The Civil-Military Relations in the US and Russia

The military is an essential institution for every nation which wants to ensure the security and integrity of its borders. Every year, countries spend billions of dollars on maintaining their armies and providing them with the latest technological solutions and modern arms. The United States of America and Russia are two countries which allocate a substantial part of their annual GDPs to funding their militaries. As a result, these nations also have armies which are among the largest ones in the world, with sizes of more than one million personnel each (“Armed”). Thus, both American and Russian armies constitute a considerable force which ultimately affects the life of a member of society. The purpose of the current study is to compare the civil-military relations in the two countries. The structure will involve assessing the existing information on various aspects of the civil-military relations in the US and Russian Federation and determining the existing gaps in research. The study will utilize academic sources such as peer-reviewed journal articles on the topics concerning the relations between the military and society in the two aforementioned nations.

One of the main factors which define military-civil relations is the participation of the personnel in the political life of the country. Numerous researchers proposed their theories concerning the role of military officials and soldiers in state governance. Samuel Huntington insisted that there had to be a clear division between civilian and military leaders (Donnithorne 11; Kümmel 64). At the same time, Morris Janowitz contended that the political and military spheres had to be blended together, and the obligation of every member of society was to be both a citizen and a solider (Burk 18). These two theories are particularly relevant for the current study since they can help one define the civil-military relations in the US and Russia.

In the United States, military officials tend to adhere to the principles of the theory presented by Samuel Huntington. The US armed forces are free from any political indoctrination, and every newly enlisted soldier is taught that they should not participate in any political events while in their uniform (Nix 96; Leal and Teigen 100). This translates into a culture where active servicemen and women avoid any demonstration of their party allegiances, and voting becomes their only way to express their political preferences. Additionally, generals and other high-ranking army officials do not pose any threat to political leaders such as presidents.

Nevertheless, researchers trace a significant inclination of the personnel to espouse Republican views and an association between high confidence in the armed forces and the conservative party ID (Liebert and Golby 119; Burbach 211). Yet, despite certain partisanship among the military ranks, American society has complete control over its military. Thus, the possibility of a coup or any other type of interference in the democratic political process in the United States is extremely low. Such a situation can be explained by the general trust of all citizens in the power of democratic institutions.

In Russia, the level of civilian control over the military is similarly high, which ensures the stability of the country’s political regime. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has survived numerous crises, especially during the 1990s, which potentially could cause the military to intervene and conduct a coup. Yet, the armed forced stayed passive and did not make any attempts to destabilize the existing political system. One of the factors which explains why the Russian military refused to overthrow the government concerns a common belief among officers that the army should only be used against external attacks (Taylor 939). Thus, the organizational culture of the Russian military commanders is based on the aversion to any possibility of opposing the nation’s sovereignty. Based on the analyzed sources, it can be stated that both the US and Russian exercise civilian control over their armies.

At the same time, Russia promotes the notion of a citizen-soldier, which was earlier discussed in this paper, through its conscription-based recruitment system. Essentially, all young men have to join the military for a certain period of time to undergo training. Army service in Russia is considered a civic obligation, and those who try to avoid it are labeled “unmanly” (Choulis et al. 241). The situation is different in the US, where military service is voluntary, and no social stigma is associated with the men who did not serve. Conscription leads to large numbers of Russian men developing support for the armed forces and spreading the norms and values they learned in the military further among their relatives and friends. The existing research does not have any data on the political preferences of the Russian military troops.

Another important factor which has to be determined when assessing civil-military relations in the US and Russia is the public trust in the armed forces. As mentioned earlier, mandatory service in Russia promotes the military as prestigious. Subsequently, Russian citizens regard the army as a particularly reputable force which they value and support. Public trust in the military has been steadily rising in Russia since the First Chechen War and reached seventy-eight percent after the annexation of Crimea (Malešič and Garb 152). This evidence shows that the success of military operations can significantly influence the level of society’s confidence in the armed forces. Similarly, In the US, the majority of citizens also exhibit support and trust in the military, and the trustworthiness of the senior officials is the primary factor behind such confidence (Solar 7). The research shows that both in the US and Russia, the larger parts of the two societies generally have a positive impression of their armed forces and trust these institutions.

Media are another factor which has a significant impact on the structure of civil-military relations since newspapers, magazines, and TV channels largely shape public opinion. Here, the distinction between the US and Russia is particularly visible because of the countries’ different approaches to freedom of speech. In the US, the First Amendment guarantees everyone and especially media, not to be subject to government censorship. As a result, there is a variety of independent privately-owned media which can promote different points of view on the events related to military actions. For instance, during the war in Iraq, media coverage in the US mostly did not utilize the war-on-terror rhetoric espoused by the White House officials (Speer 297). Moreover, American media quoted heads of states of foreign countries and even Iraqi officials who urged to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict (Hayes and Guardino 75). Essentially, the military could not force media companies to frame the events in the which would be beneficial only to it. Thus, media played an essential role in providing the public with an accurate account of the events.

In Russia, media are formally given the right to freedom of expression but are often subject to regulations which prevent them from publishing certain information on military activity. Additionally, major television channels and newspapers in the Russian Federation are owned by the state or individuals affiliated with the officials. Thus, the military and the government can manipulate public opinion by promoting their narratives concerning certain events. For example, state-owned media portrayed the annexation of Crimea as an act of liberation of ethnic Russians by the military and a return of the territory to home (Oates 411; Pasitselska 601). While during the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, one of the nation’s biggest TV channels demonstrated only the points of view of the pro-Russian separatists (Roman et al. 372). Such evidence shows the difference between the level of military propaganda in the two countries. While in the US, the large media do not seek to promote the armed force’s narrative as the only correct one, Russian TV channels and newspapers do the opposite.

The civil-military relations in the US and Russia present an interesting topic for academic research because the two countries have militaries which play significant roles in their societies. The current literature review identified both similarities and differences in the attitudes of society towards armed forces in the aforementioned nations. Both the US and Russia have stable civilian control over their armies, and their public exhibits trust in the militaries as institutions. Servicemembers in the US and Russia avoid showing their political preferences. In Russian society, military service is seen as a civic obligation of every man, whereas in the US, generally, citizens do not support this belief. Russian media tend to promote strictly the army’s narrative on military events, while the US media provide citizens with information in a non-partisan way. The current research discovered a gap in the existing knowledge concerning data on the political allegiances of the Russian troops. In the future, the aspect of gender inclusivity in the two militaries can be assessed.


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DemoEssays. "The Civil-Military Relations in the US and Russia." January 3, 2023.