Alexei G. Arbatov

June 3, 1997

The views expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


In April 1997, the U.S. Army War College held its Eighth Annual Strategy Conference, the topic of which was "Russia's Future as a World Power." Most of the speakers discussed various aspects of the many crises besetting Russia, and there were differing views on whether Russia would be able to surmount those crises and make the transition to a politically stable democracy and a market economy.

Dr. Alexei G. Arbatov, the Deputy Chair of the Defense Committee of the Duma, delivered the banquet address and provided the Strategic Studies Institute with the following monograph. In his remarks, Dr. Arbatov stated that political and economic reform had largely failed, and that we could reasonably fear further turmoil in the Russian economy and accompanying political and military structures. The very fact that a freely elected member of the Duma, representing one of four primary political parties, was speaking to an assembly at the U.S. Army War College indicates the distance Russia already has traveled in this decade. Nonetheless, Dr. Arbatov's remarks made clear how difficult Russia's near-term future will be.

In the following monograph, Dr. Arbatov provides a very candid appraisal of Russia's current military capabilities. But more importantly, he also outlines a vision for the future of the Russian military. His vision is set within a well-reasoned strategic context and takes into consideration a domestic economic and political environment that includes a free market economy and the further development of constitutional democracy.

The United States and Russia are working to devise a new relationship. The security dimensions of that relationship are integral to its ultimate shape. For that reason, Dr. Arbatov's observations have important implications for us all.

                         RICHARD H. WITHERSPOON
                         Colonel, U.S. Army
                         Director, Strategic Studies Institute


It should be emphasized that Russia's defense requirements to 2010 envision an army that is very different from that of any present military power. Although Russia's resources, allocated to defense, are presently comparable to those of Germany or France, its present and projected geostrategic situation, as well as the existing armed forces and defense industrial infrastructure hardly permit any reduction of forces down to the level of those nations. Besides, the costs of reduction and conversion on that scale would be prohibitive.

Rather, the new Russian Army needs to be unique and innovative. It should be capable of taking its place among the armed forces of the nuclear superpowers in terms of its strategic forces and their capabilities, and doing so preferably within the framework of the START treaties. Its conventional forces will be far smaller than in the past but still somewhat larger than those of the most powerful European armies, while being structurally different. It will be uniquely Russia's Army, a force capable of defending the nation against plausible threats while fitting into Russia's new market economy and democratic political system.

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This page last updated by Rita Rummel on 5 May 99.