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. . . .


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