This series of profiles of foreign nations is part of the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The profiles offer brief, summarized information on a country's historical background, geography, society, economy, transportation and telecommunications, government and politics, and national security. Derived from The Library of Congress.
COUNTRY PROFILE: RUSSIA GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Overview: Russia is a democratic federation of 89 subnational jurisdictions, classified as republics, oblasts (provinces), autonomous oblasts, autonomous regions, and territories. At the national level, the constitution of 1993 calls for three branches of government—the executive, legislative, and judiciary—but it does not stipulate equal powers for each. In that system, the president of Russia has formidable powers as head of the armed forces and the Security Council. Those powers include the authority to appoint a wide variety of government officials without effective oversight or check. The houses of the bicameral legislative branch have offered only weak opposition because of their constitutional position and because effective opposition parties do not exist. The judiciary, a rubber-stamp branch of government under the Soviet system, has moved only slowly to assert an independent authority. President Vladimir Putin has used this structure to enhance the power of his office and dominate the government.
Executive Branch: The president, who is the head of state, serves a maximum of two four-year terms. However, in 2006, midway in the second term of Vladimir Putin, public opinion favored amending the constitution to allow him to seek a third term. The president appoints the prime minister (who is head of government), the head of the Central Bank of Russia, and the chairman of the highest judicial body, the Constitutional Court. Those nominations require confirmation by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament (the Federal Assembly), although the president may dissolve the Duma if it fails three times to confirm a nominee for prime minister. Several other top-level presidential nominations, however, require no approval from the legislative branch. The president also issues decrees that go into effect without the parliament’s approval. Putin, who was elected in 2000 and reelected in 2004, has further improved his position by introducing changes that limit the power of the two houses of the Federal Assembly and through the plurality of his party in the Duma. There is no vice president; if the president is incapacitated, the prime minister succeeds him until a new election is held.
In 2006 the government, headed by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, included 16 ministries, some of which are important policy-making centers. The three “power ministries”—Internal Affairs, Defense, and the Federal Security Service, which has ministerial status—are concerned with domestic and international security. The Ministry of Finance is the center of national economic policy making, and since 2000 the Ministry for Economic Development and Trade, which merged several Soviet-era ministries, has assumed a powerful economic policy position under German Gref. On many issues, the last two ministries are considered a counterweight to the “power ministries.” Also included at “cabinet level” are the director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, the chairman of the Central Bank of Russia, and the procurator general, who is the chief prosecutor. Several powerful political “clans,” tacitly united under the Putin administration, are expected to vie for power when Putin leaves office.
In late 2005, Putin authorized the 126-member Public Chamber, a new body designed to streamline public input into legislation and government policy. The appointive membership of the chamber includes accomplished individuals in a variety of civic, academic, and social fields. In its first year of existence, the chamber’s 17 specialized committees intervened in several major policy areas.
Legislative Branch: The Federal Assembly is divided into two houses, the Federation Council (178 members) and the State Duma (450 members). Members of both houses serve four-year terms. The houses have differing responsibilities; the Duma has the more powerful role of primary consideration of all legislation. Although the Federation Council has the power to review and force compromise on legislation, in practice its role has been primarily as a consultative and reviewing body. In the 1990s, the Federation Council was made up of the heads of government and the legislative leaders of the 89 subnational jurisdictions into which Russia is divided. In 2000 Putin increased his control of the Federation Council by replacing ex-officio membership with a process of appointment by the president. The Duma can vote no-confidence in a sitting government, but the president can ignore the vote and dissolve the Duma if a second such vote is taken within three months. Changes in the constitution require a two-thirds vote in the Duma. The Duma elections of December 2003 gave a strong plurality (222 seats) to Putin’s United Russia Party, which gained three times as many votes as the second-place Communist Party of the Russian Federation. Between that election and mid-2006, United Russia gained 87 seats as delegates switched party allegiance. In 2006 United Russia had 309 seats; the Communist Party, 45 seats; the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, 35 seats; the Motherland bloc of regional parties, 29 seats; and the People’s Party, 12 seats. Independents held 18 seats, and two seats were vacant. Some 45 members of the Duma and six of the Federation Council were women.
