Tag Archives: ЦАСТ

Taking Stock of Russian Acquisition

Novyye izvestiya interviewed Ruslan Pukhov last week.  He has some perspectives on Russian military procurement we’ve heard before, and some we haven’t.

NI asked the CAST director if the U.S. Tomahawk strike on Shayrat would hurt Russia’s exports of air defense systems.  He said no, for all the obvious reasons.

More interestingly, Pukhov said air defense equipment typically represents 10-20 percent of Russia’s annual arms exports.  This could rise in coming years, he stated, due to future sales of the S-400 to “China and other countries.”

Ruslan Pukhov

Ruslan Pukhov

Asked how Russian weapons have performed in Syria, Pukhov responded:

“The Syrian campaign has made a good advertisement for Russian arms, particularly for new types of Russian combat aircraft (Su-30SM, Su-35 and especially Su-34) and helicopters (Mi-28N and Ka-52), but also for precision munitions — cruise missiles and aircraft ordnance.  Therefore it’s possible to expect growing interest from foreign buyers and growing sales in these segments.  The negative side one can draw from the actions of the Russian grouping in Syria is, first and foremost, the insufficient capability of its technical reconnaissance systems, including unmanned aerial vehicles and space systems.  The quantity of precision weapons is still insufficient.  The precision arms themselves in a number of cases require additional development.  There is still a lot of work ahead, but the main thing is that the Syrian campaign has allowed for revealing these deficiencies and partially eliminating them.  Meanwhile the cost of acquiring this priceless experience has been relatively low.”

Of course, the cost is only low if you’re not in the crossfire in Syria.

NI asked Pukhov if Russian weapons are better today or are they still based on old Soviet ones.  He answered:

“There is progress, but a large part of equipment, including what is being produced and bought now, still depends precisely on the Soviet legacy.  The weapons systems of a really new generation (the T-50 fighter, ‘Armata’ tank, new generation armor) remain in development and still haven’t gotten to the serial production stage.  But we have to understand that the creation of new generation armaments in any case involves many years – the cycle is 10-15-20 years from the start of R&D to the real achievement of combat capability in series models in troop units.  Considering that in Russia significant financing of defense and the OPK began only after 2005, and on a really large-scale only after 2010, then you really can’t expect any other result.  If there’s success in financing at the necessary level, then after 2020 the arrival of platforms and systems of a really new generation will begin.”

And how have economic problems and sanctions affected the OPK?

“The crisis still doesn’t directly affect the OPK.  Even with a sharp contraction in federal budget revenue and eight years of economic stagnation, state defense order financing has been preserved at a high level, and it will begin to drop only from 2017.  But not because of economic difficulties, but in connection with saturating the troops with new and modern equipment.  From another side, sometimes the conditions of GOZ price formation turn out so severe for enterprises that it sometimes leads to GOZ contracts being fulfilled at the limit of profitability.”

“The full action of sanctions began to be felt from 2015.  Because the non-supply of a number of components from Ukraine and Western countries already caused a shift in the completion of a number of programs, the most well-known instances are connected with the construction of project 11356 and 22350 frigates, but also project 20385 corvettes, on which Ukrainian gas turbines and German diesels, in turn, were replaced.  In addition, sanctions complicated the purchase of Western-produced equipment by Russian enterprises, and, most importantly, its licensed maintenance. And as practice has shown, analogues from China and other countries don’t always meet the quality standards we need.  By 2018, the import substitution program will allow for covering 80-90% of imported items, and finally, imports will be replaced by 2020.”

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SIPRI’s List

SIPRI’s completed work on its list of the world’s biggest arms producers for 2010.

The list includes 11 Russian companies — Almaz-Antey, OAK,  OSK, Vertolety Rossii, Sukhoy, Irkut, ODK, Sevmash,TRV (Tactical Missile Armaments), Uralvagonzavod, and Salyut.

SIPRI listed parents and subsidiaries this year because the data was available.  It also notes that many Russian companies might be in the top 100, but there’s insufficient financial reporting.  There isn’t enough data on Oboronprom, but its subsidiary Vertolety Rossii is here.  Similarly, it says there would be many Chinese and some Ukrainian and Kazakh firms on the list if their annual reports were public.  SIPRI relies on CAST for its numbers on Russian arms makers.

