Category Archives: Force Modernization

Tanks a Lot


GABTU Chief General-Lieutenant Shevchenko

Some data on Russia’s armor programs appearing in the media prior to Tank Troops’ Day (11 September) didn’t get too much notice.

RIA Novosti interviewed the chief of the MOD’s Main Automotive and Armor Directorate (GABTU), General-Lieutenant Aleksandr Shevchenko on 9 September.

General-Lieutenant Shevchenko noted that the MOD plans to “modernize” new Tigr armored vehicles, and not just by mounting a 30-mm gun.  They will, not surprisingly, go by the name Tigr-2.  But no other details.

Shevchenko confirmed Uralvagonzavod’s announcement that it has delivered more than 1,000 T-72B3 tanks.  He also indicated that the MOD will receive 300 improved T-72B3. The improved T-72B3, he says, will have a better engine and better defensive and targeting systems.

Some number of Russian T-90 tanks nearing the end of their service lives will be modernized under the “Proryv-3” program, according to the GABTU chief.  The resulting tank is supposed to be superior to the original T-90.

Regarding the Armata armored vehicle family, Shevchenko reported that the “experimental” lot of T-14 tanks will conclude initial field trials in 2016 and move into state testing.  This will be completed in 2017 and followed by formal state acceptance of the T-14.


T-14 tanks en route to Red Square (photo: RIA Novosti / Yevgeniy Biyatov)

Shevchenko added that the Armata BMP (T-15) and BREM, or armored recovery vehicle (T-16) also remain in preliminary testing and will finish state testing next year.

Similarly, the Kurganets family — BMP, BTR, and BREM — from Kurganmashzavod as well as the wheeled Bumerang BTR from Arzamasmashzavod are on the same schedule.


Kurganets BMP

Asked about the impact of Russia’s difficult economic situation and “corrections” in the GOZ on these programs, the GABTU chief said:

“Testing of ‘Armata,’ ‘Kurganets’ and ‘Bumerang’ is fully financed, and we will give it priority because they are the base for the future.”

Of course, paying for testing is one thing.  Ordering a production run is another.  The Russian Army will eventually have to make some choices between these new armored vehicles.  It won’t be able to afford all of them.

Shevchenko added that these vehicles are being tested in arctic, mountain, and desert conditions.  Other army systems (artillery, air defense, etc.) will be mounted on the same chassis.  Robotic armored vehicles are in the works.  He said the MOD doesn’t have a requirement for a wheeled tank.

Dizzy with Success

On on 15 September, Aleksandr Staver and Roman Skomorokhov asked whether President Vladimir Putin, like his predecessor Stalin, has decided to curb (at least temporarily) his key program.  Today it’s rearmament rather than collectivization.

The authors assess the program and its problems from a conservative viewpoint.

They assert the arms program is not being fulfilled and the MOD budget is being cut (whether admitted or not).  In particular, they contend, it is new weapons programs that are suffering, so they argue for cheaper modernization of existing armaments.

Debate over rearmament is a constant.  Staver and Skomorokhov don’t even mention that the start of the next arms program was delayed, or that the MOD and Finance Ministry are far apart on funding it.

For his part, Putin routinely says the current GPV will not be cut, and the armed forces will have 70 percent modern arms and equipment in 2020.

But 70 percent, according to the authors of this op-ed, is not enough.  More is needed.

Then they turn to corruption.  They allege that the ones who are “dizzy with the success” of the arms program are the ones who are stealing from it.  They say a return to 1937 would put an end to this, and to other problems with rearmament.

Recall that even Putin and United Russia once talked about bringing treason charges for non-fulfillment of the GOZ, but nothing came of it.

So much for preamble.

