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Algora Publishing - Russian Military Decline Exaggerated
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Russian Military Decline Exaggerated
Helsinki Helsingin Sanomat in Finnish 28 May 1998 [translation for personal use only] Article by Unto Hamalainen: "Researcher Stefan Forss: Russian Military in Better Shape Than the West Thinks"

The Russian military is not in nearly so bad a condition as is assumed in the West. Even after the size reduction that the Armed Forces went through, Russia has plenty of manpower in the reserves that can be called upon if the situation warrants.

This is the conclusion reached by Stefan Forss, Ph.D., who presented an assessment of the current condition of Russia's Armed Forces on Wednesday at an occasion for the officers of the Tammi Division from World War 11. Forss is a researcher for VTT, the State Technological Research Center. He heads a group of scholars monitoring weapons technology and disarmament.

"My conclusions are quite bluntly an entirely different view of the condition and future of Russia's Armed Forces than is generally held in the West.'

"One must not underestimate the capabilities of the Russians. Even in the midst of their current misery there exist elements that can be transformed into sources of strength," said Forss.

Russia's strength in reserve lies particularly in the fact that it can mobilize the troops that were trained in the Soviet era. It is true, however, that Russia does not have a format for such a mobilization since the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union were in a state of constant preparedness.

'if Russia reduces its military by hundreds of thousands of soldiers, the West calculates that it is a real reduction in force. But some are merely transferred to the reserves. And the skills re-emerge quickly for former professional soldiers with extensive training that are recalled to maneuvers," pointed out Forss.

Troops trained during the Soviet era will be available for a long time to come. They are also capable of enhancing their combat preparedness whenever they are actually needed.

"A common comment in the West is that the preparedness of Russia's Armed Forces is so weak that mounting an operative mission would take months. The best of the peacetime standing divisions can commence operations in probably just a few days. An emergency plan can significantly improve preparedness. Russia can achieve a significant proportion of the capabilities it had in the Soviet era," says Forss.

According to Forss's calculations the Russian Army currently has about 70 active divisions. This includes also those that now, in peacetime, are compiled as brigades. The manpower strength of one motorized infantry division is 15,000 men. The divisions of today are very much undermanned. 'But, apparently the total strength of the Armed Forces is still over 1 million men,' concludes Forss.

There are approximately 30 divisions in the reserves. Altogether there are over 100 divisions.

Forss considers the Leningrad and Moscow Military Districts to still have strong troop contingents even though President Boris Yeltsin has assured that Russian military reductions are taking place.

"Yeltsin's talk of 40-percent reductions simply mean peacetime compilations."

Russia inherited 118 divisions from the USSR in 1991. In Forss's assessment his interpretation of current events is that the Armed Forces are in transition whereby the number of active duty divisions will decrease markedly. Correspondingly, the number of mobilization-capable divisions will increase, The transition phase will take a long time and the number of active duty divisions will remain high, at least until 2005. "Perhaps when we get to the year 2015 Russia may be down to 10 new divisions, 10-20 undermanned divisions with equipment dating back to the present, and, even then, approximately 20-30 divisions that are mobilization capable,' predicts Forss.

Forss considers it important for Finland to note that Russia also continues to make efforts to develop a small contingent of elite, rapid response troops.

"These are specifically landing forces. The numerically six or seven divisions of these troops have not been reduced at all. One also must remember the special forces. The intention is to keep them in as good a condition as possible.*