Tag Archives: Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies

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.

Advertisements

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.