“Dizzy with Success, or ‘Alarm’ in the Russian Army”

“We are so used to the fact that our army is powerful that we almost don’t notice, or more precisely, don’t wish to notice that light ‘clouds’ threatening to turn into bad storms have appeared over Russia’s VS [Armed Forces].  We talk and write with satisfaction about our aircraft which, at a minimum, don’t lag behind Western ones. We ‘procrastinate’ with Armata and its offshoots, comparing it to the best models of Western armies.  We discuss the advantages of our new missiles and systems.”

“And now, today exactly, heard here and there are announcements by various government bureaucrats and army chiefs about delaying arms procurement to another time, so to speak.  About delayed launches of ships.  About adjusting the schedule for delivering something to the troops.”

“So what’s with this.  Why is this happening?  Recently all officials, including the president and the prime minister, together talked about fulfilling the defense order almost as a matter of honor for Russia. Don’t many remember Putin’s April statement about the unconditional fulfillment of the state defense order?  And can’t many say exactly how much it is fulfilled and whether it is fulfilled?”

“The entire thing is that the necessary money is not in the budget!  The crisis, which we are ‘successfully overcoming,’ still has us in its claws.  We’ve talked a lot about the fact that sanctions hurt Europe and the USA, and how they [sanctions] are going to benefit us.  We are developing, increasing output, winning markets…  On any analytical program on our TV it’s possible to hear a full assortment of such pronouncements.”

“The support of the president and the real successes of our servicemen in Syria inspire hope in us that all this will come true.  The government will find money both for us and for the army.  Industry will begin to work not only well, but both quickly and cheaply.  New ideas of [arms] designers will be realized in the shortest time.”

“Prime Minister Medvedev’s decision, signed on 5 September, to adjust the GOZ for 2016 was only the first call.  It is understood that today there’s no clear data on this question.  Naturally, it’s possible to suppose that defense sector enterprises won’t receive some part of the promised resources.  And this, in its turn, means that GOZ plans for next year will be ruined.  A snowball of corrections will accumulate gradually from the details.”

“And not hiding the fact, by the way, does him credit, Putin himself already talks about the fact that by 2018 our army will be rearmed at 70%, and the state order will be reduced.  And he talks about what is needed to take the place of the defense order, but not pots and pans.”

“From the one side, one who is forewarned is forearmed.  But from the other?  It’s hard to guess with what enterprises will be occupied, with a miracle which drags them out of the debt hole.  And where will workers who turn out to be redundant go at this moment?  But we have already passed through such a scenario.”

“However, certain specifics have already ‘hatched.’ The Ministry of Defense plans to make the famous “Armata” the main battle tank by 2020.  With this aim, the purchase of more than 2,000 of such vehicles for military units has been proposed. According to the tank producer’s data, the order was already for 2,300 tanks.  But not long ago on the Ministry of Defense website an altogether different figure appeared: there is a plan to buy up to 70 “Armatas” in 2017-2019.”

“Naturally, the reasons for changing the [state defense] order aren’t named.  I think over some time versions about some shortcomings, about the modernization of what we already have, [and] some others.  Actually, the reason is banal.  They are cutting the military budget and will cut it.  It’s completely logical, you can’t take money from the shelf if there’s nothing on it.  So folks say.”

“The navy’s situation looks even more confused.  Even the blind see the necessity for modernizing the Russian fleet.  Ships, just like people, age, lose their striking power, and turn into respected veterans.  But we need warriors.  And these ‘warriors’ need to be built.  A lot of them.  The Soviet legacy can no longer guarantee a worthy answer to an aggressor.”

“It seems as though construction began from 2007.  Missile boats, small ships and even submarines began to leave the docks for testing.  New submarines, frigates were laid down at the wharves.  The rebirth had begun.”

“Our excessive belief in the ‘love and friendship of fraternal peoples’ became the first ‘obstacle.’  When construction was stopped by the Ukrainian side [sic].  They stopped supplying Ukrainian engines to us.  Actually, the question of ‘their’ components in combat equipment and armaments arose already in the last century.  And they successfully solved it in the USSR.  But in Russia they put it off ‘for later.'”

