Russian military has grown in size and stature in recent years and the west should have seen it coming.
Soon after the disintegration of Soviet Union, Russian military supremacy vanished from global system and Russian armed forces were no longer considered the force they once were. However, after slowly shaking off the jarring effects of the historic disintegration, Russian military made a lot of progress without the glitz and glamour that today’s armed forces around the globe have become accustomed to.
In order to cope with the demands of 21st century military, Russia has completely revamped the defense sector, replacing it with something that has taken years to build but is now a behemoth keen on flexing its muscles.
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When the world was looking towards economic development, Moscow was running its war machinery to build weapons. Indeed, Kremlin has invested a sizeable chunk of its fortunes in the defense sector with approximately $83.6 billion just in 2015, which clearly showcases the country’s main aim to put its military on part with states that mean it ill. It is expected that the expenditure will reach up to $93.9 billion in 2016.
Even in 2014, Moscow’s defense budget was higher than every state in Europe – something that was completely ignored by the West. Russian military was growing and it did so without much ado. According to a recent report issued by the European Council on Foreign Relations, west has miscalculated and undermined Russian capabilities and has stressed on the importance of reassessing Kremlin’s strength with the right indicators.
During the Russo-Georgia war in 2008, Moscow realized its operational shortcomings against the US led Georgian fighters and initiated reforms across-the-board and in 2014, showed the world that it is ready to show the type of military might it spoke about with such pride during the Soviet era.
A three-phase structure
Furthermore, the ECFR report states that these reforms were based on 3 different phases; “First, increasing professionalism by overhauling the education of personnel and cutting the number of conscripts”. The west has totally neglected the first phase. In fact, they never considered it in their calculations. It was the first time Russian policy makers were following the pyramid structure to organize their military to address the weakness. They introduced state of the art leadership techniques by reforming the military education system a carbon copy to the Swiss and Austrian system.
“Second, improving combat-readiness with a streamlined command structure and additional training exercises”. It was also not under the radar, as they implemented modern management methods and tactical trainings to cope with 21st century military requirements. They cut down the size of units to enhance their efficiency by carving out 40 new brigades from 23 old divisions from the Soviet days.
”Third, rearming and updating equipment”. Western powers only focused on this aspect and tried to assess the military might of Kremlin by ignoring the 1st and the 2nd phase, which were the most important factors of all.
The ECFR report further states that “The [new] military districts were transformed into joint forces commands, and their number was reduced. This cut the levels of hierarchy as the military districts now have access to all land, air, and naval forces in their zone,”
Moreover, increase in military exercises, drills on a broader scale helps to enhance the combat efficiency of newly established brigades. Due to these aforementioned reforms, Moscow has the capability to maintain a huge number of soldiers on standby for months along the Ukraine border.
Furthermore, the 3rd phase of Russian military reform is still in transition, as advancement in weapon system requires a lot of investment. However, what they have achieved so far was not even in the mind of the west and NATO in general. They totally undermined these factors or never saw it coming, but now since they have realized that how the Kremlin has reorganized its military structure, they are exploring all the options neutralize the threat Russian army poses.
Russian military – still far from the finished product
Recent Russian involvement in Middle East has showcased its military capabilities clearly. The Russian air force and navy has really caused a lot of damage to elements trying to displace Bashar al-Assad and although it could be considered aggressive behavior and a clear message to other stakeholders in Syria, one has to admit that Russian military has really matured into a unit that will mean business whenever it takes the battlefield. Moscow is moving ahead like a wild fire but policy makers suggest that it will become difficult for Vladimir Putin to sustain wars in the way US does largely due to the fact that the economy is already suffering too much and that despite achieving quite a lot in recent years, Russian military is still far from a finished product.