Judicial Branch: The judicial branch has moved very slowly toward an independent role in the post-Soviet era. The federal judicial institutions are the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, and the Superior Court for Arbitration. Judges of those courts serve lifetime terms. All federal judges are appointed by the Federation Council on the recommendation of the president. The 19-member Constitutional Court passes judgments on compliance with federal law and the constitution and settles jurisdictional disputes between state bodies. The 23-member Supreme Court rules on matters of civil, criminal, and administrative law. It is the final stage of the appeals system, which begins with local courts of general jurisdiction and includes district and regional courts. The specialty of the Superior Court for Arbitration is settling commercial disputes.
Administrative Divisions: Russia is divided into 89 subnational jurisdictions, each of which has two representatives in the Federation Council. However, those jurisdictions vary widely in size, composition, and nomenclature. They include 21 republics, 49 oblasts (provinces), six territories, 10 autonomous regions, one autonomous oblast, and two cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg) with separate oblast status. The autonomous regions and the autonomous oblast are parts of larger subnational jurisdictions. In a first step toward overcoming the complexity of this system, in 2000 all of Russia was divided into seven federal districts: Central, Far East, North Caucasus, Northwest, Siberia, Urals, and Volga. Within the 89 jurisdictions, the next-largest jurisdictional level is the rayon, which is approximately equivalent to a county in the United States.
Provincial and Local Government: The chief executive of all 89 jurisdictions is the governor. In December 2004, the selection method of governors was changed, increasing the power of the national executive over subnational governments. Instead of direct popular election in the jurisdiction, governors now are nominated by the president, then appointed by the jurisdiction’s legislature. The legislature can reject a nominee, but after three rejections the president can dissolve the legislature. In 2005 all of President Putin’s more than 30 nominees were approved immediately by the respective legislatures. The seven federal districts have governors who are appointed by the president. In 2006 a law substantially increased the oversight powers of regional governors over city mayors, reducing local governmental powers. A Law on Self-Government, expected to be finalized in 2009, is likely to result in interim reform creating large numbers of new municipalities, revising the present municipal government structure, and increasing the budgetary autonomy of all local jurisdictions. Implementation of some parts of the law began in 2004.
Judicial and Legal System: Civil and criminal cases are heard by courts of general jurisdiction, which are subordinate to the Supreme Court and function at district, regional, and national levels, with appeals possible to the next higher level. The chief legal representative of the state, the procurator general, is nominated by the president and approved by the Federation Council. The procurator general appoints equivalent officers for the lower jurisdictions. Military courts are included in this system. A second system is the arbitration or commercial courts, which hear business-related cases under the national Supreme Court of Arbitration. In 2006 a public justice system of about 500 courts went into operation to resolve certain commercial disputes otherwise heard by conventional courts. In all but two subnational jurisdictions, justices of the peace handle minor criminal cases and some civil cases, sometimes assuming as much as half the judicial caseload of the jurisdiction. Some of Russia’s subnational jurisdictions have constitutional courts, which form the third court system under the authority of the national Constitutional Court.
Although Russia has committed itself to thorough reform of the rubber-stamp Soviet judicial system, progress in that direction has been slow. Federal judges are nominated by assemblies of judges and approved by the president. The Ministry of Justice administers the judicial system, naming judges and establishing courts below the federal level. However, in the 1990s many judges remained from the Soviet system, and the judiciary became a roadblock for reform programs such as privatization and improved human rights. The independence and professionalism of judges have been damaged by the minimal pay they have received, and funding of the judicial system has been problematic. Although salaries had increased substantially by 2005, bribery of judges remains a frequent practice.
