Book Review of R.B. Brannon, Russian Civil—-Military Relations - Armed Forces and Society (July 2010)

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  Armed Forces & Society    Book Review: Brannon, R. B. Russian Civil  Military Relations.   Burlington,VT: Ashgate, 2009. 352 pp. ISBN 0754675914   Timothy K. Blauvelt    Armed Forces & Society  2010 36: 758   DOI: 10.1177/0095327X09356260   The online version of this article can be found at:   Published by:   On behalf of:   Inter-University Seminar on Armed Forces and Society   Additional services and information for Armed Forces & Society  can be found at:   Email Alerts:   Subscriptions:   Reprints:   Permissions:   Citations:   Downloaded from afs.sagepub.comat UNIV OF TEXAS AUSTIN on July 22, 2010    758    Armed Forces & Society 36(4)   Brannon, R. B. Russian Civil   –   Military Relations . Burlington,VT: Ashgate,2009. 352 pp. ISBN 0754675914   Reviewed by: Timothy K. Blauvelt,    American Councils for International Education,   Chavchavadze, Georgia   DOI: 10.1177/0095327X09356260   The central hypothesis in Robert Brannon’s Russian Civil   – Military Relations is thatthe Russian military is likely to lean toward insubordination when the politicalleadership neglects their concerns and interests and shows a lack of engagement inexercising civilian control. This insubordination stops short of attempting to displacethe civilian leadership or asserting direct political influence and is more usuallyexpressed in risky or opportunistic actions that may be at cross-purposes with thenational interests and priorities as perceived by the civilian leadership. Suchsituations, Brannon argues, are more likely to occur when the military perceives instability or indecisiveness in the civilian leadership and particularly during the “weakand uncertain political environments” surrounding political transition (p. 2).   The book looks at the development of civil  – military relations in Russia in theperiod 1996 to 2001, the period encompassing the transition between the Yeltsin andPutin administrations, and examines the degree to which the post-Soviet Russianmili-tary has allowed itself to be subordinated to civilian authority. Eschewing the “professionalism” -based canonical civil  – military theories of Huntington and Janowitzas less appropriate in the post- Soviet environment of “transition from authoritarian - ism” in Russia, Branno n uses instead as his theoretical point of departure the more recent interactive “principal–agent” theory of Peter Feaver. 1 This approach views theessence of civil  – military relations in the interaction between civilian principals andmilitary agents: the more “intrusive” is civilian control, the less overtly the military may attempt to undermine civilian goals, and vice versa. The civilian leadership, in turn,varies the degree of intrusiveness of control in response to whether the military worksto fulfi ll or undermine these civilian goals: “Thus, civilian control of the mili -tary both causes, and is caused by, correspondent military behavior” (p. 2).   Brannon also discusses extensively (in chapter 2) the relationship between militarydoctrine and political security strategy in the context of civil  – military relations in Rus-sia (the general discussion of the relationship between military doctrine and securitystrategy is itself a useful primer for students and general readers). During the Sovietperiod, Brannon argues, military doctrine included prerogatives over political issues —  determining enemies, the character and objectives of possible wars, and how to pre-pare the country for war  — that would be entirely out of place in military doctrine in theWest. This legacy still influences Russian military thinking and the mentality of mili-tary elites, whose essential training methods and professional ethos have changedlittle in the post-Soviet period by affecting how they perceive their proper place ininterac-tions with civilian superiors on political issues related to national interests and   Downloaded from afs.sagepub.comat UNIV OF TEXAS AUSTIN on July 22, 2010    Book Reviews   759   security. Chapter 3 of the book covers the evolution of Russian military doctrine dur-ing the 1990s and the role of the military in the tumultuous politics of that period.   The test of the main hypothesis, and the meat of the book, comprises three case studies: the Russian army’s drive to Pristina Airport in Kosovo in June 1999, the start of  the second Chechen war from July to September 1999, and the tragic sinking of thesubmarine Kursk and the subsequent response in August 2000. The case studies make for gripping reading and are enhanced by personal observations and insights that the author shares from his inside perspective in his role as U.S. Naval Attaché in the U.S. Embassy inMoscow during this period (this is particularly true with regard to the Kursk case studynarrative). They are also very well sourced, as the author makes extensive use of Russian-language sources from the media and official reports.   The conclusions drawn from these case studies do seem to bear out the author’s central argument that in these incidents the Russian military tended to pursue its owninterests when it perceived hesitancy and uncertainty on the part of the civilianleader-ship, which in turn tended to be approved by that leadership afterward on anad hoc basis. Although he does not deal with the issue extensively, the author also suggests limitations of Feaver’s principal– agent theory and ways in which multipleprincipal  – agent dyads appear and interact in competing directions.   The principal drawback of the book is the somewhat dated nature of the case studythemes and the primary sources on which they are based (again, centering on the 1999  –  2000 period). The author is correct to point out that this is a seminal period in the transi-tion from the Yeltsin 1990s to the Putin 2000s and one that demonstrates important shiftsin military behavior and doctrine. There is a brief discussion of civil  – military relations in thelater Putin period and in the Putin  – Medvedev pseudo-transition, but most disap-pointing isthe rather cursory four-page epilogue on the Russia  – Georgia war of August 2008. Onegets the sense that it was tacked on somewhat hastily (and includes fundamentalmistakes: neither Abkhazia nor South Ossetia has a majority ethnic Russian population asthe author avers [p. 187], and the Russian government issued Russian passports primar-ily to ethnic Abkhaz and Ossetes in those republics to make them Russian citizens, rather than to ethnic Russians per se), and although it discusses Russian military involvement inthe decision to start that conflict, it seems that much more interesting questions for theissues of military opportunism and civilian control arise from the actual conduct of Russianmilitary commanders in Georgia during the five-day war as well as the role thatassessments of Russian military performance in the war seem to be playing in the ongo-ing struggle over military doctrine and force modernization. If, as it seems, the author hadto wait several years after completing the central research to publish the book in early2009, it might have been worthwhile to wait a few more months to include a more thoroughconsideration of the implications and results of the Russia  – Georgia war.   That complaint out of the way, it should be emphasized that this book is an importantcontribution to the literature on civil  – military relations in Russia, is very well written, andcontains a great deal of useful information. The book is also particularly useful in that itcontains the full texts of all of the Russian national security documents from 1993 to thepresent in English translation (edited and corrected by the author) in five appendices.   Downloaded from afs.sagepub.comat UNIV OF TEXAS AUSTIN on July 22, 2010    760    Armed Forces & Society 36(4)   Note   1. Peter D. Feaver,  Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight and Civil   – Military Relations  (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003). Downloaded from afs.sagepub.comat UNIV OF TEXAS AUSTIN on July 22, 2010  
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