Select Committee on European Union Third Report


58.  Senior Russian officials expressed to the Committee their interest in the ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy) as having "a very promising future." The Committee concluded, however, that fruitful collaboration depends upon the reform of the Russian military. Thorough reform, which is expensive, will have to await an economic renascence. In compelling evidence to the Committee General Shalikashvili emphasised how devastating the cuts to Russian military capabilities had been in the past decade. An equally sober assessment was given by Ms. Oksana Antonenko and Colonel Langton of the International Institute of Strategic Studies. In this they were joined by Dr Roy Allison of the Royal Institute of International Affairs.[40] As a result of reduced expenditure, only 20 per cent of the equipment is still modern. The special forces and the submarine ballistic missile forces alone appear to have emerged relatively unscathed. Recruitment has plummeted. Russia now has little more than one million men under arms (such a low figure was last seen in the USSR in the first years of Stalin's personal dictatorship). Waste is rampant, as is corruption at the top. In the words of General Shalikashvili: "Their training is dismal; in many cases it is really non-existant except for the few élite units, the airborne units and a few others, Spetsnaz. (Q552) Lack of necessary training and the resultant use of what amount to mercenaries on short-term contracts have had a disastrous impact on the war in Chechnya, the appalling conduct of which the EU has condemned.[41] In this context former ambassador to Moscow Sir Rodric Braithwaite characterised the army as both "brutal and incompetent." (Q97)

59.  Moreover, as was confirmed to the Committee in Brussels, Russians attached to NATO have subsequently been marginalised on returning home. Since 9/11, more effort has been made to accommodate Russian concerns and to respond positively to President Putin's western orientation. But this has not proved easy. Even Russian legislators have had cause to complain at military secrecy. Deputy Chairman of the Duma's Defence Committee Dr. Alexei Arbatov complains that the greater part of the contents of the military budget are still concealed from legislators.[42]

60. It will take many years and huge expenditure before the Russian armed forces are able to play a significant role alongside NATO or EU armed forces in any major complex operation. In this General Shalikashvili and former US Secretary of Defense Dr. William Perry agreed.[43] Requirements encompass a change of ethos, the development of a cadre of highly trained officers and non-commissioned officers, a major re-equipment programme and a core of professional servicemen. Moreover, and as a pre-condition for success of such a programme, the Russian government will have to make a fundamental political decision. They must decide, and perhaps decide soon, what role they wish their armed forces to play in the new strategic environment.

40   See, for example Q552, Q290, Q288, and Q289. Back

41   See paragraph 14 for detail. Back

42   Alexei Arbatov, "Komu nuzhna voennaya taina? [Who needs military secrecy?], Moskovskie Novosti, No 37, 24-30 September 2002. Back

43   See General Shalikashvili Q552, and Dr Perry Q554. Back

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