Russian Armed Forces
Вооруженные силы России
Banner of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (obverse)
Founded 1917
Service branches Medium emblem of the Сухопутные войска Российской Федерации Army
Emblem of the Военно-Морской Флот Российской Федерации Navy
Medium emblem of the Военно-воздушные силы Российской Федерации Air Force
Medium emblem of the Ракетные войска стратегического назначения Российской Федерации Rocket and Nuclear Forces
Red Army flag Civil Defense
Headquarters Flag of Russia ( Moscow, Russia
Commander-in-Chief Standard of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin
Minister of Defense Flag of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation Sergei Shoigu
Military age 18
17 (with parental consent)
Budget $395 billion (ranked #2)
Related articles
History October Revolution
Polish-Soviet War
1935 Soviet-Japanese War
Great Patriotic War
1945 Soviet-Japanese War
Yugoslav Wars
Iraqi War of Independence
Syrian Civil War
Levantine-Iraqi Conflict
The Russian Armed Forces, also called the Armed Defenses of the United Russian Republics and Armed Forces of Russia (Russian: Вооруженные Силы России) refers to the armed forces of Russia. It is descended from the armed forces of the Russian Empire, Russian SFSR and the Soviet Union.

According to the all-union military service law of September 2011 and the 2014 amendment, the Russian Armed Forces consists of three components: the Ground Forces, the Air Forces, the Navy and the Civil Defense.

The Russian Armed Forces has been ranked number two on global power projections scales, possessing over 255 overseas bases in 51 countries and has been known for its anti-terrorist fighting capabilities.

In addition, the Russian Armed Forces currently possess some of the world's most advanced military technology.



Soviet troops near Belgrade, training before performing an offensive against NATO-backed forces in Sarajevo, Belgrade 1994

After the Great Secession at the end of the First Cold War, Gorbachev withdrew almost all Soviet forces from the independent republics, with the exception of Armenia, Kazakhstan, Manchuria and Tajikistan. Small contingent forces remained in the Soviet Union's overseas allies, such as Syria, Vietnam and many African allies. Soviet overseas bases also decreased from 311 to 98. However, because Yeltsin never rose to power, the Soviet military suffered but not on a catastrophic scale. However, it did lose more than one-half of its expenditure, from $300 billion to $102.7 billion by 1994.

In addition, the Soviet Union also withdrew as much of its military equipment from the successor nations. The Soviet military kept most of its aircraft and warships.

For some time, the Soviet Armed Forces was renamed the National Defense of all the Russias, referring to Russia proper, Little Russia (Ukraine) and White Russia (Belarus). Russia, Belarus and parts of the Ukraine stayed together.

Still, the Soviets maintained their integrity by crushing Chechen militants in the Soviet-Chechen Wars twice, as well as Ukrainian nationalists three times.

T-72B1 main battle tank Russia Russian army defence industry military technology 640

Soviet armored forces in Sarajevo, c. 1996

During the Balkan Wars, the Soviet Union saw its heaviest mode of fighting, involving 2.2 million troops on Yugoslavia's side. The NATO-backed rebel, as well as NATO troops themselves felt the sheer brutal firepower of Soviet missiles. However, after ending up victorious, the war overstretched the Soviet war economy, defense spending fell to around $80 billion, and the Soviets were forced to close many of their overseas bases.

However, news of these shortcomings were kept a secret to the general public in the Soviet Union, and were only revealed years and years later. As a result, the Soviet military retained its status as a global power, with global power projection capabilities second only to the United States.

The Soviet military was heavily involved in the Balkan Wars, helping Yugoslavia remain together. However, Balkan involvement would be the last of the Soviet Union's overseas operations as the involvement took its toll on the Soviet economy. Gorbachev had publicly announced and promised the Soviet public that troops would come home en masse once victory was achieved in Yugoslavia. Soviet expenditure further decreased to around $75 billion.

Gorbachev fulfilled that promise. After NATO backed out of most of Yugoslavia, the Soviets pulled their troops from the Balkans, keeping a sizable presence in the disputed Kosovo, where NATO kept forces, as Gorbachev deemed NATO presence in Kosovo illegal.

However, the Soviets were still able to complete the construction of the Admiral Kuznetsov and its sister carrier, the Varyag. In addition, the Soviet Union still retained a well-funded rocket, missile and nuke force, possessing more missiles than the United States, still remained Europe's top military, and still retained the status as the second most powerful global military apart from the United States.

The Soviet military was often known as the "missile military", due to its multi-layered missile and artillery system.

