Category Archives: Military Doctrine

Putin’s Arctic Chimera

Pronouncements on plans for stronger Russian military forces in the Arctic have been studiously ignored on these pages.

For two reasons . . . first, one can’t write about everything, and second (because of the first), one has to focus on a few significant topics.

The Russian military in the Arctic hasn’t been one of them.

Putin on Franz Josef Land in 2010 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Putin on Franz Josef Land in 2010 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

President Vladimir Putin’s interest in the Arctic made news in 2007 when a mini-submarine planted a Russian flag on ocean floor under the North Pole.  The Kremlin wanted to stake a symbolic claim to the lion’s share of the Arctic’s potential underwater wealth.

The vast, frozen region may indeed have large percentages of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and oil deposits.

More than a few observers see Putin’s concern with the Arctic as an effort to extend Russia’s hydrocarbon export-based model of economic growth.

The friend-of-Putin state oligarchs running Gazprom and Rosneft would certainly like the Russian treasury (and military) to underwrite their efforts to get at Arctic resources and line their pockets with more cash.

But the capital investment and technology required would be staggering. Canadian expert Michael Byers has been widely quoted:

“We’re talking about the center of a large, inhospitable ocean that is in total darkness for three months each year, thousands of miles from any port.”

“The water in the North Pole is 12,000 feet deep and will always be covered by sea ice in the winter.  It’s not a place where anyone is going to be drilling for oil and gas.  So it’s not about economic stakes, it’s about domestic politics.”

It’s an easy place to show Russia’s leader defending national sovereignty and interests.  The news stories and press releases track with an established Kremlin narrative about hostile Western powers trying to grab Russia’s natural bounty.

All of which brings us back round to the military in the Arctic.

During  Serdyukov’s tenure, the Ministry of Defense first raised the prospect of basing two army brigades there.  In September, Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy and other ships sailed the Northern Sea Route into the eastern Arctic.  And late in the year, Putin himself was prominent in giving the order to build, or re-build, various Russian military bases in the Arctic.

But things have a way of taking ridiculous turns.

On 17 February, an unidentified source told ITAR-TASS that the MOD and Genshtab have proposed forming a new Arctic unified strategic command with the Northern Fleet as its basis.  The source claimed this Northern Fleet-Unified Strategic Command (SF-OSK or СФ-ОСК) would be a new de facto MD, even if it isn’t called one.

The Northern Fleet and major units and formations based in the north would be taken from the Western MD, and put into new groupings deployed in the Arctic, including on Novaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, and Franz Josef Land.  Ouch.

SK-OSK is supposed to be inter-departmental too, with FSB Border Guards added.  The whole thing would report to the MOD, Genshtab, and, at some point, the NTsUOG.

The proposal is reportedly with Putin now, and a decision is expected in the coming months.

To make matters more interesting, Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Anatoliy Sidorov was cool, perhaps even balky, when confronted by the possibility of an “Arctic OSK.”

He told media representatives last Friday that his troops need no additional knowledge, and his equipment no additional preparation, for service in Arctic conditions.  He would not comment on possibly losing a large part of his current command.  According to RIA Novosti, he said only, “When there are directives, we will fulfill them.”

ITAR-TASS last week also reported on a company-sized anti-terrorist exercise in the Northern Fleet.

Northern Fleet Anti-Terrorist Training (photo: Mil.ru)

Northern Fleet Anti-Terrorist Training (photo: Mil.ru)

But there’s no “Al Qaida in the Arctic” yet.  Only Greenpeace.

Russia’s Arctic is enormous, and it is likely to be increasingly important, but not necessarily as the next big theater of war.  Naturally, Moscow wants to prepare for contingencies, but it’s already prepared and positioned as well as the few other regional players.  The money, time, and attention might be better spent on more palpable threats.  But, as Byers pointed out, the Arctic seems to be good politics.

Russia 2030

Global Trends 2030:  Alternative Worlds

Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds

The NIC has released its latest Global Trends publication.  Hat tip to Newsru.com and Igor Korotchenko for taking note of it.  As usual, and rightly, the document focuses more on “megatrends,” and less on individual countries.  Nevertheless, here are excepts of its forecast for Russia.

