In a Dec. 27 interview with Russia’s Rossiya 24 news network Deputy Defense Minister Dmitry Rogozin stated that Russian defense spending would triple by 2015 to $92 billion. Citing the sharp increase in weaponry research & development costs as the primary reason Rogozin also reiterated Pres. Putin’s stated goals of totally modernizing 30% of all Russian military units by 2015 and 70% by 2020. Russia’s 2012 defense budget was $30.7 billion
Russian military forces while still potent are suffering from age and obsolescence of its military weaponry and seriously lacking in technological advancement. While more than capable of taking on potential adversaries with small military forces and defense budgets, Russia would have a difficult time matching military technologies on the battlefield with NATO and U.S. military forces and only somewhat less so in a conflict with China.
Even during the height of Soviet Era mega-military spending Russia had always been one or two steps behind the West in military technology. A disadvantage that was compensated for by sheer weight of numbers of military units and nuclear weapons opposite NATO in central Europe combined with a large and widespread espionage network.
With Soviet military strategy now long obsolete, Pres. Putin and his military advisers are taking a very different multi-track approach. Top emphasis is now placed on technological quality which requires research and development (R&D) along with higher training and education. R&D efforts will be home based as much as possible, however military and industrial espionage is once again being ramped up on levels not seen since the Cold War.
A new approach for Russia is the increased roles of private industry in defense combined with privatization of state owned military industrial infrastructure to generate competition and ingenuity. One aspect of this competitive approach is the involvement of French engineers to build the Mistral Class amphibious assault ship and the joint development with India of the Krivak III/Talwar Class missile frigate; with the primary aim of acquiring knowledge and experience for Russia’s own shipbuilding industry.
Where Russia is most in need of technical knowledge are areas which in Soviet days were almost entirely dependent on espionage such as; combat aircraft aerodynamics, naval engineering, computer software and electronics. Pres. Putin took direct aim at these deficiencies with his state of the nation address in which he vowed major funding for higher education in engineering and sciences.
Pres. Putin’s domestic policies may not be democratic and his foreign policy is very clearly one of ‘Russia first’, at the expense of all other nations. However, he is indeed ‘westernizing’ Russia’s defense industry with a cocktail prescription of capitalism and economic competition which if successful may eventually chip away at the West’s traditional military technological edge.