As the Russian Armed Forces

In 1998, Alexander Rutskoy ended the Soviet Union and established the modern United Russian Federation. In 2000, Vladmir Zhirinovsky became Russian president, with Vladimir Putin as his Prime Minister. Zhirinovsky renamed the Soviet Union back to "Russia". A hardliner of the Christian right, Zhirinovsky promoted persecutions of non-Christians in the Russian military and after the September 11 attacks, made being Orthodox or Christian a requirement to ever be a Russian general. He also promoted hazing against non-Christians in the Russian military, pressuring them into forces conversions.

On the other hand, Zhirinovsky managed to unfreeze Russia's military expenditure, ever so slightly. Zhirinovsky once more, increased Russian presence in Kosovo. Zhirinovsky stated, "Russia will remain an ally of Yugoslavia, now and forever."

However, in 2005, Zhirinovsky was impeached by the Russian Supreme Court, as Russian leaders had feared that the anger and frustration caused by the country's Muslim-dominated republics would secede. In addition, Zhirinovsky's war plans were also seen as wreckless by many observers, be it in Russia or abroad. However, the following president, Dmitry Medvedev still recognized the name-change, and stated that he would continue Russia as the United Russian Federation.

Under Medvedev, the Russian military experienced growth as a result of the economic benefits brought about by Medvedev's openness to the West. Each year, Russian military spending increased. Medvedev also ordered the construction of a third Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier, known as the Admiral Makarov

In 2010, the Russian military became heavily involved in the Arab Spring and the consequent Syrian Civil War, as well as its succeeding conflict, the Levantine-Iraqi War. Moscow supported and backed the Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad regimes, helping all three stay in power.

Russian leaders criticized the Arab Spring as a "fraud", and called the Muslim Brotherhood a "fake humanitarian revolutionary trying to establish an oppressive Islamic caliphate under the guise of freedom of democracy", stating that Moscow "refused to sit idle".

In June of 2010, Russian Marines killed over 90 protesters, as they threw stones and opened fire at the Russian Embassy in Sana'a.


Russian military police personnel in Egypt, 2011

President Hosni Mubarak, in a secret phone call to Dmitry Medvedev, asked for Russian military aid. Moscow responded by sending military police into Egypt to help Mubarak stay in power. Approximately 102 Russian military police personnel partook in shooting rioters. News of Russian involvement infuriated the West and the Global Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Cairo exited the American sphere of influence, and once more, entered the Russian bloc.

This led to Saudi Arabia and Russia engaging in a limited conflict in Yemen from March to June 3, 2011, resulting in the Russian capture of Sana'a and the withdrawal of Saudi forces.

President Muammar al-Gaddafi also called for Russian aid, to which Russia responded by sending aerial aid, and along with help from the Chinese Air Force, mowed down protesters. Via a $1.3 billion agreement, Russia allowed China to build five bases in Libya while it builds two. Libya, by this agreement, enters the Chinese zone of influence.


Russian soldiers in southern Yemen, c. May 2011

Seeing that many overseas governments wanted Russian military aid, Medvedev ordered for the re-construction of the Ulyanovsk. However, this time, with a slight modification: instead of making it 1045 feet across, it would be 1098 feet across with a wider ski jump, larger than the Nimitz-class of the United States Navy. This would allow it to carry up to 90 aircraft, as many as the Nimitz.

Russia had to make economic military sacrifices to make way for the funding of this Ulyanovsk. The Varyag was temporarily decommissioned, in addition, over 1.2 million Russian military personnel were laid off, totaling Russia's total manpower to 2,147,240, less than the United States' total of 2,820,400 personnel. The Russian Army suffered the worse, being reduced to 433,000 active personnel. Many criticized the decision by Moscow, as Russia would not have enough money to fund such a large carrier, and would take over a decade to complete the Ulyanovsk on Russia's budget. President Barack Obama enacted more sanctions against Russia for their involvement in the Middle East, and expelled Russian diplomats from the United States. France and Britain followed, claiming that Russia supported dangerous dictatorships that violated human rights.

At the same time, Putin also introduced a plan to increase the Russian military expenditure to $100 billion by 2016. However, a lot of that money was pocketed. In addition, the sanctions imposed on Russia by the West meant that Russia did not have enough money to increase expenditure.

In 2012, Russia backed a failed coup against the established government of Fuad Masum, in retaliation for NATO and Saudi involvement in North Syria.

The armed forces of Russia, China, Iran and Yugoslavia soon signed a pact to send extended military aid to South Syria, to counter the power advantage afforded to North Syria by NATO.

The Russian government introduced a plan in 2013 to cut the size of the army in order to make way for funding the air force and navy.