“Then the ‘rockslide’ of announcements by military and government bureaucrats on cutbacks in the needs of the fleet began.  I remind the readers about the project 11711 BDK [i.e. an LST].  A large assault ship which was needed to replace Soviet BDKs.  In 2004, a requirement for 6 of such ships for the navy was announced.  Then they decided to review the project.”

“Today we see two ships.  Two instead of six.  It’s been decided to shut down the project.  ‘Ivan Gren’ and ‘Petr Morgunov’ — that’s all that the fleet will receive after testing.”

“It’s possible to talk endlessly about the submarine fleet.  About new missile submarines.  But even they, alas, for the most part remain only projects.  The construction of boats of such a class is a very expensive undertaking.  And this means still unmanageable.”

“Even the Rocket Troops of Strategic Designation [RVSN] will not receive everything promised.  Although, for all times the priority was always right on these troops.  No, ‘Yars’ and similar systems will be supplied.  But land-based ‘Sarmat’ systems most probably won’t be deployed to the original plan.”

“I recall it was planned to replace by 2020 the already aged ‘Voyevod’ missiles (known to most by the NATO ‘nickname’ ‘Satan’) which have served out their time.  Today it’s understood that these plans aren’t being fulfilled.  Today already.  In the best case, such a replacement will occur in 2021.  Or a little later.”

“So where’s the way out of the situation which has been created?  Is there one generally?  I believe there is.  And today the way out is to use those developments which exist and have already been tested in combat.”

“When the VDV [Airborne Troops] commander announced the establishment of tank and BMP companies in units subordinate to him, what kind of vehicles did he mention?  He talked about T-72B3 tanks and BMP-2s.  I hope no one will chide General Shamanov for stupidity and a lack of desire to have the most powerful and modern weaponry?  So why exactly these vehicles?”

“Simply because both the tank and the combat vehicle have huge modernization potential.  And in the coming decades this potential will be used.  And mass serial production has reduced the cost of this equipment in the extreme.  And long use in the troops has revealed practically all ‘minuses’ of these vehicles.”

“Modernization of the T-72 to the T-72B3 level costs a bit more than 50 million rubles.  In other words, for one ‘Armata’ we can have several T-72B3s right away.   Naturally, the T-90 would be more desirable, but it is cost prohibitive.”

“It’s exactly the same situation with the famous T-50 system.  The aircraft is ready. Moreover, it’s been put in series production.  And in the plans it’s supposed to be the main fighter.  This ‘hulk’ looks impressive in our plans.  In 2020 we should already have 60 fighters in the force.  And in the future their production should increase.”

“In reality we’ll get exactly the same as ‘Armata.’  We want to do a ‘split,’ but our britches get in the way…  It will be good if we have a regiment of such aircraft in 2020.”

“But we have the fully combat capable, even compared to the American F-22 and F-35, Su-30MK.  And, according to the assertions of its builders, the potential of these aircraft is far from used up.”

“And what’s the result?  As a result, we see the famous ‘half-full glass.’  Part of the readers are now sighing sadly.  The army is ‘penned up.’  Another part thinks that the Russian Army, in the shape which we have it, can really confront the enemy.  The third part giggles happily.  They have failed to modernize.  Oafs.  We told them…”

“It’s not for nothing that I called this article by a Stalinist name.  This isn’t a greatness mania or a wish to show off knowledge of the works of the ‘leader of peoples.’  We truly have become a little ‘dizzy.’  Not everything has succeeded right away.”

“I generally believe that the right way to move is walking or running.  But not ‘leapfrog’ jumps.  Movement should be measured and in one direction.  Therefore, the modernization of the army should continue.  Continue, no matter what.  But not by busting a gut.”

“I would be wary of talking about our weapons and combat equipment like junk.  Particularly after what this equipment showed in Syrian battles.  Just the same to talk also about the superiority of Western armies in some components.  But if we view the army like the world, a ‘gap’ will always be found.  But this gap is always ‘plugged’ by something else.”

