Seminar “The role of the military reform in Russia” at Uppsala

Current international events make us think about the consequences of the military reform in Russia. During the Crimea annexation, invasion in Donbas and operation in Syria the Russian army demonstrated the efficiency, which was not expected. This efficiency was shown by the ability for rapid deployment and level of battle readiness much higher than eight years ago during war against Georgia. These new capabilities are the result of the military reform. For three years (2008-2011) Russia undertook the most radical military reforms over the past 150 years.

The question arises: what is the role of the “liberal” military reform in an authoritarian state. Does it contribute to the positive development of the country? Or, conversely, did the reformed modern Armed Forces become the instrument of realization of the prejudices and illusions of an authoritarian leader? It was very fruitful to compare Russia with Prussia in the early 19th century. Basic principles of the German armed forces were laid by “liberals in uniform “: Sharnhorst and Gneisenau and Clausewitz. The reformers put clear goal: the reform had to become the leading force of broad democratic development of the country. They were sure that the Armed Forces can be a “school of citizenship”. But it should be recognized that when the “liberal” model was applied in a purely authoritarian Prussian state, this led to the creation of an almost perfect war machine, blindly obeying orders of the “leader”.

Did Russia follow the same road? Are we seeing an emergence of a “new militarism” in which “modern” models of military organization join the ideology of mass mobilization army? These and other issues will be discussed during the seminar.

Alexander Golts is columnist for The Moscow Times and deputy editor-in-chief of