What Kind of Army Does Russia Need?

21 march 2003

Alexei Arbatov is Full Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Director of the International Security Center at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations; a member of the Russian delegation to the START I negotiations (1990); and Deputy Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma (1994-2003).

Resume: Russia’s need for a markedly different military organization became obvious, as never before, in the wake of the hostage drama at a theater center in Moscow. The fight against international terrorism and the threats posed by it requires profound changes in Russia’s military doctrine and in the armament of the army and law enforcement forces.

Alexei Arbatov, Doctor of Science (History), is a Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma Defense Committee, Head of the International Security Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of the World Economy and International Relations, a member of the Editorial Board of Russia in Global Affairs.

Alexei Arbatov

In this exceptionally difficult question, put forward in the title, one may give either a very brief or a very long answer. The brief answer is that Russia needs an army which would be antipodal to the one it now possesses: smaller, yet better trained and technologically equipped armed forces which are highly capable of performing explicit short- and long-term missions. At the same time, it would ensure a respectable financial and social status for the servicemen.

Russia’s need for a markedly different military organization became obvious, as never before, in the wake of the hostage drama at the Theater Center in Moscow. This unprecedented event prompted the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, to articulate the need for profound changes in Russia’s traditional military doctrine, as well as the adaptation of its armed forces and security agencies to fight international terrorism and the threats posed by it.

However, any arguments on this subject will remain purely scholastic if they ignore the real requirements of national defense, on the one hand, and the available resources (above all, finances and manpower), on the other. Viewed as a whole, it is logical that military doctrine, strategy, a plan for the development of the armed forces and armament programs are nothing more than links between requirements and resources. In other words, it is by necessity a reasonable compromise between what one desires and what one can afford.

What Kind Of Army Can Russia Afford?

The shroud of secrecy, which obstructs information about the real state of affairs in the Russian armed forces and defense industry, has given rise to a variety of public projections for the military requirements over the next ten years (this is the minimal amount of time necessary for a major reform of the large armed forces). Ideas concerning what shapes these requirements vary greatly as well. Let us address this question from a different aspect, taking as our starting points two theses with which most analysts will agree, irrespective of their ideological views or military and political tendencies.

Within the Russian strategic think tanks (including specialists both in and beyond the civil service) the consensus has been reached that the acceptable level of defense spending – according to Russian and international standards of defense sufficiency – must be approximately 3.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. This level was described as optimal in several decrees issued by President Boris Yeltsin, which were later validated by President Vladimir Putin. Nevertheless, this percentage was never actually realized in the federal budgets proposed by the government for 1998 through 2003 (actually, the figure remained between 2.4 and 2.7 percent of the GDP).

Russia’s federal budget for 2003 allocates approximately 350 billion rubles, or 2.7 percent of the GDP, for national defense (this sum does not include spending on other forces related to internal and external security and financed from the budget’s Law Enforcement and Security section. For the 2003 fiscal year, this figure has risen from 1.5 percent of the GDP to 1.9 percent). To all appearances, the maximum level of defense spending that can be achieved in normal conditions is about 3 percent of the GDP rather than the anticipated 3.5 percent. If the 2003 budget allocated 3 percent of the GDP for defense, that would mean an extra 40-odd billion rubles, bringing the total defense spending figure to 390 billion rubles. This decisive factor is the starting point for subsequent analysis.

The second indisputable premise is that the servicemen of the Russian army must enjoy a respectable standard of living, at least by Russian standards. For example, the monthly salary of a junior officer must be at least 10,000 rubles, which is in line with the current level of prices (that is, if the government abolishes benefits granted to servicemen for their public utility and other expenses). Agreeably, this sum is very modest, yet it would provide a minimal level of sufficiency for a young officer who has decided to answer the call of duty, as well as raise a family. And the increase in salary would also provide the additional motivation to serve his country well. Presently, the monthly salary of a junior officer is about 5,000 rubles, or a under 200 dollars.