“The dizziness quickly passes if you leave the centrifuge or wheel.  If, of course, you have a properly functioning outer office staff.  I think healthy people serve in our Ministry of Defense.”

“But just one moment.  No one needs to have the fact that our bureaucrats are not simply greedily stealing everything possible explained to them.  It’s a rare day when the Internet and television don’t report about the latest stuff that’s ‘flown off.'”

“It’s necessary to stop those who ‘have become dizzy with success.’  With the methods of the person I quoted.  Severe and long-term.  Take that Zakharchenko.  9 billion rubles — that’s a great deal.  The T-90, for example, today costs about 120 million rubles.  That is 75 tanks laid in the brute’s hidey-holes.  Two battalions.  Not bad…”

“And this is one of the deputies…”

[Colonel Dmitriy Zakharchenko is, or was, deputy chief of Directorate T in the MVD’s Main Directorate of Economic Security and Countering Corruption until his arrest in early September.  The foreign currency equivalent of 8 billion rubles was found in his apartment.  See RIA Novosti for an early report on his case.]

“And if they search his relatives, it’s certain it would be possible to scrape together a brigade easily and without effort.”

“‘Effective managers’ of our times have shown that they can only steal effectively.  From the budget just the same as from the GOZ.”

“It’s necessary to change the situation really at the root.  And tear this root with a crunch and snap on the image and likeness of ’37.  With the confiscation of everything that’s possible.”

“Only then will the state defense order be fulfilled on time and without problems.  And the president won’t have to shuffle, talking about how 70 percent is sufficient so we should relax.”

“So isn’t it?”

Tough Times at UVZ

Maybe Russia’s economy is muddling through its downturn.  But for some major enterprises, the situation seems somewhat worse.  Tank and railcar maker Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) is a case in point.



In early August, RBK reported that Gazprombank is prepared to refinance UVZ’s 200-billion-ruble ($3 billion) debt.  The Russian government may kick in nearly 15 billion rubles ($230 million) of loan guarantees.

The 100-percent state-owned UVZ would use state guarantees to refinance part (most, all?) of 21 billion rubles ($325 million) in bank credits due this year.  Alfa-Bank, Sberbank, Gazprombank, and Svyaz-Bank are its primary creditors.

In June, Alfa-Bank went to court to have the tank producer declared bankrupt over 9 billion ($140 million) of a 16-billion-ruble debt.  The case was to be heard on 8 August, but UVZ needed to stop the bankruptcy case – by reaching agreement with Alfa-Bank – to receive the state loan guarantees.  With the guarantees, Gazprombank decided to refinance UVZ’s debts on 9 June.

Now Alfa-Bank denies it ever filed a bankruptcy suit against UVZ.  But a Minpromtorg official told RBK that the bank and tank maker reached “certain agreements,” and the former will soon lift its case against the latter.

According to RBK, UVZ reported record losses in 2015, mainly due to reduced sales of railcars and higher interest rates.  The corporation indicated that 58 percent of earnings came from military sales and 15 percent from civilian sales, with the balance from freight handling operations.

UVZ Deputy General Director Aleksey Zharich said the state cut the advance payment for its GOZ deliveries, forcing the company to turn to the banks.  It also needed to import equipment which doubled in price thanks to the weak ruble.

Overall, the Minpromtorg official said, “Indicators like these [for UVZ] haven’t been seen since the 1990s, the economic crisis has brought a fall in the volume of rail transport.”  But UVZ is hopeful for improved results in 2016.

The New York Times covered UVZ’s situation in February when it reported that the plant’s railcar workers had their wages cut by one-third while its military side was still “humming” on full pay.  One employee said then that workers on the civilian side had been showing up, getting paid, but actually doing little work for a year.  In June, RBK reported that UVZ furloughed 3,000 workers from railcar production.

What does UVZ’s situation mean for Russian defense?

