Speaking this year with a speech on the Day of Defender of the Fatherland, the Russian president said: “Ensuring reliable defense capability of Russia is the priority of our state policy. The modern world is still far from a calm, secure development. New, equally complex conflicts are added to old, long-standing conflicts, instability is growing in vast regions of the world. ”
And these are not empty words. Such rhetoric is supported by appropriate cash. Russia today is conducting the largest military buildup since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which occurred a little more than 20 years ago. Every year, up to 2020, it will significantly increase its military allocations. Putin pushed through this program even against the objections of some Kremlin leaders concerned about the cost levels and their possible implications for Russian welfare. Opposition to the increase in military spending was one of the reasons for the departure of Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin from the Cabinet of Ministers of the Russian government.
The world does not leave these actions without attention.
If earlier for several years he looked at Russia as the “Upper Volta with rockets”, or as a country with a significant arsenal of nuclear weapons. weapons and by ordinary forces that did not crown themselves with special laurels of glory in the post-Soviet period, now Russian plans for military reform and rearmament cause him some concern. The US national security agencies, who previously believed that Russia was not able to project force beyond its borders, were particularly concerned. But she resumed bomber flights aviation in the skies over the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, she began sending warships (in particular, to the Caribbean Sea), carried out a military campaign against Georgia in 2008, and also increased the scope and complexity of the tasks being worked out for annual military exercises conducted in conjunction with the Chinese army and fleet. All this leads to the fact that they again begin to look at Russia as a military threat. Now, in the justification of US military spending, which had previously focused mainly on increasing Chinese defense spending, the fact of the buildup of Russia's military power is also taken into account.
If you look at the budget reports and memoranda on the state of affairs, then the Russian plans initiated by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is responsible for the defense sector, seem very impressive - and ominous. If just a few years ago, shipbuilding allocations for the Russian Navy amounted to less than 10% of the US Navy, now Russians are closing the gap. As for capital investments from the budget, Russia today spends on the construction of new ships about half of what the U.S. Navy will allocate for these purposes. By 2020, the Russian ground forces will have such a structure, in the center of which there will be combat ready and ready for quick deployment brigades. The goal is to have at least 70% of units equipped with military equipment and weapons of a new generation in the ground forces. If everything goes according to plan, then in the Russian armed forces, by 2020, one million military personnel will again be in active military service, 2300 new tanks, approximately 1200 new planes and helicopters, and the Navy will include 50 new surface ships and 28 submarines. And 100 new satellites will provide the Russian communications and command and control system. To fulfill these tasks, Putin promised to allocate approximately $ 10 billion in the next 755 years.
In addition, the buildup of military power is supported by an increasing number of Russians. According to a survey by the Levada Center, 46% of Russian citizens advocate an increase in military spending, even if it leads to a slowdown in the economy (and 41% is against if an increase in defense spending causes economic difficulties). This is partly due to the fear that Russia's vast mineral reserves, especially in the Arctic, will be in danger if the country does not have the means to protect them. Rogozin himself repeatedly warned that without modern armed forces, the country in the future will certainly be “looted”.
But often there is a noticeable difference between the declared Russian intentions and achievable results. How feasible are these ambitious goals of Russia?
Some observers are ready to dismiss lightly on these plans, calling them Potemkin villages. Or, they call them a new and very inventive way to divert public funds into private hands through tricky corruption schemes. Of course, any increase in the military budget creates tremendous opportunities for abuse. But it would be a mistake to ignore the clear evidence that such a build-up of military power leads to the restoration of the combat potential of the Russian armed forces, which was lost with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Over the past year and a half, Russia has been conducting military exercises of such proportions that the country has not known since the days of the Cold War (for example, the recently completed maneuvers in the Far East). They still point out problems in the command and control system and in the quality of military equipment, and yet these exercises also show that reforms are beginning to have an impact, and that Russia can get more mobile and efficient armed forces.
And that worries NATO very much. The actions of the North Atlantic Alliance to conduct operations outside its area of responsibility, as well as the decisions of most European countries to significantly reduce defense spending, were based on the assumption that Russia no longer poses a threat. Nobody, of course, thinks that Russian tanks are about to rush through the Fulda corridor. But now America has to reconsider its calculations that Europe will become an “exporter of security” to other, less calm points on the world map, since Russia essentially refuses its “disarmament” position on which these calculations were based.
But at the same time, the process of building up military power does not promise the Russian government to be smooth and calm.
