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'Red Dawn' redux: Russia begins massive military modernization effort

Some 36,000 officers are expected to be cut this year and many Soviet-era 'phantom divisions' eliminated. But will the economic crisis undercut reforms?

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After nearly two decades of false starts and failures, the Kremlin appears determined to begin the radical military reforms needed to fashion a modern army from the tangled wreckage of its Soviet-era armed forces.

Unlike previous attempts, little public fanfare accompanies the current effort to modernize Russia's army, begun in earnest after the dismal assessments began rolling in of the military's performance in last August's war with the tiny Caucasus republic of Georgia.

But behind-the-scenes infighting has reportedly been furious, pitting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev against most of the military's general staff, as well as some powerful nationalist and conservative political forces.

In the past month, several top generals and defense ministry officials have been sacked by the Kremlin, including chief of the GRU military intelligence Valentin Korabelnikov and head of the main personnel directorate, Mikhail Vodzakin, effectively crushing institutional resistance to the reforms, experts say.

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