Russian Civil-Military Relations: Putin's Legacy

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Russian Civil-Military Relations: Putin's Legacy

By Thomas Gomart
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2008
126 pp. $19.95
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Normally, the study of civil-military relations seems to address a narrow, technical question of institutionalizing greater or lesser civilian control over the uniformed military, on which a long and distinguished literature exists, particularly in regard to the Soviet era. Gomart breaks away from this theme and attacks a problem at the core of Russia's contemporary political development and foreign policy: How do traditions (including a millennial history of militarism), a volatile domestic and foreign political context, and a political leadership's primal desire to restore Russia's greatness come together to shape the complex relationship between an outsized presidency and the country's composite of security institutions -- military, security, and police? His answer advances along three tracks: first, the Russian model in these respects does not and will not conform to comfortable Western models; second, the symbiosis of the political leadership with the security establishment has been key to promoting former President Vladimir Putin's power and agenda, but not in ways that allow him to own that establishment; and, third, the makeup of and dynamics among the different components are far more muddled and tension-ridden than cliché has it. A piece of advice: because the writing is in places obscure, the reader should begin with the conclusion, which makes everything clearer.