Security and Defence

Reports and papers

Russia's Military Reforms: Victory after Twenty Years of Failure?

01 Dec 2011 - 12:49

Clingendael Paper no. 5

New Publication in Series: Clingendael Paper No. 5 by Marcel de Haas. Russia's army has been in decay since 1991. Moscow is currently making a comeback, by way of an assertive foreign security policy that is supported by modernized and restructured armed forces. Since Russia is an important and influential security actor in and around Europe, and a nuclear competitor of the United States. The current military reforms will not result in Moscow returning as a military super power, but its regional power projection capabilities could well influence Western security ambitions towards the East.

This Clingendael Paper describes twenty years of Russian military restructuring and offers an outlook on the future stance of Moscow's military power. Previous modernization plans were to a large extent in vain. Although the Russian-Georgian conflict of August 2008 resulted in a victory for Moscow, it also demonstrated the status of decay of the Russian Armed Forces. Realizing that these shortcomings prevented military power from being a useful tool in Russia's security policy, soon after this conflict Russian President Medvedev announced huge military reforms. This restructuring, to be implemented by 2020, consists of rearming and reforming the organization and the manpower of the Russian Armed Forces. Unlike earlier restructuring, the current modernization plans to bring about a watershed: from the traditional large-scale conflict-orientated mobilization army to fully filled, sophisticated, equipped and well-trained permanently combat-ready forces, ready for regional power projection. Will the military reforms be successful this time? What will Russia's Armed Forces look like in 2020? If the restructuring of Moscow's army is fruitful, does this have any consequences for the West and NATO in particular?