- NBR - The National Bureau of Asian Research

Russian Reforms: Implications for Security Policy and the Status of the Military in the Russian Far East

Sergey Sevastyanov

Russia currently finds itself in an unprecedented position in which its primary security concerns are largely internal. The Russian Far East's military–industrial complexes (MICs), which asserted Soviet military power in the Pacific, have found defense conversion in the post–Cold War era difficult to achieve. During the reform years, military spending in Russia was drastically reduced and a considerable portion of the Russian Federation's financial burden for support of the armed forces was transferred to the regional budgets. Russian Far East (RFE) defense enterprises that still produce armaments find their markets abroad, while Russia's own armed forces struggle with inadequate and severely outmoded equipment. Moreover, in recent years the Pacific Fleet, which had been a valuable asset for Russian diplomacy in the Asia Pacific, has experienced difficulties in reciprocating annual visits to its foreign partners. Because of these circumstances, revival of the military became one of the clear ideas that gave Vladimir Putin a commanding lead in the March 2000 presidential elections. Putin has also stated that the militaryindustrial complex could serve as a locomotive to haul all civilian sectors of the Russian economy. However, over the long term, the RFE must convert most of its economy to civilian purposes, which would be harmonious with the neighboring economies in the region. Nevertheless, increasing arms sales to Asia is one of the main tenants of Moscow's current foreign policy.

Crisis of Comprehensive Reforms

Currently, Russia finds itself in a unique moment in its history: the country does not face any immediate external threat, and Russia, in turn, is not a threat to anyone. Nevertheless, Russians can only dream about a "comprehensive security" environment. This term refers to a broad definition of security. It characterizes threats that are mostly unrelated to traditional military might but which directly affect the basic political, economic, and social fabric of the nation. Security, in this case, is defined as a protection against loss. In other words, the inability to prevent loss results in insecurity.

During the last eight years, Russia has suffered many losses that have manifested as follows: loss of half of its gross domestic product (GDP); devaluation of two–thirds of the ruble against the U.S. dollar in just one day (August 17, 1998); decrease of political influence and international standing; and social degradation, to name a few. Russia's security concerns are largely internal now. However, the scope and magnitude of these concerns are so tremendous...

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