When, after the Georgia conflict in 2008, Russia tried to revamp its military, the idea was to jettison the rigidly centralized, Soviet-era army that could supposedly muster four million troops in no time. Instead, field officers would get more responsibility, units would learn to synchronize their skills and the entire arsenal would be dragged into the computer age.
Many traditionalists resisted change, preferring the old model of a huge, concentrated force. But other factors also contributed to the military’s inability to transform. Birthrates plunged in the 1990s, leading to a shrinking pool of men that could be conscripted. That, and persistent low salaries, delayed recruitment targets. Endemic corruption handicapped the efforts.
But the basic problem was that the military culture of the Soviet Union endured, despite the lack of men and means to sustain it, analysts said.
“The Soviet military was built to generate millions of men to fill lots and lots of divisions that had endless stockpiles of equipment,” said Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington, Va. “It was designed for World War III, the war with NATO that never came.”
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