Interesting to note a big 2010 loss for OAK and a small one for Sevmash.  If you look back to the 2009 report, you’ll see most of OAK’s problem is MiG.

We might compare SIPRI’s work to Defense News’ list described here.  Unfortunately, DN’s page is no longer available.

The discrepancy between the two lists is a little surprising.

Not Enough Resources

Konstantin Makiyenko (photo: Radio Mayak / Kirill Kurganov)

Still parsing reaction to Prime Minister Putin’s manifesto on the army . . . there are lots of positive reviews and recapitulations.  But commentators who don’t exactly agree with Putin are far more interesting and illuminating.

One particularly fitting this description is Konstantin Makiyenko, who makes succinct, obvious, and bravely ventured points.

Makiyenko, Deputy Director of CAST, is by no means anti-regime.  He is, however, honest.  His observations appeared in Interfaks-AVN, and you can read them courtesy of VPK.name.

He concludes simply that Russia may not have the resources for the plan of major army and defense industry modernization Putin laid out in his campaign article:

“The Russian economic system, which, with oil prices at 100 dollars a barrel, provides only four percent GDP growth, isn’t capable of being the base for realizing the plans outlined.”

AVN says Makiyenko doesn’t exclude that, owing to insufficient budgetary resources, the Finance Ministry will have to work out plans for future cuts in spending on national defense.  But, at the same time, he apparently said Putin’s manifesto on the army wasn’t populist, and he has “no objection” to majority of the Premier’s proposals.

But Makiyenko lays down a sharp, if understated, critique of Putin’s stewardship of Russia’s defenses since 1999.  Agreeing that nuclear deterrence has been the only guarantee of Russia’s security, Makiyenko continues:

“In this relation, the current situation is in no way different from the state of affairs in the 1990s, when, as it’s justly noted in [Putin’s] article, ‘other weighty material arguments didn’t exist.'”

“. . . adequately evaluating the situation now, one has to admit that even today other ‘material arguments’ haven’t appeared for Russia during the last 12 years.”

“In this connection, the thought about how one should particularly attentively follow the appearance of new technical means, for example MD systems and long-range, precision non-nuclear means, capable of devaluing Russia’s nuclear deterrence potential, are very important.”

So, conventional weakness drives Russian objections to MD, one supposes.

AVN also indicated Makiyenko is skeptical of Putin’s call for public-private partnerships and more private capital investment in the OPK given that the once-and-future Supreme CINC nationalized first-class companies like Irkut and Saturn.

Guns and Money (Part I)

Ruslan Pukhov

What does Russia need to spend on defense?  Komsomolskaya pravda’s Viktor Baranets engaged Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Director Ruslan Pukhov on the issue recently.

It takes a bit, but the interview gets interesting, and it’s worth hearing, one thinks.

Baranets asks, do military expenditures depend first and foremost on the economy?  On government policy?  On the treasury?  On the military power of one’s enemies?  Pukhov replies:

“In the first place, on the requirements for guaranteeing national security, and secondly on economic possibilities.  But if the country faces serious threats, then maintaining adequate military power becomes an absolute priority.  And then the resources for these purposes are allocated without looking at the economy.”

OK, that’s standard, but the big question is if . . . if it faces threats and if those threats are really serious.  And one might quibble, you can’t allocate what you don’t have (at least most countries can’t).

Baranets probes further.  People want to understand the 30% jump in military spending.  Have external threats grown?  Pukhov answers: 

“We have to maintain large Armed Forces because of the country’s huge size and its borders with military giants, like NATO and China.  Here the correlation of our military potentials has significance first and foremost.  That’s one.”

“And two.  The most important mission for Russia will remain the preservation of powerful, but expensive strategic nuclear forces and advisably — nuclear parity with the U.S.  It’s clear nuclear arms are the main guarantee of our security.  They make a big war between contemporary world powers impossible.  I’m convinced that, if not for the nuclear shield, the fate of Yugoslavia would have awaited Russia in the 1990s.  That is forcible dismemberment with the support of a NATO intervention.”

