Tag Archives: Ruslan Pukhov

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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Reaction to Putin’s Armaments Conferences

Actually, one reaction . . . a succinct editorial from Vedomosti capturing many good points with few words.

Vladimir Putin (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskiy)

Vladimir Putin (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskiy)

In Sochi last week, President Vladimir Putin conducted a whirlwind three-day series of meetings on Russia’s rearmament programs, giving his primary attention to strategic nuclear ones.

Here’s Vedomosti’s thinking on the sessions:

“Vladimir Putin conducted an intensive series of defense-industrial meetings.  During the trip to Olympic Sochi, the president in turn reviewed the problems of the development of aviation, the fleet, Space Defense Troops [sic] and the Missile Troops of Strategic Designation.  The fact that the discussion of military issues was raised to the highest level, signifies, probably, both the depth of the problems, and the priority of the subject.  The rational use of colossal resources was discussed:  expenditures on defense rose from 600 billion rubles in 2003 to 2.3 trillion rubles in 2013, and the general volume of the State Program of Armaments to 2020 is 20 trillion rubles.”

“These meetings affirmed:  Recent bureaucratic and staff [apparat] decisions, including appointment of a new minister of defense and a “military-industrial” deputy prime minister, did not solve the systemic problems of rearming the army and the quality of work of the domestic VPK.”

“The domestic VPK’s development is frozen, it needs foreign scientific and design developments — both dual-use and exclusively military, observes the director of the Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov.  These demands can hardly be satisfied because of constant altercations with Europe and the USA on foreign policy issues.  Moreover, the objective requirement for technological cooperation will contradict Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s announced course of refusing imports of foreign armaments, combat equipment and support means (the purchase of the “Mistrals” is the exception proving the rule).  Of course, it is possible to hope that intelligence agents will acquire the needed technologies, as it was in Soviet times.”

“However, even this will not quite forestall the lag:  the institutes and specialists who provided the correct implementation of foreign technologies have been lost.”

“There is still a key question requiring a strategic decision at the highest level, — what is more important:  production of the maximum possible quantity of combat equipment or the training of professionals capable of using the most complex armaments, including foreign-produced ones.  For now, judging by Shoygu’s announcement on the preservation of conscript service, at the top they are inclined toward extensive development, toward employing unpaid labor, the use of which in the army turns into huge losses for households and the economy as a whole.”

“The personal participation of the president is essential in the resolution of conflicts between those who order and suppliers of armaments.  The latter in the absence of competition between various design bureaus and factories (it, as is well-known, existed in the time of the USSR and was one of the engines of the country’s technological development) have become monopolists, not interested in raising quality.  They are sure that the armed forces will buy their products, and know, that in case of disagreements with the military, the directors of state companies from among the closest associates of the first person will turn up on their side.”

Lots of thoughts and propositions for discussion and debate.

Not Enough Resources (Addendum)

Ruslan Pukhov

In Friday’s NVO, CAST Director Ruslan Pukhov expounded on Konstantin Makiyenko’s thoughts about whether Russia’s current military modernization plan is doable.  And he offered ideas on how to make it more doable.

Pukhov points out that, in addition to 19 trillion rubles for military modernization, the Kremlin is footing bills for higher military pay, better living conditions, and housing as well as intensified combat training.  Liberal critics question whether the government can afford a greater defense burden at a time when it also needs to modernize infrastructure, health care, and education.

The planned military expenditures seem, Pukhov continues, balanced and acceptable, following 15 years of army underfinancing.  They shouldn’t threaten the country’s development.

Still, he says, skeptics have a point.  Vladimir Putin’s plan presupposes a decade of growth in the economy, perhaps not dynamic, but growth.  However, it’s also highly possible we’ll see stagnation or even recession in an economy which, with oil prices over $100, shows meager (for a developing market) growth of four percent.

Then Pukhov really gets to it.

With the slightest decline in hydrocarbon prices, “Putin’s preelection promises, including also in the military sphere, will become unfulfillable.”  And the Finance Ministry is developing plans to trim defense spending by 0.5 percent of GDP.

Pukhov asserts the Defense Ministry can continue transforming the armed forces if it sacrifices quantity for quality and foregoes more “metal” for human capital investments.

First, he says abandon the official but never explained million-man army manning level in favor of 700,000 or 600,000 personnel.

