Russian Military Transformation – Goal In Sight

Authored by Keir Giles, Dr. Andrew Monaghan
SSI | May 05, 2014


Brief Synopsis

The Russian Armed Forces have been undergoing major structural reform since 2008. Despite change at the most senior levels of leadership, the desired endstate for Russia’s military is now clear; but this endstate is determined by a flawed political perception of the key threats facing Russia. This monograph reviews those threat evaluations, and the challenges facing Russia’s military transformation, to assess the range of options available to Russia for closing the capability gap with the United States and its allies.

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Russia’s Counterinsurgency in North Caucasus: Performance and Consequence

Dr. Ariel Cohen
Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College (SSI)
March 31, 2014


Brief Synopsis

The North Caucasus region has been a source of instability for the past several centuries. Most recently, Chechen aspirations to achieve full independence after the break-up of the Soviet Union led to two disastrous wars. While the active phase of the Chechen conflict ended in 2000 – more than a decade ago—the underlying social, economic, and political issues of the region remain. A low-level insurgency continues to persist in the North Caucasus region, with occasional terrorist attacks in the Russian heartland. There are few reasons to expect any substantial improvement in the situation for years to come. Chechnya functions as a de facto independent entity; Islamist influence in Dagestan is growing, terror attacks continue, and the rest of the North Caucasus requires massive presence of Russian security services to keep the situation under control. Preventing the North Caucasus from slipping back into greater instability requires tackling corruption, cronyism, discrimination, and unemployment—something the Kremlin has so far not been very willing to do. “Small wars” in the Caucasus resonated as far away as Boston, MA, and more international attention and cooperation is necessary to prevent the region from blowing up.

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Crimea after the Georgian crisis

Hedenskog, Jakob
FOI-R–2587–SE, November 2008

Abstract: Russia´s war in Georgia was a bitter lesson for those who might have forgotten that military means still exists as a tool in Russian foreign policy. While Crimea may not face a risk itself of being the next target, as speculated in international media immediately after the Georgian Crisis, it nevertheless has some serious problems: First, Russia´s influence in Crimea is very high due to the presence of the Black Sea Fleet, the dominance of the Russia media and the general support for Russian policy from the ethnic Russian majority population in Crimea. Second, there is serious potential for ethnic conflict in Crimea between Russian extreme nationalists and disillusioned young Crimean Tatar men. Although the potential for conflict might not be strong enough by itself to spark a serious ethnic clash, it constitutes a weakness that can be further exploited by Russia. Third, Kyiv lacks the will or the appropriate leverage to get its policies implemented in Crimea and to resist the growing Russian influence there.

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Buffer Mini-States Are Emerging in Central Asia

The SCO Countries Are Concerned at the Threats That Will Arise Following the Withdrawal of the International Force from Afghanistan
Vladimir Mukhin
Nezavisimaya Gazeta Online, 2 April 2014,

"We do not share the optimism of Western countries in their estimates of the prospects of a stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan. The activity of international terrorist and Islamic extremist organizations in the country remains high…. We forecast the increased activity of terrorists in proximity to Russia’s borders…"

See also:

A Central Asian Perspective of Security in Afghanistan
By Matthew Stein, FMSO Analyst. August 2013

External Support for Central Asian Military and Security Forces
Working Paper
SIPRI | January 2014

Central Asia: Dim Security Prospects Ahead?
As U.S. interest in the region wanes, the prospects for Central Asia security are uncertain at best.
By Georgiy Voloshin
The Diplomat | December 03, 2013

The Goals of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Its Impact on Central Asia and the United States
Mr. Matthew Stein, FMSO-JRIC Analyst. January 2013

EU and NATO engagement with the SCO: Afghanistan as a pilot
Marcel de Haas
Europe’s World, 7 May 2014

The Brain of the Russian Army: Futuristic Visions Tethered by the Past

By Roger N. McDermott
FMSO | August 2013

More than twenty years after the dissolution of the USSR and the collapse of the Soviet Armed Forces, despite a litany of failed attempts by Moscow to reform and modernize Russia’s Armed Forces, the reform launched in the fall of 2008 was both real and fraught with unforeseen difficulties and setbacks.1 Unlike the previous efforts to conduct reform, which yielded structural changes and steady downsizing, the reform managed by the then Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov, with carte blanche political support from the ruling duumvirate of Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, did not fall captive to limited experiments or quietly fizzle out as a result of institutional inertia or political opposition to the process. This paper therefore traces the nature of the problems encountered in this reform period, addressing the roots of Russia’s limited defense policy planning capacity, and consequently seeks to outline and explain many of the reform reversals in the period 2009-12. . . .

National Identity and Russia’s Future

Valdai Discussion Club | 17:00 22/04/2014

The Valdai Discussion Club presents its new paper, “National Identity and Russia’s Future,” based on the discussions at the club’s 10th anniversary conference in September 2013 and subsequent work of the expert groups.

The paper, written by the young scholars Anastasia Likhacheva and Igor Makarov of the National Research University – Higher School of Economics, attempts to answer the most fundamental of questions: Who are the Russians, and what does their future hold? Authors, who were overseen by Sergey Karaganov, Honorary President of the Council of Foreign and Defense Policy, lay out their views on Russia’s national identity in a way that transcends the traditional academic framework and leaves room for a free and wide-ranging discussion.

Pavel Andreev, Executive Director, Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, Alexander Gabuev, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Kommersant-Vlast, and Ekaterina Makarova, lecturer at the Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs, Higher School of Economics also contributed to the report.
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