Under the “Changing Calculations of Key Players,” the NIC says:

Russia’s strategic calculations will depend to a great extent on whether Russian leaders decide to increase Russia’s integration into the international system and mitigate the threat of future armed conflict or whether they choose to continue Russia’s relative isolation and mistrust of others, exacerbating interstate tensions. Russia has serious concerns regarding the threat posed by a rapidly expanding China, particularly Beijing’s growing appetite for natural resources which could eventually encroach upon the Russian Far East and Siberia. Russian leaders believe that they need to be wary of the potential for the US and NATO to intervene in a conflict involving Russia and one of the former Soviet republics.”

The section on military trends has the following:

Nuclear Disfavor vs. Nuclear Renaissance. Nuclear ambitions in the US and Russia over the last 20 years have evolved in opposite directions. Reducing the role of nuclear weapons in US security strategy is a US objective, while Russia is pursuing new concepts and capabilities for expanding the role of nuclear weapons in its security strategy.”

The following appears in a textbox entitled “Russia:  Potential Global Futures.”

“Russia’s role in the world during the next two decades will be shaped by the rising challenges it faces at home as well as in the global environment. Russia’s economy is its Achilles’ heel. Its budget is heavily dependent on energy revenue; efforts to modernize the economy have made little progress; and its aging of the workforce will be a drag on economic growth.”

“Russia’s population is projected to decline from almost 143 million in 2010 to about 130 million in 2030. Although Russia’s fertility rate is similar to that of many European countries and aging populations are also a drag of European economies, life expectancy is about 15 years lower for Russians than for Europeans: since 2007 the size of the Russian workforce has been declining and it will continue to do so for the next two decades.”

“However, Russia’s greatest demographic challenge could well be integrating its rapidly growing ethnic Muslim population in the face of a shrinking ethnic Russian population. There are now about 20 million Muslims in Russia, comprising about 14 percent of the population. By 2030, that share is projected to grow to about 19 percent. Russia’s changing ethnic mix already appears to be a source of growing social tensions.”

“To enhance its economic outlook, Russia will need to improve the environment for foreign investment and create opportunities for Russian exports of manufactured goods. Russia’s entry into World Trade Organization (WTO ) should provide a boost to these efforts and help Moscow to diversify the economy: by one estimate Russia’s membership in the WTO could provide a substantial boost to the economy, adding 3 percent to GDP in the short term and 11 percent over the longer term.”

“Russia’s relations with the West and China are also likely to be a critical factor in determining whether Russia moves toward becoming a more stable, constructive global player during the next two decades. We see three possibilities:”

1. Russia could become more of a partner with others, most probably, in a marriage of convenience, not of values. Russia’s centuries-long ambivalence about its relationship with the West and outside is still at the heart of the struggle over Russia’s strategic direction.”

2. Russia might continue in a more or less ambivalent relationship with the other powers, but over the next 20 years this path would likely be a more troublesome one for international cooperation if Russia rebuilds its military strength and must contend with an increasingly powerful China.”

3. Russia could become a very troublesome country, trying to use its military advantage over its neighbors to intimidate and dominate. This outcome would be most likely if a Russian leader were facing rising public discontent over sagging living standards and darkening economic prospects and is looking to rally nationalist sentiments by becoming much more assertive in the Near Abroad.”

There’s not a lot new here.  But it can’t go without comment.

Are the Russians really not integrated into the “international system?”  Or do they obstruct because they don’t like the outcomes of the “system’s” operation?  Moscow will probably never (at least not for a long, long time) agree with Western views on mitigating a future armed conflict, especially in a former Soviet republic.  Russia always evinces more worry about the U.S. and NATO despite the claim of its “serious concerns” about a threat from China.

One can’t be sure what’s meant by “pursuing new concepts and capabilities” for nuclear warfighting.  The Russians are active developing their strategic nuclear forces for two reasons.  First, conventional force problems.  Second, U.S. ballistic missile defense.  Both require ensuring their deterrent is viable, now and somewhat down the road.

Yes, it’s the economy stupid (and demographics too).  It’s hard for anyone to say what will happen with Russia’s economy, but the latter’s pretty much destiny at this point.  Russia will need more than a better foreign investment climate and WTO to improve its long-term economic prospects.  If years of windfall hydrocarbon revenues don’t do it, perhaps open politics, impartial rule-of-law, and serious anti-corruption efforts might be the path to a modernized, diversified, and stronger economy.

