This paper seeks to explain the Russian military's unexpected quiescence—particularly the absence of a widely-predicted military coup—during the past several years of political and economic turbulence. It specifically asks why the military has not carried out a coup d'état even though it has had a powerful motive to do so; why, despite substantial social unrest and weak political and economic institutions—the casebook description of a “praetorian” society—has the military not acted against the government? Through the use of military survey data and Russian press reports, this paper argues that the military's quiescence is due not to lack of motive, but to Russian officers' weak assessment of their capabilities to carry out a coup. This assessment has resulted from the military's steady organizational decline and disintegration over the past several years. This disintegration has provided officers with a formidable motive to carry out a coup, while at the same time presenting substantial barriers to doing so—a phenomenon I have labeled the “paradox of disintegration.” While particular attention is paid to 1992 and 1993, the period of greatest unrest and potential intervention, the implications of this analysis are still relevant today. The danger of a military coup has been, and essentially remains, largely a myth, perpetuated by panicky publics and politicians, both Western and Russian alike.

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