian Defense Ministry, which is to
have 50 percent of the armed forces professional by the year 2011,
seems to be typical red tape maneuvering (apparently in
anticipation of the reform’s ‘natural death’). This plan will not
produce any favorable military effect; it will not save money or
solve the vital problems now facing the armed forces and the
defense industry. The General Staff and the command of the Armed
Forces have halted the reduction of the army’s strength at 1.1-1.2
million servicemen, thereby preventing the army from saving on its
general maintenance expenses, and from using these potential
savings to markedly improve the quality of the personnel, as well
as their equipment and combat training. These efforts are now
planned to be funded from additional allocations which will not
exceed the inflation rate by more than 5-10 percent, or could
possibly equal that rate should world oil prices tumble again.

Other half-baked plans, such as the reduction of the conscripted
soldiers’ tour of duty to six months, only make things confused and
focus undue attention on minor issues. A six-month conscription
term is too short a period for effectively training new conscripts,
whereas the required combat-ready reserve can be maintained by
using more effective methods mentioned above.

The current “experiment” by the Defense Ministry, which entails
the transition of one regular division (or rather, one more
division, along with the 201st division already deployed in
Tajikistan) to an all-volunteer basis, is of little use both
militarily and as a “pilot model.” The current practice of placing
individual units in all arms of the Armed Forces on permanent
combat readiness is arbitrary and groundless. This practice is
nothing but a vestige of the Cold War traditions, because, except
for the aforementioned forces (the Strategic Missile Forces, the
Space Missile Defense Forces, Air Defense Forces, etc.),
general-purpose regiments and divisions of the Ground Forces, Air
Force and the Navy no longer need to be placed on high alert to
counter a “sudden attack” from the West.

Priorities Of The Armament Program

Russia’s new armament program, shrouded in secrecy, would
‘divide the pie’ between the different branches of the Armed Forces
to accommodate their narrow interests and maintain the greatest
possible number of defense industry enterprises (actually in a
state of coma) by providing all of them with minimal state orders.
The investment items of the defense budget lacking clear-cut and
well-grounded priorities are smothered by “maintenance”
expenditures (which comprise over 70 percent of the budget).
Presently, it is only export-oriented defense companies (i.e. those
arming foreign armies), which are confident about their future.

The situation can be improved by altering the
maintenance-investment ratio from 70:30 to 60:40 (by cutting the
troop strength of the armed forces), and by setting clear-cut
priorities to meet new security challenges. First of all, Russia
must drastically alter its strategic armament program. In
particular, the Russian government must revise its decisions with
regard to its strategic nuclear forces, made in mid-2000 and early
2001, to ensure strategic efficiency and stability, and focus
resources on ground-based missile systems. Increased production of
Topol-M missiles would bring the number of silo-based and mobile
intercontinental ballistic missiles to 300-400 in 10 to 15

Such a force of missiles, equipped with multiple re-entry
vehicles, is capable of carrying 1,000-2,000 warheads and, unlike
sea- and air-based weapons, can ensure a stable deterrence
potential in all directions. This is important in view of the
anticipated proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their
carriers along Eurasia’s southern belt. Sea- and air-based
strategic nuclear forces must be maintained by extending the
service life of their weapon systems and gradually reorienting the
Navy and the Air Force to regional tasks. The acute shortage of
resources makes it expedient to resume a policy of integrating
individual components of strategic nuclear forces, as well as
strategic nuclear forces with the Military Space Forces and the
Space Missile Defense Forces.

The above does not imply a buildup of Russia’s nuclear
potential. In the foreseeable future, Russia’s strategic forces
will continue to decrease in any case. But their optimum structure
will ensure military stability no matter how Russian-U.S. relations
develop with regard to the ABM and START treaties. Washington’s
strategic interest in settling these issues through agreement will,
most likely, continue to grow.

According to estimates, this is the least expensive way to have
sufficient strategic nuclear forces. It enables a country to use
other funds to enhance overall combat efficiency of weakened
general-purpose forces or to build up strategic defense systems.
Meanwhile, the present policy of “balanced modernization” of all
the components of the triad, given the acute shortage of funds, is
sure to either disrupt all the components of strategic nuclear
forces, or result in huge expenditures producing little effect.
Renunciation of the Cold War heritage in the form of the “parity”
concept implies, above all, renunciation of not comparability in
the number of carriers and warheads, but of the highly expensive
“triad” concept which Russia no longer needs and no longer can

Such a nuclear potential (together with limited, yet flexible,
highly survivable and safe tactical nuclear weapons) will make it
much easier for Russia to ensure security in the west while NATO
enlarges eastwards. This potential will also allow Russia to build
relations of cooperation with the alliance, without fearing its
superiority in general-purpose forces, as well as their offensive
potential beyond the alliance’s zone of responsibility. This is
even more important in Asia, as not a single Asian country in the
foreseeable future will have a strategic potential comparable to
that of Russia, if Russia maintains it in the most optimal

Russia should also pay much more attention to developing
non-strategic antimissile defenses for both Europe and Asia.
Importantly, a theater antimissile defense system must not
necessarily be an alternative to a strategic ABM system. It may be
the first step in introducing comprehensive antimissile defense
systems for Russia, the U.S.A. and its allies, as well as becoming
a proving ground for cooperation of great powers in this field.
Also, Russia must maintain, at an advanced level, warning, control
and reconnaissance systems for its strategic nuclear and
general-purpose forces (including their space-based components).
This, of course, is a must for any modern army.

