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The Reform of Russia’s Conventional Armed Forces

Problems, Challenges, & Policy Implications

By Roger N. McDermott

Reforming Russia’s conventional armed forces, modernizing its weapons and equipment, and reorienting its military to suit the needs of the state and the changing nature of modern conflict has been long overdue. Numerous failed attempts to conduct such reform predisposed Russian and international observers to be skeptical of any renewed efforts to address this issue. In the aftermath of the 2008 Russia-Georgia war and the ensuing crisis in NATO-Russia relations, Moscow finally launched a genuine and systemic reform agenda that has changed the face of the Russian armed forces. Its longer-term success remains questionable.

The Reform of Russia’s Conventional Armed Forces traces the complex origins of the reform and its numerous twists and assesses the key challenges its faces. Roger N. McDermott examines the obstacles confronting Russian defense planners as they seek to transform the military education system, encourage high standards among the officer corps, train suitable noncommissioned officers, and overcome the weaknesses of the domestic defense industry to facilitate modernization. Moscow’s long-term political and economic support will be necessary, as pursuit of reform is likely to result in a lengthy period of transition for the armed forces. Whether, or to what extent, such challenges are sufficiently resolved will determine the Russian states’ future capability to project military power, preserve the country’s territorial integrity, and validate its claims to “great power” status.

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