“Yet another factor:  Russia is faced with real threats to its security in the form of terrorism in the North Caucasus where an ethnic separatist rebellion has transformed into a general Caucasus Salafist underground, but also in the post-Soviet space — in the first place, in view of Georgia’s aggressive actions.”

“Going further:  our Armed Forces are extremely obsolete technically, they lag the current level of military technology development and need renewal.  For almost two decades after 1991 our Armed Forces were totally and chronically underfinanced, didn’t receive new armaments.  After this almost 20-year ‘buying holiday’ it’s necessary now to pay up, trying in the most compressed time to overcome the accumulated lag.”

“And, finally, everything enumerated above has to be overcome in conditions of the fact, unpleasant for the national self-consciousness, but, alas, indisputable, that Russia is a poor country.”

Baranets asks, how can Russia be poor?  Pukhov’s answer:

“We actually have many natural resources.  And this, incidentally, is yet another argument for having effective Armed Forces.  Natural riches have to be protected.  But by the size of the economy we aren’t even in the top five countries in the world, and the main thing is we seriously lag behind developed states.”

“So we have to conduct military organizational development under conditions of a shortage of resources and significantly bowing before many other countries of the world according to our level of economic development and national wealth.”

“All types of resources enumerated by you [Baranets] are in short supply for us.  Industry requires serious modernization, the scientific-technical base, established in the USSR, is practically used up, the quality of human resources is also not at a high point — the technical training school system has collapsed, so finding qualified workers is an integral problem.  Now we can already talk even about the collapse of secondary education — more often illiterate conscripts are coming into the army, and how can you trust them with complex equipment?”

Baranets says some experts think 1.5 or 2 trillion rubles as foreseen for defense in 2012 is too much when compared with what will be spent on science, education, and health.  One can even hear pronouncements like “the army is stripping the people.”  Pukhov reacts:

“I repeat:  Russia’s in a situation where it’s forced to hurry to catch up and reestablish that which dissipated, was squandered and left adrift in the area of national defense in the 1990s.  Essentially, we didn’t develop, but, to the contrary, we collapsed the army.  Now we need to reestablish the army, buy new equipment and armaments.  This isn’t the army ‘stripping the people.’  This is them ‘stripping’ the army for long years.  But there is generally an old true formula — people who don’t want to feed their own army will feed a foreign one.  Education, medicine and other sectors can be self-financed to a significant degree.  The Armed Forces can’t be self-financed in principle.”

Pukhov covers a lot of ground.  And he makes sense of some stuff.  But some points are debatable.  He’s one who wants to blame the 1990s for everything when then-President Putin was also guilty of neglecting the army in the 2000s.  Yugoslavia did a good job of “dismembering” itself before NATO and Russia intervened.  Instruments other than force exist for managing Russia’s problems in the North Caucasus and Georgia.  Is there a realistic threat of having to feed someone else’s army?  Wouldn’t a slower paced military build-up be more sustainable?   

Part II tomorrow.

Pukhov’s Perspective

Thanks to VPK.name’s retransmission of Interfaks-AVN, we can look at Ruslan Pukhov’s latest comments on the State Program of Armaments, 2011-2020 (GPV-2020).  Recall he’s director of the Center of the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies.

In a nutshell, AVN concludes Pukhov believes the Russian Army’s rearmament requires much greater resources than provided in GPV-2020, but the country’s economic possibilities don’t allow for spending more:

“Twenty trillion rubles which were proposed to allocate for the purchase of armaments and military equipment by 2020 — this is the minimum amount essential for rearming the army, but at the same time it’s the maximum possible volume of resources which can be spent on armaments, proceeding from the possibilities of the country’s budget and economy as a whole.”

Pukhov goes on to say some experts have said 36 or even 50 trillion rubles would be required to rearm all Russia’s armed services and branches completely.  That, of course, is beyond the economy’s capabilities:

“Even the current plans are highly ambitious and entail very high macroeconomic risks.  In the event of the actual fulfillment of the plans for financing GPV-2020, the average annual expenditures on purchases of arms and military equipment will come to 2 trillion rubles a year, that is nearly €47 billion at the current rate.” 

