Maneuvers of all kinds, military games, international armaments exhibitions – these are all things which have significantly increased, sponsored by Armed Forces of Russia, today. Yet only a few decades ago, these were in very serious states of deterioration.
Nowadays, the issue of the creation of ever more advanced Russian production weapons nevertheless makes appearances in the headlines of Western newspapers, and is still the subject of discussion between politicians and top US and European military officials. At the same time, there is a steady increase in the number of countries interested in importing Russian equipment. So how did the Russian army, reduced almost to zero after the fall of the Soviet Union, manage to regain so much strength?
Stage of Decay – 1991 – 2008
The military heritage of the Soviet Union was great – that of the victories of the heroes in World War II and of the best armaments builders in the world. However, the collapse of the Soviet bloc left an inheritance of another kind, that is, the complete demoralization of the army in the midst of a very serious financial crisis.
The time when the then president, Boris Yeltsin, ordered the formation of the Armed Forces of the newly born Russian Federation, took place in May 1992, 133 days after the fall of the USSR. In this way, the new army was left with a complicated heritage of 3 million soldiers, the largest nuclear arsenal on the globe and a lot of problems.
The Armed Forces of Russia received all the military units, companies, institutions and organizations of the Soviet army that were in its new territory or under its jurisdiction. Thus, it included military formations in Germany, Mongolia, Cuba, and other territories, which of course ended up being too great a burden to carry on the shoulders of a worn-out post-collapse state.
In this difficult situation, the Russian authorities were forced to reduce their numbers by three times, up to one million. As a result, tens of thousands of military personnel literally went out on the street, as the state was not even able to provide housing for all veterans. For those who remained, life was not much better: the remuneration was scarce, paid even with delays of several months. Meanwhile, funding for military training and preparation hardly existed.
The seriousness of the situation was evidenced by the experience on the ground, despite some attempts at reform in the late 1990s. Among these, we can recall the Russian performance in the First and Second Chechen War, and the conflict in South Ossetia in 2008.
The latter, in turn, was a kind of “last straw” for the Russian military command. Although the country had won the conflict, it revealed numerous imperfections in the organization of the work in the military, especially in the process of communications between entities and their exchange of information. Hundreds of tanks, airplanes and infantry vehicles went to scrap.
The start of the modernization project
The 2008 Five Day War, with all its flaws and lessons, and the new orders given by the Putin and Medvedev governments, were the starting point for a far-reaching reform of the Russian Armed Forces. The changes affected both the personnel, with their optimization and improvement of teaching, and the very structure of the army. The six military districts were replaced by four, the military salary increased substantially, as well as the number of housing.
An even more important part of the reform was the rearmament of the Russian army. According to the Arms Development Program scheduled for the year 2020, the new armament rate in the armed forces, which in 2010 was around 20%, was expected to reach 70%. Today, the index has already exceeded 60%.
Russian military projects are numerous, both completely new and modern equipment upgrades. One of the main focuses of the program has to do with the strengthening of the high-precision arms rubrics as well as the modernization of the Strategic Missile Force and the Aerospace Force.
Among the more advanced pieces being integrated into the Russian arsenal are the RS-24 Yars intercontinental ballistic missiles, the T-14 Armata tanks, the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter, the S-500 missile systems, – Priboi helicopters and strategic submarines of the Borei project.
This list does not yet include the Russian Federation’s historic military projects announced by President Vladimir Putin during his message to the Federal Assembly on March 1 several weeks before his re-election. These are armaments of a completely new generation, most of which for the time being “have no analogues in the world”: Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, Avangard cruise missiles, Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missiles, Burevestnik nuclear propulsion cruise missile, Poseidon submarine drones and Peresvet laser complexes. Most of these projects are in their final stages of completion.
Is the ARMS RACE back?
All the fruits of the military reform in Russia were demonstrated during the anti-terrorist operation fought by Moscow in Syrian territory at the request of President Assad. The high-precision air strikes carried out by Russian aviation ended up completely changing the situation in the region ravaged by the war and the terror of radical Salafist ‘Islam’, especially in contrast to the action of the US-led international coalition which caused a huge loss of civilian lives either intentionally, or due to indiscriminate and imprecise sorties.
Of course, in turbulent times like today, such a military strengthening of a country, especially one like Russia, with its huge territory, raises questions about its intentions. The Western political establishment, for example, takes advantage of these projects to “prove” Moscow’s aggressive ambitions, accusing it of resuming a new arms race.
The only problem is that this “race” was not encouraged by Russia. Its military reform was generally based on two factors: the need to restore a proper defense system comparable to the country’s geopolitical weight, and secondly the relentless advance of NATO forces to the east, closer to Russian borders, despite all the promises.
At the same time, the Russian authorities say they try to persuade the US to “regain consciousness” and restore nuclear parity in the world, which has been violated precisely by the United States. In a world where language of force seems to become the only tool of dialogue, Russia can not remain “silent”.
“No one listened to us, listen now,” is the phrase of the Russian president who can describe the whole concept of the Russian renaissance as a great military power.
The future of Russian Military Modernization, and the collapse of the U.S. Military
The future of Russian weapons, along with general military modernization, is promising. Unlike the US system, the Russian military industrial complex has strict price controls, which means that research, development, and production costs are managed by strict governmental oversight. This means improved efficiency through regulation – costs are accounted for, and in the Russian Army today, one will never find an $800 ‘thermal sprayed’ toilet seat. These exorbitant markups in the US military are justified within the rubric of free-market capitalism, even though it exists as a form of welfare, as these high-profits based on tax-payer spending, are then reinvested into other profitable enterprises.
As the leading top generals are also significant share-holders in any number of these American military industrial complex firms, it also has the purpose of financially and ideologically tying them, as well as leading military families, to the present crony-capitalist system representative of that process.
They also represent part of an upside-down relationship of business to government. Rather than government performing a regulatory role on business, in the US, business performs a deregulatory role on government. This is part of a product of lax lobbying rules, wherein the industry controls the congress, with a lack of campaign financing rules, and in Russia instead we find that the congress (Duma) has control over the industry.
The US model in general is failing, and the above described process is also true in any number of civilian areas in American life as well. As a rule, US power is waning, on a global level, and the Multi-Polar Revolution involving Latin America, Eurasia and China, and Iran and the Axis of Resistance is pushing ahead at full speed. Russian military modernization is simultaneously reflective and causal of this process.