A new Criminal Procedure Code went into effect in 2001. Since that reform, however, prosecutors have retained disproportionate power, and in non-jury trials a very high percentage of criminal cases result in convictions. Although the law entitles defendants to professional representation, defense lawyers are expensive and are lacking in some remote areas. President Vladimir Putin frequently has exempted government officials and wealthy businessmen from prosecution, even for very serious offenses. Under pressure from the European Union, Russia has not applied the death penalty since 1996, although that punishment retains legal standing. Beginning in 2004, jury trials have been held for the most serious offenses in all jurisdictions except the Republic of Chechnya. That year a new law defined for the first time the role and status of jurors. In recent years, clear procedural irregularities have been observed in well-publicized criminal cases such as the tax evasion trial of oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovskiy (2004–5). In 2006 the Putin government proposed a US$1.8 billion, five-year program to reform Russia’s judicial system from 2007 to 2011.
Electoral System: Suffrage is universal, and the minimum voting age is 18. Elections are organized and overseen by the 15-member Central Election Commission. The president, the State Duma, and the Federation Council each appoint five commission members to four-year terms. According to the constitution, the chairman of that commission, since 1999 Aleksandr Veshnyakov, is third in Russia’s leadership line behind the president and the prime minister. The 89 subnational jurisdictions have equivalent commissions, which in turn oversee some 2,700 regional election commissions. The president and members of the Duma are elected by direct ballot to four-year terms. The last presidential election (normally held in March) was in 2004; the last parliamentary elections (normally in December) were held in 2003. The last regional and local elections were held in March 2006. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for December 2007, the next presidential election for March 2008.
In 2006 the single-member constituencies that had elected half (225) of the Duma members were abolished, instead awarding all seats according to national party vote totals and eliminating the possibility of independents gaining seats. To achieve representation, a party must gain at least 7 percent of total votes. The presidential election includes a runoff between the top two vote-getters if no candidate gains a majority on the first ballot. Direct elections also choose legislatures at the subnational levels, although the president has the power to dissolve such legislatures and force the holding of new elections. Chief executives at those levels are appointed by the president. National electoral reforms in 2005, all aiming to reduce opposition party strength, increased the minimum vote percentage required for a party to be represented in the Duma from 5 to 7 percent, prohibited parties from forming electoral coalitions, and stiffened party registration requirements.
Political Conditions and Parties: Aside from the Communist Party, a remnant of the Soviet era, Russia has had few political parties with national followings. In the immediate post-Soviet years, a wide variety of new parties espoused either some type of Western-style democratic and free-market reform or retaining a form of the strong central government inherited from Soviet times. Parliamentary elections of the 1990s generally fragmented and weakened the reform parties, although State Duma legislation in that period most often was the result of compromise. In that period, party configurations changed rapidly as groups merged and split. In 2001 the United Russia Party was formed, giving the Putin administration an effective voice in the Duma; that party’s triumph in the 2003 parliamentary elections enhanced Putin’s position. In those elections, the failure of any reform party to exceed the 5 percent minimum diminished the already weak political voice of the reform opposition. Ensuing legislation increased the minimum to 7 percent and required parties to have at least 50,000 members and organizations in at least half of Russia’s regions, further enhancing the dominance of the United Russia Party. The major reform parties of the early 2000s, Yabloko and the Union of Rightist Forces, were hindered by the electoral reforms of 2005. A third reform party, the People’s Democratic Union, appeared in 2006. In mid-2006, the reform parties discussed uniting into a single organization to ensure representation in the Duma. The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Rodina (Homeland) parties have nationalist agendas that include abolition of the federal system and expulsion of immigrants. In 2005 Rodina was the fastest growing party in Russia, but it was prohibited from participating in most regional elections in 2006.