Estimates indicate that if salaries are proportionally adjusted for all officers, and all other expenditures for the armed forces remain within the aforementioned budget restraints (3 percent of the GDP), Russia could then afford to maintain its 800,000-850,000 troops – that is, provided the armed forces continue to be conscription-based, while a mere 30 percent of the budget allowance is allocated toward investment items (R&D, procurement of arms and military equipment, capital construction, and armament repair), as it was in the late 1990s through to the beginning of the present century.

The amount of the military salary is not, however, the only factor influencing the quality of the military personnel. Other factors include, above all, housing (today some 160,000 armed forces officers alone need housing or improved housing conditions), as well as combat training, high standards of professionalism, and general living and service conditions provided to the rank and file. Irrespective of the varying assessments of threats and immediate defense requirements, these factors demand that more funding be set aside for housing programs and a general improvement in combat training. The latter implies additional spending on various essential materials such as fuels, oils and lubricants, spare parts, munitions, and overall general maintenance.

But this does not settle the question. It is generally acknowledged among the Russian strategic think tanks that the 30 percent of the military budget which is reserved for technical equipment of the army is unacceptably insufficient for the revitalization of the armed forces. Insufficient funding in this critical area will lead to a reduction in the supply of new weapons and equipment and, finally, to the possible collapse of the defense industry altogether (or its full reorientation to export). As a result, under such circumstances, Russia would cease to be a leading military power. Now a goal has been set to bring the funding of technological investments to at least 40 percent of the total defense budget. In this case, in 2003, provided that all other aforementioned prerequisites are fulfilled, the strength of the Russian army could be maintained at 700,000-750,000 men. Such are the conclusions prompted by these two generally accepted premises.

The third premise is a subject of heated debate both among experts and the public at large.

In order to master the new military technologies and equally revised methods of modern warfare, not to mention the eradication of barracks violence (‘hazing’) and other corruptive trends now present in the army, the armed forces will need higher-quality recruits. In the opinion of this author, and many other like-minded individuals, this can be achieved only if Russia starts enlisting privates and sergeants for its Armed Forces on a contractual basis. The above calculations imply that a voluntary Russian Army could be 550,000-600,000-strong (provided the contract privates are paid at least 5,000 rubles a month, the lowest attractive amount for them)[1].

A contract army has large advantages over a conscription-based army: it suffers minimal fatalities, while at the same time it inflicts limited collateral damage. The military operations of the United States in the Persian Gulf and in Afghanistan, and NATO’s successful activities in Yugoslavia, clearly demonstrated the advantages of a professional army. Similarly, the experience of the United States in Vietnam, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, and Russia’s two Chechen campaigns in the last decade have proven the disadvantages of a conscript army. Furthermore, innovations introduced into the Russian military doctrine after the hostage crisis in Moscow must now lead strategists away from those cumbersome forces which require excessive personnel and armaments, to those with a high degree of professionalism and quality.

Considering the financial constraints discussed above, the strength of the Russian army can vary within 550,000-700,000 servicemen, depending on whether it remains a voluntary or conscript army. However, to some people this figure looks unacceptably low; they oppose any transition towards a professional army and call for toughening the terms on conscription (i.e. abolishing the right to a deferment from military service, increasing criminal liability, enforcing the draconian law entitled On Alternative Civil Service, and so on). But such an approach is both archaic and impractical. In the next few years the demographic decline in Russia will cut the draft-age group by more than 60 percent. If preserved as the main method for staffing the rank and file, conscription will increase the total strength of the armed forces only marginally. Furthermore, it will obviously not save much on their maintenance since any increase in the number of enlisted personnel necessarily demands an increase in the number of officers and, consequently, expenditures for their allowances and housing. This is precisely why all of the advanced armies in the world, including the armies of the European continent, are going professional – one by one – following in the footsteps of the United States and Great Britain. Actually, an all-professional army is becoming an inalienable, fundamental characteristic of militarily advanced countries the world over (except for Israel which has a unique geostrategic position).

