The Soviet Union officially dissolved on 31 December 1991, leaving the Soviet military in limbo. For the next year and a half various attempts to keep its unity and to transform it into the military of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) failed. Over time, some units stationed in the newly independent republics swore loyalty to their new national governments, while a series of treaties between the newly independent states divided up the military's assets.
Apart from assuming control of the bulk of the former Soviet Internal Troops and the KGB Border Troops, seemingly the only independent defence move the new Russian government made before March 1992 involved announcing the establishment of a National Guard. Until 1995, it was planned to form at least 11 brigades numbering 3,000 to 5,000 each, a total of no more than 100,000. National Guard military units were to be deployed in 10 regions, including in Moscow (three brigades), Leningrad (two brigades), and a number of other important cities and regions. By the end of September 1991 in Moscow the National Guard was about 15,000 strong, mostly consisting of former Soviet Armed Forces servicemen. In the end, President Yeltsin tabled a decree "On the temporary position of the Russian Guard", but it was not put into practice.
After signing the Belavezha Accords on 21 December 1991, the countries of the newly formed CIS signed a protocol on the temporary appointment of Marshal of Aviation Yevgeny Shaposhnikov as Minister of Defence and commander of the armed forces in their territory, including strategic nuclear forces. On 14 February 1992 Shaposhnikov formally became Supreme Commander of the CIS Armed Forces. On 16 March 1992 a decree by Boris Yeltsin created The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation the operational control of Allied High Command and the Ministry of Defense, which was headed by President. Finally, on 7 May 1992 Yeltsin signed a decree establishing the armed forces and Yeltsin assumed the duties of the Supreme Commander.
In May 1992 General Colonel Pavel Grachev became the Minister of Defence, and was made Russia's first Army General on assuming the post. By August or December 1993 CIS military structures had become CIS military cooperation structures with all real influence lost.
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 Armed Forces remained in some disputed areas such as the Sevastopol naval base in the Crimea as well as in Abkhazia and in Transnistria. The Armed Forces have several bases in foreign countries, especially on territory of the former Soviet Republics.
A new military doctrine, promulgated in November 1993, implicitly acknowledged the contraction of the old Soviet military into a regional military power without global ambitions. In keeping with its emphasis on the threat of regional conflicts, the doctrine called for a smaller, lighter, and more mobile Russian military, with a higher degree of professionalism and with greater rapid-deployment capability. Such change proved extremely difficult to achieve. Under Pavel Grachev (Defence Minister from 1992 to 1996) little military reform took place, though there was a plan to create more deployable mobile forces. Later Defence Minister Rodionov (in office 1996-1997) had good qualifications but did not manage to institute lasting change. Only under Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev (in office 1997-2001) did a certain amount of limited reform begin, though attention focused upon the Strategic Rocket Forces.
Significant reforms were announced in late 2008 under Defence Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov (in office 2007-2012), and major structural reorganisation began in 2009. Key elements of the reforms announced in October 2008 included reducing the armed forces to a strength of one million by 2012 (planned end-date was 2016); reducing the number of officers; centralising officer training from 65 military schools into 10 "systemic" military training centres; reducing the size of the central command; introducing more civilian logistics and auxiliary staff; elimination of cadre-strength formations; reorganising the reserves; reorganising the army into a brigade system; and reorganising air forces into an air-base system instead of regiments. On 17 October 2012 the head of the State Duma's Defense Committee told RIA Novosti that Russia planned to boost annual defense spending by 59 percent to almost 3 trillion rubles ($83.3 billion) in 2015 up from $61 billion in 2012. "Targeted national defense spending as a percentage of GDP will amount to 3.2 percent in 2013, 3.4 percent in 2014 and 3.7 percent in 2015", Defense Committee chairman Vladimir Komoedov is quoted as saying in the committee’s conclusion on the draft budget for 2013-2015.
The number of military units is to be reduced in accordance with the table:
An essential part of the military reform involves down-sizing. At the beginning of the reform the Russian Army had about 1,200,000 active personnel. Largely, the reductions fall among the officers. Personnel are to be reduced according to the table:
The schedule envisaged reducing the total numbers in the officer corps from 335 thousand to 150 thousand, but in early February 2011 Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov announced the decision to increase officers by 70,000 - to 220 thousand to counteract this.
The Defence Ministry of the Russian Federation serves as the administrative body of the Armed Forces. Since Soviet times, the General Staff has acted as the main commanding and supervising body of the Russian armed forces: U.S. expert William Odom said in 1998, that 'the Soviet General Staff without the MoD is conceivable, but the MoD without the General Staff is not.' However, currently the General Staff's role is being reduced to that of the Ministry's department of strategic planning, the Minister himself, currently Sergey Shoygu may now be gaining further executive authority over the troops. Other departments include the personnel directorate as well as the Rear Services, railway troops, Signal Troops and construction troops. The Chief of the General Staff is currently General of the Army Valery Gerasimov.
