Medvedev`s Defense and Security Policy

One of the main premises of Russia’s Military Reform involved eliminating the mass mobilization army and replacing it with one focused on permanent readiness, and getting rid of the units that just had officers and equipment but didn’t have any soldiers available for mass mobilization in times of war.

On May 7, 2012 Dmitry Medvedev left the presidential post. asked the leading military experts and defense researchers on the results of his defense and security policy

Russia’s Military Reform

One of the main premises of Russia’s Military Reform involved eliminating the mass mobilization army and replacing it with one focused on permanent readiness, and getting rid of the units that just had officers and equipment but didn’t have any soldiers available for mass mobilization in times of war.

Another aspect involved the concerns about the coming demographic decline in the number of 18 year-old men available for the draft due to the decline in the birth rate after 1991. That led to a decision to increase the number of contract soldiers relative to the number of conscripts. That was the manpower side.

In terms of organization the main focus was on increasing efficiency, eliminating duplicate structures, generally making the organization more efficient, and decreasing the number of command layers, so that army units could react more quickly when an order was issued in Moscow.

Also, there was a recognition that the Russian military needed to shift from being prepared to fight NATO and Europe towards dealing with more local and regional conflicts.

The assessment of the results of the Reform depends on structural changes or personnel issues. The mostly completed Reform of the organizational structure has been very successful. It’s reformed. It’s been fulfilled. It seems to work well enough, and it is certainly more efficient than the old system.

On the manpower side, the jury is still out. In January of this year, the salaries of contract soldiers increased quite a bit, and so the question is whether that will be sufficient to attract enough people to serve. Everything that had been done up to that point had not really worked.

As for the modernization of equipment, that is just starting, and it will also take the longest, just because it takes a long time to build such amounts of equipment. So it’s really too early to tell.

It’s virtually impossible to achieve all the goals outlined in the State Armament Program, but I think it is possible to come close. A lot will depend on the ability of the Defense Ministry to reform the industry by, for example, streamlining a lot of these big holding companies. Some of them work very well, but there are enterprises that are inefficient, or don’t really do much and are almost bankrupt. A lot of those need to be shut down, but that would be a big change in how the defense industry operates. Whether they are able to do that is still an open question, as is the extent to which the military and the government can control this process.

And corruption is still one of the biggest stumbling blocks. There’s still so much money that gets wasted in various ways.

Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Analyst and Director of Russian and East European Programs, CNA Corporation.

Georgian-South Ossetian conflict

Obviously, Russia’s military role was decisive, but it couldn’t have been otherwise. However, Russia did not use even close to all the non-military methods available to resolve this conflict. Russia did not succeed in the political role of “peacekeeper” in relations with Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia between 1992 and 2008. The military solution that was eventually chosen was not what was declared and planned initially. We must be honest about this.

It is difficult to judge the actions of President Dmitry Medvedev because the system of political and military decision-making at this level continues to be absolutely closed off to the public. Let’s be honest and admit that we don’t yet know for sure what circle of high-ranking officials and brass made the decision to introduce troops, and what opinions and arguments they had. We don’t know either who set the specific tasks for the troops. Was the opinion of all participants in this process uniform? Or did Medvedev have to adopt the position of the majority? Or, to the contrary, did the commander-in-chief have to insist on a military operation himself and assume responsibility for it? Who opposed him in this case? We don’t have answers to these questions. The same applies to later political steps on recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The war with Georgia did not substantially influence Russia’s geopolitical position. It’s unclear what effect it has had and will continue to have on Russia’s positions in the South Caucasus. At any rate, the war did not strengthen them. Probably, some people believe that the war allowed Russia to reclaim the image of a self-sufficient military power on a regional scale, whereas before they thought it was not capable of anything. But I did not have such illusions initially.

Alexander Stukalin, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Kommersant Daily.

Ballistic Missile Defense

The dialogue on U.S.-Russian ballistic missile defense was started by Vladimir Putin. Dmitry Medvedev took it over when he assumed office but we also saw a deterioration of bilateral ties in the missile defense sphere during his term. Medvedev probably decided that a tougher stance on the issue would benefit Russia’s interests more. In particular, he said that if Russia and the United States fail to come to an agreement on BMD, Russia would take military-technical and political countermeasures.

The problem has been blown out of proportion. The country’s defense companies have always overstated the Western threat in order to preserve their influence in society, to ensure sufficient funding for their projects, to keep their place at the top and to ensure they have a say in the development of Russia’s security policy. It happened during the Soviet era and it is still happening today. However, a distinguishing feature of the current situation is that the drafting and adoption of military-political decisions have been simplified to such an extent that major flops are now virtually inevitable.

The Medvedev administration showed weakness when it supported the idea of an asymmetric response to the U.S. BMD program, which was clearly forced on the president in the interests of a certain section of the Russian defense industry. As far as the strengthening of the country’s security is concerned, bolstering Russia’s arsenal of nuclear missiles, as part of an asymmetric response, looks unwise, to say the least.

The president has not done everything he could on the BMD issue. Worse still, he has pushed the situation into a corner from which it will be difficult to emerge. So far it is not clear how tough a line president Vladimir Putin intends to pursue on this issue. But continued movement towards confrontation with the United States and the West as a whole would not benefit Russia politically, economically or militarily.

Alexander Savelyev, Head of the Strategic Research Department, Institute of the World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.