Organizational Change in the Russian Airborne Forces: The Lessons of the Georgian Conflict

  • December 01, 2011
  • Dr Rod Thornton

This monograph considers the recent history of organizational change in the Russian Airborne Forces (VDV). In particular, it looks at how the VDV has changed since the end of Russia’s conflict with Georgia in 2008. The VDV, a force much admired in Russian media and society has, in fact, escaped fairly lightly during the comprehensive reform of the Russian Army more generally over the last few years. In large part this has been down to the personality of the current head of the VDV, Lieutenant-General Vladimir Shamanov. Close to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Shamanov--a "maverick"--has used his political connections to help ward off many of the cuts and reforms that have impacted the rest of the Army. He has managed to keep the basic structure of the VDV intact, while also dealing with a number of problematic issues related to manning, equipment, and training regimes within his organization. This monograph goes on to point out the level of professionalism in the VDV that was demonstrated during the Georgian war. It also though, highlights the fact that, while some battalions within the VDV will be very effective and well trained, other battalions will not. Thus it is difficult to judge precisely how battle-ready the VDV’s divisions now are. Ultimately, this monograph seeks to establish just what sort of Russian airborne forces U.S. or NATO troops may one day have to either work alongside or, indeed, face in some sort of confrontation.