At the same time, a gain of 150,000 soldiers in strength provided through conscription does not compensate for the loss of personnel quality acquired through a professional army.

In any case, it is not critical by comparison with other security factors in Russia (for example, the degree of protection of the borders, the acuteness of ethnic conflicts inside the country and on its periphery, relations with neighboring countries, the state of affairs with disarmament and nonproliferation of weapons in the world, etc.).

The inability to maintain a numerically large and combat-ready reserve for general mobilization is another argument against a professional army. This concept, familiar with the traditions of the Soviet and czarist Russian armies, is deeply rooted in the mentality of the officers’ corps. Budgetary and technical assessments alone are not enough for an in-depth analysis of this issue. Such an analysis also needs strategic considerations.

Mobilization For A ‘Big’ War?

Presumably, in some imaginable scenario of another ‘big’ war – such as World War II or the thirty-year Cold War of the last century – a hypothetical situation with Russia could only arise with NATO or China. In either case, hostilities would soon escalate into a major conflict and would involve the use of weapons of mass destruction, which is provided for by Russia’s military doctrine. The doctrine unequivocally presupposes first use of nuclear weapons “in response to large-scale aggression involving the use of conventional weapons in situations critical to the Russian Federation’s national security.” Understandably, mobilization in this case would be both impossible and pointless.

But even supposing that there was a delay in implementing nuclear weapons in such a hypothetical war, in favor of conventional combat operations, this would leave little opportunity for general mobilization all the same. Recent conflicts have demonstrated that in any engagement with NATO forces there could not be an invulnerable rear, as was the case in both world wars. Today, conventional long-range, high-precision missiles and other airborne weapons are capable of quickly destroying defense industry facilities, the infrastructure of storage facilities, transportation and logistical support systems throughout a given territory; all of this could be accomplished before the target country has had time to mobilize, arm, train and dispatch millions of its reservists to the front. Russia does not even have, and is unlikely to have in the foreseeable future, enough weapons and equipment in satisfactory condition for these reservists, except for light armaments which do not matter much in a ‘big’ war situation.

Even if a country succeeds in activating a full prewar mobilization of its industrial might, the production of modern heavy weapons takes too much time and effort to build up in conditions of intensive deep missile and aircraft strikes, not to mention a permanent nuclear threat. The most that the industry could accomplish during a big war is to replenish the stocks of ammunition, spare parts, fuels, oils and lubricants.

A hypothetical big war with China would be of a different character. In the foreseeable future, this country will hardly be able to raise conventional forces comparable to those of NATO, especially in terms of its long-range, high-precision weapons. But any competition with China in mobilizing reservists in a prewar or wartime situation would be absolutely hopeless considering China’s unlimited manpower resources, as well as its geostrategic advantages in the likely zone of some hypothetical conflict (the Transbaikal region and the Far East).

Other possible flash points which must be given consideration, such as regional or local conflicts, peacekeeping missions, and antiterrorist operations, do not require a general mobilization at all, at least the kind of general mobilization which was carried out during World War II, and is still being planned by the Russian Defense Ministry (requiring several million people). Of course, giving up the traditional idea of a massive military reserve is a very difficult and painful transition for any military organization which is largely built upon this principle, as is the Russian variety. But ongoing pleas for the rationalization of the military may not be enough to persuade the Defense Ministry of the need for change; this will probably require a resolute and unequivocal decision made at the highest levels of government.

It should be noted, however, that during some of the more recent global conflicts, the United States and its allies activated their reservists (National Guard) in unison with their professional troops. But a limited reserve is quite compatible with a professional army. Russia, too, may require an additional contingent to reinforce its regular troops, or replace them when they are deployed at remote regions. Such a reserve contingent (an additional 50 to 70 percent of the regular army’s strength) is not ruled out at all; indeed, it is supposed to be implemented when the conscripted armed forces finally become a professional army.

