Armed Forces Overview: The main branches of Russia’s armed forces are the ground forces, navy, air forces, and strategic missile force. In 2004 Russia had 1,212,700 active military personnel and about 20 million reservists. Of the active-duty personnel, about 330,000 were conscripts, and 100,000 were women. Some 360,000 personnel were in the army, 155,000 in the navy, 184,600 in the air forces, and 100,000 in the strategic missile force. 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. The ongoing Chechnya conflict has damaged morale throughout the military and exposed planners’ inability to adapt existing doctrine to nonconventional combat. Domestic defense forces are divided into six military districts, and the navy is divided into four fleets and one flotilla.
Foreign Military Relations: In the early 2000s, China and India have been the top customers for Russia’s military exports. In 2005 Russia and China held their first-ever joint military exercises, on the coast of China’s Shandong Province. In 2003 Russia reached agreements with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan solidifying Russian military aid and military presence in those countries, and 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. Russia and Ukraine held a joint naval peacekeeping exercise in 2003, the fourth such exercise since 1997. In 2004 joint Theater Missile Defense exercises were held in Russia with the United States, 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 the destruction of its chemical weapons in accordance 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: 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 sub-categories, are difficult to assess. Between the 2002 and 2003 budgets, expenditure increases were estimated at about 30 percent. 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 under-funding of the military in the late 1990s. Russia’s substantial inflation also plays a role in the nominal increases.
Major Military Units: The army has 5 tank divisions, 19 motorized rifle divisions, 4 airborne divisions, 6 machine gun and artillery divisions, 5 artillery divisions, 7 special forces brigades, 15 surface-to-surface missile brigades, 19 surface-to-air missile brigades, 5 antitank brigades, 18 independent artillery brigades, and 13 independent infantry brigades. The navy is divided into four fleets: the Baltic, Black Sea, Northern, and Pacific, plus the Caspian Sea Flotilla. The air force is divided into two commands, the Long Range Aviation Command and the Military Transport Aviation Command, with seven tactical and air defense armies totaling 49 air regiments. The Strategic Deterrent Forces include 149,000 troops, of which 100,000 are strategic missile force troops and the remainder are assigned from the army and the navy. The strategic missile force is divided into three rocket armies. The naval portion of the strategic deterrent forces has 14 operational nuclear submarines.
Major Military Equipment: The army has 22,800 main battle tanks, 350 light tanks, 15,090 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 9,900 armored personnel carriers, 30,045 artillery pieces, 200 nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missiles, and 2,465 surface-to-air missiles. The navy has 37 tactical and 14 nuclear submarines, 1 aircraft carrier, 6 cruisers, 14 destroyers, 6 frigates, 51 mine warfare vessels, 22 amphibious vessels, and 86 patrol and coastal combat vessels. The navy also has 266 combat aircraft. The air forces have 908 fighter aircraft, 606 bombers and ground-attack fighters, 214 reconnaissance aircraft, 318 military transport aircraft, and about 1,700 helicopters. The strategic missile force has 635 launchers with 2,500 nuclear warheads. The nuclear submarines have a total of 216 missiles.
Military Service: Males between the ages of 18 and 27 are eligible to be conscripted for terms of service of 18 to 24 months. In 2004 the Ministry of Defense announced that the term would be reduced to one year by 2008. In recent years, the quantity and quality of recruits have dropped dramatically because of the Chechnya conflict, poor public health, low pay, and adverse service conditions. Although officials have discussed an all-volunteer military as an eventual goal, as of 2005 little movement had occurred in that direction.
Paramilitary Forces: A total of 359,100 individuals are on active paramilitary duty. This total includes 140,000 in the Federal Border Guard Service, 151,000 troops 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.
Military Forces Abroad: In 2004 Russian forces were stationed in several countries of the former Soviet Union: Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. Russia has provided troops for several United Nations 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 Mission of Support in East Timor, the Observer Mission in Georgia, and the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire.
Police: Russia’s civilian police force, the militia, falls under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The militia is divided into local public security units and criminal police. Security units are responsible for routine maintenance of public order. The criminal police are divided into specialized units by type of crime. Among such 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. Local security units are financed by local and regional funds. The autonomous Federal Security Service, whose main responsibility is counterintelligence and counterterrorism, also has broad law enforcement powers.
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 business. 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. In 2004 skinhead membership was estimated at 50,000. In recent years, Russia’s financial institutions have suffered a drastic increase in computer crimes. The 2005 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 killed an estimated 500 people. In May 2004, Chechen rebels assassinated 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 March 2005, Russian troops killed Basayev’s rival rebel leader, former Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov, who had condemned the school attack. Basayev’s links with al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups were uncertain. 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.
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 the death rate among prisoners is 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 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 have felt pressure and occasional violence if they take controversial positions. Crimes against women, including domestic violence and trafficking, are frequent.