Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2014

Who Gives the Orders in the New Russian Military?

Keir Giles

March 2012

NATO Defense College


The theory of supreme command of the Russian Armed Forces is set out in the Constitution of the Russian Federation and in published Federal Laws. Decision-making in practice involves the presidency, the government, the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the General Staff, and the Security Council of the Russian Federation. During and after Soviet times, the relationship between these bodies, and by extension how and where decisions were taken, was understood better than it is today - in general terms, the General Staff took important decisions and dealt with planning, while the MoD implemented them, for example dealing with training and logistics. But the fundamental reforms embarked upon in the Russian Armed Forces after August 2008, and changes to Federal Laws which also followed the armed conflict at that time, have shifted these relationships in ways which are not yet fully understood outside Russia, and in some cases within Russia as well. The result is that military decision-making in Russia is now less predictable.