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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1979

The future shape of the Russian military;
Rewriting Moscow's wartime role

Edited by Ilan Berman
June 3, 2015

May 9: 

The fruits of Russia's massive, multi-year military modernization program are becoming visible. 
As Radio Free Europe outlines, Russian governmental expenditures on defense have risen every year since 1999, and this year will amount to $81 billion. That sum is equivalent to 4.2 percent of Russian GDP and "about 20 percent of government spending," with more than half being used to procure new arms. These new systems include the "Armata," Russia's next generation battle tank, the Sukhoi T-50 fighter jet, and the Sarmat long-range ballistic missile - all of which were on display at the country's most recent Military Day parade. 

May 10:

Increasingly, Russian soldiers are voting with their feet against the Kremlin's ongoing asymmetric campaign in Ukraine. Citing the testimony of soldiers and human rights activists in Russia, 
Reuters reports that some soldiers are "quitting" the army because of the Ukraine conflict over fears that they might be sent to the front. 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: The news belies the Russian government's repeated assertions that there are no Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine. They also highlight how the ongoing Russian involvement in Ukraine has become an increasingly unpopular venture, in part because of its clandestine and subversive nature. In the words of one soldier cited by Reuters, "That's not our war."] 

May 12:

Vladimir Putin has put forward an exceedingly interesting take on WWII history. 
The Moscow Times reportsthat, in a Moscow press conference held jointly with German Chancellor Angela Merkel a day after celebrations commemorating the end of World War II, Putin defended the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact signed between the USSR and Nazi Germany in 1939 - depicting it as a product of Soviet necessity and Western weakness. "The Soviet Union made massive efforts to lay the groundwork for a collective resistance to Nazism in Germany, made repeated attempts to create an anti-fascist bloc in Europe. All of these attempts failed," Putin told journalists. "And when the Soviet Union realized that it was being left one-on-one with Hitler's Germany, it took steps to avoid a direct confrontation, and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed." 

Putin's explanation raised eyebrows among observers - including Merkel herself. In a polite response, the German Chancellor noted that the "Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is difficult to understand without considering the additional secret protocol" that secretly divided up the territories of Poland, Romania, the Baltic nations and Finland between the two sides. "With that in mind, I think it was wrong, it was done illegally." 

Islamic radicalism remains a serious threat in Tatarstan, a prominent Russian expert has warned. 
In an interview with the Ruskaya Planeta website, Rais Suleymanov of the Institute for National Strategy noted that the threat of Islamic radicalism in the Russian republic hasn't ameliorated, but has simply been "driven underground" in recent times thanks to a number of factors, ranging from the departure of foreign fighters from the region to join the Islamic State terrorist group to integrationist policies on the part of local authorities, which have sought to "tame" rather than eradicate radical organizations. Numerically, Suleymanov notes, the problem is still small: "about three thousand" radicals, "of which about 120-150 mentally prepared to take up arms." But, he warns, the potential for broader radicalization among Tatarstan's 90,000 Muslims remains large.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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