‘Reform of the Russian Military and Security Apparatus: an investigator’s perspective’

The US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute has just published Can Russia Reform? Economic, Political, and Military Perspectives (SSI, 2012), edited by Stephen Blank. Along with ‘Russia’s Choice: change or degradation?’ by Lilia Shevtsova and ‘The Impossibility of Russian Economic Reform’ by Steven Rosefielde, it contains my article ‘Reform of the Russian Military and Security Apparatus: an investigator’s perspective.’ Written for an SSI workshop back in September 2011, it uses a slightly over-extended metaphor (of the classic criminal investigator’s search for means, motive and opportunity) to assess the prospects primarily for military reform but also reform of the police and security agencies. Shevtsova’s piece, clearly revised for the December 2011 developments, is pretty apocalyptic. Rosefielde is characteristically downbeat: “The likelihood of Russia’s economy becoming sustainably competitive with its main rivals by reforming its Muscovite co-governance mechanism is nil.” (48)

In this context, I am the optimist in the trinity, in that I see military reform as being surprisingly successful; by no means a done deal (the key future issues will be personnel and reforming procurement and the defense-industrial sector) but certainly looking a great deal more encouraging that we might have expected given the numerous false starts of the past twenty years. (Especially given Serdyukov’s survival in the new government.) I assess police reform as less successful, but certainly progressing and within the realms of possibility, but confess I am much less bullish about the prospects for meaningful reform of the security apparatus. There’s a summary of my chapter on the Foreign Policy website, but you can just download the whole book on the SSI site here.

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