Skip to main content

Military Reform and Militarism in Russia

By Aleksandr Golts
Cover: Military Reform and Militarism in Russia

With tensions between Russia and the West at an all-time high, Russian military reforms have taken a new direction in what appears to be preparation for large-scale war. In this context, now more than ever, there is an increased need to understand the past and future directions of Russian military reform and what it means for the West.

In Military Reform and Militarism in Russia, Aleksandr Golts takes a hard look at the evolution of the Russian military from the collapse of the Soviet Union to its present involvement in wars in eastern Ukraine and Syria. This book is a follow-on to his study of military reform, or more precisely its failure, under President Boris Yeltsin and during the first term of President Vladimir Putin. Golts focuses on the evolution of military reform inside Russia since 2005; additionally, he examines the new phenomenon of Russian militarism and its origins in a Russian system that is hostile to both civilian control as well as civil society. The work reaches an important milestone in new works on Russian security in the age of Putin by explaining why Russian society has supported the concept of militarism in Russia.

This important book traces the roots of Russian militarism since the age of Ivan the Terrible, providing new understanding as to why this new phenomenon has emerged in Russia under Putin. Golts also examines the current state of Russian military reforms through the prism of Russian history by exploring the historic struggle between the “technocrats” who pushed force modernization and the “magicians” who still believe in mass armies and want to prepare for a general war. This in turn has modern-day repercussions for the West as it will determine how Putin will use the Russian military abroad and in a potential future confrontation with NATO.

Get daily updates from Brookings