The approach of NATO troops to the borders of Russia is accompanied by numerous assessments of the military, politicians and experts of the combat capabilities of its Armed Forces and the threats they may pose to the United States, the countries of the North Atlantic Alliance, their European friends and like-minded people. However, among the opponents of Moscow, there is still no consensus about the true characteristics of Russia's military potential.
31 may be the think tank of the American parliamentarians - a congressional research service has published a report on recent changes in international security. As indicated in the report, events in the world in recent years have led experts to conclude that the security situation, which during the last 20 – 25 years after the end of the Cold War and in which only the United States played a leading role, began to change radically . Russia and China again entered into competition with America, which began to threaten "the foundations of the international order established by the United States since World War II."
The last changes in the relations of former adversaries in the Cold War occurred in the late 80s - early 90s of the last century, when the US Defense Department and the US parliament re-evaluated their actions in the field of military construction, starting with the funding of the Armed Forces and ending with the list of tasks .
This led to a substantial adjustment of numerous plans and programs of the military department. The current changes in the world, as noted in the report, put on the agenda of politicians and the military the need to consider the main provisions in order to make the necessary adjustments in areas such as national strategy and geopolitics, including the military budget, plans and programs, US combat capabilities and NATO countries in Europe. In addition, the Pentagon must assess the capabilities of the Armed Forces to act in the so-called hybrid wars and counter the tactics of the “gray zones,” that is, disputed regions that do not have a certain legal status, contradictions in which may cause large-scale conflicts. Such tactics are very actively used by Moscow and Beijing. The US military will also have to reassess its approaches to creating aircraft capable of participating in large-scale high-intensity wars with Russia and China, maintaining technological superiority in conventional and nuclear weapons, accelerating the development and procurement of weapons and military equipment and maximizing the dependence of aircraft on parts and materials coming from Russia and China.
The report cites the words of US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who 2 February this year. spoke at the Economic Club in Washington. The head of the Defense Ministry said that today the US military force is being challenged by China, Russia, the DPRK, Iran, as well as the terrorist group of the IG. “The situation that has developed in the world today with security is fundamentally different from the one to which we have become accustomed over the past 25 years. This requires the application of new approaches to analytics and to the implementation of any actions, ”the Minister of War said.
A little earlier than his patron, speaking at the annual international security forum held in the Canadian city of Halifax in late November, First Deputy Carter Robert Wark said that the former competition of the great powers had revived today. “Today Russia is a revived great power, and I would like to note that its long-term prospects are not clear. China is becoming a great power. And we need to think more globally in terms of competition with these countries than we have been doing in the last 25 years, ”the deputy announced.
He also stressed that in the 90s of the last century and in the beginning of 2000s, the United States occupied the dominant positions in the world and had “tremendous freedom of action.” Such a situation, according to the deputy minister, led to the “atrophy of strategic muscles” of America. Wark expressed his confidence that today in the USA they intend to increase their “strategic muscles” and rethink their attitude to global competition. “I believe that in the next 25 years we will be witnessing many compromises between great powers,” he said.
Earlier this year, US National Intelligence Director James Klapper presented to the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee an annually released report of the US intelligence community on assessing world threats in 2016. The report once again voiced accusations against Russia, which allegedly pursues an aggressive foreign policy, seeks to seize the territories of neighboring states and is building up its military potential.
The contradictions between the NATO countries and Russia, which have deepened against the background of the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, led the Western countries to revise their military doctrines. At the end of January of this year, the European Command of the United States Armed Forces (EUCOM) presented a new strategy, in which deterrence of Russian aggression was one of the six priority areas. The official representative of the Russian Federation to NATO, Alexander Grushko, said that “this document is causing great bewilderment. He also noted that this strategy is an example of “Washington’s ideas about how the modern world should be based on leadership and military superiority”. “All this is a tracing of what representatives of the White House and the State Department and representatives of the Pentagon have long stated, and which is reflected in the updated concept of US national security, which is also based on these postulates of exclusivity and leadership,” the permanent representative emphasized. He also noted that the main task of America at the present stage, indicated in this document, is the promotion of "US interests from Greenland to the Caspian."
In the past few years, many countries have recognized the Russian threat, from Ukraine and the Baltic states to Denmark, which has no common borders with Russia. Latvia is especially zealous in this matter. At the end of 2015, the Latvian Seym approved the concept of the country's security, in which a significant place is given to repelling potential threats from Russia. According to the authors of the concept, Russia is trying to influence public opinion in Latvia, “in particular, by making attempts to tune the inhabitants of the republic against NATO, which requires an integrated approach to prevent and mitigate such threats.”
The document states that of all countries whose special services and armed forces are working against Latvia, the most serious threat comes from Russia. “Russia's aggression in Ukraine, its military exercises and the demonstration of power near the Latvian borders, as well as attempts to influence the internal political situation through various economic and political measures dictate the need for comprehensive approaches to preventing threats,” the authors of the concept state.