Mass Media: After strict state control during most of the Soviet era, substantial media diversification began in the late 1980s, and during the Yeltsin presidency (1991–2000) most issues were discussed openly in the press and in the broadcast media. However, as wealthy entrepreneurs concentrated media resources, nonpartisan reporting became increasingly rare. Media control by pro-Yeltsin factions was cited as a major factor in Yeltsin’s re-election as president in 1996. The role of the broadcast media has become more problematic during the Putin presidency. This is especially true because television, which was privatized and expanded rapidly in the 1990s, is the chief source of news for most Russians, and virtually all households have a television set.
Since 2000 the Putin administration has exerted strong pressure on independent television outlets in an effort to recentralize the media after the diversification of the 1990s. By 2004 all opposition television news programming had been forced off the air, and topics such as the Chechnya conflict have been covered from the government perspective only. The two largest national channels, ORT and Channel One, are state-owned and reach more than 95 percent of Russia’s territory. Under new management, NTV, the last major independent television outlet, curbed its political commentary in 2004. The government owns the two most powerful radio stations, Radio Mayak and Radio Rossiya. In mid-2006, the government greatly reduced the availability of Voice of America and Radio Liberty broadcasts over Russian stations.
Following the crackdown on the broadcast media, newspapers have been the only source of media criticism of the government. As the broadcast media expanded, however, circulation of newspapers decreased because of production costs and competition from television, and in the early 2000s the number of independent print-media voices diminished steadily. Three publications that appeared after 1991, Kommersant, Nazivisimaya Gazeta, and Novaya Gazeta, maintained independent positions, although by 2006 the first two had muted their criticism of the government. In 2005 Gazprom-Media, the media branch of the state-owned Gazprom energy company, purchased the national daily Izvestiya, transforming it from a respected and balanced publication to a tabloid newspaper. The other major national newspapers are Argumenty i Fakty, Izvestiya, Komsomol’skaya Pravda, Moskovskiy Komsomolets, Moskovskiye Novosti, Pravda, and Trud. The Moscow Times and the St. Petersburg Times are major English-language newspapers. Outside Moscow and St. Petersburg, newspapers are controlled by local governments, most of which under the present political system are loyal to the Putin administration. In the early 2000s, free newspapers devoted mainly to advertising expanded their readership quickly in the large urban centers. The principal news agencies are ITAR–TASS, RIA Novosti (both government-owned), and Interfax. All major foreign news agencies have offices in Russia. Since 2001 several print journalists have been attacked or killed, allegedly because of their writings.
Foreign Policy: In the post-Soviet era, Russia’s foreign relations have gone through several stages. In the early 1990s, Russia sought friendly relations with virtually all countries, especially the West and Japan. By the mid-1990s, a nationalist faction discouraged relations with the West in favor of renewed influence in the “Near Abroad” (the territory of the former Soviet Union) and closer ties with China. The two contradictory approaches have defined Russia’s foreign policy since that time. In the mid-1990s, the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the first of two conflicts with the Republic of Chechnya strained relations with the West. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks realigned Russia with the United States, but new strains came from the continuation of the second Chechnya conflict, Russia’s support of Iran’s nuclear program, and Russia’s failure to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Meanwhile, Russia improved its position in the Near Abroad by strengthening relationships with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan and maintaining bases in Moldova and Georgia. In 2005 relations with Uzbekistan improved as that country reversed its earlier movement toward the West. Relations with Ukraine deteriorated after Ukraine elected a Western-oriented president in 2004 and Russia raised natural gas prices in 2005. Tension with Georgia increased in mid-2006 as Russia backed the demands of separatists in Georgia’s South Ossetia region. Russia has used its role as natural gas supplier to gain leverage over both Georgia and Ukraine. Intensifying its commercial and diplomatic role in Asia, Russia has been a strong supporter of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which it sees as a key factor in blocking U.S influence in Central Asia, and it has improved relations with North and South Korea and China in a number of areas. However, in 2006 Russia’s insistence on maintaining control of the Kuril Islands, a reversal of recent conciliation, chilled relations with Japan.