In 2014, the Russian government created the Civil Defense, a volunteer and paramilitary wing of the armed forces. It consists of non-uniformed members, trained by uniformed officers, who keep loaded firearms in their homes, vehicles, workplaces or any other dwelling, influenced highly by Switzerland's national defense doctrine, as well as the original Red Army and the Second Amendment of the American Bill of Rights. It is considered a true descendant of the original Red Army. Because of this, the Red Army's unofficial banner became the Civil Defenses official banner.

In the same year, President Joko Widodo of Indonesia approved for the construction of an overseas Russian base In Sulawesi.

In 2015, Russia saw its most intense mode of fighting in the Middle East, carrying out 64 air strikes in South Syria, involving over 2,000 troops, 1,002 armored-fighting-vehicles and 102 SAM launchers. Large contributions were also made by China, Yugoslavia and Iran, as they quashed a coalition of rebel and North Syrian forces. Four French soldiers and six Saudi soldiers were captured in the process. The Russian-led coalition moved forces up north, in one of the largest offensive military buildups.

By this point, Russia had seen its largest involvement in the Middle East, ever since the First Cold War. Due to the number of Middle Eastern governments requesting Russian bases to be built in their nations, Russia's overseas base numbers grew from 98 to 105, the first time it has reached triple figures ever since its First Cold War days.

By 2017, the Russian military expenditure was $85.7 billion and $91.3 billion by 2018. The Ulyanovsk was also completed much to the surprise of many world observers, essentially achieving the status as the world's second-largest aircraft carrier, second only to that of the Gerald Ford-class carrier of the United States Navy, but surpassing the Nimitz-class. It would be Russia's first nuclear-powered super carrier. Despite these accomplishments, an angered Putin approved the Anti-Traitor Law, requiring all Russian oligarchs with a net worth of $5 billion or more to contribute 10% of their total earnings. As of then, Russia's new expenditure was estimated to be around $153.7 billion, and with the Obama-era sanctions against Russia lifted, expenditure is only expected to increase as the Russian economy improves. However, Putin has also showed his public appreciation for the completion of the Ulyanovsk, even in-so-much-as throwing a party at a luxurious house in Sochi for those who constructed it, and its future crew members. He also ordered another Ulyanovsk-class carrier, but stalled due to money issues.

Putin later explained his action by stating that he was frustrated with the political and oligarchic-pocketing of defense money, stating that Russia is a year and a half late from its expenditure goal.

Putin also stated that the Aerial-Maritime Plan would not go into effect until the expenditure reached at least $100 billion. Once Russia's expenditure reached $153.7 billion, Putin gave the green light for the construction of a second Ulyanovsk-class carrier.

A new May 2018 report stated Russia's expenditure to be at around 12.61 trillion rubles, roughly equating to $188.3 billion.

In Ramadan of 2018, overseas Russian forces in Sulawesi helped Indonesian forces fight a string of Islamist attacks. Russian military police and Indonesian police protected churches across Sulawesi. Using harsh tactics and brutality, Russian and Indonesian troops and police was able to quell the Islamist attack on Christian Indonesians. Members of the Islamic Defenders Front threatened to wage a jihad against Russian forces in Indonesia.

With such a high GDP, surpassing Soviet-era levels, in May 9, 2018, Putin gave the green light to increase military spending to 4.2% of Russia's GDP, this would allow Russian military spending to have a semblance of Soviet military spending. Although Russia has been silent to report its actual spending, if fully implemented, this would have Russia spending approximately $346.8 billion on its military, surpassing its 1991 spending (as the Soviet Union), and for some time, would overtake China as the world's second-largest spender on military. Combined with the Anti-Traitor Law, the expenditure could be as much as $535.1 billion. However, Russia's military spending did not equate to that amount, and was estimated to be $425 billion.

Belgrade also approved for the construction of two more Russian military bases in Kosovo, as NATO has practically abandoned Kosovo. Sofia also approved for the building of a Russian contingent force in Bulgaria. There were reports that Mexico was attempting to purchase military equipment from Russia. Russia confirmed it was true, and openly rejected Mexico City's requests, citing security concerns.

Russia is also in the process of making agreements to establish strategic naval facilities in South Africa and Madagascar.

Beginning with the Vostok 2018 military exercises with Yugoslavia, China and Manchuria, it was revealed that $275 billion was Russia's military spending, by now, surpassing China as the world second-largest military spender.