The Russian military is divided into three services: the Russian Ground Forces, the Russian Navy, and the Russian Aerospace Forces. In addition there are two independent arms of service: the Strategic Missile Troops and the Russian Airborne Troops. The Armed Forces as a whole are traditionally referred to as the Army (armiya), except in some cases, the Navy is specifically singled out.
Since late 2010 the Ground Forces as well as the Air Forces and Navy are distributed among four military districts: Western Military District, Southern Military District, Central Military District, and the Eastern Military District which also constitute four Joint Strategic Commands — West, South, Central, and East. Previously from 1992 to 2010, the Ground Forces were divided into six military districts: Moscow, Leningrad, North Caucausian, Privolzhsk-Ural, Siberian and Far Eastern and Russia's four fleets and one flotilla were organizations on par with the Ground Forces' Military Districts. These six MDs were merged into the four new MDs, which now also incorporate the air forces and naval forces. There is one remaining Russian military base, the 102nd Military Base, in Armenia left of the former Transcaucasus Group of Forces. It likely reports to the Southern Military District.
In mid-2010 a reorganisation was announced which consolidated military districts and the navy's fleets into four Joint Strategic Commands (OSC). In 2014 the Northern Fleet was reorganized in separate Joint Strategic Command. Geographically divided, the five commands are:Joint Strategic Command West - Western Military District (HQ in St. Petersburg), includes the Baltic Fleet;
Joint Strategic Command Northern Fleet - (HQ in Severomorsk);
Joint Strategic Command South - Southern Military District (HQ in Rostov-on-Don) includes the Black Sea Fleet and Caspian Flotilla;
Joint Strategic Command Center - Central Military District (HQ in Yekaterinburg);
Joint Strategic Command East - Eastern Military District (HQ in Khabarovsk), includes the Pacific Fleet.
The plan, was put in place on 1 December 2010, and mirrors a proposed reorganisation by former Chief of the General Staff Army General Yuri Baluyevsky for a Regional Command East which was not in fact implemented. The four commands were set up by a decree of President Medvedev on 14 July 2010. In July 2011, an Operational-Strategic Command of Missile-Space Defence has also been established on the basis of the former Special Purpose Command of the Russian Air Force. A Presidential decree of January 2011 named commanders for several of the new organisational structures.
Russian military command posts, according to globalsecurity.org, include Chekhov/Sharapovo about 80 kilometres (50 mi) south of Moscow, for the General Staff and President, Chaadayevka near Penza, Voronovo in Moscow, and a facility at Lipetsk all for the national leadership, Yamantau in the Urals, and command posts for the Strategic Rocket Forces at Kuntsevo in Moscow (primary) and Kosvinsky Mountain in the Urals (alternate). It is speculated that many of the Moscow bunkers are linked by the special underground Moscow Metro 2 line.
Russian security bodies not under the control of the Ministry of Defence include the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (now the National Guard of Russia's National Guard Forces Command), the Border Guard Service of Russia (part of the Federal Security Service), the Kremlin Regiment and the rest of the Federal Protective Service (Russia), and the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the country's civil defense service since 1995 and successor to earlier civil defense units.
The Navy consists of four fleets and one flotilla:Northern Fleet (HQ at Severomorsk) forms own Joint Strategic Command.
Baltic Fleet (HQ at Kaliningrad in the exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast) subordinated to Joint Strategic Command West.
Black Sea Fleet (HQ at Sevastopol, disputed region of Crimea) subordinated to Joint Strategic Command South.
Caspian Flotilla (HQ at Astrakhan) subordinated to Joint Strategic Command South.
Pacific Fleet (HQ at Vladivostok) subordinated to Joint Strategic Command East.
The Kaliningrad Special Region, under the command of the Commander Baltic Fleet, comprises Ground & Coastal Forces, formerly the 11th Guards Army, with a motor rifle division and a motor rifle brigade, and a fighter aviation regiment of Sukhoi Su-27 'Flanker', as well as other forces.
Similarly, the Northeast Group of Troops and Forces, headquartered at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, comprises all Russian Armed Forces components in the Kamchatka Oblast and the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug [district] and is subordinate to the Commander Pacific Fleet headquartered in Vladivostok.
Conscription is still used in Russia; the term of service being 12 months; and eligible age is between 18 and 27 years old. Deferments are provided to undergraduate and graduate students, men solely supporting disabled relatives, parents of at least two children and — upon Presidential proclamation — to some employees of military-oriented enterprises. Men holding Ph.D. as well as sons and brothers of servicemen killed or disabled during their military service are released of conscription.
