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Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military by Zoltan Barany

Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military


Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military by Zoltan Barany

Why have Russian generals acquired an important political position since the Soviet Union's collapse while at the same time the effectiveness of their forces has deteriorated? Why have there been no radical defense reforms in Russia since the end of the cold war, even though they were high on the agenda of the country's new president in 2000? Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military explains these puzzles as it paints a comprehensive portrait of Russian military politics. Zoltan Barany identifies three formative moments that gave rise to the Russian dilemma. The first was Gorbachev's decision to invite military participation in Soviet politics. The second was when Yeltsin acquiesced to a new political system that gave generals a legitimate political presence. The third was when Putin not only failed to press for needed military reforms but elevated numerous high-ranking officers to prominent positions in the federal administration. Included here are Barany's insightful analysis of crisis management following the sinking of the Kursk submarine, a systematic comparison of the Soviet/Russian armed forces in 1985 and the present, and compelling accounts of the army's political role, the elusive defense reform, and the relationship between politicians and generals. Barany offers a rare look at the world of contemporary military politics in an increasingly authoritarian state. Destined to become a classic in post-Soviet studies, this book reminds us of the importance of the separation of powers as a means to safeguard democracy.


Barany concludes his study with observations on the implications of this development, but his main contribution is making the analytical link between the political and military factors in Russia. --R.P. Peters, Choice If you have time to read only a 20-page text to understand fundamentally what the Russian state is today, you could do little better than to read Barany's chapter on the Kursk tragedy... Barany's main objective--explaining why Russia has an obsolete and incoherent military doctrine and an unreformed military shockingly unprepared for contemporary security challenges--is very well done. --Celeste A. Wallander, Political Science Quarterly Zoltan Barany's interesting and comprehensive book attempts to explain why substantial military reform has eluded Russia by analyzing the evolution of civil-military relations in post-Communist Russia, the political role of the military and the institutional arrangements for civilian control over the armed forces. --Survival [Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military] is a significant piece which ought to appeal to Russia watchers both within and beyond academia... Admirably concise yet richly detailed... The book is a valuable synthesis of a range of sources on a subject which has received little attention of late. --David J. Betz, Russian Review [O]ne should read this book for its well-informed reporting of events and institutional developments. --William E. Odom, Slavic Review [T]his book should be useful for anybody interested in the wider context of Russian studies and politics, as well as readers who are interested in International Relations security issues in general. --Fotis Mavromatidis, Journal of Contemporary European Studies Among the many merits of this book is its clear, transparent, and economical style. Barany accomplishes what few in the profession have done. Namely, he is able to use sophisticated theoretical concepts from political science in ways that not only illuminate actual politics but which are readable and enhance the reader's understanding of the issues at stake. --Stephen J. Blank, Parameters It is perhaps the ultimate compliment to suggest that Russia's greatest writer would very much have agreed with Barany's depiction of the Russian military--and that his approach is a superior one for understanding Russian military politics. --John P Moran, Perspectives on Politics

About the Author

Zoltan Barany is the Frank C. Erwin, Jr., Centennial Professor of Government at the University of Texas. He is the author of The Future of NATO Expansion (Cambridge, 2003) and The East European Gypsies (Cambridge, 2002).

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Book Info

Publication date

16th July 2007


Zoltan Barany

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Princeton University Press


264 pages


Politics & government
Defence strategy, planning & research
Theory of warfare & military science



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