If we take the year 2003 as our point of reference, and if we
assume that the defense budget stands at 390 billion rubles (3
percent of the GDP), and that 60 percent of this money will be
allocated for the maintenance of the armed forces, then over 150
billion rubles could be allocated for investment items (compared to
100 billion rubles allocated now). About 35-40 percent of these
funds would ensure an effective nuclear deterrence potential at the
strategic and tactical levels. It would also guarantee greatly
improved early-warning and command and control systems, as well as
a stage-by-stage buildup of modern theater air defense and
antimissile defense systems. This factor would also enable Russia
to simultaneously develop cutting-edge strategic ABM and
space-based systems.

The rest could be used to equip new general-purpose forces. The
main priority here must be not tanks, guns, aircraft or ships, but
a marked enhancement of informational support, control and
communications (including, for example, a ramified ground-based
network of receivers for the already deployed GLONASS satellite
navigation system). These factors are essential for a modern army
and modern methods of combat; a shortage of information support
cannot be compensated for even by very high fire power from the
armed forces.

Efforts in this field are crucial for large-scale deployment and
future use of long-range, high-precision weapons, whose
effectiveness was graphically demonstrated during NATO’s operations
in Yugoslavia in 1999, and yet again in Afghanistan during
2001-2002. Advanced information support, control and communications
systems are also required for the interoperability between the
various branches of the armed forces, as well as with the
special-task forces – a major component of modern combat, which was
clearly demonstrated by the recent hostage drama in Moscow.

Annual investments in general-purpose forces, which have been
suggested above, over the next 10-15 years will provide the Russian
army with sufficient funds (depending on the types of armament and
military equipment, and the increase in their prices) to buy some
3,000 armored vehicles, 2,000 artillery mounts of various types,
1,000 surface-to-air guided missile launchers for air defense
troops, 100 military transport aircraft, and 1,000 combat aircraft
and helicopters. These investments will also help repair modern
ships and submarines, and renovate their missile and torpedo
armaments and electronic systems. The proportion of
state-of-the-art equipment in service with the Armed Forces,
provided they are cut to an optimum level, will reach 30-40
percent, which is in line with international standards.


Of course, even the most effective armed forces will not ensure
the country’s security and secure its political interests in the
new conditions without their interaction with other troops,
military and law enforcement bodies and services. Furthermore, a
reasonable military policy must be accompanied by a wise foreign
policy and strong diplomatic procedure. Russia seems to be lacking
such interaction. By adopting a policy of curtailing ground-based
mobile missile forces, the strongest component of the strategic
nuclear forces, Moscow pulled the rug out from under its diplomats
during negotiations in Washington concerning offensive and
defensive strategic armaments. As a result, it has not only lost
the ABM Treaty and a new full-scale agreement on strategic
offensive armaments; it has lost a major lever of influence on U.S.
policy as a whole, and in regards to NATO’s further enlargement and
pressure on Iraq, for example.

By sluggishly resisting NATO’s eastward movement, Russia has
done nothing to neutralize the negative consequences of this
process: namely, to involve the Baltic States in the treaty for
conventional arms reductions in Europe, to negotiate a radical
reduction of the general-purpose forces, or to ban nuclear weapons
in Central and Eastern Europe. A drowsy diplomacy, combined with a
clumsy military policy and a limping military reform, has produced
classically poor results.

The above equally refers to the East where Russia’s security
depends not only on sufficient defense, but even more on the
development of well-balanced economic and political relations with
its two major neighbors – China and Japan. Meanwhile, over the last
decade Russian diplomacy has failed to find a mutually acceptable
way out of the deadlock in negotiations with Tokyo on the
territorial issue, which continues to weaken Russia’s positions in
its relations with China. These factors, however, are yet another
subject for special discussion.

Summing up, one can list the main parameters that Russia’s armed
forces, military policy and military reform will need in the near

– maximum transparency of the defense budget, including the
armament program; broad discussion of the budget’s validity and of
the military policy underlying it; and greater involvement in this
process of parliament and independent scientific and public

– an increase in defense spending to 3 percent of the GDP;

– a reduction in the armed forces troops strength to 800,000
servicemen within 2-3 years and to 550,000-600,000 servicemen
within 5-6 years;

– the transition of the armed forces and other troops to an
all-volunteer army within this period;

– a simultaneous increase in servicemen’s allowances by
approximately 100 percent in 2003-2004, compared to their
present-day level (the inflation rate not taken into account);

– an increase in allocations for the defense budget’s investment
items to 40 percent;

– the revision of the strategic nuclear forces program, with
priority given to ground-based mobile missile systems; improvement
of control and missile attack warning systems; and development of
new theater antimissile and air defense systems, and space-based

– the creation of compact, mobile and well-equipped
general-purpose forces, with the emphasis placed on marked
improvement of their command, control and communications systems,
information support and the mass equipment with long-range,
high-precision weapons;

– the reorientation of general-purpose forces to operation in
local conflicts and regional wars, and to operations of a new type
in southwestern, southern and eastern strategic sectors; the
creation of stocks of armament, equipment and materiel near
threatened areas.

1. The author would like to
thank expert P.B. Romashkin for his assistance in providing these

2. O. Odnokolenko. “General
Shpak’s Landing Force,” Itogi, July 2, 2002. No. 26, pp. 20-21.