All official accusations of the Kremlin in the unprecedented aggressiveness since Stalin’s time, the strengthening of military power and the desire to return Russia to its former territories indicate that the West to a certain extent recognizes the military power of our Armed Forces, which has recently been very clearly demonstrated in Syria. However, there is still no consensus on the military capabilities of the Russian Federation at the present stage and in the near future among Western experts.
Some of them claim that the presentation of the Russian army as a new powerful tool of the Kremlin is largely not true and is a simple exaggeration. According to experts, there are numerous shortcomings in the military planning sphere in the Russian Armed Forces, a number of attempts to carry out their reforms have failed, and a significant part of defense companies is experiencing serious difficulties that can hardly be overcome in the foreseeable future.
Western media cite statements by the head of the Russian military department, Army General Sergei Shoigu, at the next meeting of the Board of the Defense Ministry, dedicated to discussing the results of the implementation of action plans for the period from 2013 to 2016, discussing the main tasks of the Armed Forces until 2020 and considering some other issues. They state that, according to Shoigu, since 2013, the Russian military has achieved significant success. First of all, it concerns the creation of aerospace forces and the command of the Northern fleet. The Minister of War, as experts say, "cited rather strange statistics." According to the general, the combat potential of the Russian Armed Forces increased by 32%, but at the same time, Western experts emphasize, he did not explain to those present that this is not the same as combat capabilities or combat readiness. Shoigu announced that the general achievements of the Armed Forces since 2013 have contributed to the successful fulfillment by Russia of strategic tasks in the Arctic, on the Crimean Peninsula, in the Mediterranean Sea, in remote sea regions and in global airspace. He claims that the modernization of armaments and equipment of the Armed Forces is proceeding according to plan and that today the proportion of modern and new models has increased to 47%. The Minister also noted an increase in the intensity of combat training and the number of strategic exercises, while, according to him, the availability of modern means of training increased 2,5 times. In addition to the brilliant statistics cited, Shoigu said that combat training needs to be changed again, and this time it is necessary to take into account the transient nature of modern conflicts, as well as the lessons of the operation in Syria. However, Western analysts say he did not mention that according to this fleeting scheme, the Russian military has been operating in southeastern Ukraine for more than two years, and that so far no completion of the operation in Syria is expected. “Modern military conflicts are fleeting in nature, decisions on the creation and training of various troop groups are made in a limited time. Given these characteristics and the experience gained in Syria, new forms and methods of combat training are being introduced in the armed forces, ”Shoigu emphasized.
Western analysts point out that the fact that the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have achieved certain successes and their further development cannot be doubted, thanks to the growth of government allocations allocated to the modernization program. According to them, Russian experts and commentators are not inclined to focus on the many weaknesses and challenges that the military and their system as a whole face; and the messages of the top military leadership that reach the Russian media are often simply automatically reproduced in the Western press. The results of such an approach can already be considered dangerous, and at the same time, the current US generals are calling for increased defense spending or are planning to respond to the Russian threat without revising their respective strategic plans.
Foreign military experts believe the spread of the Shoigu myth, about the capabilities of the RF Armed Forces, as well as the scale of the challenges to the NATO countries, which is a resurgent Russia, contribute to the assessment of some Western experts on the means and methods of the Russian army for electronic warfare and the recently adopted system integration concept. control, communications, computer systems, surveillance and intelligence information collection tools (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance - C4ISR). According to such experts, the capabilities of the Russian Armed Forces in the field of EW make it possible to speak about the presence of a certain super-weapon for the Russian troops. Some of them argue that NATO needs to retrain its military contingents so that they can withstand the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation without relying on technological superiority. Russia, say opponents of the reassessment of Moscow’s military capabilities, undoubtedly showed some progress in modernizing its EW systems, but it does not have super-weapons, and NATO forces are not in danger of facing a situation where access to the battlefield will be closed to them by technical means.
Those challenges that the Defense Ministry of Russia under the leadership of Shoigu faces are real and require urgent resolution. However, most of them should be considered, experts believe, the result of the Defense Ministry’s unwillingness to deal with the main and deep-rooted problems within the military system. They note the fact that the reform of the military-industrial complex is still an unsolved problem. Referring to data from one of the studies of the state of the defense industry in Russia, experts say that today only the number of accountants has increased at defense companies. Little progress has been noted in the field of pricing transparency, as well as in measures aimed at reducing prices for military products. And so far there is no evidence that a market economy is established in the defense industry, which is still almost entirely dependent on the state.
Analysts say that the style in which Shoigu manages his department is characterized by more skillful advertising campaigns and praising the achievements in the field of aircraft modernization. However, they are confident that the Russian army has not yet been completely reformed and modernized. Today, it is very far from representing the very threat that is so much talked about in military circles overseas and in Europe. Experts recommend that Western governments should refrain from excessive reaction to Russia's successes in the field of military construction and soberly evaluate this process.