For comparison, Pukhov told AVN Britain and France, with economic potential similar to Russia’s, each spend less than €20 billion annually on new weapons.

Pukhov sees military spending of 4 percent of GDP when the Armed Forces’ other needs are considered:

“Accounting for the need to realize not just the rearmament of the Russian Army, but also to increase significantly the number of contractees, to improve soldiers’ food, clothing, and pay, to resolve the housing problem for servicemen, it’s impossible to exclude that at some time military spending could reach four percent of GDP.” 

He sees it as a very high share of GDP for a country facing the modernization of health care and education, and also the renewal of all its infrastructure.  Still, he concludes:

“But considering the country’s defense was underfinanced for fifteen years and the high probability of the aggravation of the military-political situation in the post-Soviet space, especially in Central Asia, the military expenditures provided are not only acceptable, but even absolutely essential.”

In these sound bites, Ruslan Pukhov’s views sound reasonable, independent, and nuanced given that he tends to reflect defense sector interests.  He recognizes Moscow’s at the limit of what it can spend on new weapons, and he cites figures you read here or here early this year.  He could have noted that the goal is only to renew 70 percent of the Armed Forces’ inventory by 2020.  He acknowledged it’s a lot of money for a country, and a military, facing other expensive challenges, but he maintains it’s necessary by pointing to the neighborhood Russia lives in. 

It’d be interesting, however, to see an interview or article exploring the possibility that Russia can meet its most likely, most realistic military threats and requirements more efficiently and effectively than envisaged under GPV-2020.  Perhaps some services, branches, and unified strategic commands need more money and modernization than they will get, and maybe others need less.  One doesn’t read much about relative priorities within the Armed Forces beyond the fact that the Navy will be emphasized and the Ground Troops won’t.  The rest of the military apparently will move forward on a very broad front.  It’s probably not the best force modernization approach.

Fox News on the Russian Military

We laughed, we cried, two thumbs way down to Fox News for yesterday’s story on the Russian military.  It makes us wonder what kind of crap they say and write on topics we don’t know anything about.  Well, actually, we already know how bad that drek is too.

Now, no one who frequents this blog will accuse your present author of giving Moscow credit for much.  No, of course not.  But Fox News has succeeded in taking the absurd in Russian defense policy and making it ridiculous.  Fox’s article couldn’t garner a C in a high school journalism class.

At the risk of getting some of the stink on us, let’s examine the piece a little:

  1. Ahem, if you didn’t notice, the Russian military’s been falling apart for a long time.  And, actually, in the most objective sense, experts who’ve watched the process would say Defense Minister Serdyukov and his cronies may have arrested the process some over the last 4 years.
  2. Yes, CAST did put out a new monograph, but it’s a slender volume, and certainly neither comprehensive nor groundbreaking in any sense.  CAST is valuable, but hardly well-known.  And its leadership is probably not fully independent of the current regime.
  3. Fox’s claim that Russia only has 8-10 thousand deployable troops is a ridiculous misreading of intentionally hyperbolic statements in the CAST report.  No serious analyst believes that Russian forces aren’t more ready today than they were 5, 10, or 15 years ago.  But this is a relative comparison.  It doesn’t mean they’re sufficiently ready, in sufficient quantity, to execute the missions they’ve set for themselves.
  4. The Russians have already beat the furniture salesman stuff to death, but one supposes it’s still funny to a nonspecialist audience in the U.S., a country where actors become governors and presidents (and good ones at that).  But even the most basic journalistic accounts normally note that Serdyukov married well, gaining a father-in-law with a strong connection to Vladimir Putin.  And Serdyukov’s no dummy; he probably engineered most of the tax case against Khodorkovskiy.  Not sure Fox knows who Khodorkovskiy is though.  The bottom line is, most people accept Serdyukov as a savvy and tough bureaucrat with talent, who was specifically selected to do a job he’s well-suited for.  Doesn’t mean he hasn’t pissed off Russian military men.  That’s exactly what he was supposed to do.
  5. Fox missed the point that Serdyukov was sent in to stop the stealing, not to cut the military’s budget.  Does Fox realize the $78 billion that DoD’s going to trim over five years isn’t much less than what Russia’s military budget will be over that period?  Duh.
  6. Fox saves itself a little by referring to Felgengauer, but it can’t spell his name.
  7. Russian defense industry has problems, yes, but buying abroad is more complex than Fox’s passing mention.  Fox didn’t bother to Google Mistral either.
  8. Fox’s military expert is wrong; Russia still has a military.  But the U.S. needs to worry about whether and what kind it will have in the future.  We don’t need a “sick man of Eurasia,” and a military vacuum there wouldn’t be good for Americans.  And we also need to worry if there will be a country there, by the way.  Fox’s retired general is right, however, when he reminds that Russia is still a nuclear weapons superpower, and it is relying on nukes heavily for its security.  And its conventional weaknesses increase the risks of miscalculation.  But this has been the case for much of the past 20 years. 

