Russian Military Modernization (Agenda)

MIN READAug 17, 2012 | 19:50 GMT

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, Stratfor cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

Video Transcript:

Colin Chapman: The United States military has had widespread contemporary experience of war as have many NATO members. But apart from the short conflict in Georgia three-and-a-half years ago, the Russians haven't. But concerned about the military, President Vladimir Putin will shortly seek Duma approval for a 25 percent increase in defense spending just at a time when many countries are making hard cuts.

Welcome to Agenda. I'm Colin Chapman. And joining me to discuss this is Stratfor's Vice President of Analysis Scott Stewart. Scott, before we go into the state of the military, what do the Russians consider as the major threat and do they see use of the military as a lever for geographical expansion?

Scott Stewart: Well really under their present military doctrine, which was put out in 2010, one of their big tenants is that they don't believe it should be a unipolar world. They don't believe that the United States should be able to dictate what happens in the world and they see themselves as being a counterweight to that. Secondly, they are obviously concerned about terrorism. Whether that's terrorism in places like Chechnya and Dagestan or whether it's the type of terrorism we've seen happen, you know, in places like downtown Moscow. Thirdly, they're very concerned about their near abroad, really their area of influence. And they're concerned and they feel threatened by the encroachment that the United States through NATO and through direct diplomatic and military relationships with those countries has, you know, has brought. So for example there were very uncomfortable with the U.S. relationship with Georgia — they saw that is very threatening.

Colin: Right, now the Russian Duma is going to consider Vladimir Putin's plans for that 25 percent increase, but even if this goes through, isn't it a fact that Russia will still face constraints?

Scott: Absolutely. Even though they're looking at this you know 25 percent increase in the military budget potentially, under that it's going to be very difficult for them to really grow their military much. You know some of the constraints they are under, number one is that most of their equipment is very old. A lot of the needs to be replaced, especially things like you know their armored vehicles. Secondly, they really need to take some of that money and use it toward improving the conditions of their soldiers, and they're trying to move toward more for professional or as they call it more of a contract military as opposed to the conscripts. Right now most of their conscripts, you know, are very young, they're poorly trained, poorly motivated and it's just really not a very effective fighting force. So they're trying to professionalize that. Thirdly, so much of their, especially on the naval side, so much of their equipment is just really in disrepair. And the longer that you hold onto a weapons system, the more that it costs you to maintain it year after year. So it's been very difficult for them just to keep things operationally. That's also costing more money, so even if they have an increase in the budget, this increase is not really going to allow them to make a huge leap forward. Rather it's really going to help serve to keep them pretty much where they are at, as far as on a static basis.

Colin: What about training? With many new technologies, good training is absolutely essential.

Scott: Absolutely. Training is a huge issue as is really the concept of having, you know, a professionalized, noncommissioned officer layer in the military. That's really been one of the of the weaknesses of the Russian military going back to the Soviet days. They don't have the backbone of the military and the NCO corps the way you would in the Australian military the British military or the American military, where you have that professional cadre of NCOs. So certainly if the Russians are going to move forward, if they're going to modernize, they need this corps of professional trained soldiers to be able to operate this equipment as it becomes more and more sophisticated.

Colin: You mentioned the navy as being outdated. What about the air force?

Scott: The air force by and large is not in as bad a shape as the navy is. They've been able to have some kind of evolutionary steps, so for example you know saw some of their interceptor jets are, you know, fairly modern and they've been able to you know take some of their older designs and improve them, you know, some of the airframes, like some of this Sukhoi stuff. Of course you have the T-50, you know, the kind of the stealth multi-role fighter that they're starting to roll out as their jet of the future, and that's really more of a revolutionary concept or model. But most of their other airframes are more just kind of improvements on things that date back to really the Soviet era.

Colin: And nuclear weapons? I had the chance this week to meet with Col. Valery Yarynich, a rocket expert from the Soviet days. He was involved in the creation of what became known as the apocalyptic doomsday machine. It's still there but now in Putin's hands.

Scott: Well I think that when we look at their nuclear deterrent certainly they have had a lot of issues with their naval nuclear forces, you know basically with their submarine-based deterrent. They've had a lot of issues keeping basically those boats in the water. And even they've had a lot of issues with some of their newer missiles and in trying to get those missiles to function properly. But on the other hand their land-based nuclear forces are very advanced. And they're very well maintained, and really if you look at even this this new plan, potentially to increase the budgets, they would be getting a very large chunk of this increase along of course with their strategic air defense arm of the of the military. So you're going to see the air defense and the missile forces getting large chunks of this new budget, and they're pretty much among the best troops that the Russians have. And of course they're both arms that are going to remain underneath presidential and Ministry of Defense control along with the airborne corps. So while the Russians have been trying to do some other things to make their military more agile and responsive, you know going from a division-based structure to a brigade, task-force type structure similar to what the Americans have done. At the same time, you had these three arms — you know an airborne, the missile troops and air defense troops — that are going to stay underneath presidential command.

Colin: Scott Stewart, thank you very much. Are we going to see a detailed analysis of this on Stratfor?

Scott: Absolutely. Our team of analysts right now is ripping into this subject matter and we're going to be producing some detailed, printed analysis looking at not only these modernization programs but also the military budget.


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