About the situation in the military-industrial complex

The second week of May was marked by significant events which took place in the Russian military-industrial policy.

On Tuesday, May 10 , President Dmitri Medvedev held a meeting at Gorki on development of the military-industrial complex (MIC), while on Friday, May 13, within the frameworks of the government’s hour Sergei Ivanov, Vice-Premier and Chairman of the Military-Industrial Commission  under the Government of the Russian Federation  delivered a closed-door report on the situation in the MIC to the deputies of the State Duma and on May 17 reported to the President on fulfillment of the instructions as regards responsibility of the officials of the MIC and the Ministry of Defense.

The meeting at Gorki was to become that “blamestorming with determination of those responsible both in the industry and state management structures” which was promised by President Dmitri Medvedev at the expanded collegium of the Ministry of Defense on March 18. Though the participants in the above meeting failed to determine immediately those responsible it is worthwhile to single out the following important points of the President’s speech: firstly, the President declared that budgetary allocations for the state armament program which was adopted at the end of the last year were planned to be increased four times over as compared to the previous one and, secondly, the President admitted that “in many lines the situation was completely unclear”.

It is to be noted that as regards the first point the evaluation of the President differs to some extent fr om that of the government.  According to the PRIME-TASS information which actually became an official one after the meeting of the Military-Industrial Commission on December 8, 2010, Vice Premier Sergei Ivanov declared that it was planned to allocate three times as much funds for the new program as compared to the previous one.  Premier Vladimir Putin repeated that evaluation both on March 21 in Votkinsk where a meeting was held on fulfillment of the state armament program in the 2011–2010 period and on April 20 in the State Duma where he delivered a report on the results of the activities of the Government of the Russian Federation in 2010. It is clear that the President’s evaluation is closer to the truth in comparison of the armament programs in general (as regards defense and all the law enforcement agencies) than that of the government with the declared growth in allocations fr om RUR 4.9 trillion to RUR 21.5 trillion. Though it is to be noted that as regards the armament program of the Ministry of Defense the above growth was nearly five times as much (390%), that is, from RUR 4 trillion to RUR 19.5 trillion.

It is difficult to say why the government had to stick to that misleading information for at least five months.  It is likely that utilization of those estimates have ensured to a great extent a successfully approval (from the point of view of the Russian military-industrial complex) by the President of the state armament program; indeed, the threefold growth in allocations is not as dangerous as the fivefold one.

In that connection, President D. Medvedev’s remarks that “the situation was completely unclear” make sense. However, if one would seek an answer to the question of the nature of that “unclear situation” it will turn out that it is a direct result of the activities of the Russian state power, both the President and the Government.

Highly illustrative was the approval by President Dmitri Medvedev of the state armament program in the 2011–2020 period. The fact that the program was approved became known to the public only  late in February  when Vladimir Popovkin, Deputy Defense Minister declared at the meeting with journalists on February 24 that the program  had been approved as early as December 31 last year.  It was a complete surprise to most journalists as reliable sources at the Ministry of Defense kept asserting quite the opposite throughout January.

It is difficult to say what factors made the Russian authorities hide for nearly two months the fact of the approval of the armament program which is worth over RUR 20 trillion. A reference to a secret nature of the decree is highly unconvincing as there is an official practice of publishing of extracts, statements and information on the fact of approval of secret documents. It is highly probable that the program was actually signed backdated early in January in order to avoid formally a repetition of the mistakes related to signing of the two former programs wh ere the incomprehensible pause prior to approval of those programs amounted to 10-12 months. An implicit  evidence of the above may be the statement by Mikhail Nenashev, a member of the State Duma Defense Committee made at the morning plenary meeting of the Russian Parliament on January 14, 2011 wh ere he said: “The other day, the President of Russia has approved the state armament program of this country till the year 2020 and a respective resolution of the Government of Russia as regards fulfillment of the state defense procurement order has been signed”  if one agrees that “the other day” means in no event “two weeks ago”.

Unfortunately, Mikhail Nenashev’s information was not reported by the mass media, and the “unclear situation” in such a simple issue prevailed for nearly two months. However, it is absolutely clear that the source of that “unclear situation” is at another place.

As it is known from the previous experience, attempts to improve the quality of those programs by way of delaying the  approval thereof have never yielded positive results; programs have never been fulfilled because Russian state armament programs cannot be fulfilled in principle.  The above fact escapes understanding by the interested public due to a unique combination of  a decade-long depth (or horizon) of planning with its five-year period adopted from the Soviet days in respect of those programs. A principal failure of that mechanism becomes clearer in a switchover  to a smaller time period, for instance, a two-year program which is reviewed on an annual basis. It is clear that by the time of completion of the first notional  program which was planned two years ago the above program has already been  replaced by another option for a year by now and that option in its turn is also doomed to a failure due to the sheer logic of the process.

Unfortunately, both in the broad and professional press there is an opinion that the new armament program has been approved due to a failure of the previous one. Such an opinion is completely incorrect because time has simply come to approve a new program, and in Russia an armament program is normally approved once in five years. As the development of the new program begins several years before the completion of the first half of the predecessor-program planners cannot take into account all the outputs of fulfillment of that program.  There is no need to explain what an adverse effect it has on the quality of the Russian armament programs. The results are explicit despite the traditional curtain of the state secret. Maybe, it was also for that reason that the authorities  considered it expedient not to draw attention to the fact of approval of the new state armament program; in the existing situation it could damage the political rating.

As regards the expedience or purpose, the new armament program seems rather “unclear”, too.  As it is known, its principal target index is the share of the new equipment in the armed forces which share is to amount to 30% and 70% by 2016 and 2020, respectively. Justification of the above indices, to say nothing of the feasibility to attain them, appears quite doubtful if one take into account the statement by Vladimir Popovkin, the then Deputy Defense Minister who said in an interview to  the Military-Industrial Courier on March  2 (the interview was also published by Izestia daily on March 11) that in Russia “the share of modern equipment in the fleet of armament and military equipment as regards strategic nuclear forces amounts to about 20%, while that as regards general purpose forces does not exceed 10%.  For comparison, in the armed forces of the leading foreign states the above share amounts to 30–50%”.

If Vladimir Popovkin’s information as regards the situation in the armed forces of the leading countries is correct, then, Russia is to attain the level  of those countries  by 2016  and surpass it by large by 2020. It seems that neither the planners of the Russian armament program in the 2011–2020 period, nor state officials who lobbied it through asked a question why in the leading countries the share of the new armament and military equipment does not exceed 50%? Nor did they ask a question whether Russia is fit to achieve those 70% without a strain by 2020?

In this connection it is worth mentioning that as early as December last year the official newspaper of the Ministry of Defense went even further to assert that the efforts of the Ministry of Defense  “were aimed at implementation of the instructions of the President of the Russian Federation to bring the share of the modern samples of the armament to 30% and 70%–100% by 2015 and 2020, respectively” which situation would “permit the armed forces to neutralize any military threats to the Russian Federation and become a real state instrument of an active policy in the zones of Russia’s priority interests”. 

Such unprecedented (in the recent Russian history) disciplinary penalties applied to a number of directors of large enterprises of the MIC and military officials of the Ministry of Defense for a failure to ensure implementation of the 2010 state defense procurement order and reported by Vice Premier Sergei Ivanov to President Dmitri Medvedev on May 17 are an urgent step in the right direction, though an insufficient one. It is important that the “unclear situation” is transformed entirely into a transparent one.

V.B. Zatsepin, Senior Researcher of the Military Economy Laboratory