In the early 2000s, the Putin Administration continued to attempt a balance between restoring Russia’s influence in the Near Abroad (particularly Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Ukraine) and preserving positive relations with the West, which has looked with disfavor on Russia’s nationalistic ambitions. In that period, Russia’s perceived support of regimes in Iran and Syria, Western support for successful democratic movements in Georgia and Ukraine, Western criticism of Putin’s policies toward Chechnya, and restriction of nongovernmental organizations and the media were issues that damaged the bilateral rapport achieved in 2001. In August 2006, the United States irked Russia by imposing sanctions on two Russian arms companies for their dealings with Iran. In 2006 Russia made progress in negotiations for membership in the World Trade Organization, but some issues caused the United States to delay approval of Russia’s membership. The continued existence of the U.S. Jackson–Vanik Amendment, which originally linked U.S.-Soviet trade with the Soviet Union’s emigration policy for Jews, also is a source of tension. In mid-2006, Russia enhanced its international prestige by hosting the annual Group of Eight summit meeting. Russia has used its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to influence international responses to crises in Iran, Sudan, and the Middle East.
Membership in International Organizations: Russia is a member of numerous international organizations, including the Arctic Council, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation [sic], Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN, as a dialog partner and member of the ASEAN Regional Forum), Bank for International Settlements, Black Sea Economic Cooperation Pact, Central Asian Cooperation Organization (since 2004), Commonwealth of Independent States, Council of Baltic States, Council of Europe, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Group of Eight, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Criminal Police Organization, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Labour Organization, International Maritime Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Organization for Migration (as an observer), International Telecommunication Union, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Partnership for Peace, Nuclear Suppliers Group, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Paris Club, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, United Nations Committee on Trade and Development, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, United Nations Institute for Training and Research, United Nations Security Council, Universal Postal Union, World Health Organization, and World Trade Organization (as an observer).
Major International Treaties: Russia is a signatory to numerous multilateral treaties, including the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal; Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution; Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna; Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping Wastes and Other Matter (London Convention); Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction; Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling, and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction; Geneva Convention (1949); International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; International Tropical Timber Agreement; Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer; Ramsar Convention; Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Under Water; Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons; United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto protocol. Russia also has signed a number of bilateral arms control treaties with the United States on the limitation of strategic arms, antiballistic missile systems, and underground nuclear weapons tests and on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.
Armed Forces Overview: The main branches of Russia’s armed forces are the ground forces, navy, air forces, and strategic deterrent forces. In 2005 Russia had 1,027,000 active military personnel and about 20 million reservists. Of the active-duty personnel, about 250,000 were conscripts. The number of women has increased since contract service was introduced; estimates of their numbers varied from 115,000 to 160,000. Some 395,000 personnel were in the army, 142,000 in the navy (including 35,000 in naval aviation), 160,000 in the air forces, and 80,000 in the strategic deterrent forces, whose total manpower of 129,000 also included 38,000 air force and 11,000 navy personnel. About 40,000 of the strategic deterrent forces were classified as strategic missile force troops. Another 250,000 active personnel were designated for command and support duties. Russia has an ongoing military reform program that is to include streamlining and professionalization of all units—goals widely recognized as necessary to meet Russia’s post-Soviet military needs at a time when the military manpower pool is diminishing. However, troop dissatisfaction and low funding have hampered expansion of this program beyond individual units. Reforms also may rearrange the military districts and the status of the main branches. The Chechnya conflict, which decreased in intensity in 2006, damaged morale throughout the military and exposed planners’ inability to adapt existing doctrine to nonconventional combat. Domestic ground forces are divided into six military districts: Moscow, Leningrad, Volga, North Caucasus, Siberian, and Far Eastern. The navy is divided into four fleets (Northern, Black Sea, Pacific, and Baltic) and the Caspian Sea Flotilla. A new military doctrine was scheduled to replace the existing (2002) doctrine in 2007, enumerating more precisely Russia’s national security position and the threats to it.
