Transformations in the army, which were initiated by former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and Chief of the General Staff Nikolai Makarov, were not their personal initiative - it would be more accurate to call these processes the Putin-Medvedev reform. Changes in the army will continue, the expert said.
By the Victory Day, the Ministry of Defense prepared a completely festive news. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu decided to re-establish the Taman Motorized Rifle and Kantemirovskaya tank divisions disbanded in 2009 by ex-Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov. The ceremonial calculations of the reconstructed units took part in the parade on Red Square already under the new military banners. According to Viktor Baranets, a war journalist and a confidant of the president, “this is a fair return to the origins of our military stories". But the decision to revive the guards divisions is not only of historical significance, it again gave rise to talk about the creeping revision of the military reform initiated by Serdyukov. This week, 15 May, Sergei Shoigu will speak at the government hour in the State Duma. There is no doubt that he will be asked many questions about the fate of the reforms in the military department. In order to understand what is happening in the Ministry of Defense and more widely - in the Russian defense-industrial complex, Profil turned to one of the leading military experts, the director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov.
PROFILE: Ruslan, it seems that the new leadership of the Ministry of Defense is revising the reforms initiated under Anatolia Serdyukov. The recent decision to revive the Kantemirov and Taman divisions is perhaps only a detail, but very eloquent. Do you think reforms in the army can be curtailed?
Pukhov: Transformations in the army, which were initiated by former Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and Chief of the General Staff Nikolai Makarov, were not their personal initiative, but were carried out according to the will of the country's top political leadership.
And it would be more accurate to define what is happening as the Putin-Medvedev reform. Changes in the army long overdue and overdue, so that the transformation will continue.
Their general vector is the transition from a mass mobilization army, sharpened for a large world war, to more compact and professional armed forces, optimized primarily for low and medium intensity local and regional conflicts, and this vector is fully preserved. However, a number of areas are indeed subject to correction. The most important of these are changes in the management structure, from the highest level to the tactical one. Thus, under Serdyukov, the central apparatus of the Ministry of Defense was radically reduced. Some officers believed that as a result of these reductions, the controllability of the armed forces at the strategic level decreased. Now the number of this apparatus will increase again, but it will still remain at a lower level compared to the pre-Pro-Dyuk times. At the tactical level, there is a search for optimal structures in the connections of a new type, it does not matter whether they are called brigades or again divisions.
The second important innovation is a major change in the system and principles for the procurement of weapons and military equipment.
The Ministry of Defense began the transition to contracts for the entire life cycle - from the purchase and warranty operation to the disposal of weapons. This is a very serious change that will require enormous organizational and technological efforts on the part of the industry.
This also applies to the placement of orders for repairs that will be transferred from the system of repair plants of the Ministry of Defense to industrial enterprises that produce this equipment. The repair shops themselves are also planned to be transferred under the control of large state-owned industrial corporations.
Finally, Sergei Shoigu raises the question of excluding the Ministry of Defense from the pricing process for weapons and military equipment and transferring these functions to the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Let me remind you that it was precisely paralysis in this area that caused serious delays in the contracting of the state defense order in 2012, and especially in 2011. And it is quite possible that those multi-year contracts that, under the direct and intensive pressure of the country's top political leadership, were nonetheless concluded, will prove to be financially impracticable.
PROFILE: Why do you think that the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Industry and Trade will better deal with sensitive pricing issues?
Pukhov: I don’t think so, the Ministry of Defense is trying to focus on its direct responsibilities and get rid of the non-core functions of the buyer and seller. As for the system of tsennoobrazovaniya and in a broader sense - in general, the purchase of weapons and military equipment - then debugging this mechanism may take years. The Soviet system of relations between the army and industry can no longer be restored, for this we need a planned economy and total state control over industry. And the creation of a new procurement system in the framework of a market economy is a very complicated and long process. By the way, in the United States and other Western countries, procurement procedures and systems are also far from ideal.
PROFILE: However, there are fears in society that as long as the processes are rebuilt, a considerable part of the money allocated for the state defense order will simply be plundered.
Pukhov: The defense industry is under the supervision of a huge number of control bodies.
According to the director of one of the defense enterprises, immediately after signing a contract with the Ministry of Defense, only in the first 30 days did 40 pass through various checks.
Perhaps the most corruption-causing part of the defense industry is R & D, especially research. State bodies simply do not have the necessary competence to control the effectiveness of spending money on creating new types of equipment and, all the more, conducting basic research, and a system of independent expertise based on national technological centers has not yet been created.
