• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Moscow Aims to Have One of World's Top Five Militaries

    Moscow recently announced its aspirations to have one of the five best militaries in the world. This ambitious plan will require that Russia replace 70 percent of its military materiel with modern military equipment by 2020. Such optimistic statements are not a rare occurrence, as the Kremlin has made similar statements on numerous occasions in the past.

    According to Sayid Aminov, editor of the Russian air force magazine, “missile troops are the cornerstone of Russia’s defense capability.” As such, Russia’s Ministry of Defense plans to acquire 36 ballistic missiles, 20 airborne cruise missiles, 5 spacecraft, 35 jets, 109 choppers, and 21 air defense systems. Aminov also states that the Russian navy will obtain eight Borei-class nuclear submarines configured to deploy Bulava missiles. However, the plans for modernization will cost the Kremlin a quarter of the state subsidies allocated toward Russia’s defense.

    Nevertheless, there is a long way to go before Moscow develops and deploys professional armed forces with modern intelligence-gathering; command, control, and communications systems; and precision-guided military systems on the level of modern Western armies. These challenges are further hampered by the need to reform a Soviet-era military bureaucracy, which is plagued with corruption and opposes the necessary reforms.

    As noted by participants in a recent Jamestown Foundation event regarding the Russian military, even though Russia’s main military focus has been NATO, it has become increasingly concerned with China’s military resurgence in the past few of years. The Chinese military exercise in 2008–2009 postulated projecting a military force 2,000 kilometers. The scope of power project suggests the Russian Federation and/or Central Asia as a target. In 2010, Russia responded with its own exercise aimed at countering a hypothetical move by China.

    The Russian military is focused on how China’s massive army and military modernization is surpassing Russia’s overstretched military, especially compared to those forces east of the Ural Mountains. Russia is seeking to have a military with 40 brigades in a rapid deployment mode, which will be the focus of future modernization.

    However, observers note that the state of conventional Russian military units in the Far East is poor and that the Kremlin continues to place heavy emphasis on tactical nuclear weapons. Russian military doctrine calls for initial strikes with tactical nuclear weapons on enemy command-and-control sites.

    Despite popular slogans and well-publicized efforts to reform the Russian army, the Russian media is full of allegations of rampant corruption, hazing of recruits, and human rights abuses by Russian servicemen, which continue to occur on a regular basis. Yet Russia’s generals and senior military officials frequently attempt to downplay these abuses. At the same time, top political leadership in the Kremlin remains reluctant or lacks the political will to fight hazing and violations of the law by the Russian military and security forces.

    Not surprisingly, the conflicts in Chechnya (1994–1996, 1999–2004) and Georgia (2008) demonstrated low level of preparedness and effectiveness in Russia’s military forces. In the future, Russia’s ability to fight even limited, regional wars depends on successful modernization. Moreover, Russia’s military spending fluctuates and is dependent on revenues from energy and raw materials exports.

    Russia’s current military doctrine envisions military conflicts in the “near abroad”—the areas that the Kremlin considers to belong to its “privileged sphere of influence.” Indeed, Moscow claims that Russia maintains the right to engage in armed conflicts on its borders or in the event of “aggression against its citizens.” In addition, in a recent report released by Russia’s security council, President Dmitry Medvedev envisioned possible future military conflicts over energy resources and emphasized Russia’s need to modernize its armed forces.

    Rampant corruption, an obsolescent science and technology base, and poor quality of both conscripts and contract personnel—including poor physical and mental health, alcoholism, and drug abuse—pose serious obstacles to building the modern and professional army that the Kremlin is seeking to achieve. The Russian government might be throwing petro-rubles from high oil prices to fulfill its military reform aspirations, but both strategy and implementation are badly lacking. There is a long list of serious structural problems that will require long-term commitment.

    Andriy Tsintsiruk currently is a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    7 Responses to Moscow Aims to Have One of World's Top Five Militaries

    1. p rajesh says:

      Russia can have the support of india a trusted partner having strong military and tough soldiers. Close ties for mutual growth and sharing tech with geographic parameters, sea side strength, upcoming indian young best people will definetly benefit both nations say after 2020. We may be a peaceful nation, can be trusted having high intelligence especially patience. We also like russia to be back as per the stature it was when USSR was there. the breakdown of the USSR causes present world situation monopolic imperialistic, crony capitalistic way of orientation lacking human values and ethical standards.. just some thoughts…wishes..

    2. Konstantin, Russia says:

      "36 ballistic missiles, 20 airborne cruise missiles, 5 spacecraft, 35 jets, 109 choppers, and 21 air defense systems…" These figures are obviously erroneous. The similar quantity of arms is bought by Russia in a year, instead of till 2020.

    3. Pavel G., Oxford Uni says:

      Konstantin, I would agree that the exact figures can be debatable as the Kremlin's budget fluctuates depending on external factors such as world market oil/gas prices. However, in this article Tsintsiruk cites a well-established and credible source — Sayid Aminov who is an editor-in-chief of the Russian air force magazine. Aminov’s publications and statistical data is commonly respected among worldwide scholars and diplomats. But at the same time we all know that these figures are simply optimistic projections for 2020. Russia’s army is faced with a number of serious structural problems as Tsintsiruk’s article rightfully points…

    4. Perfect work you have done, this website is really cool with great info .

    5. Andrey, Russia says:

      Maybe it is credible source but “36 ballistic missiles, 20 airborne cruise missiles, 5 spacecraft, 35 jets, 109 choppers, and 21 air defense systems…” for ten years with 650 billion dollars budget?

      Pavel G., Oxford University, UK do you really believe in this?

    6. Andrey says:

      Russian federation is a corrupted criminal state with autocratic government sand no civil liberates, total media propaganda (In the fields of Kremlin's special interests)

      The ONLY reason why Russia is not sinking today are the high energy prices on Oil and gas.

      Such a state with such government should not be allowed to sink into a new militarism.

    7. Andrew says:

      I don't know I think its a possibility. Russian knows theyre in danger of falling apart if they don't take action, and their military plans over the next few years seem very well strategized in my opinion. For example, There are approximitely 1100 generals in The Russian armed forces which is way to many, they plan on cutting this number down to about 800-900 generals. They are also going to cut their manpower down from 1.3 million to around 1.1 million so they can be more easily organised for rapid response, something that Russia has more than obviously been lacking in over the last few years, for example, the operations in Grozny and Georgia. They are also going to make changes in an attempt to modernize theyre command system, which is seems to stillbe stuck in the sixtys. These improvements sound legit to me, but i guess we'll just have to wait and see. .

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×