Foreign Military Relations: In the early 2000s, China and India have been the top customers for Russia’s military exports, which in 2005 reached a new high of US$6.1 billion. In 2005 Russia and China held their first-ever joint military exercises on the coast of China’s Shandong Province, and in 2006 plans called for continued sales of advanced arms to China. A treaty with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations includes a security partnership section. India plans extended military cooperation with Russian forces after conducting large-scale bilateral naval exercises in 2003. In the early 2000s, Russia intensified its military links in Central Asia. A comprehensive defense treaty with Uzbekistan in 2004 was followed by a 2005 mutual defense treaty. Bilateral defense treaties with Tajikistan ensured the long-term presence of the Russian troops that have been in Tajikistan throughout the post-Soviet era. In 2006 Russia tripled the number of aircraft stationed at its air base at Kant in Kyrgyzstan.
In 2005 and 2006, Russian forces participated in various joint exercises with forces of Armenia, Canada, India, Kyrgyzstan, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States. In early 2006, joint naval and antiterrorism exercises were held in the Ionian Sea to evaluate the interoperability of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russian systems. The NATO–Russia Council provides Russia input into NATO policies, with the goal of alleviating stress over NATO expansion eastward. Russia is a signatory of the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. Russia receives aid from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union for destruction of its chemical weapons in accord with the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme in the Russian Federation provides for European assistance projects in nuclear waste disposal.
External Threat: No conventional external threat exists. However, the stepwise expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into Eastern Europe and the three Baltic states of the former Soviet Union has caused irritation in Russia, some of which has been alleviated by participation in the NATO–Russia Council and by a NATO promise not to deploy nuclear weapons in the new member countries.
Defense Budget: Russia’s military outlays, particularly allocations among defense subcategories, are difficult to assess. Reportedly, the 2005 budget increased direct military spending by 28 percent over the 2004 total. Overall, between 2002 and 2005 estimated defense budgets increased from US$8.4 billion to US$17.7 billion. However, experts see drastic increases in the early 2000s as compensation for the substantial underfunding of the military in the late 1990s. Russia’s high inflation also plays a role in the nominal increases. The military budget for 2006, calling for US$22.3 billion, was 25 percent larger than its predecessor, with a stronger emphasis on research and development and acquisition of arms and equipment. However, reorganization of national budget classifications in 2005 added some new types of expenditures to the traditional national defense categories. Among the latter, another US$4.5 billion was budgeted in 2006 for support functions such as military housing, health, and education. The draft budget for 2007 called for an increase of 23 percent in military spending, to US$30.4 billion. Increases targeted arms purchases, research and development, and a 10 percent pay raise for military personnel.
Major Military Units: The army has 5 tank divisions, 16 motorized rifle divisions, 4 airborne divisions, 5 machine gun and artillery divisions, 3 artillery divisions and 4 independent artillery brigades, 9 special forces brigades, 12 surface-to-surface missile brigades, 11 surface-to-air missile brigades, 5 antitank brigades, and 1 engineer brigade. The navy is divided into four fleets: the Baltic, Black Sea, Northern, and Pacific, each with its own fleet air force, plus the Caspian Sea Flotilla. The naval infantry (marines), 9,500 strong, includes three independent brigades and three special forces brigades. The air force is divided into two commands, the Long Range Aviation Command (57th Air Army) and the Military Transport Aviation Command (61st Air Army). The former command includes eight bomber regiments, the latter nine regiments. In addition, tactical aviation forces consist of five tactical and air defense armies totaling 49 air regiments. The strategic missile force is divided into three rocket armies.