This category of servicemen may include those who have already served as volunteers, and their contract should bind them to duty in a combat-ready reserve until they reach a certain age. Also, the personnel of other forces, whose strength is now comparable to that of the armed forces, must be duly trained to reinforce the regular army. Naturally, these servicemen will excel in terms of professionalism the present-day reservists (recalled occasionally for training and appropriately nicknamed ‘guerillas’ by the regular troops). Of course, there must be a sufficient stock of armaments and military equipment for a professional army’s reserve and these forces must regularly refresh their weapon-handling skills.

In approximately five years, there will be some four million first-category reservists who will have served out their conscription terms before 2003, and an additional two million in ten years – which is enough to solve all of the reserve problems associated with an all-volunteer army.

Therefore, from the viewpoint of manpower and other resources, a 550,000-600,000-strong professional army could ensure the highest quality for Russia’s armed forces for the next 10 to 15 years. But will such an army meet Russia’s security interests?

“Azimuths” Of Threats And Conflicts

Events are demanding that Russia chart a new course. Following the tragedy of September 11th, Russia began an intensive political and economic rapprochement with the United States and its allies in Europe and the Far East. Not long afterwards, following the tense hostage experience in Moscow, the Russian army and its affiliated agencies were reoriented to address challenges of a new breed. However, Russia’s revised foreign policy and doctrines are a far cry from its established military policy and organization. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Russia’s armed forces – with a troop-strength projected to be over one million by 2004 – are 70 —;;;; 80 percent oriented for a war with the West (as well as Turkey and Japan) in terms of a general mobilization strategy, as well as a long-term armament program.

Fairly speaking, U.S. and NATO approaches to military and disarmament issues and use-of-force policies are not encouraging Russia to pursue a change in its present military policy. On the contrary, these developments are only promoting serious trouble. But that is another subject. This article deals specifically with military policy and military reform, and since this problem is much more acute for Russia than other countries, overcoming this inertia is a must for building a modern and strong army.

The Gordian knot of problems afflicting the Russian military policy and military reform will not be cut unless the political leaders make a historic decision and translate this into action. Namely, they must instruct the military, in a firm and unequivocal way, to exclude from its present military doctrine, strategy and basic operational plans, the armed forces’ deployment, combat training and procurement programs all scenarios for a large-scale conventional war with NATO in Europe, as well as with the United States and Japan in the Far East. European-based military districts and fleets, which rely on a well-developed rear infrastructure, must be viewed mainly as a base of troops and forces intended for operation on other theaters, for peacekeeping operations in the Commonwealth of Independent States and other regions of the world, and for counterterrorism operations wherever needed.

The probability of Russia becoming involved in a war with NATO in the foreseeable future is almost non-existent. The reasons are due to the objective interests of both Russia and the member NATO nations, not to mention the catastrophic consequences such a conflict would have. However, as long as NATO exists as a military-political alliance, maintains a formidable structure of military force, sprawls eastward without inviting Russia to join as an equal member, the pragmatic military view will not permit Russia to pretend that NATO does not exist. Nor can it blindly rely upon the verbal assurances of Western leaders concerning their non-aggressive intentions. As a result, the need for Russia’s military potential in the European strategic sector will persist despite Russia’s consistent economic and political rapprochement with the West — that is, until the alliance transforms its basic structure (unilaterally or by means of new agreements).

The nearly infinitesimal probability of a Russia-NATO conflict could be further reduced through an optimal nuclear deterrence potential at the strategic and theater/tactical levels. The general-purpose forces in this region are required only to support and cover strategic nuclear forces, whereas theater/tactical nuclear weapons are mainly used with dual-purpose carriers of the Ground Forces, Air Force and the Navy. Besides, a highly efficient and mobile group of general-purpose forces, oriented to other theaters, will be deployed heavily in the European part of the country. Naturally, theater air defense and antimissile defense systems, and – possibly in the future – additional elements of a strategic ABM system, will also be deployed in the defined zone, thus defending it against threats from both the south and the east.