In the short run, it means the T-14 Armata tank is likely to come out of UVZ slowly.  UVZ sent 20 tanks to the army for “troop testing” in the spring.  General Director Oleg Siyenko said in June that UVZ will deliver 100 tanks to the MOD in 2017 and 2018.  That’s a far cry from the 2,300 Armata tanks expected under GPV 2011-2020.

T-14 Armata

T-14 Armata

Meanwhile, Siyenko has been asking the Russian government for much larger loan guarantees – 60 billion rubles ($940 million) – to repay bank credits coming due in 2017 and 2018, according to RBK.  Some portion of this may be needed to retool the lines for serial Armata production.

It’s entirely possible UVZ might require a full-scale Kremlin-ordered bailout to be in position to produce Armata tanks by the hundreds.

S-500 in 2016?

Predictions of the imminent appearance of the new anti-air, anti-missile S-500 system come with regularity.  Last week’s press reports aren’t novel in this respect.

Deputy Aerospace Forces (VKS) CINC and Chief of Air and Missile Defense General-Lieutenant Viktor Gumennyy [Goo-MYO-knee] says Almaz-Antey is completing development work on the S-500, and the VKS will receive it “soon.” Hard to argue. We know it’s in development, and he doesn’t say what “soon” means.

TASS and RIA Novosti covered Gumennyy’s comments on Rossiya 24 television.

The prevailing forecast is that the S-500 will complete development, and appear with operational units on an “experimental” basis in 2017.

As recently as early 2015, Deputy Defense Minister and procurement chief Yuriy Borisov predicted the S-500 wouldn’t complete development until 2017.

However, TASS reminds that VKS CINC General-Colonel Viktor Bondarev has said deliveries will start in 2016.  He’s an inveterate optimist; in 2012, he said 2013.

In any event, it’s a chance to review what’s claimed to date about the S-500.

The typical advertisement for the S-500 calls it a new generation, long-range surface-to-air missile with increased capability for high altitude (200 km) intercepts against ballistic missiles and RVs.  It can reportedly engage ten ballistic missiles simultaneously at a range of 600 km.  The S-500 is supposed to be superior to both the S-400 Triumf and U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3).

The system is supposed have 40N6M (possibly a longer-range mod of the S-400’s 400-km missile?) missiles as well as hypersonic 77N6-N and 77N6-N1 missile interceptors.  TASS reported that these anti-missile missiles were successfully tested in mid-2014.

According to Interfaks, GPV 2011-2020 calls for procurement of ten battalions (or five “regimental sets”) of the S-500.  Almaz-Antey’s original contract called for initial deliveries in 2015.

Noted by the regime or not, this is “GOZ breaking.” Some producers get in trouble for it; important ones sometimes don’t.

General-Lieutenant Gumennyy also reported that testing of the S-350 Vityaz SAM continues, and initial launches confirmed the system’s performance.  The S-350 will replace older Russian S-300PS SAMs.

Gumennyy said the share of “modern” SAMs and radars in Russia’s inventory is 45 percent.  Last December, the MOD indicated that 52 percent of all VKS weapons and equipment was “modern.”

P.S. President Vladimir Putin’s assistant for military-technical cooperation confirmed for Izvestiya today that Russia is negotiating sales of the S-400 system to China and India.

Third Iskander-M Brigade in Far East

The Eastern Military District’s third brigade of Iskander-M SRBMs is set to deploy to its base after initial training on the range in Astrakhan Oblast.  Interfaks-AVN and RIA Novosti covered the story yesterday.

The recipient is the Ussuriysk-based 5th Combined Arms Army’s 20th Missile Brigade at Spassk-Dalniy, Primorskiy Kray.

The first Iskander-M brigade in the Far East was the 35th Army’s 107th Missile Brigade in Birobidzhan in 2013.  The 36th Army’s 103rd Missile Brigade in Ulan-Ude got the Iskander-M last December.

