Russian Army A Shadow Of Its Cold War Self
Not that we're hankering for the heyday of the mighty Red Army. But the decline of the Russian armed forces is startling. Sure, they can mop the floor with a tiny country like Georgia. But the days when NATO needed to worry about T-80 main battle tanks rolling into Berlin, flanked by crack Soviet paratroopers, are truly in the past, thanks to systematic corruption and rock-bottom professional standards.
Despite the shortage of volunteers, Mr. Serdyukov, the defense minister, announced at the end of 2009 that Russia's ground forces had been reorganized into 85 brigades of "permanent combat readiness," doing away with bulkier divisions and making the army more mobile. Only later did officials acknowledge that the brigades were made up mostly of one-year conscripts, men with few combat skills.
The enlistment drive's failure puts constraints on Russia's reach. When ethnic rioting in June threatened to tear Kyrgyzstan apart, its president appealed for Russian peacekeepers, the kind of force Moscow once deployed routinely as a political tool. This time the Kremlin demurred—in part, defense analysts say, because the army couldn't spare a full brigade of professional soldiers.