Are Russia’s external relations with the West and China critical in its  behavior as a “global player?”  Or does that behavior stem more from the country’s internal evolution or lack thereof?

The three possibilities look pretty familiar — pretty good Russia, not as good Russia, and bad Russia.  We’ve had the first and second mostly, and a taste of the third occasionally, over the last 20 years.  And elements of one and two, or two and three, can occur at the same time.

Overall, the Russian discussion in Global Trends 2030 is disappointing.

After the Pact

Twenty years after the Warsaw Pact, VTsIOM asked Russians what they think, looking back, about the former Soviet glacis in Eastern Europe.

The poll was done 18-19 June with 1,600 respondents in 138 populated areas of 46 RF subjects, and a margin of error not exceeding 3.4%.

First and foremost, two-thirds (66%) of those surveyed didn’t know or remember why the Warsaw Pact existed.

Asked which time period was most secure, calm, and stable internationally, 55% said the 1960s-1980s, 4% said the 1990s, the Yeltsin era, and only 28% said the present day.  Four years ago, the numbers were 47%, 5%, and 34% respectively.

According to VTsIOM, those groups most likely to think the Soviet era most secure are Communists, pensioners, the poorly-educated, and non-Internet users.  Those most likely to see today as more stable are United Russia members, young people, the well-educated, and Internet users.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents look back on the Pact as a defensive, peaceloving, and stabilizing force.  Only 6% say it was militaristic, or held Eastern European countries in an unfree condition.

Eighty percent think Russia lost more than it won when the Pact dissolved twenty years ago.  Ten years ago, 78 percent thought Russia lost more.

Finally, those surveyed were asked if Russia needs, or doesn’t need, to create an international military-political bloc like the Warsaw Pact or NATO.  Overall, 51% of respondents said it’s needed, 23% said it’s not, and 26% found it difficult to answer.  This question was broken out some along the political spectrum without many significant variations.

VTsIOM missed the chance to ask if respondents know Russia already has an international military-political alliance.  Their answers to a question about the Collective Security Treaty Organization would be fascinating, to be sure.

The answers to the questions that were asked are a little surprising and disturbing.  Some of them can be attributed simply to feckless nostalgia or the persistence of Cold War propaganda.  Some are due to a tendency to equate (or confuse) domestic or internal well-being with the country’s external security situation.  Finally, some may come from genuinely perceived threats and insecurities Russians feel today.

The Foggy Goal of the GPV (Part I)

In its February issue, Sovershenno sekretno’s Vladimir Spasibo examines the State Program of Armaments, 2011-2020, and tries to say if Russia can afford it.  Or more importantly, whether the new GPV makes sense given that Russia is unlikely to go to war with NATO, the U.S. or China.  Spasibo also casts a critical eye at whether the OPK is up to the task of fulfilling the GPV.  This author doesn’t vouch for Mr. Spasibo’s numbers and math; they are relayed as in the original.  But his arguments are interesting and useful.

Spasibo says, after 2013, the GPV’s 22 trillion rubles [19 trillion for the Armed Forces] will amount to almost 4 trillion annually for the military, or 8 percent of Russia’s GDP as compared with 5 percent in the U.S. and 2-3 percent in other NATO countries.  Buried a little down in the text, he cites Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov on the 1.2 trillion ruble State Defense Order for 2010, and Prime Minister Putin’s assertion that this amount will triple in 2013.

And the military actually wanted more — 36 trillion, which Spasibo claims would be 15 percent of GDP, an amount equal to the Soviet defense burden before the USSR’s collapse.  He asks if this isn’t too much for a country just emerged from an economic crisis.  And what threat is this colossal military budget directed against?

He turns to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s explanation to Der Spiegel:  terrorism, proliferation, and NATO expansion.

Spasibo suggests the thrifty French defense reform which, for less than Russia’s 22 trillion rubles, “Created a small, balanced grouping with modern equipment.  Capable of instant reaction and an adequate response to any threat to France’s interests.”  He continues:

“The approach of the current Russian military, more precisely civil-military, leadership toward reform of the Armed Forces is somewhat similar.  The preconditions, it’s true, are different, and the goals are foggier.”

