Policy Memos

Why Military Dissatisfaction Is Not a Threat to the Russian State

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It is a well known fact that the Russian military today is in terrible shape. Funding shortfalls are so severe that basic needs go unmet. Neither officers nor troops get paid on time, many officers' families are living in abysmal conditions because adequate housing is not available, food supplies for the troops have frequently been found to be contaminated or unfit for human consumption, and the amount of time given to combat training is very low because adequate fuel is not available to fly planes or send tanks or ships on exercises. Societal respect for the officer corps has plummeted as its dirty laundry has been hung out for public inspection. Corruption in the officer corps is prevalent, ranging from illegal sales of weapons and supplies to the habit of commandeering troops for private slave labor on dachas or in officer-owned businesses. Dedovshchina, the brutal hazing of new recruits by more senior troops, is rampant, and often leads to murder or suicide; combined with a sharp increase in the number of serious accidents happening on base, peacetime death rates within the Russian military have soared in recent years. Not surprisingly, draft-dodging is at epidemic levels and the officer corps is hemorrhaging as the youngest and most talented officers leave as soon as they can. [...]

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About the author

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