There were widespread problems with hazing in the Army, known as dedovshchina, where first-year draftees are bullied by second-year draftees, a practice that appeared in its current form after the change to a two-year service term in 1967. According to Anna Politkovskaya, in 2002, "a complete battalion, more than five hundred men, had been killed not by enemy fire but by beatings”. To combat this problem, a new decree was signed in March 2007, which cut the conscription service term from 24 to 18 months. The term was cut further to one year on 1 January 2008.
Thirty percent of Russian Armed Forces' personnel were contract servicemen at the end of 2005. For the foreseeable future, the Armed Forces will be a mixed contract/conscript force. The Russian Armed Forces need to maintain a mobilization reserve to have manning resources capable of reinforcing the permanent readiness forces if the permanent readiness forces cannot deter or suppress an armed conflict on their own. Professional soldiers now outnumber their conscript counterparts in the Russian Army, for the first time in Russian history, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian media 28 April 2015.
The ranks of the Russian military are also open to non-Russian citizens of the Commonwealth of Independent States, of which Russia is the largest member. By December 2003, the Russian parliament had approved a law in principle to permit the Armed Forces to employ foreign nationals on contract by offering them Russian citizenship after several years service. Yet up to 2010, foreigners could only serve in Russia's armed forces after getting a Russian passport. Under a 2010 Defence Ministry plan, foreigners without dual citizenship would be able to sign up for five-year contracts and will be eligible for Russian citizenship after serving three years. The change could open the way for CIS citizens to get fast-track Russian citizenship, and counter the effects of Russia's demographic crisis on its army recruitment. Each soldier in duty receives Identity Card of the Russian Armed Forces.
Awards and decorations of the Armed Forces are covered at Awards and Emblems of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation.
On 17 November 2011, General Nikolai Makarov said that Russia had reached a crisis in the conscript service where there simply were not sufficient able bodied men to draft and was forced to halve its conscription.
In March 2013, Defence Minister Shoigu promised that all army quarters would have showers by the end of the year. RIA also said that the shower plans were the latest in a series of creature-comfort improvements the Defense Ministry had recently announced. In mid-January, Shoigu said he would rid the army of its antiquated "footwraps," or portyanki, and a few days later the designer of Russia's new army uniform said that the ear-flap hats traditionally worn in winter would be replaced with more modern headgear.
Between 1991 and 1997 newly independent Russia's defence spending fell by a factor of eight in real prices. In 1998, when Russia experienced a severe financial crisis, its military expenditure in real terms reached its lowest point— barely one-quarter of the USSR's in 1991, and two-fifths of the level of 1992, the first year of Russia's independent existence.
Defense spending is consistently increasing by at least a minimum of one-third year-on-year, leading to overall defence expenditure almost quadrupling over the past six years, and according to Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, this rate is to be sustained through 2010. Official government military spending for 2005 was US $32.4 billion, though various sources, have estimated Russia's military expenditures to be considerably higher than the reported amount. Estimating Russian military expenditure is beset with difficulty; the annual IISS Military Balance has underscored the problem numerous times within its section on Russia. The IISS Military Balance comments - 'By simple observation..[the military budget] would appear to be lower than is suggested by the size of the armed forces or the structure of the military-industrial complex, and thus neither of the figures is particularly useful for comparative analysis'. By some estimates, overall Russian defence expenditure is now at the second highest in the world after the USA. According to Alexander Kanshin, Chairman of the Public Chamber of Russia on affairs of veterans, military personnel, and their families, the Russian military is losing up to US$13 billion to corruption every year.
On 16 September 2008 Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that in 2009, Russian defence budget will be increased to a record amount of $50 billion.
On 16 February 2009 Russia's deputy defence minister said state defence contracts would not be subject to cuts this year despite the ongoing financial crisis, and that there would be no decrease in 2009. The budget would still be 1,376 billion roubles and in the current exchange rates this would amount to $41.5 billion.
However, later that month, due to the world financial crisis, the Russian Parliament's Defence Committee stated that the Russian defence budget would instead be slashed by 15 percent, from $40 billion to $34 billion, with further cuts to come. On 5 May 2009, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said that the defence budget for 2009 will be 1.3 trillion rubles (US$39.4 billion). 322 billion rubles are allocated to purchase weapons, and the rest of the fund will be spent on construction, fuel storage and food supply. According to the head of the Defense Committee of the State Duma Vladimir Komoyedov, Russia plans to spend 101.15 billion rubles on nuclear weapons in 2013-2015. "The budget provisions under "The Nuclear Weapons Complex" section in 2013-2015 will amount to 29.28 billion rubles, 33.3 billion rubles and 38.57 billion rubles respectively," Komoyedov said, Vechernaya Moskva reports.
Komoyedov added that in 2012 the spending on nuclear weapons made up 27.4 billion rubles. The draft law "On the Federal Budget for 2013 and for the planning period of 2014 and 2015" will be discussed in the first reading on 19 October 2012, The Voice of Russia reports. In a meeting in Sochi in November 2013, President Putin said the country's defense budget will reach 2.3 trillion roubles, stressing the huge amount in comparison to the 2003 budget, which stood on 600 billion rubles.
