Russia’s military reform is not going well. Vladimir Putin, running for president two years ago, promised to boost defense spending to 3.5 percent of gross product–about $8.75 billion. Hard numbers are hard to come by, but expenditures are probably well below that level. It’s not just the grunts who are disgruntled.
Officers are unhappy with plans to restructure compensation by cutting privileges and benefits while raising base pay. With a cynicism born of experience, they fear the benefits will be tubed while pay raises won’t keep up. Last year’s ballyhooed supplemental appropriation of 20 billion rubles ($670 million) went to raise the Kursk and fund the war in Chechnya; almost nothing went to personnel. Besides, housing is housing, while a packet of rubles shrinks with inflation. Memories of 1994 and 1998 are still fresh and unpleasant.
Those memories got a jog when the lights went out at military installations earlier this month. Someone–the Defense Ministry? the Finance Ministry? the local commanders?–did not pay the electric bills. Eight army garrisons, two air force bases and an air defense unit in central Siberia, several facilities in and around Vladivostok, and even a satellite tracking station on the Kamchatka peninsula lost power, until the defense ministry promised to pay arrears of $6.7 million.
Arms manufacturers are worried too. Reports of a January 17 cabinet meeting indicate spending on weapons procurement, research and development this year will be about 79 billion rubles ($2.6 billion). That is $750 million more than in 2001, but it is still a warning to the industry, which suffers from Soviet-era overcapacity, to find foreign customers or die. (The United States budgeted $104 billion for weapons procurement, research and development in fiscal year 2002.)
The Strategic Rocket Forces, the darling of deterrence, will get only six new Topol-M missile complexes in 2002, not the ten that had been planned and certainly not the 30-40 the commanders expected only a few years ago. The Ground Forces, supposedly the winners in a long budget struggle with the Rocket Forces, reportedly will get no new weapons systems or military equipment until at least 2010.