29.03.2008 Russia, Moscow. Military men in a cordon during the "Antidraft march" "For voluntary army" action of civil rights and public organizations. Participants of the march passed from the All-Russian Exhibition Centre to the Television center "Ostankino". The main demand of the participants was the cancellation of conscription and transition to a "contract army".
Photo: Alexey Kudenko
Russian Army Fails to Impress Americans
// American experts doubt the effectiveness of the Russian military reform
Yesterday an influential brain trust Heritage, Washington D.C. hosted a conference on the reform of the Russian armed forces. It took the participants two hours to unanimously acknowledge that there was no revival of Russia’s military might to be observed, and there was hardly any hope for Russia to create a modern and effective army by 2020. A former high-ranking CSI member told Ú that “Russians won’t be able to make their army modern and effective until their government becomes modern and effective.” Ú’s special correspondent Dmitry Sidorov reports from Washington, D.C.
The participants of the conference in the Heritage foundation helped the Director of National Intelligence, John Michael McConnell define how high Russia’s military threat is, taking account of the increase in investments in defense and the reform of the armed forces on the part of the Russian government. In February, 2005 Mr McConnell featured this issue in his annual report on evaluating threats to the USA. In the document presented to the Senate he argued that “Russia’s military officials have set to the restoration of the armed forces after a long and deep crisis, which started before the collapse of the Soviet Union.” Nevertheless the U.S. Naval Military College Professor Mikhail Tsypkin, the National Defence Professor of the Strategic Research Institute Stephen Blanc, the National Defense University Professor Eugene Rumer and Russian military analyst Alexander Golts stated with minor reservations that the reform of the Russian military forces was bound to fail.
The conference though began with an alarmist speech on Russia’s military threat by the Heritage Vice-President Kim Holmes, who served under Colin Powell as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs till 2005. He declared that Russia was no partner of the United Sates and criticised the Bush administration for their “sentimental conclusions” regarding Russia. Mr Holmes went on, “Russia’s spending on its armed forces is more than we know, whereas democratic reforms have been rolled back in the country.”
The Heritage Vice-President underscored a boost in public spending on the construction of strategic bombers and allocating definite sums of money for military exercises. Kim Holmes didn’t mention any specific exercises, but according to the source of Ú in the White House, “There were large-scale military manoeuvres in the North-Caucasian and Leningrad military districts in 2007, with the Federal Security Service taking part. During the manoeuvres invading Estonia and Georgia was tested.”
In spite of the fact that the experts rendered the reform of Russia’s armed forces a myth, rather than reality, practically everybody agreed with the conclusion that the current state of the Russian army is far better than it was in the 1990s. “Compared with the situation 10–15 years ago, one can state that it has changed for the better,” said Eugene Rumer, stressing at the same time that the money invested in the reform of the armed forces was used to pay salaries to the military mainly, rather than to purchase modern arms and weaponry. Mr Rumer noted that “Considerable funds are allocated for particular departments, for example the Russian Airborne Troops (VDV) and the Military Space Forces (VKS), whereas the financing of the Navy, Army and Air Forces remains at the same level.”
Stephen Blanc was the one to be most sceptical of Russia’s military might, proclaiming that the Russian armed forces were in a crisis. “It has lasted for 70 years at least,” Mr Blanc said. Professor drew attention to the fact that Russia’s military-industrial complex was unable to produce high-technology equipment and recalled the test of GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System), the “Bulava” (mace) missile and some of the air defense systems.
Concerning the export of Russian weaponry, Stephen Blanc pointed to the fact that “Russia is competitive in those regions where the West has no trade links.” He reminded of Algeria’s return of the MiG-29 fighters to Russia and the problem with the price and delivery date of the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft-carrier to India. “Russia may lose a part of the Indian arms market, which accounts for 25% of the overall Russian military export.”
Russia’s military doctrine was also excoriated by the experts. “It feels like Russia is surrounded by enemies only. They might believe millions of people from Roumania and Bulgaria to approach Russia’ borders,” Stephen Blanc said. He means that “Russia’s opposing the integration of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) into the EU is the evidence of the Russian neo-imperial policy.” “Russia wishes it were gendarme of the CIS, just like in the times of Nicholas I,” Mr Blanc added.
Fritz Ermart, a former high-ranking CIA member, also present at the conference, summed it up for Kommersant. He said, “In the long run, the world will need a Russia with modern armed forces, because its friendly relations with China and the weakness of Southern Asia can vanish.” He then added, “Russians won’t be able to create modern and effective armed forces until their government becomes modern and effective.”
All the Article in Russian as of Apr. 10, 2008