Second, the state should meet all its social obligations to servicemen and continue training by skipping some procurement.  The only “holy cow” would be strategic nuclear deterrence forces.

Third, Pukhov suggests sacrificing some planned naval development.  He offers that, as the world’s fifth or sixth largest economy, Russia simply can’t afford to recreate a global navy.  First on the chopping block, Mistral and renovated Kirov-class CGNs.

But Pukhov doesn’t sound fully convinced himself.  Some points not made need to be noted.

Pukhov should know Moscow has already gone well below one million men, if only semi-officially.  There isn’t much savings in reduced conscript numbers.  Pukhov doesn’t mention the huge “human capital” expense of trying (once again) to recruit professional contract soldiers.  The word corruption — the proverbial elephant in this room — isn’t uttered either.  The state already accepts 20, perhaps 40, percent less military than it pays for.  That’s where real savings are.  Foregoing some “metal” is a good idea, but Pukhov has scarcely begun to sort out what Russia’s acquisition priorities should be.

Mr. Pukhov should be commended for addressing this topic, but his critique is pretty mild.  He may still be attacked for it by some.  A much more radical restructuring of Russia’s military development program than Pukhov’s may eventually be needed to save it.

First Get Some Rockets

Iskander

How do you rattle your rockets?  First get some rockets. 

President Dmitriy Medvedev’s address last week underscored the extent to which Russian foreign and defense policies are hampered by the condition of the OPK and its shortage of production capacity.

Medvedev’s description of Russian steps in response to U.S. and NATO missile defense in Europe certainly didn’t surprise anyone, though it may have forced them to conclude the U.S.-Russian “reset” is wearing thin.

To refresh the memory, the first four were (1) put the Kaliningrad BMEW radar into service; (2) reinforce the defense of SYaS with VVKO; (3) equip strategic ballistic missile warheads with capabilities to overcome MD; and (4) develop measures to disrupt MD command and control.

Then fifth, repeating several previous assertions to this effect, Medvedev said:

“If the enumerated measures are insufficient, the Russian Federation will deploy in the country’s west and south modern strike weapons systems which guarantee the destruction of MD’s European component.  One such step will be deployment of the ‘Iskander’ missile system in the Kaliningrad special region.”

And, ultimately, of course, Medvedev also noted the dispute over MD could lead Russia to withdraw from new START.

Russianforces.org was first to write that Medvedev’s enumerated steps represented nothing more militarily than what Moscow already intends to do, with or without U.S. missile defense in Europe.

Kommersant recalled the difficulty of making threats with the Iskanders:

“The problem is by virtue of its limited range (several hundred kilometers) ‘Iskander’ missiles can only threaten [Russia’s] neighboring states, but in no way the U.S. MD system as a whole, and on this plane, they have little influence on the strategic balance as such.  Moreover, the Russian military has promised to begin deploying ‘Iskanders’ massively since 2007, but since then the deadlines for their delivery to the army has been postponed more than once.  The army now has a single brigade of ‘Iskanders’ – the 26th Neman [Brigade], which is deployed near Luga.  This is 12 launchers.  There is also a 630th Independent Battalion in the Southern Military District.  In GPV-2020, ten brigades more are promised.”

So, Iskander deployments, including probably in Kaliningrad, will happen anyway, regardless of MD, when Moscow is able to produce the missiles.

Interfaks-AVN quoted Ruslan Pukhov on the missile production capacity issue.  If Russia wants to deploy Iskander in Kaliningrad or Belarus or Krasnodar Kray as a response to European MD, then:

“. . . it’s essential to build a new factory to produce these missiles since the factory in Votkinsk can’t handle an extra mission.”

“Productivity suffers because of the great ‘heterogeneity’ of missiles [Iskander, Bulava, Topol-M, Yars].  Therefore, if we want our response to MD on our borders to be done expeditiously, and not delayed, we need a new factory.”

Vesti FM also covered his remarks:

“’Iskander’ is produced at the Votkinsk plant.  The ‘Bulava,’ and ‘Topol-M,’ and multi-headed ‘Yars,’ are also produced there.  Therefore, such heterogeneity in missiles leads to the fact that they are produced at an extremely low tempo.”