The Russian strategic think tanks are actually unanimous in their belief that the main threat to the country’s security now derives from the South along an extended “arc of instability.” This area stretches from the Dniestr Region in Moldova, to the Crimea, to the mountain ranges of the Pamirs and Tian Shan in Central Asia. However, this threat does not take the traditional form of aggression by organized armed forces. It derives from extreme nationalist and religious organizations which use guerrilla tactics to wage ‘transnational warfare’ (in which internal and external conflicts merge) against Russia in the Caucasus and its allies throughout Central Asia. Russia is also facing other threats of a new type which may cause conflicts: terrorism, arms and drug trafficking, illegal migration and organized transnational crime, poaching and smuggling.

To counter these threats, the armed forces must perform unusual missions and operate jointly with the Interior Ministry, the Border Guard troops, law enforcement services and intelligence agencies. Operations of this kind demand a moderately large, yet highly mobile, well-trained and well-equipped professional army. The largest and most successful regional operation – Operation Desert Storm in 1991 — involved some 500,000 U.S. troops, about 1,000 aircraft, and 5,000 armored vehicles. A Russian force of the same size and quality would be enough to defend Russia’s interests against the largest possible threat in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Russia could deploy a similar variety, 550,000-600,000-strong force, provided reservists from among former contract soldiers, and from other forces, are mobilized.

Units from such an army would be capable of operating effectively in low-intensity local conflicts, support the Interior Ministry and Border Guard troops, as well as participate in peacekeeping and counterterrorism operations, on their own and jointly. In the future, a group of this kind may be needed at another theater, which is Russia’s vast Far East.

It is very difficult to imagine any sort of realistic threat coming from China even in 10 or 15 years. Economic, political and military relations between the two countries are now progressing at a very successful pace. China is now the largest buyer of Russia’s state-of-the-art conventional armaments (which are lacking even within the Russian army), and has even acquired the licensing rights to manufacture them. Yet, some generally acknowledged factors and tendencies in the Far East may in the future provide the prerequisites for a conflict of interest between the two nations.

For economic and political reasons, which are bound by international agreements, Russia is not ready to restore the mighty military force in the Far East, similar to the one it had in the region during the 1970s and the 1980s. Likewise, it cannot reinforce its Far Eastern force with troops from its European region, since the transportation of even one motorized or armored division across the country would require two months and 500 railroad trains [2].

The only way to counter unfavorable developments in the Far East is to have ammunition and heavy armament depots in the region; these would need to be well-guarded and covered by air defense troops and the Air Force, but at the same time would not violate international agreements. In the case of an actual military threat, troops could be moved into the region by air and land, using military and civil transport, in order to double or triple the force within several months, and then deploy the forces to the threatened areas. A 550,000-600,000-troop army can quickly build a well-trained and well-equipped 200,000-250,000-strong force in the Far East, while reservists would replace troops in the European region.

Russia’s geostrategic problems within this theater make the goal of achieving indisputable nuclear superiority at strategic and tactical levels particularly vital. Such superiority will enable the general-purpose forces, provided they have superiority in the air, to defend the nation’s interests for at least several weeks until the peace is restored, or the decision is made to implement the use of nuclear weapons.

Considering the limitations imposed by available resources on the strength of general-purpose forces when their quality is markedly improved, an optimum nuclear deterrence potential acquires special importance. Globally and regionally, nuclear weapons are the most effective deterrent against attacks involving similar weapons and, possibly, other types of weapons of mass destruction. As regards the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons on general-purpose forces, this is a debatable issue, especially if an enemy, having superiority in general-purpose forces, also has strategic forces and tactical nuclear weapons of its own.

