Medvedev’s Military Modernization Program Faces Crisis

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 81

Army-General Yury Baluyevskiy, the Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council and former Chief of the General Staff told a roundtable in Moscow on April 16 that the modernization of military equipment and weapons must proceed at the rate of around ten percent annually. Nevertheless, he characterized this assertion as both important and difficult, adding: “This needs to be done, so that the share of modern weapons reaches 70 percent by 2020” (Interfax, April 17). Such comments mask a deeper and systemic crisis facing the defense industry and the capability of the state to meet its military modernization targets. Increasingly, 2020 as an end date for such a highly ambitious rearmament program looks impossible to achieve.

Major-General, Vasiliy Burenok, Director of the Defense Ministry’s 46th Research and Development Institute, speaking at the same event, disclosed that the current rate of rearmament is currently only 2 percent annually. He concurred with Baluyevskiy’s view that a much higher rate of modernization is required, putting it at 9 percent, depending on the category of arms, while underscoring the paltry nature of the actual figure of 2 percent. In 2013 to 2015, he said, weapons and equipment now in service will be decommissioned en masse due to technical reasons (Interfax, April 17).

On April 20, in an effort to promote his military reform agenda, Defense Minister, Anatoliy Serdyukov, held an open day in the 5th Guards Tamanskaya motor-rifle brigade, meeting human rights activists and members of the committee of soldiers’ mothers. Some remarked that it had the appearance of a health resort for young men, rather than an army barracks, and indeed the word “dormitory” was the preferred term. Serdyukov also commented on the state procurement program, saying it would differ in approach: “We will buy only those weapons that are necessary for the armed forces. By initiating these meetings, we wanted to stimulate the [defense] industry to produce not what they are used to and comfortable with but what is necessary for us and what is today’s requirement” (Channel One TV, April 20).

Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, has persistently called on the defense industry to meet the challenges of modernizing the armed forces. During a meeting devoted to its future on April 5, he noted that 40 percent of research and development was unused, and that the government needed a clear picture of the types of hardware required by the armed forces and their precise purpose. “The money and the work of specialists are being spent, but the results are put on the back burner,” he said, adding: “Forty per cent is a bit much.” Putin also stated that this demanded urgent action, in order to form an “effective system for commissioning and developing weapons.” In his view, further auditing will be needed to establish these priorities. However, it is interesting to note that Putin admitted the Russian government currently lacks clarity on what weapons and equipment are needed and for what mission types, despite the modernization program aiming at a 70:30 balance by 2020 (ITAR-TASS, April 5).

The depth of the crisis facing the state modernization program was earlier revealed by Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Ivanov, who confirmed that the government had determined the amount of funding for the new State Armaments Program for 2011-2020, involving allocating an additional 100 billion rubles ($3.44 billion) annually to reform the defense-industrial complex. Ivanov said that this was necessary to ensure the fulfillment of the program to 2020. Vasiliy Zatsepin, an analyst in the Institute of Transition Period Military Economics, argued that “it is impossible to solve the problem of rearming our armed forces by a simple increase in funding, which is Ivanov’s typical method.” The failures of the Bulava Sea-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) indicate the serious nature of the present crisis, not least since this represents its most expensive project. However, greater scrutiny over expenditure and infusing the monitoring structures with adequate powers are also needed. Mikhail Barabanov, the editor of the Moscow Defense Brief, argues that 100 billion rubles annually may well prove insufficient to resuscitate the defense industry, while his colleague at the Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), Andrey Frolov, agrees, noting that the state armaments program long ago became hostage to the limited capacities of the defense industry, particularly in the sphere of high-technology systems (Kommersant, March 25).

Deputy Defense Minister, Vladimir Popovkin, also expressing dissatisfaction with the progress of modernization, emphasized that the ministry will not procure weapons or equipment that fail to meet “modern requirements.” Many of his reported comments were entirely reasonable, for instance pointing out that the army has no need to buy artillery systems with a range of 30 kilometers (km) if an enemy force possesses hardware with a range of 70 km. Popovkin confirmed that the ministry had abandoned a plan to develop a transport version of KamAZ trucks, since alternatives could be purchased abroad. ITAR-TASS cited Popovkin as critical of Russian armored hardware. “We will not be buying the BTR-80, because I don’t know how to get off it via the side door,” he said. Similarly, he observed that officers and soldiers do not want to remain inside the BMP-3 infantry vehicle, preferring instead to sit on its roof, and these specific model types were airbrushed from Interfax reporting (ITAR-TASS, Interfax, April 16).

One plausible solution is to buy abroad, and the expression of interest in the Mistral, or procuring a small number of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) from Israel seems to support such an approach. Yet, Aleksandr Sukhorukov, the Director of the Federal Defense Procurement Service (Rosoboronzakaz), claims that these are only being bought in order to “take a look,” as their numbers are too low for it to be otherwise. Rosoboronzakaz audited the implementation of government orders in 2009. The misuse of funds, again, resurfaced as a pressing problem, accounting for 627 million rubles ($21.53 million) as well as 1 billion rubles ($34.34 million) in “wrongfully obtained funds.” The schemes involve paying for work never carried out, double payments for the same job and substandard deliveries of products (, April 15). Sukhorukov noted that the bulk of expenditure is on the strategic nuclear deterrence, while how the new brigades will be equipped remains classified: perhaps because no one in the government or military really knows the answer.<iframe src=’’ border=0 name=’inner_menu’ frameborder=0 width=1 height=1 style=’display:none;’></iframe>