Who, asks Spasibo, are Russia’s enemies, and against whom is it supposed to fight?  The Military Doctrine and other pronouncements make it sound like the answer is the U.S. and NATO, as well as nonstate irregular armed forces inside and outside Russian Federation borders . . . leaving Moscow to prepare both VKO against a high-tech enemy with highly accurate long-range weapons, and low-tech enemies conducting guerrilla warfare and sabotage-terrorist actions.

Spasibo then turns to thinking about which services and defense enterprises will get GPV money:

  • According to its commander, the RVSN will replace 80 percent of its ICBM inventory (roughly 300 missiles) by the end of 2016 for a price that Spasibo puts at 1.9 trillion rubles.
  • Spasibo thinks VKO and PRO might cost 3 trillion by 2020.
  • The Air Forces are looking to renew 70 percent of their aircraft, 1,500 aircraft in all including 350 new combat aircraft for 3.8 trillion.
  • Spasibo believes the Ground Troops will get 7.6 trillion to replace combat vehicles including 60 percent of their tanks and BMPs, and 40 percent of their BTRs, that are over 10 years old.
  • And the Navy, as reported elsewhere, will get 4.7 trillion.

That all adds to 21 trillion rubles.

Makarov Interview

Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer published an interview with the Chief of the General Staff, Army General Nikolay Makarov last Tuesday.  It’s not exactly a hard-ball interview.  But it’s fairly consistent with his other statements.  Among the priorities, preserving mobilization appears again.  Inter-service C2 in the new OSKs is a big theme.  He can’t explain why the Air Forces aren’t getting more new aircraft, and PVO sounds like it’s destined for joining VKO under the Space Troops. 

VPK asked about the possibility of changes in Russia’s military doctrine following the NATO-Russia summit and more talk of a strategic partnership.  Makarov said the approach of NATO infrastructure to Russia’s borders and the alliance’s continued “open door” policy vis-a-vis Ukraine and Georgia are still factors in Russia’s military doctrine.  Therefore, there’s no need to adjust it.

Makarov expounded on the concept of force and force structure development [строительство] to 2020 adopted by President Medvedev last April 19.  Its main measures include:

  • Establishment of the air-space (aerospace) defense (VKO) system;
  • Formation of the optimal composition of inter-service troop (force) groupings on strategic axes;
  • Supporting mobilization of military formations and troop groupings;
  • Establishing modern command and control systems;
  • Deploying military towns of a new troop basing system;
  • Reequipping formations and units with new and future types of armaments and military equipment;
  • Resolving social protection issues of servicemen.

Asked about military science and operational training, Makarov said the main task of the military-scientific complex is to “support the training and employment of the Armed Forces in their new profile, especially inter-service training of the military command and control organs” of the new MDs / OSKs. 

Makarov admitted that Russia lags behind developed countries in reconnaissance and command and control, and is still using communications systems developed in the 1990s.  He continued:

“Another problem is the fact that every service and troop branch of the Armed Forces developed its own means of automation and communications without looking at the others.  The command and control systems of the Ground Troops, Navy, and Air Forces didn’t interface with each other, that lowered the possibilities for controlling troop groupings on the operational-strategic and operational level.”

He says the General Staff has given the OPK requirements for high-tech digital reconnaissance and communications systems.  Industry is already developing a fundamentally new, sixth generation radio system with digital signal processing to implement a net organization in radio communications.  He says it’s being built as a unitary, integrated net at all levels, from the General Staff to the individual soldier on the battlefield.  Command and control systems will get 300 billion rubles under GPV-2020, according to Makarov.

Sounding very much the net-centric warfare disciple, Makarov says the main task is to form a unitary information space uniting reconnaissance, navigation, command and control, and new generation weapons.

Makarov doesn’t have a good answer when asked why the Air Forces don’t have a single fully reequipped unit despite increased defense expenditures.  He maintains they are getting new aircraft and their units are now all permanently combat ready and fully equipped and manned.

On aerospace defense, Makarov says PVO, PRO, SPRN, and KKP (space monitoring) will be concentrated in the hands of one commander, but:

“I’d like to note this won’t be a simple, mechanistic merger of different military entities under the leadership of a new strategic command.  Their deep integration and echelonment by mission, information exchange, and interception fire is envisaged.  We’ve already started fulfilling the initial measures on this issue.”