One can be truly confident about one thing: in the above situations, theater/tactical forces per se, even in large numbers, will not be worth much without adequate cover provided through invulnerable and powerful strategic nuclear forces. Without them, tactical nuclear weapons will rather play a provocative role, prompting the enemy to deliver a preemptive strike at Russia’s tactical and strategic forces.

So, out of the anticipated 550,000-600,000-troop army, 200,000 of these troops would be equipped with the most advanced weapons, as well as have the highest proportion of officers and contract soldiers, and/or other troops on high alert: the Strategic Missile Forces and other components of the strategic nuclear forces, the Military Space Forces, the Space Missile Defense Forces, Air Force air defense units, as well as Airborne Troops and nuclear technical support units. These arms must be the first to be made all-professional, which would not cost the country much: an additional three percent of the 2003 defense budget.

The remaining 350,000-400,000 troops would be divided among general-purpose forces of the Ground Forces, the Air Force and the Navy, as well as centralized military bodies. Their conversion to voluntary enlistment, which would entail higher allowances for servicemen, would necessarily increase the 2003 defense budget by about 10 percent. A respective cut in the strength of the armed forces, which would entail an increase in military pensions and the transition of recruits to voluntary service, would cost almost as much. If this reform were to be carried out resolutely over three years, the expenditures would not exceed 10 to 15 percent of annual additional allocations for national defense and law enforcement activity (the calculation is based on the 2003 figures).

The current plan of the Russian Defense Ministry, which is to have 50 percent of the armed forces professional by the year 2011, seems to be typical red tape maneuvering (apparently in anticipation of the reform’s ‘natural death’). This plan will not produce any favorable military effect; it will not save money or solve the vital problems now facing the armed forces and the defense industry. The General Staff and the command of the Armed Forces have halted the reduction of the army’s strength at 1.1-1.2 million servicemen, thereby preventing the army from saving on its general maintenance expenses, and from using these potential savings to markedly improve the quality of the personnel, as well as their equipment and combat training. These efforts are now planned to be funded from additional allocations which will not exceed the inflation rate by more than 5-10 percent, or could possibly equal that rate should world oil prices tumble again.

Other half-baked plans, such as the reduction of the conscripted soldiers’ tour of duty to six months, only make things confused and focus undue attention on minor issues. A six-month conscription term is too short a period for effectively training new conscripts, whereas the required combat-ready reserve can be maintained by using more effective methods mentioned above.

The current “experiment” by the Defense Ministry, which entails the transition of one regular division (or rather, one more division, along with the 201st division already deployed in Tajikistan) to an all-volunteer basis, is of little use both militarily and as a “pilot model.” The current practice of placing individual units in all arms of the Armed Forces on permanent combat readiness is arbitrary and groundless. This practice is nothing but a vestige of the Cold War traditions, because, except for the aforementioned forces (the Strategic Missile Forces, the Space Missile Defense Forces, Air Defense Forces, etc.), general-purpose regiments and divisions of the Ground Forces, Air Force and the Navy no longer need to be placed on high alert to counter a “sudden attack” from the West.

Priorities Of The Armament Program

Russia’s new armament program, shrouded in secrecy, would ‘divide the pie’ between the different branches of the Armed Forces to accommodate their narrow interests and maintain the greatest possible number of defense industry enterprises (actually in a state of coma) by providing all of them with minimal state orders. The investment items of the defense budget lacking clear-cut and well-grounded priorities are smothered by “maintenance” expenditures (which comprise over 70 percent of the budget). Presently, it is only export-oriented defense companies (i.e. those arming foreign armies), which are confident about their future.

The situation can be improved by altering the maintenance-investment ratio from 70:30 to 60:40 (by cutting the troop strength of the armed forces), and by setting clear-cut priorities to meet new security challenges. First of all, Russia must drastically alter its strategic armament program. In particular, the Russian government must revise its decisions with regard to its strategic nuclear forces, made in mid-2000 and early 2001, to ensure strategic efficiency and stability, and focus resources on ground-based missile systems. Increased production of Topol-M missiles would bring the number of silo-based and mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles to 300-400 in 10 to 15 years.