2013 Moscow Victory Day Parade (28)

T-90 tank

The Russian Army currently has 603,000 active personnel with an additional 803,972 reserve personnel. As part of the army, Russia possesses the world's largest active tank force, as well as the most artillery. Of all the world's ground armies, the Russian Army is the most mechanized army, making the world's most use of tanks and armored-fighting-vehicles, owning a total of 23,000+ tanks with more than 10,000 in active operation and a total of 50,000 AFVs and 17,229 of those active. The Russian Army also operates 2,429 attack helicopters and 528 fighter jets.

After the fall of communism, President Gorbachev changed the Soviet military doctrine, rather than conscripts, into a professional army. This greatly diminished the size of the Soviet Army. However, it showed very positive results, attested to by the Soviet Army's brilliant performance in the Yugoslav Wars, helping the JNA fight off the highly favored NATO forces.

in January of 2018, Putin finally allowed for the shrinking of the Russian Army, in favor of expanding the air force and the navy.


1024px-Kirov-class battlecruiser


Russia currently possesses the world's second largest and second most powerful navy, having four aircraft carriers and 361 ships in total. It includes a total of but not limited to 75 submarines, five battlecruisers, 44 corvette warships, 39 destroyers and four aircraft carriers. Russia's flagship battlecruiser, the Kirov-class is the world's largest battlecruiser. Russia's Borei-class submarines are also considered one of the world's top.

The Russian Navy currently has active fleets in the Arctic, Baltic, Balkans, South China Sea, Africa, Sea of Okhostk, Red Sea, Sulawesi Sea, Mediterranean and the Sea of Japan. Its Balkan and Baltic fleet is shared with fleets of the navies of Yugoslavia and Scandinavia respectively, and its Sulawesi Fleet shared with the navy of Indonesia.

Russia is in the process of disbanding its South China Sea Fleet, stating that its overseas naval forces are getting

The Ulyanovsk supercarrier

thinned. However, Russia stated that ground troops will remain stationed in their bases in Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Although Russia did have a presence in the Philippines, it is in the process of withdrawing all troops from the Philippines, as the Philippines was only a temporary minor ally, though both Duterte and Putin stated that relations between Moscow and Manila will remain positive and cordial.

The Russian Navy also has the famous Navy Spetsnaz, comparable to the Navy SEALs of the U.S. Navy. In addition, the Russian Navy also has its own aviation, possessing just over 1,304 aircraft.

Russia currently operates four aircraft carriers, the Admiral Kuzsnetsov, Varyag, Admiral Makarov and Ulyanovsk. The Ulyanovsk is a nuclear-powered super carrier, the first class of such a type in Russia, recently completed in January 2018 and entered service in May of 2018. The Ulyanovsk is currently the world's second-largest aircraft carrier, and would make Russia the third country after the United States and France to operate nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.

Air Force

Sukhoi T-50 Beltyukov

Sukhoi Su-57

As of 2015, the Russian Air Force is currently the world's second largest. Beginning in 2008, President Vladimir Putin began a rigorous attempt to update and expand Russia's aerial forces, seeing how rather behind it was against that of their American counterpart.

In 2008, Russia had about 8,427 aircraft, many of which were older and obsolete and Russia lacked the money to maintain all of its aircraft. Only 3,420 were in active service, while the rest were in storage. By the time 2013 rolled around, the Russian aerial strength had come to about 8,827 aircraft, this time most of them being battle-tested and updated increasing the aircraft in active service to 3,803.

By the time 2014 came, the Russian Air Force had 3,000 aircraft, mostly strategic bombers, stealth fighter aircraft and some attack helicopters. In 2018, the Russian Air Force reportedly has 3,802 aircraft.

In total, Russia has 9,477 aircraft, including those owned by aviation units of the navy and army. Of those, 6,144 are in active service.

After the 2018 acquisition of Alaska, Russia reportedly has 9,672 aircraft.

Nuclear and Rocket Forces

Mikhail Gorbachev refused to get rid of the nuclear stockpile, and instead, continued the competition with the west. Russia continues to posses world's largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, and has the most nuclear warheads in the world, possessing over 17,000 nuclear warheads, with 9,200 on standby. In addition, this section of the armed forces also handles Russia's air defense systems. Russia is considered to have a rather-impenetrable air defense systems.

Civil Defense

In 2014, the Russian government decided to mimic Switzerland's military doctrine by creating a paramilitary branch known as the Civil Defense. Regular members of the Civil Defense are not uniformed and underpaid, and consist of able-bodied regular citizens, who are authorized to carry and own firearms. However, they must regularly train with those firearms.

The Civil Defense currently has 3,703,310 registered regular members, while training officers, who are considered full-time armed forces members, consist of around 334,130.