Obviously speaking much prior to last week’s news about reversing cuts in the officer ranks, Makarov addressed the moratorium on inducting new cadets.  He said 78.5 percent of 2010 VVUZ graduates became officers.  Others, he says, who wanted to stay in the service were temporarily placed in lower-ranking [i.e. sergeant] posts, but will participate in command training and form a cadre reserve for filling officer positions.

Lastly, Makarov talked about the new military pay system coming next year.  Military retirees have been especially concerned about its effect on pensions.  Makarov didn’t say much to assuage them.  He said there will be no difference in pensions depending on when servicemen retired, and a commission under Finance Ministry leadership is working on the issue.  That will probably reassure army pensioners.

Grinyayev and Fomin’s Conclusion

This is a downpayment on Russia’s Armed Forces:  Year 2010.  You can read about the authors here.  The report’s not great, but it has interesting information not printed elsewhere.

This picks up on Fomin’s earlier interview.  Next look for their chapter on the OPK.

The gist of the conclusion is this.  There’s been no rebirth of the armed forces, in fact, many negative trends are now irreversible.  There’s been no real rearmament despite higher budgets.  The military doesn’t know how to set clear goals, and is planning to fight abstract threats like terrorism, instead of real ones like the U.S.  Russia has money, but has invested it in currency reserves instead of its armed forces.

Here’s a translation of their conclusion:

Conclusion

There’s a myth that in the last ten years an incredible militarization of the country and rebirth of military power not quite to the level of the Soviet Union has occurred.  As the analysis conducted showed, this does not correspond to reality – in reality a degradation of the Russian VS [Armed Forces] has taken place.

Negative processes which began in the 1990s have reached their apogee today and are close to completion, because many negative tendencies in army development have taken on an irreversible character.  Numerous reforms are confirmation of this:  when everything is normal, reforms are not required.  With growing expenditures, real rearmament is not happening and new equipment is not entering the forces as a practical matter.  The defense-industrial complex is still relying on developments from Soviet times and no substantially new developments in post-Soviet times have been made that could even go into experimental, much less into production use.

The analysis showed that the degradation of the Russian VS is conditioned on two main causes.

  1. The absence of a distinct system of goal establishment for the functioning and development of the VS.  The affair has gone to the point that many military experts and analysts (not speaking of officials) are completely ashamed to clearly designate possible military enemies, and are trying to implement military organizational development under abstract sources of danger and threats.  Any ordinary person understands that today and in the near future, there are only three such enemies:  the U.S., NATO, and China.  International terrorism is not an independent force, but only an instrument in the hands of the mentioned groups of countries.  It should be clearly understood that ambiguity in goal establishment is just as ruinous for the condition and development of a system as a lack of resources.
  2. Nor is everything right when it comes to resources.  More precisely, it is obvious they are insufficient even to hold a steady position.  Miracles do not happen in program planning:  if the amount of allocated resources drops to such a critical level, no improvement in the command and control system or reforms can make up for this.

One does not need to speak of the country’s difficult financial problems.  The country has money.  In 2006 and 2007, $125-175 billion was transferred to the country’s hard currency reserves, respectively.  $175 billion is, at the year average rate of 25 rubles/$, approximately 4.36 trillion rubles, that is 5 times more than all MO [Ministry of Defense] expenditures in 2007.  This money was transferred into long-term, low-interest, and ‘highly reliable’ U.S. securities.  So they assert.  It is simpler to say an unreimbursed investment in the American economy.  For this money, it would have been possible to maintain another five armies like the current Russian one.  Even in the crisis of 2009, when we experienced a federal budget deficit, from the middle of March until the end of the year, nearly $60  billion was transferred into hard currency reserves, i.e. nearly 2 trillion is the volume of financing for another 1.5 such armies like Russia’s. 

But the financing of the Russian VS is not happening on the necessary scale.  As a result, the real possibilities of Russia are being cut by leaps and bounds.  This affects both military power and political influence abroad.