The Russian government's published 2014 military budget is about 2.49 trillion rubles (approximately US$69.3 billion), the third largest in the world behind the US and China. The official budget is set to rise to 3.03 trillion rubles (approximately US$83.7 billion) in 2015, and 3.36 trillion rubles (approximately US$93.9 billion) in 2016. As of 2014, Russia's military budget is higher than any other European nation, and approximately 1/7th (14%) of the US military budget. In 2015, SIPRI found that Russia was the world's second biggest exporter of major weapons for the period 2010-14, increasing exports by 37 per cent. India, China and Algeria accounted for almost 60 per cent of total Russian exports. Asia and Oceania received 66 per cent of Russian arms exports in 2010–14, Africa 12 per cent and the Middle East 10 per cent.
About 70% of the former Soviet Union's defense industries are located in the Russian Federation. Many defense firms have been privatized; some have developed significant partnerships with firms in other countries.
The recent steps towards modernization of the Armed Forces have been made possible by Russia's economic resurgence based on oil and gas revenues as well a strengthening of its own domestic market. Currently, the military is in the middle of a major equipment upgrade, with the government in the process of spending about $200 billion (what equals to about $400 billion in PPP dollars) on development and production of military equipment between 2006-2015 under the State Armament Programme for 2007-2015 (GPV — госпрограмма вооружения). Mainly as a result of lessons learned during the August War, the State Armament Programme for 2011-2020 was launched in December 2010. Prime Minister Putin announced that 20-21.5 trillion rubles (over $650 billion) will be allocated to purchase new hardware in the next 10 years. The aim is to have a growth of 30% of modern equipment in the army, navy and air force by 2015, and of 70% by 2020. In some categories, the proportion of new weapon systems will reach 80% or even 100%. At this point, the Russian MoD plans to purchase, among others, up to 250 ICBMs, 800 aircraft, 1,200 helicopters, 44 submarines, 36 frigates, 28 corvettes, 18 cruisers, 24 destroyers, 6 aircraft carriers, and 62 air defense battalions. Several existing types will be upgraded. The share of modern and advanced weapons in some branches of the Russian Armed Forces currently amounts over 60 percent, the Defense Ministry reported 31 July 2015.
As of 2011, Russia's chief military prosecutor said that 20% of the defense budget was being stolen or defrauded yearly.
As of November 2012, the Federation of American Scientists estimated that Russia has approximately 1,499 deployed strategic warheads, and another 1,022 nondeployed strategic warheads and approximately 2,000 tactical nuclear warheads. Russia's Strategic Rocket Forces controls its land-based nuclear warheads, while the Navy controls the submarine based missiles and the Air Force the air-launched warheads. Russia's nuclear warheads are deployed in four areas:
- Land-based immobile (silos), like R-36.
- Land-based mobile, like RT-2PM2 Topol-M and new RS-24 Yars.
- Submarine based, like R-29RMU2 Layner and RSM-56 Bulava.
- Air-launched warheads of the Russian Air Forces' Long Range Aviation Command
The Military doctrine of Russia sees NATO expansion as one of the threats for the Russian Federation and reserves the right to use nuclear weapons in response to a conventional aggression that can endanger the existence of the state. In keeping with this, the country's nuclear forces received adequate funding throughout the late 1990s. The number of intercontinental ballistic missiles and warheads on active duty has declined over the years, in part in keeping with arms limitation agreements with the U.S. and in part due to insufficient spending on maintenance, but this is balanced by the deployment of new missiles as proof against missile defences. Russia has developed the new RT-2PM2 Topol-M (SS-27) missiles that are stated to be able to penetrate any missile defence, including the planned U.S. National Missile Defence. The missile can change course in both air and space to avoid countermeasures. It is designed to be launched from land-based, mobile TEL units. Russian nuclear forces are confident that they can carry out a successful retaliation strike if attacked.
Because of international awareness of the danger that Russian nuclear technology might fall into the hands of terrorists or rogue officers who it was feared might want to use nuclear weapons to threaten or attack other countries, the Federal government of the United States and many other countries provided considerable financial assistance to the Russian nuclear forces in the early 1990s. Many friendly countries gave huge amounts of money in lieu for Russian Arms purchase deals which kept Russian Agencies functioning. This money went in part to finance decommissioning of warheads under international agreements, such the Cooperative Threat Reduction programme, but also to improve security and personnel training in Russian nuclear facilities.
In the late evening of 11 September 2007 the fuel-air explosive AVBPM or "Father of all bombs" was successfully field-tested. According to the Russian military, the new weapon will replace several smaller types of nuclear bombs in its arsenal.