The first question is whether the Russian defense industry will be able to create the tools that the new military strategy requires of it. Dmitry Gorenburg from the Center for Naval Analysis notes that the plans of the Ministry of Defense are based on overly optimistic forecasts regarding the rate of transition of Russian factories and shipyards for the production of new equipment. Their developers assume that there will be no delays, technical and design problems, as well as bottlenecks. But design problems have already caused a two-year delay in the execution of the state order for the purchase of thirty-seven Su-35 aircraft, which will be completed no earlier than 2016 of the year. Gorenburg and other experts argue that plans to build up military power are unlikely to be fully implemented in accordance with the stated objectives.
Moreover, the Russian military-industrial complex is far from achieving the standard of "zero marriage" in the production of military equipment and weapons. A series of failures with missile launches (in particular, the Bulava missiles launched from submarines), failure to comply with the construction schedule of new ships (or, say, the Admiral Nakhimov / Vikramaditya aircraft carrier retrofitting) and quality problems vehicles - all this raises questions about the reliability of Russian-made military products.
In addition, there are serious concerns about the state of research and development work and the ability of Russia to create at home the equipment and technologies that are necessary for the manufacture of fifth-generation weapons systems. Former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov steadfastly resisted pressure to order just slightly updated versions of the old Soviet technology, although Russian industry lobbied for an increase in just such a state order. He tried to buy some defense products abroad, including unmanned aerial vehicles in Israel, Iveco light multipurpose vehicles in Italy and Mistral-class amphibious assault ships in France, in order to equip the Russian armed forces with more advanced equipment that the domestic industry cannot produce. . However, dissatisfaction with Serdyukov’s desire and readiness to contact foreign suppliers was one of the reasons for his resignation from the post of defense minister last year.
Along with this, Serdyukov tried to reform the organizational structure of the Russian army (also causing opposition), trying to reduce the number of officers (especially the number of generals and admirals) and transfer the armed forces from recruiting to a professional basis. However, the announced plans to increase the size of the regular army contradict Russian demographic realities. In Russia, there is a shortage of labor resources. The revitalization in her economy has reduced the labor surplus, which was previously absorbed by the call-up for military service. Due to delays and the growth of health problems in the Russian population, approximately 60% of recruited young people do not go into the army. Attempts to make contract service more attractive (following the example of reforms implemented in the USA in the 1970-ies with the aim of switching to the voluntary principle of recruitment) provided some success. But although the Russian military leadership announced that it would create 2020 new brigades (in addition to existing 40) by 70, it will have to face the sad reality that many units today have an incomplete staff of about 25%. Shoigu should continue reforms in such matters as recruitment and treatment of recruits, because compulsory conscription and the unpleasant conditions of service created by the so-called hazing (mockery of sergeants and other senior servicemen over recruits) do not contribute to the creation of a more professional army capable of attracting and retaining volunteers. The sums of money that must be spent on attracting Russians to contract service (an increase in money allowances, benefits and incentives) may exceed the amount of funds that the military establishment is willing to allocate.
Much will depend on the following factors. The first is whether the Russian treasury will receive the expected amount of money from the export of oil and gas, which is able to provide transformations in the armed forces. Any serious reduction in energy prices will certainly put these plans at risk. The second is whether the Russian defense industry will be able to increase its dynamism, flexibility and adaptability. Will she be able to use the increase in government spending in order to create new models of equipment and weapons? This is important not only for fulfilling Putin’s demands, but also for preserving the traditionally lucrative export trade of Russian weapons. Russia will cede its competitive advantages not only to American and European rivals, but also to Chinese companies if it cannot keep pace with new developments of military equipment. The third factor is whether the Russian army will be able to get the number of personnel it needs - whether by improving the conditions of contract service or by recruiting Russian-speaking contract servicemen in the former Soviet republics.
But even if the ambitious plans of the Ministry of Defense for recruiting personnel and adopting modern military equipment are not fully implemented, the Russian armed forces are still getting stronger and stronger today. Moscow is unlikely to be able to directly challenge the United States, whose military spending far exceeds that of Russia. But if we take into account regional trends, especially in Europe, then it must be said that Russia is reviving its non-nuclear combat potential, thereby reinforcing its claims to the status of a great power. Whether such a newly acquired confidence of Russia in its forces will help increase its willingness to cooperate in the international arena, or, conversely, Moscow will take more obstructionist positions - this question remains open.