For many, the beginning of the operation in Syria was a surprise. However, soon experts and amateurs of military affairs gathered their thoughts and began to analyze the actions of the Russian armed forces. In the domestic and, what is even more interesting, the foreign press are increasingly expressing theses on Russia's growing military might and overcoming the crisis of the past. In addition, some publications are trying to "reassure" their readers, hinting or explicitly saying that not all problems of the Russian army have been successfully resolved and its condition is still far from ideal.
A good example of such an approach to covering the situation is the recent (October 20) article by The National Interest entitled “Not so terrible: this is why the Russian army is a paper tiger” ). The author of this publication, Dave Majumdar, attempted to analyze the state of the Russian armed forces and tried to make the most objective, in his opinion, picture. The title of the article allows you to immediately understand the conclusions reached by the journalist.
The author reveals the essence of his publication in its very first lines. The article begins with a thesis, which can hardly be called controversial. D. Majumdar notes that the “military adventure” of Moscow in Syria demonstrates that the power of the Russian army has increased significantly in comparison with the catastrophic situation of the mid-nineties. Nevertheless, the journalist recalls that the Russian armed forces still face a lot of problems.
Majumdar recalls that the most effective in the Russian armed forces are strategic missile forces, combat aircraft and marines. In recent years, all these troops have been actively modernized, which has a positive effect on their condition. However, according to the American journalist, other types of armed forces and the armed forces still have to rely on poorly trained conscripts and the outdated material part, issued back in Soviet times. This means that the modernization of the Russian army is uneven.
The author recalls history past decades. In the early nineties, shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian defense spending established a historical anti-record, dropping to its lowest possible values. The result was the destruction of the defense industry and a sharp drop in defense capability. In the future, the Russian authorities made various plans to restore lost opportunities. At the end of the nineties and the beginning of the two thousandth, official Moscow repeatedly declared its desire to reform the armed forces and industry, but almost no real steps were taken in this direction. The result of all these events D. Majumdar considers two disasters of the wars in Chechnya and the insufficient effectiveness of the Russian troops during the operation to force Georgia to peace in 2008.
One of the main causes of those problems was the lack of funding. In addition, according to the American journalist, the Russian army was faced with a shortage of conscripts with good training and the necessary motivation. According to the author, in Soviet times, every fifth division of the army did not meet the requirements of combat capability and corresponded to them only on 50-75%. In the event of a threatened situation or war, the call for reservists was envisaged, although it would take some time to fully fulfill all the requirements on the number of personnel.
The Soviet system performed well during the Cold War. However, it no longer fully meets modern requirements. As an example of this, D. Majumdar cites the events of August 2008 of the year. Then, for the actions on the territory of South Ossetia, it was necessary to assemble "special troops" from those units that could perform the assigned tasks. Thus, the total strength of the army made it possible to count on an easy victory, but in reality the operation was associated with a lot of problems.
After the “War of the Three Eights”, the Russian leadership decided to reform and modernize the armed forces. In the future, part of the army was rebuilt according to the “new model”. Nevertheless, the author notes, more than two thirds of the armed forces, primarily ground forces, still use the old draft model and exploit the material part of Soviet production. Moreover, most of the equipment involved in the Syrian operation is modernized versions of the samples created in the seventies of the last century.
The Russian army is gradually moving to a new way of manning, but it will take a long time to completely abandon the draft. According to the author of The National Interest, currently only a quarter of the Russian ground forces are fully staffed by well-trained professional soldiers. These contract servicemen, although not prepared in accordance with Western standards, belong to the rapid reaction force.
In addition, the Russian command has radically revised the process of training and education of professional military, taking into account Western methods. Some organizational measures were also taken. In particular, the bloated leadership apparatus was reduced, the command structures were simplified, and logistics were optimized. Part of the "Soviet" type of compounds was reformed into new-type brigades, which in their concept are very similar to those of the US armed forces.
Nevertheless, according to D. Majumdar, the reforms of the Russian army still have not reached their ultimate goal. In addition, their further implementation will be difficult due to some problems. First of all, these are low oil prices and sanctions from foreign countries.
The author acknowledges that the Russian armed forces successfully solve one of their main problems associated with the training of personnel. However, immediately after this, he moves on to another topic, in the context of which, according to him, Russia is only a pale shadow of the Soviet Union. This is the defense industry.
After the collapse of the USSR, an independent Russia experienced a serious crisis, one of the results of which was the collapse and degradation of the defense industry. Due to economic and political problems, the country lost time and lagged behind in a number of important areas. For example, the Russian industry seriously lags behind the western one in the field of high-precision weapons technology, additional units of aviation equipment or radar with an active phased antenna array. In addition, D. Majumdar believes that this list can be continued.
Another weak point is shipbuilding. Modern Russia is not able to build large ships, including aircraft carriers. In addition, the industry uses outdated techniques and technologies. In the future, however, Russian shipbuilding can restore all of its former capabilities and master new technologies for itself, but this will take a long time.