But none of this is a news story.  The news story is that even skeptics have to admit the Russian military is doing a little better, and it’ll be interesting to find out how much better the next time it goes into action.  It’ll be interesting to see if it’s somewhere on the former Soviet imperial periphery, or against another internal threat in the North Caucasus.

The Russian media reactions to the Fox article are just starting, we’ll see if they get interesting.

But thanks Fox for providing something to write about this morning.

Mistral — For and Against

Last Friday, Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye’s Viktor Litovkin covered a round table discussing Russia’s likely purchase of the Mistral helicopter carrier.  He was also one of the main speakers.  CAST sponsored the meeting, and Konstantin Makiyenko set the table with a general talk about amphibious assault ships and the world market for them.

Igor Korotchenko spoke in favor of purchasing the French ship, but not very convincingly.

According to Litovkin, Korotchenko made the following argument.  The Mistral purchase is part of a political-economic agreement between Moscow and Paris.  And so France will obviously win the Defense Ministry’s coming international tender.  This French ship will be extremely useful to the Russian Navy, and strengthen its combat capability.  Then Korotchenko seemed to imply that Mistral is less important as a naval platform than as a symbol of Franco-Russian military-technical cooperation, and France’s independence of the United States.

This view is a bit Cold War, and not particularly reflective of Moscow’s current effort to buy military capabilities abroad, and use them to improve the armed forces and defense industrial production at home.

Litovkin said the Mistral purchase raises a series of questions.  First, why does Russia need it?  The expeditionary missions for which it’s intended aren’t tasks for the Russian Navy under the new military doctrine, according to him.  If, as First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin has said, Mistral is based in the Northern and Pacific Fleets, it’s senseless because Russia’s not very likely to land its troops on Norwegian, Japanese, or Chinese shores.  Second, Mistral needs to be part of a multipurpose naval grouping by virtue of its weak self-defense.  And Litovkin says Russia isn’t exactly laying down lots of other ships to escort and protect it.  Third, it’s not clear that a new base to support Mistral will be built.  Soviet-built proyekt 1123 and 1143 helicopter carriers (Moskva, Leningrad, Kiev, and Minsk) bobbed at anchor, lacked support, and were ultimately sold for scrap.

Aleksey Bezborodov starts from the state of the state of Russian shipbuilding.  Even if Russia tries to build the third and fourth Mistral units, shipyards won’t be able to manage it because they’ve lost many technical capabilities.  He maintains Russia doesn’t have an enterprise that can make engines for Mistral.

Makiyenko and Ilya Kramnik took issues with these ‘pessimists.’  The former noted that GPV 2011-2012 may include 15 frigates, 20 corvettes, etc.  The latter argued for acquiring Mistral because the Navy’s missions and requirements and Russia’s doctrine could change over the ships’ lives.  He sees it as a good platform for showing the flag and defending Russian interests abroad, and a hedge against future problems.

Litovkin says the discussion only went two hours, and it’s a shame General Staff and Navy representatives weren’t there to share their opinions.