The 500-km Iskander (SS-26 / STONE), always advertised with significant capabilities to defeat MD, was accepted in 2006.  But the Russian Army didn’t  complete formation of the Western MD Iskander brigade or Southern MD battalion until the middle of last month, according to ITAR-TASS.  The army expects to get a full brigade of 12 launchers each year until 2020. 

But Iskanders still aren’t rolling off the line like sausages.  This spring Prime Minister Putin promised to double missile output, including from Votkinsk, starting in 2013, and pledged billions of rubles to support producers.  In early 2010, Kommersant wrote about Votkinsk overloaded with orders, trying to modernize shops to produce Iskander.

Votkinsk and Iskander are, by the way, not the only defense-industrial problem relative to countering MD.  Nezavisimaya gazeta pointed out VVKO will need lots of new S-400 and S-500 systems (and factories to produce them) to protect Russia’s SYaS.  But we digress . . . .

What do defense commentators think about Medvedev’s statement and Iskanders? 

Vladimir Dvorkin calls them a far-fetched threat:

“There are no scenarios in which they could be used.  If Russia used them in an initial preventative strike, then this would signify the beginning of a war with NATO on which Russia would never embark.”

Aleksey Arbatov says relatively short-range missiles don’t scare the Americans, but could spoil relations with Poland and Romania.

Aleksandr Golts says the slow pace of Iskander production makes it not a very serious threat.  He notes Putin’s restraint on threats over MD:

“Being a rational man, he perfectly understands that an attempt to create such a threat will get an immediate response, which, considering the West’s potential, will create a much bigger problem for Russia.  That is, there’ll be a repetition on another scale of the history with the deployment of Soviet medium-range missiles in Europe.”

One supposes rather than driving a wedge between the U.S. and MD-host countries, Russian threats might reaffirm the wisdom of having a tangible U.S. presence on their territory.

Lastly, Leonid Ivashov reacts to Medvedev’s reminder that Russia could withdraw from new START:

“When President Medvedev says that we will withdraw from SNV [START], the Americans just smile.  They know perfectly well the state of our defense-industrial complex.”

Guns and Money (Part II)

Returning to KP, Baranets, and Pukhov on Russia’s defense budget . . . Pukhov continues trying to put Moscow’s spending in perspective.

The journalist says readers want to know how it is that the U.S. spends $600-700 billion a year on its army and Russia spends only $40-50 billion.

Pukhov says look at spending per soldier.  The figures work out neatly and they are dramatic.  Per soldier, the U.S. defense budget is $400,000.  Per soldier, Russia’s is $40,000 [probably much, much less in reality].  Pukhov concludes:

 “And it’s completely clear that it’s necessary to reduce this gap to a less dramatic magnitude.  Otherwise our Armed Forces will remain the poor army of a poor country.”

Pukhov tells Baranets and his audience that Russia occupies fifth place in world military expenditures after the U.S., China, U.K., and Japan.  But, Pukhov says Russia isn’t the U.K. or Japan:

“The problem is the defense missions facing Russia are much larger scale . . . .”

He points to Russia’s size and a nuclear arsenal comparable only to the United States.  So, according to him, it’s obvious Moscow’s military spending is insufficient and its army underfinanced.  

Baranets asks, are the condition of Russia’s economy and its defense expenditures properly correlated?  Or has it gone overboard with money for the army?  Pukhov responds:

“Russia’s current military expenditures and plans for increasing them in the next 10 years, including the State Program of Armaments to 2020 (GPV-2020) aren’t excessive, on the other hand, they represent the most essential minimum.  I recall that, according to the Defense Ministry’s own calculations, a minimum of 36 trillion rubles were needed for an optimal technical reequipping of the troops by 2020.  But the adopted GPV-2020 promises a sum smaller by almost half.  This really allows us to patch only the most obvious holes in the army’s technical equipping.”

Baranets finishes up asking if European MD is affecting the military budget.  Pukhov replies that development of Russian strat forces is already in the budget and GPV-2020, and MD doesn’t present a threat to them until after 2020.

Less argument with the end of Pukhov’s interview.  Just a couple points.  Look back here to see what General-Lieutenant Frolov said 36 trillion would do.  “Optimal” must mean complete rearmament.  But others claim they can’t do it for even that amount.  Still, Putin, Medvedev, Serdyukov, and Makarov are consistently saying they are buying 70 percent rearmament by 2020 for 19 trillion.

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.