As for the military itself, then, considering that the armed forces are probably the largest beneficiary of the budget, there will always be facts of inappropriate or incorrect use of funds. But, in general, I think the level of corruption in the army and defense industry is lower than in the whole country. By the way, please note that, despite the vigorous activity of the investigating authorities, the “Oboronservis” case is still not shaky.
PROFILE: Many experts are convinced that the matter is being hampered not because of a lack of materials, but because the authorities do not want to “hand over” to such an influential person as Anatoly Serdyukov.
Pukhov: I do not think so. Serdyukov’s figure is so demonized in the public mind that his “surrender” would be just beneficial for the authorities, if we proceed from populist considerations.
PROFILE: But can corruption scandals change the attitude to the state defense order and lead to its reduction?
Pukhov: The main threat of a change in the volume of defense order financing is a sharp deterioration in the macroeconomic situation, which in Russia can only happen if oil prices fall.
Only these circumstances of force majeure can force the country's top political leadership to abandon the program of large-scale rearmament of the army.
PROFILE: But is it worth spending $ 10 trillion on rearmament of 20? Who threatens us?
Pukhov: To begin with, the conflict of low intensity continues de facto in the North Caucasus. The ethnic separatist insurgency in Chechnya has been transformed into the all-Caucasian Salafi underground, which receives financial, organizational and military assistance from some Arab regimes. The pacification of Chechnya should not mislead anyone. The entire current structure of relations between Russia and Chechnya is based on the personal relations of the two leaders, Putin and Kadyrov. This design is very fragile. It is enough for any of the Saudi or Qatari despots to splash a little bit of fuel on the ember of the Caucasian embers in the form of two or three billion dollars, and the fire of war will break out with a new force. In Central Asia, the situation may immediately deteriorate immediately after the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan in 2014. The Central Asian regimes themselves are weak, some of them will soon face the problem of the transfer of power, and this is always a traumatic process in autocratic systems. In the Far East, Japan retains open territorial claims to Russia. Competition in the Arctic is slowly but quite distinctly growing, and not only the Arctic states themselves are being drawn into it. So there are enough threats and risks. But we, of course, should all understand that the main threats to our future are internal. This is a poor demography, poor quality of government and bureaucracy, backward infrastructure, degrading education and health care. Under these conditions, the currently approved level of defense spending is the result of difficult compromises.
In general, I would define the existing military expenses as the minimum necessary for restoring the country's defense capability and the maximum possible, based on the real economic and financial potential of Russia.
PROFILE: Among the potential opponents of Russia, you did not name China. This country, in your opinion, does not pose a threat to us?
Pukhov: At present, China is pursuing a friendly policy toward Russia and does not pose a threat. However, due to the possible destabilization of the socio-economic situation in this country in the future, in the long term 10-15 years, it can really become a source of military risks for Russia.
PROFILE: Returning to the “work on the mistakes” of the former Ministry of Defense, Sergei Shoigu has already announced that we will not buy foreign equipment, including armored vehicles. In your opinion, the purchase of foreign weapons was the wrong step?
Pukhov: The import of weapons and the borrowing of defense technologies from abroad is a historical norm for Russia. Just the Soviet military industrial autarky during the Cold War was a deviation from this norm. Programs to create new weapons systems have become very expensive, and almost no one in the world, not even the United States, is able to fully, by 100%, provide for their defense needs only through the work of the national defense industry. So, the import of weapons is a long-term and inevitable trend. Another thing, you need to strive not for direct purchases, but for the implementation of joint projects. In addition, it seems that in this area there has previously been a strong bend in favor of procurement, and former chief of the General Staff Nikolai Makarov was a particularly great enthusiast of direct foreign procurement. If it were not for changes in the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, I am afraid we would witness new large and highly controversial import contracts. This approach reflected the deepest mistrust and even hostility towards the national defense industry, which, of course, was wrong. In general, now this inflection is also being corrected.
Among the contracts concluded by the Ministry of Defense for the purchase of foreign weapons are both successful and even necessary, and, in my opinion, erroneous. In general, of the four large projects, three look quite reasonable. These are Israeli drones, French Mistral helicopter carriers and the Rheinmetall electronic test site.
The most controversial is the planned purchase of a completely beyond the number of Italian Iveco armored vehicles. This purchase can in no way be justified either by the operational needs of the army or from an industrial point of view. After all, drones, landfill and helicopter carriers are purchased in the absence of Russian analogues. And Russian analogues of Italian cars exist, and, according to some professional estimates, they are more perfect.