Dollar’s Inevitable Collapse Threatens Russia

Segodnia.ru recently publicized a report entitled Armed Forces:  Year 2010, prepared by the Center for Strategic Assessments and Forecasts (TsSOiP or ЦСОиП).  It interviewed one of the report’s authors – retired Colonel and Doctor of Technical Sciences, Aleksandr Fomin – about the state of Russia’s military and threats to Russia.

How does one characterize Colonel Fomin?  In this interview, his thoughts range from a little far right to far left / neo-Marxist.  Yet he sounds like President Medvedev in 2009 calling for a new world financial order to break the dollar’s hold on the international economy.  But that resemblance disappears once he starts excoriating Russia’s elite — co-conspirator in U.S. domination of Russia.

He generally argues the dollar’s inevitable collapse will lead to conflict or war, for which Russia is poorly prepared.  His arguments will appeal to some, but they represent a somewhat simplistic view of international economics and finance.  The rest is a short geopolitical treatise we’ve heard many times about how Russia arrived in its current condition.

Take heart, however, the analytical report is more interesting and original, but it’s 40-odd pages, so some patience on your part will be required.

By way of foretaste, on with Fomin’s interview . . .

Asked simply what’s going on in the Russian Army, Fomin answers:

“There’s a myth that the incredible militarization of the country and rebirth of its military might almost to the level of the Soviet Union has happened in recent years.  This doesn’t correspond to reality – in reality, as the analysis shows, the Russian Armed Forces have degraded.”  

“If we look at the trend of general financing of the Armed Forces for the last 10 years , adjusted for inflation, then we get as a true expression of the financing volume are 4% increases per annum on average.  At such a growth rate, it’s possible only to offset depreciation, but not guarantee the development of the armaments system.  Now recall corruption, and you find that in reality the Armed Forces didn’t develop, but degraded.”

“Today, in the spirit of political correctness, it’s believed that Russia’s main military enemy is international terrorism. They’re ashamed to identify the U.S., NATO, and China as the real potential enemies.  But if we call things by their names, then today Russia is inferior to these probable enemies in the size of its Armed Forces by 20 times in the West and 35 times in the East.”

We’ll have to read his full report to figure out how he came up with these numbers. 

Fomin goes on to say that Russia’s nuclear weapons won’t save it either, since Moscow’s elite keep its money, and educates its children, in the West.  He concludes flatly:

“It is very probable that Russian nuclear weapons will never be employed.”

Next Fomin constructs his scenarios for future wars and threats to Russia:

“In the coming decades, and possibly, years the U.S. and EU’s problems with China will inevitably sharpen, the cause of them is the struggle for energy resources.  Iran, Pakistan and . . . Russia will be drawn into this confrontation.  They will start to use our country as a buffer in the military resolution of the China problem.”

The interviewer asks Fomin what threatens Russia externally, what geopolitical positions has it lost, which ones does it still hold?

“The main threat not just to Russia, but also the world as a whole comes from the virtual world financial system, based on the American dollar, which for a long time already hasn’t been supported by real assets and is held up only by U.S. military might, the potential of which allows them to oppose everyone else in the world.  But sooner or later this system will collapse, for internal reasons.  But however the collapse occurs, its agony (possibly the current financial crisis is the beginning of this agony) could plunge the world into the Third World War.”

“As already said above, today Russia is practically undefended.  Its political leadership, like the appanage princes of Rus in the 12th -13th centuries, are trying to hold off threats  by means of multibillion tribute payments allegedly into international reserves.  However, in Russia the easily accessible oil, could soon be gone:  according to expert evaluations, 30% of wells are already unprofitable.  Then Russia will simply be of no interest to the rest of the world . . . .”

“If we talk about Russia’s lost geopolitical positions, then of course – this is NATO’s expansion to the East, the reinforced U.S. role to Russia’s south (Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Georgia).  It’s possible to add the real threat of losing the Far East and Siberia to this.  They [NATO and U.S.] managed to spoil [Russia’s] relations with Ukraine, Belorussia, and Iran.”

Asked about the threat that Russia is becoming ensnared in U.S. “anti-Iran” policy, Fomin responds:

“. . . the U.S., economy of which is based on proliferating the dollar throughout the world and managing oil prices, has a very painful relationship to [Iran’s] nuclear energy development – to oil’s energy competitiveness.  Especially in the Near East.  In its relationship with Iran, Russia turns out to be hostage to its own financial system:  if the country holds its reserves in other countries’ hard currency, then it can’t oppose them on their main positions in the military-political sphere.  Some disagreements are possible, but there can’t be a lengthy tendency toward the complication of relations – in the case of a sharp worsening it would be easy to block hard currency accounts.”