Major Military Equipment: In the early 2000s, large numbers of major equipment items had outlived their service life, and replacement occurred at a much slower rate. In 2005 the army had 22,800 main battle tanks; 150 light tanks; 2,000 armored reconnaissance vehicles; 15,090 armored infantry fighting vehicles; 9,900 armored personnel carriers; 30,045 artillery pieces, including 6,010 self-propelled pieces, 6,100 mortars, and 4,350 multiple rocket launchers; 200 nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missiles; and 2,465 surface-to-air missiles. The navy had 46 tactical and 15 nuclear submarines, 1 aircraft carrier, 6 cruisers, 15 destroyers, 19 frigates, 26 corvettes, 41 mine warfare vessels, 22 major amphibious vessels, and 72 patrol and coastal combat vessels. The navy also had 266 combat aircraft. The air forces had 1,013 fighter aircraft, 677 bombers and ground-attack fighters, 119 reconnaissance aircraft, 293 military transport aircraft, and 1,520 helicopters. The strategic missile force had 570 launchers with 2,035 nuclear warheads. In 2006 the missile force added a first unit of advanced mobile Topol–M missiles. According to plans, that missile was to be the basis of significant new reliance on the missile force for conventional and antiterrorist defense in the period 2007–11. The nuclear submarines were equipped with a total of 252 missiles. In 2006 two new nuclear submarines carried Bulava missiles, Russia’s first new intercontinental ballistic missile model in the post-Soviet era.
Military Service: Males between ages 18 and 27 are eligible to be conscripted for terms of 18 to 24 months. The reserve obligation extends to age 50. Legislation in 2006 called for the term of active duty to be reduced to one year in 2008. In recent years, the quantity and quality of recruits have dropped dramatically because of the Chechnya conflict, low pay, and adverse service conditions. In the air force draft of spring 2006, only 20 percent of conscripts were found fit for combat units. The tradition of hazing new recruits drew increased public criticism in the early 2000s, but the practice continued to discourage enlistment. In mid-2006 the Ministry of Defense announced that the first phase of the plan to create an all-volunteer armed force would conclude in 2008, with special emphasis on professionalizing the rank of sergeant (to reduce hazing) and personnel in airborne units and units designated for conflict. However, in 2006 large numbers of early contract cancellations reduced the prospects of meeting program goals.
Paramilitary Forces: In 2005 a total of 415,000 individuals were on active duty with paramilitary forces. This total included 160,000 in the Federal Border Guard Service, 170,000 in the five paramilitary divisions of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and about 4,000 in the Federal Security Service. The Federal Protection Service, including the Presidential Guard Regiment, includes 10,000 to 30,000 troops. In 2006 the Federal Security Service added 300 counterterrorist personnel.
Military Forces Abroad: In 2006 Russian forces were stationed in several countries of the former Soviet Union: Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. The presence of Russian forces, ostensibly as peacekeepers, in the separatist republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was an ongoing irritant in relations with Georgia. Russia has provided troops or observers for several United Nations (UN) peacekeeping groups: the Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo; the Mission for the United Nations Referendum in Western Sahara; the Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea; the Mission in Sierra Leone; the Observer Mission in Georgia; and UN operations in Burundi, Congo, and Côte d’Ivoire.
Police: Russia’s civilian police force, the militia, falls under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Divided into public security units and criminal police, the militia is administered at federal, regional, and local levels. Security units, which are financed by local and regional funds, are responsible for routine maintenance of public order. The criminal police are divided into specialized units by type of crime. Among the latter units are the Main Directorate for Organized Crime and the Federal Tax Police Service. The latter agency now is independent. Since its establishment, the militia has been plagued by low pay, low prestige, and a high corruption level. The autonomous Federal Security Service, whose main responsibility is counterintelligence and counterterrorism, also has broad law enforcement powers. In early 2006, President Putin called for a wholesale review of police practices at the city, district, and transport levels.