Such a force of missiles, equipped with multiple re-entry vehicles, is capable of carrying 1,000-2,000 warheads and, unlike sea- and air-based weapons, can ensure a stable deterrence potential in all directions. This is important in view of the anticipated proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their carriers along Eurasia’s southern belt. Sea- and air-based strategic nuclear forces must be maintained by extending the service life of their weapon systems and gradually reorienting the Navy and the Air Force to regional tasks. The acute shortage of resources makes it expedient to resume a policy of integrating individual components of strategic nuclear forces, as well as strategic nuclear forces with the Military Space Forces and the Space Missile Defense Forces.

The above does not imply a buildup of Russia’s nuclear potential. In the foreseeable future, Russia’s strategic forces will continue to decrease in any case. But their optimum structure will ensure military stability no matter how Russian-U.S. relations develop with regard to the ABM and START treaties. Washington’s strategic interest in settling these issues through agreement will, most likely, continue to grow.

According to estimates, this is the least expensive way to have sufficient strategic nuclear forces. It enables a country to use other funds to enhance overall combat efficiency of weakened general-purpose forces or to build up strategic defense systems. Meanwhile, the present policy of “balanced modernization” of all the components of the triad, given the acute shortage of funds, is sure to either disrupt all the components of strategic nuclear forces, or result in huge expenditures producing little effect. Renunciation of the Cold War heritage in the form of the “parity” concept implies, above all, renunciation of not comparability in the number of carriers and warheads, but of the highly expensive “triad” concept which Russia no longer needs and no longer can afford.

Such a nuclear potential (together with limited, yet flexible, highly survivable and safe tactical nuclear weapons) will make it much easier for Russia to ensure security in the west while NATO enlarges eastwards. This potential will also allow Russia to build relations of cooperation with the alliance, without fearing its superiority in general-purpose forces, as well as their offensive potential beyond the alliance’s zone of responsibility. This is even more important in Asia, as not a single Asian country in the foreseeable future will have a strategic potential comparable to that of Russia, if Russia maintains it in the most optimal manner.

Russia should also pay much more attention to developing non-strategic antimissile defenses for both Europe and Asia. Importantly, a theater antimissile defense system must not necessarily be an alternative to a strategic ABM system. It may be the first step in introducing comprehensive antimissile defense systems for Russia, the U.S.A. and its allies, as well as becoming a proving ground for cooperation of great powers in this field. Also, Russia must maintain, at an advanced level, warning, control and reconnaissance systems for its strategic nuclear and general-purpose forces (including their space-based components). This, of course, is a must for any modern army.

If we take the year 2003 as our point of reference, and if we assume that the defense budget stands at 390 billion rubles (3 percent of the GDP), and that 60 percent of this money will be allocated for the maintenance of the armed forces, then over 150 billion rubles could be allocated for investment items (compared to 100 billion rubles allocated now). About 35-40 percent of these funds would ensure an effective nuclear deterrence potential at the strategic and tactical levels. It would also guarantee greatly improved early-warning and command and control systems, as well as a stage-by-stage buildup of modern theater air defense and antimissile defense systems. This factor would also enable Russia to simultaneously develop cutting-edge strategic ABM and space-based systems.

The rest could be used to equip new general-purpose forces. The main priority here must be not tanks, guns, aircraft or ships, but a marked enhancement of informational support, control and communications (including, for example, a ramified ground-based network of receivers for the already deployed GLONASS satellite navigation system). These factors are essential for a modern army and modern methods of combat; a shortage of information support cannot be compensated for even by very high fire power from the armed forces.

Efforts in this field are crucial for large-scale deployment and future use of long-range, high-precision weapons, whose effectiveness was graphically demonstrated during NATO’s operations in Yugoslavia in 1999, and yet again in Afghanistan during 2001-2002. Advanced information support, control and communications systems are also required for the interoperability between the various branches of the armed forces, as well as with the special-task forces – a major component of modern combat, which was clearly demonstrated by the recent hostage drama in Moscow.

