Policy Memos

The Rise and Fall of the Russian Internal Troops?

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The conventional wisdom among both Russian and Western analysts is that the Internal Troops (VV) of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) have been a bureaucratic Pac-Man since the collapse of the Soviet Union, eating up precious state resources. The MVD's voracious appetite is said to have had a particularly deleterious impact on the Russian Armed Forces, whose financial difficulties are considerable and well-known. Former Minister of Defense Igor Rodionov, shortly after being dismissed in May 1997, remarked, "what is happening? We are cutting and disarming the Army and Navy. And at the same time the other forces are developing unchecked."

Knowledgeable observers generally agree about the reason for this purported change in fortunes. They explain the MVD's power by Boris Yeltsin's need to protect his regime against domestic challenges, including from the regular army. In other words, Yeltsin is engaging in "counter-balancing." For example, the British journalist Anatol Lieven maintains that most Russian army officers believe "with good evidence" that President Boris Yeltsin has been pursuing a strategy of "'divide and rule'…designed to set the different security forces against each other and reduce the possibility of any threat to his rule from this quarter." [...]

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About the author

Professor, Political Science
Syracuse University