“And, Russia for 20 years already has been unable to conduct an independent foreign policy, since it is tightly integrated into the world economic system dominated by the U.S.”

“Russia risks losing the remains of its authority among Muslim countries, after abrogating its earlier agreed supply of defensive weapons (in the first place, S-300 surface-to-air missile systems) to Iran.” 

Asked again about threats, Fomin says:

“External threats have been discussed above.  To this it’s possible to add that, as a result of the actions of the financial authorities of the G20 countries, the fundamental bases of the current crisis haven’t been eliminated.  Because of the fact that some paper (toxic assets) has been traded for others (newly printed dollars, euros, and pounds), the situation hasn’t changed principally.  The disease has been driven inside and its symptoms are still appearing to a lesser degree.  But it definitely will crawl outside again.  Therefore, the financial-economic crises will continue further.  Sooner or later the American dollar unsupported by real assets, as a world currency, must collapse.  Several types of dollar exist already now — for internal and external demand.  The Americans are trying to do everything possible meanwhile to ‘save face.’  Provoking situations to create the objective appearance of a reason for the collapse of the dollar are possible:  a terrorist attack on the U.S., war in the Near East, aggravation of the situation in the Far East.  A new world war which will be catastrophic for Russia as an extreme case.”

“Now about internal threats.  For clarity, in every case, we are distinguishing two understandings:  country and state.  It’s possible to love your country while being critical toward the state, which imagines itself as society’s management apparatus.”

“If we talk about the country as a whole, then the main internal threats are well-known:  complex demographic situation, a lopsided well-developed raw materials economy, low labor productivity, conditioned by the low wage level of labor, proliferation of narcotics, brain drain abroad, degradation of science, culture, education, health care, pensions, national defense, law and order, agricultural economy, neglected transportation and ecological problems, corruption.  In the coming decade, the aggravation of energy problems, connected with the exhaustion of easily accessible supplies of Russian oil.”

“But there is still one more serious problem which is the source of all the rest.  This is the multibillion outflow of capital from Russia, including into so-called international reserves (it’s simpler to say into the financial systems of Western countries).  It bleeds the entire economy, and doesn’t allow for moving off a dead stop in solving the majority of urgent problems.  If there were no capital outflow, many internal Russian threats would be eliminated in some time.”

Fomin goes on to argue that current capital outflow (legal and otherwise) is more burdensome and damaging to Russia’s economy than tribute paid to the Mongols centuries ago.  He says international reserves accumulated in 2010 could have plugged the gap in Russia’s pension fund.

Fomin now turns to internal threats to the state.  Number one is the populace’s increased protest activity.  He says the average Russian understands clearly that the state exists not to improve his welfare, but only the quality of life of 1 percent of Russians, without, of course, provoking large-scale protests from the other 99 percent. 

Among other threats, he cites hypertrophic centralization and underdeveloped local government, inflation caused by capital outflow, low wages, and unemployment all leading back to protest activity.

Fomin notes that Russia dropped to 154th (from 146th) on TI’s international corruption index this year.

He observes that the Russian government failed the test of August’s forest fires, causing a mortality spike equal to the number of men lost by the USSR in Afghanistan.  He calls Prime Minister Putin’s web cameras for monitoring the rebuilding of housing a symptom of the level of Russia’s corruption and ungovernability.

Fomin goes on to label major internal problems — education, health care, agriculture, housing, national defense, culture, science, ecology — the first four he notes are ‘national projects.’  Agriculture he puts on the level of military security in importance.  But rather than develop it, the country’s elite chooses to buy food abroad with oil and gas profits.  Agricultural imports support the livelihood of many middlemen in the process.

Fomin has one last assessment of Russia’s current elite class:

“At present, Russian state authorities and the so-called ‘elite’ view the country as a private firm working solely to get profits and the sooner, the better.  Profit is the main goal of the private firm.  It’s not for the realization of long-term goals.  Its main mission:  collect capital, send money abroad, make itself comfortable, and invest the money in a profitable business.”