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One need not look far afield to see the devastating effect that the post-cold war drawdown in the U.S. military could have on America’s ability to fight and win on the battlefield. The former Soviet military, once the most feared in the world and for almost a half century the very criterion by which the U.S. military judged itself, has virtually collapsed. Like the U.S. military, Russia’s armed forces have suffered draconian cuts. In 1988, during the cold war, the Soviet military (which then included not only the Russian military but also the military forces of the other Soviet republics) had more than 5 million soldiers, sailors, and airmen under arms. By 1995, Russia, the successor to the Soviet Union, had only 1.5 million military personnel on active duty.
This decline in the physical aspects of Russian combat power is only part of the story. The precipitous decline in soldier morale is even more telling. As one former officer said, “The armed forces had become a disaster area” with the soldiers “separated in spirit by the total lack of a common purpose or unified goals.”1 The results were apparent in the debacle in Chechnya, where lightly armed Muslim guerrillas held the Russian military at bay for almost two years.