Russia’s Moronic Military
Last week the world learned that the Kremlin had administered a basic competency test to 250 high-ranking military officers and that one in five of them had failed, resulting in a purge of 50 from the ranks. It might seem that this represents a gigantic humilation for the Kremlin, but in fact it is merely a ruse designed to cover up an even bigger one.
Just as the Kremlin’s recent declaration of “victory” in Chechnya was nothing more than an effort to save face as the Kremlin’s ability to maintain a solid military presence there dried up along with its cash assets because of the financial crisis, the Kremlin is purging nearly 10% of its armed forces (100,000 soliders, including 150,000 officers) not out of any desire to improve the quality of the force but simply because it can no longer afford to pay for it.
Even though Russia treats its soliders like slaves, they still have to be fed and housed. Practicing universal conscription and maintaining a standing army of more than 1 million men is a very costly proposition, and the budgetary crisis the Kremlin now faces as oil and gas revenues evaporate simply doesn’t allow it to continue making these expenses.
Russia’s frenzied, panicked reaction to NATO’s war games in Georgia reveals the fundamental weakness of the Russian army. If it were strong, Russia would have no need to react so hysterically. But Russia isn’t strong. It knows that not only are its servicemen paid slave wages and living in slave quarters, they’re subject to being forced to work as slave for underpaid, bitter officers and punished with brutal, barbaric dedovschina torture tactics. The Russian army is rotting from the inside out just the way the USSR did, and the massive expenditures associated with universal conscription and a standing million-man force are breaking Russia financially as its economic crisis becomes ever more severe.
Perhaps the best indication of that weakness is the fact that Russia felt compelled to rely on illegal cluster munitions when it attacked Georgia last August. A whole host of issues related to backward technology was revealed during that attack, when many Russian soldiers were left to communicate by cell phone on the battlefield. Indeed, it may well be that what worries Russia most about NATO war games in Georgia is simply that NATO forces will see their Russian counterparts up closee and simply burst out laughing.
Given the brutal conditions under which Russian soliders live, it’s hardly surprising that nobody but morons wants the job. That it took such a massive economic crisis to provoke these cuts is shockingly reminscent of the crisis that forced Gorbachev to reform, a crisis that the USSR did not surive.