Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the Russian General Staff, stated on December 14 that after two years of reforms the Russian army was fully prepared for showing appropriate reactions to any threats. It became possible owing to the creation of the absolutely new defense structure and the introduction of the new training system for the troops, the official said.
High-readiness forces have been thoroughly provided with weaponry and ammo, whereas the army was supposedly degenerating before, the official added.
Makarov also said that the majority of military schools were training officers on the base of outdated programs and techniques. Many of those programs, the official said, were based on combat experiences of the Great Patriotic War.
Judging upon the statements of the high-ranking defense officials, the previous problems of the Russian army have been solved. Is it really so? Will the Russian army be ready to stand up against a potential enemy? Will the results of the army reforms give Russia an opportunity to show appropriate reactions to possible aggression from NATO members or China?
Pravda.Ru asked expert opinion from military experts.
Konstantin Sivkov, the first vice president of the Academy for Geopolitical Problems:
"Statements claiming that Russian Armed Forces are ready to repulse any attack after the so-called reforms are nothing but nonsense. They are capable of settling a small conflict, in which not more than 100,000 men would need to participate. If there's a larger, local conflict, which requires the participation of up to 500,000 people, then the Russian Armed Forces would not be able to deal with it, not to mention a large-scale war with NATO or China.
"In other words, without the use of nuclear arms, Russia is incapable of reacting to challenges from potential enemies. Those, who believe that the Russian army should be cut, say that we do not need such a large army at all because we have our nuclear weapons. The forces of nuclear containment need to be protected in the air and on the surface. If someone attacks Russia without the use of nuclear arms, Russia will not respond with a nuclear attack either. No country participating in WWII used chemical weapons during the war in spite of the fact that everyone had more than enough of those weapons. No one did that, not even the dying Nazi Germany.
"The same will happen to nuclear weapons. Everyone is very well aware of the fact that using nuclear weapons is similar to committing suicide. Both NATO and China know that Russia will not use its nukes if a non-nuclear war occurs.
"As for the so-called reforms, the combat effectiveness of the Russian army has considerably reduced during the years of those reforms. Many officers resigned not because of the outdated training - they were simply sacked. They tell us today that Stalin "beheaded the Red Army" when he repressed 30,000 out of 800,000 officers. But what is the right word to describe the sacking of 200,000 out of 300,000 officers within two years? No one of them received any apartments, by the way.
"The reforms are over, and what do we see? Officers still do not have the motivation to serve, because they do not have a place to live. The technological base of the army was cut considerably during these two years. Let's take the support system, for example. This system has been handed over to entrepreneurs. This system can function normally only during time of peace. Will businessmen and their subordinates risk their lives to deliver all necessary goods to the battlefield?
"So what does Russia have? China and NATO can oppose Russia with huge armies - 2.5 million men each. Russia has only 85 instant readiness brigades, or 180,000 people deployed on such a vast territory as our country.
"Here is another important aspect - Russian reformers want to purchase foreign arms. One would only have to press a button to deactivate those arms in case an armed conflict with NATO occurs," the expert said.
"For the time being, Russia is capable of showing resistance to such countries as Georgia. Russia will not be able to win a war with China or NATO," Alexander Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis told Pravda.Ru. "As for nuclear weapons, NATO is much stronger than Russia, and China's nuclear arsenal will soon be just as powerful as that of Russia. It will not be possible for Russia to conduct offensive operations against NATO members, because the strength of the Russian army has declined considerably.
"As for military hardware, which was supposedly fully provided to high-readiness forces, I have to say that all that hardware is of the Soviet origin. New weapons exist in meager quantities. There are only two divisions of S-400 anti-missile systems, for example, and they do not have long-range missiles, which would make them different from S-300 systems. Where are those highly acclaimed Su-35 fighters, which Russia exports?
"There is another important aspect here. It is an open secret that all recent wars started with massive air strikes against enemies. Russia's air defense is absolutely not ready to face such a threat. It can only protect large centers in the country and that's it. There is not even one single air defense regiment on a huge territory from Irkutsk to Khabarovsk, which is 2,500 kilometers," Khramchikhin said.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969