Tag Archives: Vladimir Putin

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 Gazeta.ru 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.”

Day of Russia Promotion List

On the eve of the Russia Day holiday, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree promoting 29 senior MOD officers:  2 to three-star general-colonel, 5 to two-star general-lieutenant and vice-admiral, and the balance to one-star general-major.

The three-star promotions included Andrey Kartapolov, Chief of the General Staff’s Main Operations Directorate and Andrey Serdyukov, Deputy Commander, Southern MD.  Both were quick promotes with only three and two years respectively at their former rank.

The two-star promotions included GOMU First Deputy Chief Yevgeniy Burdinskiy, Deputy Commander of the Eastern MD for Material-Technical Support Anatoliy Lbov, Deputy CINC of the Navy for Armaments Viktor Bursuk, Northern Fleet Commander of Submarine Forces Aleksandr Moiseyev, and Baltic Fleet Chief of Staff Sergey Popov.

Other promotees included:

  • two RVSN missile division commanders (both have the RS-24 / Yars ICBM in their formations);
  • a new commander of Troops and Forces in the North-East;
  • one motorized rifle brigade commander;
  • deputy commanders for material-technical support in several services and branches;
  • chiefs, deputy chiefs, or department heads for several military-educational institutions;
  • the strategic nuclear forces directorate chief in the NTsUO.

You’ll find the updated promotion list here.

Impatient Putin

Once flagship of a robust Russian military press, NVO isn’t what it was.  What is after 15 years of Putin?  But NVO still has moments.  Its 22 May editorial is one.

Putin at 15 May Meeting

Putin at 15 May Meeting

NVO writes that recent Roskosmos failures overshadowed President Vladimir Putin’s mid-May meetings with Defense Ministry and defense industry leaders on the GOZ and GPV.  Still the 9 May Victory Day parade on Red Square showed much has been done to rearm Russia.  But much doesn’t mean every problem has been solved.  Rather, NVO contends, problems in the realization of GPV 2011-2020 and GPV 2016-2025 are “snowballing.”

The paper offers cases in point:

  • The fifth generation T-50 (PAK FA) fighter didn’t fly over Red Square even though it’s supposed to be in serial production already. The impatient Putin gave Russian designers just five years to field the T-50 while the Americans took 14 years from first flight to first delivery with the F-22 and 12 with the F-35.
  • Only a short time — two years — has been allowed for serial production of the new Armata tank.  The Soviet T-64 took 10-15 years from the start of testing until all development work was finished.  The call for Armata tanks and other armored vehicles on the same base in 2015 is just a “wish.”  Serial production won’t begin earlier than 2018.
  • There are delays in other key military programs — S-350 Vityaz, S-500 Triumfator-M, and missile defense systems (no specifics provided).

Then NVO reels off a list of weapons the Russian military needs that, the editorial asserts, aren’t exactly rolling off assembly lines:

  • Transport aircraft;
  • UAVs;
  • Air-launched missiles;
  • Air ordnance;
  • Artillery and fire control systems;
  • Space systems.

Regarding the final bullet, the paper notes that “even a huge investment of budget resources still won’t save Roskosmos from its systemic crisis.”

NVO concludes:

“On the whole, fulfillment of GPV-2020 and GPV-2025 has been summoned to restore Russia to military parity with NATO, if only the Russian economy can withstand the strain.  If not, the history of the USSR may be repeated.”

Some will quibble about particular systems NVO claims Moscow will have trouble fielding, but the general point remains:  far from everything needed by a military neglected for 20 years is being successfully procured.  There are more than a few independent Russian economists who say Moscow’s current high level of defense spending is damaging an economy already challenged by lower oil prices and Western sanctions.

Putin Launches GPV 2016-2025

Putin Addresses Session on GPV 2016-2025 (photo:  Kremlin.ru)

Putin Addresses Session on GPV 2016-2025 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

On 10 September, Kremlin.ru posted President Putin’s opening remarks to a session on developing the draft State Program of Armaments (GPV) 2016-2025.

Putin’s speech can be divided into several themes:  financing, the arms race, threats, particular weapons systems, and other tidbits.

A critical question is how will funding for a new GPV compare with the approximately 20 trillion rubles laid out or earmarked for GPV 2011-2020. But Putin took pains to stress only that financing for the new GPV will be based on the government’s macroeconomic forecasts.  He noted:

“The government has prepared two variants [not good and possibly worse?] of such a preliminary macroeconomic development forecast, and today, we will hear about it in a meeting with the government, and talk more about this.  We will proceed exclusively from realities, from our possibilities, and we will not inflate our military expenditures.”

“I ask you to choose and present the most balanced variant of resource support for the new state program of armaments before the end of October 2014.  It must fully account for missions in the area of military organizational development and still be realistic, and proceed, as I already said, from the country’s financial-economic possibilities.  But I am sure we can find a variant acceptable both according to financial support and to the quality of those weapons systems which we will discuss more today.”

This seems consonant with his statement last December that the OPK and military should not expect future procurement budgets to match what was laid out in recent years.

In this September 10 session, Putin eschewed interest in a new arms race, but stressed that Moscow has no choice but to take “countermeasures” against U.S. and NATO threats.  A few examples:

“[modernizing the armed forces and defense industry] is not connected to any kind of arms race . . . .”

“And we already many times said and warned that we will be forced — exactly forced — to take adequate countermeasures to guarantee our security.”

“We have spoken many times, and very much hope that there will not be excessive hysteria [from the U.S. and NATO?] when these decisions [about the GPV?] are finally made and begin to be realized.  I want to note that everything we are doing are only countermeasures.”

“Sometimes the impression is created, I just talked about this, that someone wants to launch a new arms race.  We will not, of course, be dragged into this race, it is simply absolutely excluded . . . .”