The Russian Defense Ministry has said it intends to field two brigades of Iskander-M missiles each year until it replaces older Tochka / Tochka-U SRBMs.

MOD Collegium on 2015

Friday Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed a year-ending expanded meeting of the MOD Collegium.  Below are highlights from his speech, and from Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s.  Putin also met separately with Russia’s Military District (MD) commanders, but no transcript was made available.

Putin Addresses the Expanded Meeting (photo:

Putin Addresses the Expanded Meeting (photo:

According to, Putin told the Collegium that Russia’s intervention in Syria was prompted not by “incomprehensible abstract geopolitical interests,” nor by the “desire to train [military forces] and test new weapons systems,” although he called the latter “important.”  Rather Putin insisted Russian operations in Syria aim to stop the immediate threat ISIL terrorists pose to the Russian Federation.

Putin told his audience Russian assistance has enabled Damascus to take the offensive in several regions.  As far as other claims of success, the Supreme CINC said only:

“. . . the systematic employment of the forces of the VKS [Aerospace Forces] and Navy, and the use of the newest highly-accurate weapons systems has enabled us to deliver serious damage to the infrastructure of the terrorists, and therefore qualitatively change the situation in Syria.”

He vowed to protect Russian troops saying, “Any targets threatening the Russian grouping or our ground infrastructure will be destroyed immediately.”

Putin then turned to Russian Armed Forces developments and training.  He urged the military not to consider this year’s wartime preparation training by civilian authorities in 14 Russian Federation subjects to be a “secondary” mission.  He mentioned five (not surprising) points of emphasis about this year and next:

  • The updated five-year defense plan (2016-2020);
  • Rearmament and the effective use of the budget;
  • Strategic nuclear forces and aerospace defense;
  • Increasing the intensity of operational and tactical training;
  • Greater cooperation with allies, the CSTO in particular.

Again, he paused to note the need to eliminate shortcomings in territorial defense training in Russia’s regions.

Before turning the mic over to Shoygu, the president stated that the MOD has provided permanent or service housing to 146,000 servicemen over the last four years.

Defense Minister Shoygu outlined first the threat to Russia from an expanding NATO, then from ISIL.  He made the following significant points about 2015:

  • Russia’s armed forces are manned at 92 percent of their authorized level, including 352,000 contractees (i.e. more than the number of conscripts).
  • Six RS-24 Yars (SS-27 Mod 2) regiments were put into service.
  • The share of modern armaments in the RVSN is 51 percent.
  • Two Tu-160, three Tu-95MS, and five Tu-22M3 bombers were modernized.
  • SSBNs carry 56 percent modern weapons.
  • Overall, Russian strategic forces are 55 percent modern.
  • Eight new brigades of various types were formed in the Ground Troops.
  • The Ground Troops acquired 1,772 tanks and armored vehicles, 148 missile and artillery systems, 2,292 vehicles, and two brigade sets of Iskander-M.
  • Ground Troops’ arms and equipment are 35 percent modern.
  • The VKS acquired 243 aircraft of various types, 90 SAM and 208 radar systems.
  • The VKS are 52 percent modern.
  • The VKS operate 1,720 UAV systems against only 180 in 2011.
  • The Navy received two submarines and eight surface ships.
  • The Navy’s modern equipment constitutes 39 percent of its inventory.
  • The VDV’s modern arms are 41 percent of its total.
  • Overall, the armed forces now have 47 percent modern weapons and other equipment, surpassing the goal of 30 percent by 2015.
  • The in-service rate of equipment is 89 percent.
  • There were nine candidates for every seat in MOD VVUZy this year.

Shoygu’s annual report contained many other details summarizing the MOD’s activities this year.

