Predictably, the western news media and government officials are acting silly. This cocky attitude of theirs is for domestic consumption. Individuals who have an understanding of military armaments know that most of the military hardware exhibited today in Moscow - the fighter air crafts, nuclear ICBMs, anti-aircraft missiles, multiple launch and self propelled artillery, main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles - were top quality modern armaments, not Soviet era equipment. As a matter of fact, many of the weapons systems available within Russia today are better than their counterparts' in the West. The Russian armed forces still have a long way to go before they can match their western counterparts in technology, efficiency and organization, the Victory Day parade was a 'very' impressive show of force nonetheless. Juxtapose this picture to Moscow's aggressive diplomacy around the world and the unabated flow of oil/gas money that keeps pouring into the Russian Federation. I'm confident that officials in Washington (civilian and military) are shitting their pants. It's no longer a secret that Russophobia is beginning to reappear in the West. However, listening to their public - all is well - rhetoric you would never know it.
Experts say Red Square parade masks weakened Russia military
For the first time in post-Soviet Russia, tanks and nuclear missile launchers are to rumble across Red Square on Friday, in a seemingly fearsome parade of military might. The message to the world, two days after Dmitry Medvedev succeeds Vladimir Putin as president, should be clear: Russia is again a major military power. "This isn't saber-rattling," Putin insisted Monday. "We are not threatening anyone." And indeed, for all the investment in the military — an eightfold increase to an annual $40 billion during Putin's eight years in office — experts say it still has a long way to go to restore its Soviet-era might. "Our armed forces are merely a bad copy of the Soviet army," said retired Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin, a former arms control expert with the Russian Defense Ministry. The annual Victory Day parade that marks Nazi Germany's defeat may look impressive, but some Russian commentators think much of the military spending has been squandered through corruption, cronyism and mismanagement.
Although in better shape than in the years immediately after the Soviet Union dissolved, the military remains an example of Russia's inability to use its eight-year oil bonanza to overhaul decrepit infrastructure and institutions. The Soviet Union was bankrupted two decades ago by centralized planning and state dominance of the economy. After the sale of public assets in the 1990s, the state under Putin has expanded its role, and plans to create huge new government-owned military and technological conglomerates. But the army, the pension system, public health, secondary education and the road system have all eroded on Putin's watch, former government ministers Boris Nemtsov and Vladimir Milov wrote in a recent report, "Putin: The Bottom Line." The main cause, they charge, is "Russia's dive into an unprecedented mire of corruption" that flows throughout the government. INDEM, a Moscow-based research foundation, has reported that the volume of corrupt business conducted in Russia rose from $36 billion in 2001 to around $319 billion in 2005, its latest published data. The military budget accounts for around 4.6 percent of gross domestic product, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, roughly on a par with China and the U.S. But the generals don't let cash reach the grass roots where it's most needed, says security analyst Andrei Soldatov, and this "is leaving Russia's rapid-reaction armed forces in particularly bad shape."
The military's problems may be one reason why Medvedev repeatedly sounds the alarm about corruption, calling it "the gravest disease which has struck our society." Putin's Kremlin has poured $150 billion into its armed services, yet those services remain saddled with old weaponry and facilities. As part of an effort to reclaim Russia's previous status as a great military power, Putin has resumed long-range bomber patrols, boasted of developing a new strategic missile and threatened to deploy missiles closer to the heart of Europe. But only a handful of new combat jets and several dozen tanks have been added in recent years. Soviet submarines still frequently need repair and rarely leave their bases. A new nuclear sub, the Yury Dolgoruky, cannot be deployed because the Bulava ballistic missile it was supposed to carry has failed tests. When the vessel eventually sails, it will likely only make training cruises, according to a report by the Federation of American Scientists.
In other news:
Russia: The Fundamentals of Russian Air Defense Exports
S-400 Triumf (Russia deploys new air defence system): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WXieFUZKk04
Russia displayed the new S-400 surface-to-air missile system at the MAKS 2007 air show in Moscow that began Aug. 21. Although Belarusian Defense Minister Col. Gen. Leonid Maltsev expressed interest in acquiring it, Moscow is not ready to export the S-400.
Russia displayed its latest surface-to-air missile system, the S-400 Triumf, at the Aug. 21-26 MAKS 2007 air show in Moscow. The system was tested successfully in July and is now slowly being deployed around Moscow. Other countries, including Belarus, are keenly interested in the latest air defense technology. However, Igor Ashurbeily, CEO of S-400 producer Almaz Central Design Bureau, made it clear Aug. 23 that the system will not be exported until 2009. Russian air defense considerations, financial prudence and foreign policy all tend to argue for even longer delays in export.
