”Keep a Watchful Eye on Russia’s Military Technology”

21 July, 2004
”Keep a Watchful Eye on Russia’s Military Technology”

Over the last twelve years, it has become customary to refer to the
Russian military establishment as decayed, under-armed, under-trained,
and under-supplied, thereby effectively writing it off as
second-rate. Russia’s long war in Chechnya seems to reinforce the
above sentiments, and current writings and reports on the Russian
armed forces all point to the dire need for reform and financial
assistance across the board. In essence, current analysis seems to
indicate that Russia stopped being a viable competitor to the American
military sometime after 1992. The media coverage of Russian military
technological achievements has been limited to coverage of its fighter
jet crashes at international air shows, and an occasional
complimentary article on a recent Russian entrant at a military show
or exposition.

At the same time, there has been wide and detailed coverage of
American achievements in the development of numerous military
technologies, especially after the 1991 Gulf War. The United States’
military interest is concentrated on continuing the process of
revolutionizing its military affairs with new technologies and tactics
that were learned in conflicts and wars very different from the
once-possible war between the U.S. and Russia on the European plains.
Meanwhile, the Russian military is forced to make do with weapons that
should have been retired in late 1980s.

However, even in the current dire circumstances, Russia never stopped
being a powerful entity that produced state-of-the-art military
technologies — a trend that continued from its inception as a modern
state. While its army, navy and air force are in dangerously derelict
conditions, every part of the formula for Russia’s resurgence as a
military powerhouse is still in place. Russia has been consistently
fielding top-notch military technology at various international trade
shows, and has been steady in the demonstration of its capabilities.

In spite of financial and economic difficulties, Russia still produces
state-of-the-art military technologies that continue to impress the
world. One of its best achievements after the dissolution of the
Soviet Union has been its armored fighting vehicle BMP-3, which has
been chosen over Western vehicles in contracts for the United Arab
Emirates and Oman, long located in Washington’s sphere of
influence. Russia’s surface-to-air missile systems, the S-300, and its
more powerful successor, the S-400, are reported to be more potent
than American-made Patriot systems. The once-anticipated military
exercise between the Patriot and the S-300 never materialized, leaving
the Russian complex with an undisputed, yet unproven, claim of
superiority over the American system. Continuing this list is the
Kamov-50 family of military helicopters that incorporate the latest
cutting-edge technologies and tactics, making them an equal force to
the best Washington and the West has to offer.

Additional proof of the strength of Russian military technology is the
recently held joint Indo-American air force exercises, the results of
which were widely covered in the media. Modern Russian-made Su-30
fighters in service with the Indian Air Force out maneuvered
American-made F-15 planes in a majority of their engagements,
prompting U.S. Air Force General Hal Homburg to admit that Russian
technology in Indian hands has given the U.S. Air Force a “wake-up
call.” Furthermore, the Russian military establishment is continuing
to design other helicopters, tanks and armored vehicles that are on
par with the best that the West has to offer. In addition, Mexico,
long a customer of U.S. military technology, has expressed an
interest in a limited amount of Russian weapon systems.

Part of such success — limited, but nonetheless crucial to the
survival of the Russian military industry — stems from the fact that
even in these difficult times, some of Russia’s military factories and
its covert cities, once the sites of ultra-secret projects, are still
operational and continue to work on essentially the same projects as
before the demise of the Soviet Union: the development of military
technologies that are on par or better than those available in the
West. Since the American military will be fighting its future wars
against armies possessing Russian weapons — or derivatives thereof —
Washington should pay closer attention to what is happening across the
wide spaces of the Russian Federation for three reasons.

One is the simple fact that weapons export is one of the best ways for
Russia to earn much-needed hard currency. Already, Russia is the
second-largest worldwide exporter of military technology after the
United States. As reported in various magazines, journals and
periodicals, at present, Russia’s modern military technology is more
likely to be exported than supplied to its own armies due to the
existing financial constraints and limitations of Russia’s armed
forces. This has implications for America’s future combat operations
since practically all insurgent, guerrilla, breakaway or terrorist
armed formations across the globe — the very formations that the
United States will most likely face in its future wars — are fielded
with Russian weapons or its derivatives. Even if the Russian
government exercises control over the sale and export of its military
technologies, given the present derelict state of its military and
lack of proper checks and balances, its state-of-the-art technology
might end up in the wrong hands.

The second reason has to do with Russia’s growing assertiveness in its
“near abroad,” or the states of the former Soviet Union. Russia
considers these states in its rightful economic, political and
military sphere of influence, and has acted accordingly in some of the
U.S.S.R.’s former republics, such as Georgia and Armenia. This
justification is particularly applied to oil- and natural gas-rich
Central Asian states. Already, Russia is slowly growing weary of the
American military presence in that region, and is seeking to bolster
its own presence there through closer contacts and military bases. In
order for Russia to fully exercise its influence, it would have to
field a viable, high-tech military force that is capable of projecting
its strength if the need for that arises. Given the developing
competition between the United States and Russia for Central Asia, the
Russian military will have to field the above-described technologies
in order to truly protect and exercise its sphere of influence.

The third reason has to do with Russia’s current military doctrine,
which adheres to the concept of multipolarity. The articles of the
doctrine state Russia’s conviction that the social progress, stability
and international security can only be accomplished in a multipolar
world. The doctrine further states that the Russian Federation will
work towards the establishment of such a world with all the means at
its disposal. Russia cannot be one of the potential powers in this
multipolar scenario if its military lacks advanced technologies and if
it cannot be considered a state-of-the-art military force on par with
U.S. and Western armies. Therefore, it is to be expected that Russia
will attempt to field its armies with the country’s best military

If U.S.-Indian exercises were indeed a “wake-up call,” it is
conceivable that more such lessons for the United States can
follow. While the United States currently spends more on its military
strength than all of its potential competitors combined, one only
needs to turn to history to remember that it took Russia less than two
decades to build a state-of-the-art navy at the dawn of the 18th
century, with which it took on major powers of the day and firmly
established itself as one of the world’s superpowers. While the
current state of the Russian military is far from where the Russian
leadership wants it to be, the country’s support for modern
technological developments, and its historical ability to succeed in a
short period of time in spite of internal economic weaknesses, should
not be underestimated. Russia has yet the chance and ability to
someday rival the most technologically advanced states.

Report Drafted By:
Yevgeny Bendersky
The Power and Interest News Report (PINR).