The Civil Defense also embraces the cultural diversity within Russia, containing the famous religious Cossack Battalions, as well as the Tatar Battalions, Chechen Battalions, White Republican Guard, and even Red Guards and Bolshevik Battalions, all communist paramilitary groups within the Civil Defense.

Humanitarian Forces

Along with the expenditure increases, Stavka approved for a branch of the armed forces tasked with handling humanitarian operations. The first few "Russian White Helmets" were sent in small deployments to Somalia and Yemen, and after huge successes, more were sent to impoverished African and Arab countries. Putin ordered the creation of a humanitarian branch of the military. So far, no details exist yet about this particular branch, and news of its coming was not widespread.

Overseas Bases


- State Flag of new Yugoslavia 2 by 3 (fictional) Yugoslavia (Split Naval Base, Podgorica Naval Base, 1st Russian Radar Station at Podgorica)

- Flag of Kosovo Kosovo (Mitrovica Air Base, Mitrovica Radar Station, Russian 105th Military Base, Russian 110th Military Base, Russian 90th Mechanized Corps Base)

- Flag of Slovakia Slovakia (Bratislava Base, Svidnik Air Base and Radar Station)

- Flag of Bulgaria (3-2) Bulgaria (under construction - 10th Russian Security Contingent Base at Sofia, Joint Aerial Defence Base at Plovdiv)

Middle East

- Flag of Syria South Syria (Tartus Naval Facility, Khmeimim Air Base, Center S, Center T)

- Flag of Iraq (1991–2004) Iraq (Samarra Air Base, Russian 102nd Military Base, Russian 103rd Military Base)

-Assyrian Flag, Aug 2017 Assyria (4th Russian Military Base at Mosul)

- Flag of Egypt (1972-1984) Egypt (Alexandria Naval Facility, 5th Alexandria Strategic Missile and Torpedo Military Base, 6th Russian Security Contingent Base at Cairo, 7th Red Sea Radar and Missile Station and Torpedo Base)

- Flag of South Yemen Yemen (Sana'a Military Base, 1st North Yemen Radar Station, 1st North Yemen Strategic Missile Base, 2nd Air Base at Yemen, Aden Naval Facility, 3rd Aden Fleet Base, Russian Security Battalion)

Africa (non-Middle Eastern)

- Libyan protesters flag (observed 2011) Libya (Tripoli Naval Facility, 4th Russian Security Contingent Base at Sebha)

- Flag of Djibouti Djibouti (Port of Sagallo)

- Flag of Algeria Algeria (Port Algiers Naval Base, 4th Russian Hoggar Strategic Missile & Contingent Base, 5th Russian Hoggar Strategic Missile Base)

- Flag of Ethiopia Ethiopia (4th Russian Base at Addis Ababa, 1st Russian-Chinese Base at Jijiga, 1st Russian Base at Dare Dawa, 1st Fik Russian Base)


- Flag of Manchuria (Doomsday) Manchuria (Port Arthur Naval Facility, 1st Manchuria Overseas Force, 2nd Manchuria Overseas Force, 3rd Manchuria Overseas Force)

- Flag of Vietnam Vietnam (Cam Rahn Base)

- Flag of Indonesia Indonesia (Sulawesi Naval Facility, 1st Russian Contingent Base at Sulawesi, 1st Russian Contingent Base at Maluku)

- Flag of Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan (Kant Air Base, 338th Naval Communication Center, 954th Missile and Torpedo Base)

South America

- Flag of Venezuela (1930-1954) Venezuela (planned - 1st Russian Contingent Force at Caracas, 1st Russian Security Contingent Base at Maracaibo)

- Flag of the 2nd Brazilian Empire Brazil (planned - 1st Russian Contingent Base at Brasília)

Defense Spending (from 1989-2000, as USSR)

Year Amount
1989 $425 billion
1990 $305 billion
1991 $300 billion
1992 $102.7 billion
1993 $114 billion
1994 $104 billion
1995 $80.7 billion
1996 $82 billion
1997 $81 billion
1998 $79.2 billion
1999 $80.5 billion
2000 $82 billion
2001 $85 billion
2002 $83.5 billion
2003 $87.4 billion
2004 $84.1 billion
2005 $89.5 billion
2006 $93.5 billion
2007 $80 billion
2008 $83.3 billion
2009 $87.2 billion
2010 $89.2 billion
2011 $87.7 billion
2012 $90.5 billion
2013 $88.3 billion
2014 $84 billion
2015 $87 billion
2016 $97.5 billion
2017 $104.7 billion
2018 $395 billion
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