In 2016, he expects the following:

  • Steps to strengthen groupings in the western, south-western, and Arctic strategic directions.
  • Five RVSN missile regiments will go on duty with modern missiles.
  • Two Tu-160 and seven Tu-95MS bombers will be modernized.
  • Two brigade sets each of Iskander-M and Tornado-S MLRS, and one of Buk-3M SAMs will reach the Ground Troops.
  • Six battalions will receive new tanks and BMPs.
  • VKS and Navy will get more than 200 new or modernized aircraft.
  • Five regiments will receive S-400 SAMs.
  • Three Voronezh-DM and Voronezh-M radars will enter service.
  • The Navy will get two submarines and seven surface ships.
  • The armed forces will conduct strategic CSX Kavkaz-2016.

The reader may wish to look back to this 2014 year-ender to make some year-on-year comparisons.

Turning to Putin’s meeting with his top regional commanders, we don’t know what was discussed, but it’s a good pic and a chance to update the lineup and face recce.

Putin's Meeting with MD Commanders (photo:

Putin’s Meeting with MD Commanders (photo:

From the extreme left around the table with Putin in the center, attendees included Unified Strategic Command North Commander Admiral Vladimir Korolev, Southern MD Commander General-Colonel Aleksandr Galkin, Eastern MD Commander General-Colonel Sergey Surovikin, Defense Minister Shoygu, Putin, General Staff Chief Army General Valeriy Gerasimov, Central MD Commander General-Colonel Vladimir Zarudnitskiy, and new Western MD Commander General-Colonel Andrey Kartapolov.

But We Make Rockets

Yes, Russia is making rockets now.

Vladimir Putin came to power on the eve of the 21st century promising (among other things) to remake Russian military power.  But progress was slow.  The economy struggled to emerge from the default and devaluation of 1998.  A poor, unready army found itself mired for several years in the Second Chechen War.

Not until after an uneven military performance in the August 2008 five-day war with Georgia — and not until after the 2009 economic crisis, perhaps in 2012 or 2013 — did the funding necessary for significant improvements in combat readiness and larger procurement of weapons and equipment reach the Russian Armed Forces.

Then came war in Crimea and eastern Ukraine and Syria.  Blowback from Syria could make Central Asia or the North Caucasus Russia’s next front. But questions about recent Kremlin bellicosity already bear close to home — on Russia’s domestic political and economic circumstances.

Consider a editorial from October 26.

“But we make rockets”

“Can the army and navy replace everything else for citizens”

RS-24 Yars ICBMs on Parade (photo: AP / Ivan Sekretarev)

RS-24 Yars ICBMs on Parade (photo: AP / Ivan Sekretarev)

“Often it’s easier for people to accept growing financial hopelessness to the sound of bold military marches.  Not for the first time in Russian history the army is beginning to replace the nation’s economy, life, general human values, and becoming the new old national idea and practically the only effective state institution.”

“Not everywhere in Russian industry are orders shrinking and demand falling.  There is production that is very much in demand.  In the ‘Tactical Missile Weapons’ corporation, for example, they’ve gone to three shifts of missile production for the Syrian front, a source in the defense-industrial complex has told the publication ‘Kommersant-Vlast.’  Against this backdrop, an article appeared in The Independent newspaper about how in Russia, after the events in Crimea and Syria, the army is again becoming the ‘departure point of Russian ideology’ — that very national idea for which they searched so long and unsuccessfully in post-Perestroika Russia and here now, finally, have found.”

“‘Russia has only two reliable allies — the army and navy.’  These famous words of Emperor Aleksandr III (who, incidentally, went down in history we would say now under the nickname Peacemaker) have once again in our history acquired a literal meaning. Other reliable allies of whom Russia was evidently sure over the last year-and-a-half or two years clearly no longer remain with us.”

“In a time of economic crisis, the temptation among Russian authorities to make the army one of the leading state institutions grows even greater.  The remaining institutions are emasculated or work as badly as ever.  In the end, to do this is sometimes simply useless:  the impoverished voter will say — why are your institutions here, is my life improving?  The expenditures are great, but the effect will be, probably, negative.”

