September 10, 2010:
Russia is temporarily suspending new admissions to their military academies. The reasons cited are that the Russian Army already has an excess of officers and the government is currently in the process of trying to make dramatic cuts in the size of the ground forces. There are other changes in the works. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the current training system for army officers is designed for the old Soviet Army, with its massive numbers of armored and mechanized formations, and that it currently produces 4-5 times more commissioned officers than is actually necessary for Russia's current defense requirements.
On paper, the Russian Army stands 1.2 million men. The government is trying to cut that number down by at least 200,000 in the near future. Currently, over 300,000 men and women serve the Russian Federation as commissioned officers, but the Russian government is figuring that they really only need about half that many. The number of military academies themselves are to be slashed from 60 to 10.
None of this should come as a surprise. The old Red Army, in its organization and tactical doctrine, was completely and obsessively reliant on commissioned officers for every type of leadership. Officers performed jobs normally overseen by sergeants in Western militaries, like mentoring troops and supervising training. An NCO corps existed, but basically had no responsibilities and sergeants were essentially glorified privates.
What is surprising is that Russia, instead of allowing the problem to continue languishing, is doing something about it now. The Russians want to start reorganizing a more efficient army, purchase new equipment, and inject some real leadership into an army that, during the beginning of the Second Chechen War in 1999, sometimes didn't even have enough blankets to go around for the frontline troops. A massive overhaul is unlikely as the Russians simply don't possess enough cash to make all their desired improvements overnight. But they are doing something and this new reorganization may signal the beginning of a reemerging, and possibly more dangerous, Russia.