The author of the article Not So Scary: This Is Why Russian Military Is a Paper Tiger also notes an unusual approach to the purchase of modern military equipment, some of the features of which may be cause for doubt. For example, he doubts the reality of the construction of 2300 major tanks “Armata” by 2020. In the case of the air force, there are purchases of a relatively small number of combat aircraft. Su-30M2, Su-30SM, Su-35S and Su-34 are being built in boutique-sized quantities. Although all of these aircraft are a development of the Su-27 platform, a low degree of unification can complicate their operation and maintenance. Purchases of various modifications of the MiG-29 fighter also affect logistics. In addition, three new types of aircraft for the armed forces are being developed. However, it is not clear to the end whether the military department will be able to find financing for new programs.
Touching on the topic of updating the aerospace forces, the journalist returned to the operation in Syria. He notes that Russian troops, demonstrating high activity in the destruction of the enemy, use a small number of modern guided weapons. In addition, Su-30CM fighters have not yet appeared in the frame with modern air-to-air missiles. It is quite possible that modern weapons like the P-77 rocket were developed and put into series, but purchased in small quantities.
There are problems with the naval fleet, except for its submarine forces. The Russian fleet began operating the latest submarines of the Borey type, armed with ballistic missiles. In addition, multi-purpose boats of the Ash project are being built. These submarines really pose a danger to a potential enemy. In addition, the author notes the pace of construction of submarines. Only last year, two strategic and three multi-purpose submarines were laid. At the same time, D. Majumdar doubts that Russia will be able to carry out the construction of machinery at such a pace for a long time. In this context, one should not forget the modernization of existing submarines.
While the Russian submarine fleet represents a great danger to a potential enemy, the state of surface forces leaves much to be desired. Ships need full-fledged modernization, and besides, they don't take part in hikes too often. The American journalist cites the Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov, the only Russian ship of its class, as the best example of the state of the surface forces of the Russian Navy. The author notes that this ship is prone to breakdowns at the most unexpected time, including during the hikes. For this reason, there is always a tug in the same group of ships with a cruiser, which in case of a breakdown can return it to the base.
Nevertheless, D. Majumdar does not argue with the fact that Russia is still building new ships. However, the pace of modernization of the Navy is still insufficient.
At the end of his article, the author of The National Interest recognizes that Russia has made tremendous progress in overcoming the crisis that began after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, to fully restore all the capabilities of the army and industry will have to go a long way, which will be completed only by 2030 a year or later. But in this case Russia will not become the USSR with its population and production base, which allowed it to be a juggernaut. And even if all reforms are successfully completed, in the author’s opinion, Russia will not be able to compete with the United States and its allies. Naturally, official Moscow will continue to modernize the armed forces. However, Russian military power, with the exception of strategic nuclear forces, is now only an illusion. This is a “paper tiger”.
At first glance, the article of The National Interest looks like an attempt to reassure readers and instill in them a sense of security. Indeed, recently the Russian armed forces managed to conduct several unexpected operations that surprised the whole world. First, the appearance of "polite people" in the Crimea, which no one expected and could not predict, and now the covert transfer of aircraft to Syria with subsequent reports on the successful destruction of dozens of enemy targets.
In addition, numerous concerns can be considered as concerns. news on the creation, production and supply of various weapons and military equipment, including the “premiere” of several new combat vehicles at the May 9 parade. It is unlikely that all these news will be able to leave the foreign philistine indifferent. Some part of the foreign public is expected to react to such events with serious concern.
In this case, there is a need for the appearance of reassuring statements by officials or publications in the press. Authorities need to tell the general public something pleasant and not at all frightening. In this case, the stories about the "paper tiger" are a good tool to calm the public.
Nevertheless, it is impossible not to note another feature of the article by Dave Majumdar. Speaking of the fact that the Russian armed forces have a lot of problems that have to be solved in the future, the journalist is not at all deceptive. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic problems of the past decades have seriously hit the country's military power, industry and social sphere. Solving these problems in parallel with the development of other areas is more than a challenge, and this is not at all surprising.
As part of the current State Armaments Program, calculated up to 2020, the defense industry and the Ministry of Defense will have to radically upgrade the material part of the armed forces. In accordance with the existing plans, the share of new weapons and equipment should reach 75%, and in some areas 90-100%. In addition, there are plans for the development of industry and a number of other supporting programs.
Naturally, the implementation of all existing plans will be associated with serious difficulties. Nevertheless, their implementation will significantly improve the country's defense, as well as finally pull the army and industry out of the pit, into which it fell two decades ago. The result of all current actions will be a well-armed and trained army with modern weapons and equipment.
As for the artistic image, made in the title of the article, it slightly spoils the impression from the analytical work of the author. It is as if he emphasizes that the author of the article tried not only to analyze the situation, but also to reassure the reader, including with the help of beautiful phrases or cliches. In addition, the title used is not entirely consistent with reality. The Paper Tiger, in spite of all the problems, continues to gain strength, as well as bombing terrorists and destroying them with the help of cruise missiles of warships.
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