Military history of the Russian Federation

Military history of the Russian Federation

The Military history of the Russian Federation is that of the Russian Federation after the dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991 to the present day.

Collapse of the Soviet Union and the military

The political and economic chaos of the late 1980s and early 1990s soon erupted into the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The political chaos and rapid economic liberalization in Russia had an enormously negative impact on the strength and funding of the military. In 1985, the Soviet military had about 5.3 million men; by 1990 the number declined to about four million. At the time the Soviet Union dissolved, the residual forces belonging to the Russian Federation were 2.7 million strong. Almost all of this drop occurred in a three-year period between 1989 and 1991.

The first contribution to this was a large unilateral reduction which began with an announcement by Gorbachev in December 1988; these reductions continued as a result of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and in accordance with CFE treaties. The second reason for the decline was the widespread resistance to conscription which developed as the policy of glasnost revealed to the public the true conditions inside the Soviet army and the widespread abuse of conscript soldiers. As the Soviet Union moved towards disintegration in 1991, the huge Soviet military played a surprisingly feeble and ineffective role in propping up the dying Soviet system. The military got involved in trying to suppress conflicts and unrest in the Caucasus and central Asia, but it often proved incapable of restoring peace and order. On April 9, 1989, the army, together with MVD units, massacred about 190 demonstrators in Tbilisi in Georgia. The next major crisis occurred in Azerbaijan, when the Soviet army forcibly entered Baku on January 19–20, 1990, removing the rebellious republic government and allegedly killing hundreds of civilians in the process. On January 13, 1991 Soviet forces stormed the State Radio and Television Building and the television retranslation tower in Vilnius, Lithuania, both under opposition control, killing 14 people and injuring 700. This action was perceived by many as heavy-handed and achieved little.

At the crucial moments of the August Coup, arguably the last attempt by the Soviet hardliners to prevent the breakup of the state, some military units did enter Moscow to act against Boris Yeltsin but ultimately refused to crush the protesters surrounding the Russian parliament building. In effect, the leadership of the Soviet military decided to side with Gorbachev and Yeltsin, and thus finally doomed the old order.

As the Soviet Union officially dissolved on December 31, 1991, the Soviet military was left in limbo. For the next year and a half various attempts to keep its unity and transform it into the military of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) failed. Steadily, the units stationed in Ukraine and some other breakaway republics swore loyalty to their new national governments, while a series of treaties between the newly independent states divided up the military's assets. In mid-March 1992, Yeltsin appointed himself as the new Russian minister of defence, marking a crucial step in the creation of the new Russian armed forces, comprising the bulk of what was still left of the military. The last vestiges of the old Soviet command structure were finally dissolved in June 1993.

In the next few years, Russian forces withdrew from central and eastern Europe, as well as from some newly independent post-Soviet republics. While in most places the withdrawal took place without any problems, the Russian military remained in some disputed areas such as the Sevastopol naval base in the Crimea as well as in Abkhazia and Transnistria.

The loss of recruits and industrial capacity in breakaway republics, as well as the breakdown of the Russian economy, caused a devastating decline in the capacity of post-Soviet Russian armed forces in the decade following 1992.

Because Russia inherited all Soviet's nuclear arsenal, Russia at the present moment possesses the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet, having approximately 16,000 nuclear warheads. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia received material aid from the US to make sure no warheads fall into the hands of terrorists or are stolen during transportation or dismantling.

Most of the nuclear stockpile was inherited by Russia. Additional weapons were acquired by Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Amid fears of nuclear proliferation, these were all certified as transferred to Russia by 1996. Uzbekistan is another former Soviet republic where nuclear weapons may once have been stationed, but they are now signers of the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Chechen Wars

See "First Chechen War" and "Second Chechen War"

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