Annual investments in general-purpose forces, which have been suggested above, over the next 10-15 years will provide the Russian army with sufficient funds (depending on the types of armament and military equipment, and the increase in their prices) to buy some 3,000 armored vehicles, 2,000 artillery mounts of various types, 1,000 surface-to-air guided missile launchers for air defense troops, 100 military transport aircraft, and 1,000 combat aircraft and helicopters. These investments will also help repair modern ships and submarines, and renovate their missile and torpedo armaments and electronic systems. The proportion of state-of-the-art equipment in service with the Armed Forces, provided they are cut to an optimum level, will reach 30-40 percent, which is in line with international standards.


Of course, even the most effective armed forces will not ensure the country’s security and secure its political interests in the new conditions without their interaction with other troops, military and law enforcement bodies and services. Furthermore, a reasonable military policy must be accompanied by a wise foreign policy and strong diplomatic procedure. Russia seems to be lacking such interaction. By adopting a policy of curtailing ground-based mobile missile forces, the strongest component of the strategic nuclear forces, Moscow pulled the rug out from under its diplomats during negotiations in Washington concerning offensive and defensive strategic armaments. As a result, it has not only lost the ABM Treaty and a new full-scale agreement on strategic offensive armaments; it has lost a major lever of influence on U.S. policy as a whole, and in regards to NATO’s further enlargement and pressure on Iraq, for example.

By sluggishly resisting NATO’s eastward movement, Russia has done nothing to neutralize the negative consequences of this process: namely, to involve the Baltic States in the treaty for conventional arms reductions in Europe, to negotiate a radical reduction of the general-purpose forces, or to ban nuclear weapons in Central and Eastern Europe. A drowsy diplomacy, combined with a clumsy military policy and a limping military reform, has produced classically poor results.

The above equally refers to the East where Russia’s security depends not only on sufficient defense, but even more on the development of well-balanced economic and political relations with its two major neighbors – China and Japan. Meanwhile, over the last decade Russian diplomacy has failed to find a mutually acceptable way out of the deadlock in negotiations with Tokyo on the territorial issue, which continues to weaken Russia’s positions in its relations with China. These factors, however, are yet another subject for special discussion.

Summing up, one can list the main parameters that Russia’s armed forces, military policy and military reform will need in the near future:

– maximum transparency of the defense budget, including the armament program; broad discussion of the budget’s validity and of the military policy underlying it; and greater involvement in this process of parliament and independent scientific and public organizations;

– an increase in defense spending to 3 percent of the GDP;

– a reduction in the armed forces troops strength to 800,000 servicemen within 2-3 years and to 550,000-600,000 servicemen within 5-6 years;

– the transition of the armed forces and other troops to an all-volunteer army within this period;

– a simultaneous increase in servicemen’s allowances by approximately 100 percent in 2003-2004, compared to their present-day level (the inflation rate not taken into account);

– an increase in allocations for the defense budget’s investment items to 40 percent;

– the revision of the strategic nuclear forces program, with priority given to ground-based mobile missile systems; improvement of control and missile attack warning systems; and development of new theater antimissile and air defense systems, and space-based systems;

– the creation of compact, mobile and well-equipped general-purpose forces, with the emphasis placed on marked improvement of their command, control and communications systems, information support and the mass equipment with long-range, high-precision weapons;

– the reorientation of general-purpose forces to operation in local conflicts and regional wars, and to operations of a new type in southwestern, southern and eastern strategic sectors; the creation of stocks of armament, equipment and materiel near threatened areas.

1. The author would like to thank expert P.B. Romashkin for his assistance in providing these calculations.

2. O. Odnokolenko. “General Shpak’s Landing Force,” Itogi, July 2, 2002. No. 26, pp. 20-21.

Last updated 21 march 2003, 17:15

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