Air defense is hardwired into the Russian military psyche. For much of the Cold War, Russia was at an extreme disadvantage in terms of intercontinental reach — especially in terms of aerial reconnaissance and strategic bombers. To put it simply, Russia was more vulnerable to U.S. reconnaissance planes and strategic bombers than the United States was to Soviet planes. Part of this is geography, part is history. The United States began designing an intercontinental bomber to reach Tokyo the moment the Japanese fleet bombed Pearl Harbor. The Russians, on the other hand, were fighting a massive and devastating land war against the seasoned German army. They had little time or patience for the niceties of long-range aviation. That disparity defined how each emerged from World War II to wage the Cold War. Air defense — particularly surface-to-air missiles — was consequently a major strategic consideration for the Soviets.
At the apex of this tradition are the late models of the S-300 series, especially the S-300PMU2, which are renowned as some of the best air defense hardware money can buy. Their range and capability make them coveted strategic defensive assets. With exceptionally long ranges, they can reportedly engage stealth aircraft and low-flying cruise missiles, and even intercept shorter-range ballistic missiles. The S-400 is the most recent variant. Despite the new designation, at one point the program was known as the S-300PMU3. The S-400 is quite similar to its older cousins, especially in outward appearance. If the nomenclature here is beginning to get a bit dense, that is no accident. The Soviets became quite adept at clouding their military capabilities by using confusing basic distinctions. Two “variants” of the same system could bear little apparent and even less actual resemblance to one another. This also cuts the other way. Moscow can use changes in nomenclature to make two quite similar systems appear to be very different. These skills are not lost on today’s Kremlin.
This is where export considerations begin to come into play. The ruse works only while no one else knows the finer points of the system. As long as the latest missiles remain sealed in their launch canisters and the electronic emissions of their engagement radars remain more or less out of the reach of American hands, the unknown remains unknown. Widespread proliferation of S-400 batteries would make them increasingly accessible to study — clandestine or otherwise — by the U.S. military. (The Department of Defense acquired several components of various older versions of the S-300 from former Soviet Union states in the 1990s.) Such study would allow a concrete picture of the system’s capabilities to emerge. A concrete picture defines the parameters of a problem, and a problem with parameters allows for the creation of concrete solutions.
The second reason Moscow is unlikely to let the S-400 slip out the door any time soon is that the Russian military-industrial complex has become particularly adept at refurbishing and upgrading old equipment and turning it around at a profit. Indeed, it is still selling variants of air defense systems with roots in the late 1950s. The Kremlin can then use this money to finance production and upgrades of the latest systems for itself. Meanwhile, it locks in a returning customer, who keeps coming back for upgrades and replacements for hardware that is much closer to slipping into obsolescence. This kind of thinking has an economic logic to it.
More than anything else, the export of strategic weapon systems is a tool of foreign policy. Such sales can help facilitate military cooperation or simply aid the enemy of one’s enemy. Moscow certainly was not playing nice when it delivered shorter-range Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile systems to Iran. But Russia thus far appears to have refrained from selling more serious systems — such as late-model S-300 systems — to either Iran or Syria, despite sincere efforts on the part of both Tehran and Damascus. That is a line Moscow has decided not to cross with Washington. Moscow has not widely sold the latest models of the S-300 system, and the Russians are hardly likely to begin exporting the S-400 before they expand production of its predecessor systems. Circumstances can change, however, especially as the United States continues to push toward a pair of ballistic missile defense bases in Europe, and Moscow is taking this potential shift into consideration.
Russia Holds its Ground
Ultimately, the S-400 builds on its predecessor. It is almost certainly an incremental improvement over the S-300PMU2. Those improvements, however, largely appear to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. However, even if the S-400 is little more than the S-300PMU2 with a new paint job, it is still one of the best strategic air defense assets money can buy. And Russia gains little from the system’s capabilities being distributed internationally and pinpointed any further. Although the deployment of the S-400 around Moscow hardly equates to Russia’s readiness to put the system on the export market, the fielding of this “next generation” will lead almost inexorably to the increased export of later-model S-300s. That alone will facilitate a qualitative leap in air defense for a number of buyers. Though the only true test for such systems is a shooting war, Russian air defense technology appears to be, at the very least, holding its ground in the face of generational advances by the U.S. Air Force — and that technology will become increasingly available for the right price.
Russia: Sustaining the Strategic Fleet
Russian Typhoon Submarine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD027pfA3Vc
According to U.S. naval intelligence, the Russian fleet conducted three strategic deterrent patrols in 2007 — two fewer than in 2006. While there are many potential aspects to this shift, none of them bode well for the Russian fleet.
The Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Notebook published findings April 28 based on U.S. naval intelligence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act suggesting that the Russian navy’s strategic deterrent patrols decreased from five in 2006 to three in 2007. In comparison, the U.S. Navy conducts 50 or more such patrols annually. In the late 1980s, the Soviets conducted even more. This reversal of a slow climb from zero patrols in 2002 highlights the trouble Russia is still having with the sea-based leg of its nuclear deterrent. The primary role of that sea-based component is a survivable second-strike capability. A submarine at sea — at least a reasonably well-built one — is generally very difficult to locate if it does not want to be found. While there can be many different dynamics to a particular nuclear balance, ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) are intended to remain at sea, hidden, thus ensuring a retaliatory capability even in the event of a devastating surprise first strike.
The revelation that the slow, upward trend in SSBN patrols since 2002 (in the wake of the 2000 Kursk disaster, no patrols at all were conducted) dropped significantly in 2007 instead of rising — or at the very least sustaining itself — is foreboding. In terms of metrics, the strategic fleet is expected to play an increasing role in Russia’s nuclear deterrent, carrying as much as 30 percent of the nuclear arsenal in 2015. This shift calls into question whether the fleet can sustain its current (and painfully slow) tempo of operations, much less increase them. Such a delay has many potential causes — a rise in maintenance issues or a delay in returning upgraded submarines to the fleet, for instance — but none of them would bode well. Delays in overhauls are hardly unexpected in Russian shipyards, but the Sineva upgrade was instituted as a stop-gap measure when Moscow’s penultimate attempt at a new submarine-launched ballistic missile was abandoned at the turn of the century. If those upgrades cannot be made in a timely manner, they begin to lose their raison d’etre, as they are a stop-gap solution and not the end goal. This is doubly troubling. First, the interim solution might not be implemented. Second, the long-term solution, the Bulava, remains deeply troubled.
Meanwhile, the drop also raises concerns about the qualitative status of the few Russian SSBNs in a meaningful state of operational readiness (probably around six, less than half the declared number), the navy’s ability to sustain even a very low operational tempo and the proficiency of Russian crews and officers. While these missiles continue to hold deterrent value alongside the pier (from which they can be launched), the more they sit inactive, the less likely they — or the submarines’ crews — are to return to sea. While the Russians have long adhered more closely than the West to a strategy of surging its subs to sea in a crisis, the truth of the matter is that even at 2007’s tempo, their capacity to actually do so is questionable. And if these submarines are to be nothing more than fixed, floating missile silos, they make for incredibly expensive ones. Although Russia might be awash in cash, it does not have extra defense rubles to go throwing around — and SSBNs are generally the most expensive components of a deterrent to design, build and operate in the modern era.
Moving forward, the Kremlin thus has two interrelated questions. Given the money, does the navy have the capability (in terms of submarines, missiles, crews and officers) to return to a meaningful tempo of strategic deterrent patrols? At the same time, given the quality of the navy, does the objective warrant the requisite investment? In other words, does Russia want — and is the Russian navy capable of returning to — something more than a symbolic sea-based deterrent? If so, it will not come cheap.
Report: Russian air force chief accuses NATO fighters of breaking safety rules over neutral waters
Russia's air force chief on Saturday accused NATO fighters escorting Russian bombers on patrol flights over neutral waters of violating safety rules. Air Force chief Col.-Gen. Alexander Zelin said NATO aircraft were approaching Russian bombers too closely and too often, creating risky situations. "They approach our strategic bombers at unacceptable distances and at unacceptable intervals, conduct various maneuvers around them and violate flight safety rules in every way," Zelin was quoted by the Interfax news agency as telling reporters Saturday. No one answered the phone at the Air Force's press service Saturday. An increasingly assertive Moscow is seeking to showcase its military might and clout in the international arena. During Friday's Victory Day parade, Russia displayed tanks and missile launchers on Red Square for the first time since the Soviet era, evoking the Cold War. Russia's military spending has increased eightfold to an annual $40 billion during the past eight years, thanks to the nation's oil bonanza. Analysts, however, say the armed forces still suffer from the problems that have dented its capability and prestige since the Soviet collapse. Zelin complained that NATO F-15, F-16 and F-22 fighter jets regularly "attack" Russian bombers over the Arctic Ocean. "It is not a misuse of the word 'attack' because our partners are training for combat actions, reaching the point of an attack," Zelin was quoted as saying. "I must confess that this is quite unpleasant and even dangerous. Naturally, we rehearse our counteractions." There was no immediate comment from NATO. Russia itself has been the subject of similar disputes. In February, Russian bombers flew over a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Pacific, prompting the U.S. to scramble fighters to escort the Russian aircraft. In September last year, Russian jets were accused of violating Finnish airspace. Russia said the jets were flying over neutral territory.