PROFILE: You said that Mistral helicopter carriers are needed by Russia, but today this deal is being subjected to the fiercest criticism.
Pukhov: I am a supporter of the purchase of these ships. These are ideal platforms for ensuring the long-term presence of the Russian Navy in the oceans in peacetime, as well as for conducting paramilitary operations. Almost all states with minimal naval ambitions possess such ships. Case study: The Mistrals are well suited to evacuate a large number of people in difficult conditions. French helicopter carriers are an excellent tool for anti-piracy operations. In the Far East, they will also become control centers for diverse forces. fleetwhich should guarantee the sovereignty of Russia over the disputed Japanese Kuril Islands. Cooperation with the French in the purchase of the third and fourth ships, which should be built in Russia, will definitely benefit both Russian industrialists and sailors. Finally, the fact of such a sale is a strong foreign policy signal that Russia is not perceived by the leading European countries as a hostile alien. The termination of the contract would entail enormous reputation costs and the payment of penalties.
PROFILE: In what types of weapons is Russia ahead of its Western competitors?
Pukhov: There is a simple, but very accurate indicator of the real competitiveness of certain systems - export sales. Based on this parameter, we see that Russia has a strong position in the segments of heavy fighters of the Su-30 family, Mi-17 transport assault helicopters, air defense systems of all classes - from MANPADS to long-range anti-aircraft missile systems . We have excellent tactical missiles, but they sell poorly due to political restrictions. For example, Russia canceled in its time the already concluded contract for the supply of Iskander-E complexes to Syria.
PROFILE: Where are we far behind?
Pukhov: The greatest lag has accumulated in the field of unmanned aviation systems, control systems, intelligence and communications, electronic warfare. So far, there are no significant successes in the light helicopter segment. In the field of submarine building, we have lagged behind the Germans, Swedes and French with the technology of an air-independent power plant, but now this lag is being overcome. As for surface shipbuilding, Russia is a strong middle peasant here. Unlike aircraft construction, where before the collapse of the USSR, we managed, like the Americans, to reach the fourth generation, at sea there was a gap of one generation, and it has not yet been overcome. Nevertheless, thanks to Indian orders, our country has a relatively modern surface platform of the Project 11356 frigate and the corresponding fire and electronic systems.
PROFILE: Is the high cost of purchasing new aircraft justified? They make up a quarter of the total volume of the state defense order ...
Pukhov: I think that the cost of aviation equipment is justified more than any other costs for the purchase of weapons, with the exception, perhaps, of only control, reconnaissance and communications systems. The Air Force is not only a very powerful, but also a very flexible tool that can be used in virtually all types of conflicts in which Russia can be theoretically involved - from global nuclear war to strikes on terrorists.
If we are talking about any disproportions in the procurement, I would single out too large, in my opinion, the cost of the navy. Russia is, by definition, a land power, and the main threats emanate for the country from land directions.
PROFILE: Is it possible to somehow improve the efficiency of defense enterprises? There were plans to transfer part of the state defense order to private companies and even to share the existing state-owned production enterprises. Do you think this is the right direction?
Pukhov: Several areas of work to improve the efficiency of the defense industry seem obvious. Firstly, equalization of opportunities of private and state companies. Now, all other things being equal, state corporations are in a privileged position compared to private owners. At the same time, private owners, in my opinion, work as a whole, perhaps, more efficiently. For example, the Irkut Aircraft Corporation and the Saturn engine-building enterprise were world-class first-class companies. Unfortunately, they were nationalized in 2006-2008. Although then, probably, these were the inevitable costs of the state-led consolidation of the defense industry. Further, now the need for new privatization through an IPO of large vertically integrated state-owned corporations, as they are called in Europe, “national champions” is becoming ever more relevant. This process is complicated and long, but it is necessary to prepare it.
PROFILE: Could it be that by the time Russia completes the modernization of its army, the developed countries will again be far ahead?
Pukhov: Modernization of the army is a permanent and endless process.
It is impossible to achieve such a state so that it can be said: everything, all the measures for reforming have been implemented, the rearmament is completed, we have reached the ideal. As for the “developed countries”, they, with the exception of the United States, are experiencing a degradation of the military organization. The budgets and the number of troops are reduced, the procurement programs are cut, the quality of personnel is deteriorating.
Global power is shifting to Asia, and it is there that the most intensive efforts are being made to increase military capabilities.