The Russian president also laid out at length his view of the threats requiring countermeasures:

  • U.S. missile defense;
  • U.S. Prompt Global Strike;
  • Militarization of space [?];
  • Conventional strategic weapons;
  • Prospective build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe.

He restated the official Kremlin narrative explaining why that alleged NATO build-up will happen:

“The crisis in Ukraine, which was actually provoked and created by some of our Western partners, is now being used to reanimate this military bloc.”

A regime that wants to prevent a Maydan on Red Square pretty much has to declare that the revolutionary impetus came from outside.  It also has to overlook that it was the seizure of Crimea and the start of Moscow’s war in eastern Ukraine that awakened NATO.

Look for a more detailed exposition of Moscow’s new threat assessment when the updated Military Doctrine appears in December.

What did Putin say about what will be purchased under the new GPV?  In short, not too much new:

“. . . our fundamental systems:  both of a defensive nature and strike systems have simply already reached or are reaching the end of their service lives.  And if we need to replace them, then replace them, of course, with prospective, modern ones having a future of long use.”

“I note that for the draft GPV-2025 there is already a unified system of preliminary data which confirmed the basic directions of arms and equipment development for the period to 2030 and formed a list of types determining the future profile of weapons systems.”

“Most of all we are talking about the creation of a rational list of strike means, including the guaranteed resolution of nuclear deterrence missions, about rearming strategic and long-range aviation, and continuing formation of an aerospace defense [VKO] system.”

“Further.  In coming years, it is already essential to support the breakthrough development of all components of precision weapons, to create unified types of general purpose arms and equipment, and for the Navy — new ship projects, standardized in armament, command and control systems, and communications.”

Overall, continuing the course and priorities — such as they are — of the current GPV.

Now, the tidbits . . . .

Putin seemed to say the 2015 goal of more than 30 percent modern arms and equipment has already been reached.

According to the president, more than 3,600 items of “fundamental weapons” (68% of the contracted quantity) have already reached the troops this year, along with 241,000 other items [presumably procurement not part of a major weapons system].

Putin gave only the briefest acknowledgement that, with looming sanctions, defense industry must be ready to manufacture its own critically important equipment, components, and materials.  Industry, he said, should also be looking to produce important civilian machinery in the future.

He only slightly criticized work on past GPVs, saying:

“It goes without saying we must carefully analyze the experience of realizing the previous programs, including the problems and oversights which led to delays in placing and fulfilling orders, and at times even to tasks not being completed.”

However, Putin also took the chairmanship of the Military-Industrial Commission (VPK) on himself, indicating that he thinks the GPV could use some “manual control.”

That’s about 950 words describing what Putin said in roughly 1,200.  One hopes his speech has been deconstructed and reconstructed in such a way that it illuminates more than the original.

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.

Promotion List

It appears the best way to get the latest promotion list out is now Google Docs.  This conclusion follows a number of frustrating gyrations.

These promotions came in President Putin’s decree signed out 12 December 2013 and published in Krasnaya zvezda.

Putin Stresses Strategic Systems

Originally intended for another purpose, so it’s a tad dated.  Perhaps still useful to some . . .

Putin Talks Air Forces

Putin Talks Air Forces

Russian President Vladimir Putin conducted six meetings on key arms programs from 27-29 November in Sochi.  He focused on strategic systems in his public remarks before the sessions.

Looking first at the RVSN, Putin called development of the “main component of the strategic nuclear forces” a priority.  He said two RVSN regiments received new mobile missile systems – 18 RS-24 Yars (SS-29) ICBMs — this year.  Putin added that the RVSN will field 22 new ICBMs – likely also RS-24 — in 2014.

Putin said the RVSN need to overcome “any missile defense system.”  Makeyev State Missile Center general designer Vladimir Degtyar responded by describing development of a missile with “increased throw weight” and better survivability, presumably a new liquid-fueled heavy missile.

The Russian president said it is “not necessary to say much about how important the naval part of the triad of strategic nuclear deterrence is for us.”  New Borey-class SSBNs Aleksandr Nevskiy and Vladimir Monomakh need to enter service next year as part of a contingent of eight new SSBNs by 2020, he said.  Not mentioning the failed launch of a Bulava SLBM in September, Putin tersely commented, “The armament [Bulava] should arrive in step with its launchers, these submarines.”

Putin called for “active” work on the new PAK DA strategic bomber, and modernization of existing Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers.  OAK chairman Mikhail Pogosyan replied that the Defense Ministry has given the corporation the technical task for PAK DA, and the company is preparing for R&D starting next year.  He said OAK is almost ready to submit modernized Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers for state testing.

Turning to aerospace defense, Putin said two ‘regimental sets’ of S-400 SAMs were fielded this year, and three should reach the forces in 2014.  Almaz-Antey general designer Pavel Sozinov told the Russian president that the S-500 SAM system is approaching the “finish line” with testing planned in 2014-15, and the new medium-range S-350E Vityaz should reach units in 2015-16.  The first production lines in new Almaz-Antey plants in Nizhny Novgorod and Kirov will begin operating in 2015, according to Sozinov.

Putin addressed well-known problems in Russia’s space sector, noting that failures have brought significant material losses.  Some military space projects are drifting despite stable financing, he added.  He noted that five military satellites have been placed in orbit, and five more will be in 2013.  Six satellites will be orbited next year, Putin said.

Concluding the meetings, Putin reminded assembled military and defense industry leaders that Russia’s defense budget has increased four-fold over ten years.  He said this money was allocated to guarantee the country’s defense capability for the long-term future, and established tasks must be completed on schedule.  He plans to hold another rearmament review in six months.