“How much better the army is:  there is discipline, and pay, and achievements, and a plan of development.  The share of military expenditures in the budget is growing, but a cut in its absolute size has affected it to a lesser degree than civilian sectors like education and health care.”

“All hope is now on defense — as in ‘peace time’ we placed hope on oil and gas.”

“The army again is a lovely testing ground for demonstrating one more innovation — import substitution.  Not all Russians can understand why it’s necessary to burn up high quality foreign goods. But hardly anyone would object that Russia didn’t buy any aircraft, tanks or missiles abroad.  The president at a session of the Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation Issues announced that thanks to import substitution the country’s defense industrial enterprises are ‘becoming more independent of foreign component supplies.’”

“In general, we found by experience that we didn’t quite succeed in finding any other nation-binding idea over 25 years of not very consistent attempts to draw close to the Western world.  The simple national idea ‘state for the sake of man’ didn’t take root, including, alas, because man somehow didn’t value it very much; attempts to raise free citizens and form a civic nation, bound by common human values, failed.  There were neither citizens, nor values…”

“Being that there wasn’t demand for a free citizen not only above, but even below.  It is precisely therefore that we don’t have normal trade unions, strong nongovernmental organizations, and independent civil initiatives.  It’s not just the state that doesn’t need ‘all this.’  It’s society too.”

“Therefore one year before State Duma elections there isn’t even opposition in political parties to the openly military-oriented budget.”

“Distinct from this is that America which we love to accuse of aggressiveness, but in which military expenditures and their share in the budget are steadily falling in recent years.  In fact, legislative control over the military budget is one of the main forms of civilian society’s control over the army in the USA.  Though in America there were times when the military tried to decide both for society and for politicians.  Considerable force and time was required to put the military under control, but the States succeeded in this.”

“In Russia the easiest and quickest means of unifying the nation turned out to be the bloodless victory in Crimea and the somewhat bloody events in the Donbass.  The idea of abstract imperial power, and the image of ‘the country rising from its knees’ were substantiated, as the man in the street perceived it, and they were near and comprehensible to him.  Like, we lead a miserable life ourselves (when was it otherwise?), but we are a ‘great power’ again.”

“Polite green people, capable quickly without noise and dust of ‘deciding questions,’ create in the multimillion-person army in front of the television an illusion of their own significance.”

“It’s not only the missile corporation that’s working ‘in three shifts’ now, but also the factory of national pride, based exclusively on military victories.”

“Firstly, we are proud of past victories, in which, besides the live heroes of that war, there is no one alive today who isn’t, in essence, a participant:  St. George’s banners and inscriptions on foreign-made cars ‘To Berlin!,’ ‘Thanks granddad for Victory,’ ‘Descendant of a Victor’ flash at every step.  Secondly, they actively urge us to pride in new military victories.”

“Meanwhile the war in distant Syria works for such military-patriotic PR even better than the war in Ukraine.  And further from the borders, pictures of Russian aircraft bombing terrorists a world away inspire the people more than the sullen ‘militiamen’ of which the masses have had enough already.”

“What’s fashionable in war and militancy also enters official political discourse.  Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu has firmly become the second most popular politician and most successful top-manager in the country.  And the president not without some internal pride calls himself the ‘dove with iron wings,’ telling foreign guests directly at a Valday Club session that he was still in the Leningrad courtyard when he learned to ‘strike first’ if a fight is inevitable.”

“And it’s still necessary to remember:  even a war far from the borders, if it’s protracted, requires not  only military, but also great financial resources.”

“So if the economic collapse in Russia continues, pride in the army still cannot fully make up for people the absence of conditions for a normal life.  But for now — in a situation where the authorities live by tactics and not by strategy, — the army and military mobilization of the nation really look like a national idea, and a panacea for the crisis, and a means of supporting a high rating.”

“Polite green people are already capable of becoming not simply a symbol of the Crimean operation, but a symbol of an entire epoch. But they usually don’t solve all the accumulated social, economic, and human problems of a large country.”