Internal Threat: Increasingly sophisticated national and transnational criminal organizations are extremely active throughout Russia, especially in the Far East, Yekaterinburg, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. Criminal organizations control the trafficking of a wide variety of commodities. In urban centers, protection rackets prey on legitimate businesses. Russia is a vital link in narcotics smuggling from Afghanistan through Central Asia to Western Europe. Important factors in crime are government and police corruption, a growing domestic narcotics market, a weak judiciary, ineffective border controls, and the open, chaotic nature of post-Soviet commercial activity. Throughout the early 2000s, extremist nationalist groups such as the skinheads proliferated all over Russia, and the number of attacks on minority individuals increased sharply in 2005 and 2006. In 2006 skinhead membership was estimated at 70,000. In recent years, Russia’s financial institutions have suffered a drastic increase in computer crimes. The 2005 federal budget substantially increased funds for security and law enforcement activities.
Insurgency and Terrorism: In 1999 a series of bomb attacks in population centers was attributed to Chechen separatists, leading to the resumption of conflict between Russian forces and Chechen guerrillas. In 2001 Russia strongly supported U.S. actions in response to the September 11 attacks, a position that brought the countries closer. In 2002 Chechen terrorists took about 600 Russians hostage in a Moscow theater, sharpening Russia’s anti-Chechen and antiterrorism policy. Between 2002 and 2004, terrorist attacks in Russia killed an estimated 500 people. In May 2004, Chechen rebels assassinated Akhmad Kadyrov, the pro-Russian president of the Republic of Chechnya, and in September 2004 Chechen terrorists led by Shamil Basayev killed about 320 hostages at a Russian school in Beslan, near the border of Chechnya. In July 2006, Russian troops killed Basayev. Basayev’s alleged links with al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups were uncertain. Basayev’s death and the rise of Kadyrov’s charismatic son as leader of Chechnya were expected to diminish the longstanding Chechen insurgency. The main remaining insurgent group, led by Dokka Umarov, staged terrorist attacks throughout the North Caucasus region in 2006. Throughout the early 2000s, the dubious security of Russia’s substantial stock of nuclear materials caused international concern that a terrorist organization might obtain such materials in Russia. The 2005 budget substantially increased funds for Russia’s antiterrorism programs, and in 2006 the Federal Security Service established counterterrorism committees at the national and regional levels.
Human Rights: The constitution of 1993 guarantees broad freedoms of speech, assembly, fair trial, and the press, as well as protection against deprivation of liberty and inhumane punishment. However, in practice many of those guarantees have been withheld. Human rights observers have reported the use of torture in prisons and against prisoners in the Chechen conflict. Police violence and extortion have been concentrated against Caucasian, Central Asian, and Roma individuals. Military servicemen continue to suffer violent “hazing” rituals. Prison conditions in general are harsh, and rates of death and contagious diseases such as tuberculosis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among prisoners are very high. In 2004 some measures were taken to reduce prison overcrowding.
Arbitrary arrest and detention are frequent, and pretrial detention often is lengthy. However, authorities have increasingly complied with the detention limitations of the 2003 Criminal Procedure Code. The chief national law enforcement agency, the Federal Security Service, receives limited oversight by the federal procuracy and the courts. Ongoing, unrestricted use of force by troops against civilians in the Chechen conflict has been documented, despite restrictions on press coverage. Some religious groups have faced regional government restrictions under a 1997 law that regulates religious practice. Instances of prejudice and violence against Jews, Muslims, and other minorities increased in 2004. Nontraditional religions such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and splinter Muslim groups have been deprived of official status, sometimes on security grounds. Recent national elections have been conducted fairly, but government control of the media has been criticized during campaigns, and interference with journalists has been common. The treatment of displaced persons in the Chechen conflict has come into question. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have felt pressure and been subjected to occasional violence if they take controversial positions. In 2006 a controversial new agency, the Federal Registration Service, established a complex registration procedure for the estimated 400,000 foreign and domestic NGOs in Russia. As of October 2006, large numbers of significant NGOs had failed to fulfill agency requirements.
Crimes against women, including domestic violence and trafficking (both domestic and to other countries), are frequent. Because there is no law against sexual harassment, women have no recourse in such situations. Child abuse and trafficking in children also are significant problems.
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