Policy Memos

Putin and the Russian Military

Policy Memo:


Publication Date:




When Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, first as the appointed acting president and then as the duly elected leader of Russia, many people predicted that it heralded the political triumph of the "power ministries," including the Defense Ministry and the uniformed military. Putin's career history with the intelligence services was believed to make him a natural security hard-liner, sympathetic to military concerns. As prime minister in the late Yeltsin era, he was associated with the reopening of war against rebels in Chechnya. Furthermore, this time around the Russian forces were better funded and the General Staff was allowed to choose its strategy without much political interference. The control Putin wielded over the independent media prevented critical reports about the Chechen war from appearing on the nation's most frequently watched television channels and in the most frequently read newspapers; Putin thereby undercut the anti-military impact that human rights organizations might otherwise have had on the Russian citizenry. He furthermore made it a high priority to pay off accumulated wage debt to military officers and recruits, and his budget proposals to the Duma placed much more emphasis on defense technology purchases than had been the case in the Yeltsin era. It seemed that the Russian military had it made. [...]

Read full text (PDF)

About the author

Professor; Chair of the Political Science Department
Barnard College, Columbia University