Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Militarism Increasingly Dominates Moscow’s Thinking, Golts Says in New Book

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 21 – Russia under Vladimir Putin has become “a typically militaristic state,” one whose leaders view all problems foreign or domestic through a military lens and take decisions on that basis, independent analyst Aleksandr Golts says in a new book, Military Reform and Russian Militarism (St. Petersburg, 315 pp.).

            An obvious case of this, he says, is Moscow’s approach to Ukraine. Prior to Russian intervention, “we were not told that the Ukrainians have chosen the western path of development; we were told that they would have NATO bases on their territory tomorrow” if Moscow didn’t act (

            But this military perspective has much deeper roots and more extensive consequences, Golts says. And he discusses that in this book which focuses on the nature of Russia’s military reforms which were not comprehensive but sectoral and thus did not have the transformative consequences for the armed services or the country that many had expected. 

            “The quantitative reform, which chiefly was directed at the optimization of the composition of the armed services, led to obvious changes in the domestic and foreign policies of Russia,” he continues.  Perhaps the most significant was that Russian elites and the Russian population now thinks about all issues in military terms.

            In many ways, the military analyst says, what Russia has done over the last 15 years recalls the creation and functioning of the Prussian military system at the start of the 19th century, a system that also informed developments in the UK and the US. That model has led Russian elites to view “the military-industrial complex as the locomotive of the entire society.”

            Unfortunately, Russian military reforms stopped at the quantitative level, Golts says. As soon as then-defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov began in 2012 to shift to qualitative change, he was reformed. As a result, “the military reforms lost their meaning and content,” something almost inevitable when militarism comes into conflict with reality.

            Serdyukov was driven by the desire to achieve military superiority throughout the post-Soviet space, but what he did encouraged the Kremlin too assume it could achieve military supremacy over the entire world, an entirely different and under the circumstances quite impossible goal.

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