Policy Brief

April 01, 2015

A Semi-professional Military

Problems Facing Russian Armed Forces in the Effort to Transition to a Contract Army

Russia’s military still has many Soviet-era features: mass character, low mobility, and staggering cost. But it is also modernizing. Efforts to replace compulsory military service with a professional army have had only halting success at best, but some results are clear. In 2008, it took two weeks for Russian forces to reach South Ossetia. Things were quite different on the border with Ukraine in 2014; professional soldiers were deployed to Russia’s southern Rostov region in a matter of days.

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Abstract: Throughout the post-Soviet period, there have been continuous discussions in Russia about the need to abolish compulsory military service and create a professional army in its place. Although three Russian presidents declared their determination to reorganize the armed forces, however, all attempts to create an entirely contractual military have failed. Today there are some signs that the military is modernizing, supported by reports that professional Russian troops are participating in operations in Ukraine. In order to create a fully combat-effective professional military, however, a number of major reforms are needed. The soldier’s legal status needs to be raised, service conditions for contract soldiers should be improved, and authentic civilian oversight should be established over the military.

Andrey Kalikh is a human rights activist and a freelance journalist based in Saint Petersburg. He is also the coordinator of the working group Fighting Transborder Corruption at the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum.

Bibliographic data

DGAPkompakt 5, April 2, 2015, 6 pp.

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