This could be called “Putin and the OPK.” The last five pages — more than 40 percent — of the Prime Minister’s election manifesto are about Russia’s defense sector. It’s turgid and hard to digest.
Putin’s website has a translation of the entire article.
The tone and language at the end of the article differ from the rest. Since not much has been accomplished in the OPK, Putin speaks in prescriptions, exhortations, platitudes, and imperatives. Everything is “should” and “must.” The text is rambling and somewhat unfocused.
Putin gives many non-specific mentions of:
- “forming S&T capabilities”
- “developing critical technologies for producing competitive products”
- “reequipping the RDT&E infrastructure”
- “investing in training specialists”
- “placing the Gosoboronzakaz for three-five, even seven years”
- “a single organ for controlling ‘defense’ contracts”
- “fair and sufficient prices”
- “promoting competition in state purchases”
- “driving forces of innovation growth”
- “exchanging S&T information among those who can use it”
- “streamlining manufacturing processes”
- “increasing the prestige of defense industry occupations”
Shibboleths without concrete, prioritized, and achievable objectives won’t help the OPK after the election.
Let’s look for more coherent buried messages.
Putin says up front:
“. . . we also have to talk plainly about [the OPK's] accumulated problems. It’s a fact that domestic defense centers and enterprises have missed several modernization cycles in the last 30 years.”
“We must fully overcome this lag in the next decade.”
The once-and-future President takes pains to stress that Russia’s OPK and scientific base, not those of other countries, will rearm the country’s forces. While military-technical cooperation with partners is fine, Putin says Russia can’t depend on foreign arms or abandon self-reliance. To the contrary, it needs to increase and support its own military-technological and scientific independence.
“I am convinced that no amount of ‘pin-point’ purchases of military and scientific equipment can replace the production of our own weapons; these purchases can only serve as a source of technology and knowledge.”
Still, he warns:
“To increase the country’s defense capability in reality, we need the most modern, best equipment in the world, and not ‘absorbed’ billions and trillions. It’s unacceptable for the Army to become a market for pawning off obsolete types of armaments, technologies, and RDT&E paid for at government expense.”
So Putin steers a path between those who say Russia can only rely on domestic arms producers, and those who say Russia’s defense sector is too decrepit and corrupt to supply the Armed Forces, so the military has to shop abroad. But he definitely leans more toward the former view.
The once-and-future President sets a high bar for the OPK, probably ridiculously high considering how neglected the defense sector has been for 20 years:
“The activities of defense industry enterprises should concentrate on the mass production of high-quality weapons with the highest performance characteristics to meet both current and projected defense challenges. Moreover, it’s only the latest weapons and military equipment that will enable Russia to strengthen and expand its foothold in the world arms markets, where the winner is the one who can offer the most advanced designs.”
“Reacting to present threats and challenges alone means being doomed to the role of someone who is always playing catch-up. We must do our best to gain a technological and organizational edge over any potential adversary. Such a stringent requirement should become the key criterion for us as we set targets for the defense industry.”
“The defense industry is in no position to calmly try to catch up with the latest developments. We must facilitate breakthroughs and become leading innovators and manufacturers.”
So again, however realistic this goal may or may not be, Putin places a priority on Russia’s ability to export weapons and earn dollars.
He is sure rebuilding defense industry won’t be a back-breaking, Soviet-type burden on the country. Still, he cautions:
“We must not repeat our past mistakes here. The huge resources invested in the renewal of the defense industry and in the rearmament program must facilitate the modernization of the entire Russian economy.”
Another high bar. A civilian economy of free, competitive, and self-sustaining industries can take good advantage of defense sector technology spin-offs. It’s less clear how defense industry investments can help lagging sectors of Russia’s civilian economy.
Putin ominously warns corruption in the national security sphere is tantamount to state treason. It’ll be interesting to see how the OPK reacts, and if or how he effects this declaration.
Despite years of state-controlled integration, the PM somewhat oddly says defense industry should be open to larger numbers of private enterprises and contractors.
And he opines that OPK pay should be equivalent to new higher pay in the Armed Forces. This is probably true but it’s another costly promise.
He concludes the entire article saying Russia cannot fall behind and become vulnerable even if it costs a lot. But the goal, he claims, is an army and defense industry that strengthens rather than exhausts the national economy.
Putin is many days late and many rubles short in fixing the OPK’s problems. They should have been addressed before the current state armaments program (GPV) was launched. The GPV cart was placed before the OPK horse for political reasons.
It’ll be interesting to see if this article serves as any kind of blueprint for the years that Putin serves, once again, as Russia’s chief executive.
It’s also interesting to see Putin return to the weakness theme. And how avoiding real or perceived weakness is such a powerful motivation for him:
“. . . we should not tempt anyone by allowing ourselves to be weak.”
To reiterate, Putin says what needs defending are Russia’s natural resources.
One’s reminded of his address the day after Beslan more than seven years ago. He said:
“We showed weakness.”
“And the weak get beaten.”
“Some want to rip ‘juicy’ pieces off us, others to help them.”
It’s basically what Stalin concluded about industrialization 81 years ago almost to the day:
“To slacken the tempo would mean falling behind. And those who fall behind get beaten.”
“One feature of the history of old Russia was the continual beatings she suffered because of her backwardness.”
“They beat her because it was profitable and could be done with impunity.”
“They beat her, saying: ‘You are abundant,’ so one can enrich oneself at your expense.”
What Putin says is not so different.