Although Russia’s sanction-crippled economy is on the decline and the Kremlin had to take a few steps back from its $680-billion arms modernization, Russian President Vladimir Putin still puts up quite a spectacle by showcasing his country’s brand new military hardware.
This year’s International Aviation and Space Show, opened by Putin at an airfield outside Moscow, included cutting-edge surface-to-air missiles, drones, helicopters and other brand new aircraft, which kept Russian military engineers busy for several years – if not decades.
However, it’s not all that splendid in reality as the Kremlin tries to embellish it with spectacular shows. Russia’s Defense Ministry was ordered to significantly cut back on purchases of military hardware – for example, the number of Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighters was ordered to be reduced from 100 to 12, according to Russian defense officials.
But Putin promised Russian people that despite Western sanctions, the country will push toward modernizing its most profitable sector – Russian arms production accounts for about 20 percent of all manufacturing jobs in Russia. Putin has already ordered to restructure the country’s army to make it more mobile and able to fight in any conditions.
“We will continue developing our country’s unique capabilities in the space sector, and will bolster our leading position in the production of defense-sector aviation technology,” Putin said during his opening speech.
However, Putin’s words don’t seem to align with reality: Russian defense and security firms have been recently asked to reduce their expenditures by 10 percent. It raises a question: will Russia be able to modernize its defense sector by 2020, as Putin repeatedly vowed to do?
Putin’s military plans are doomed to fail
In 2011, back when Dmitry Medvedev was the president of Russia, the Kremlin initiated a large-scale $680-billion modernization plan to equip at least 75 percent of the country’s military forces with more advanced technology by 2020.
The modernization plan involves rocket and space programs, production of brand new aircraft, intimidating armored vehicles, missile projects and the development the next-generation fighter jet.
However, with the plummeting nation’s currency, the ruble, as well as Western sanctions and embargoes on sending some military hardware parts to Russia, it creates certain difficulties for the Kremlin to complete the modernization plan.
In addition to that, oil prices are not looking good for Russia, the budget of which is tightly connected to sales of natural resources.
However, Putin does not intend to give up: he expands his reach and looks for new allies all around the world. In particular, during this week’s International Aviation and Space Show, Russian president hosted Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
The guests were shown a great number of cutting-edge military equipment. In particular, a delegation comprising of Chinese defense officers was shown Russian aircraft such as the Yak-130 and the MiG-35.
Russia, China and Pakistan team up to make a bipolar world
ValueWalk earlier reported that Russia plans to take over the Middle East with its weapons. Russia is currently focused at engaging with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan to have military cooperation.
The president of Egypt, a country of whom stayed away from Russia for 40 years, has visited Moscow two times in the last four months, and the reason is probably to sign a contract over the delivery of some Russian military equipment.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is reportedly planning to purchase Russian arms to replace U.S. weapons. Iran, for its part, is awaiting Russia’s deliveries of the S-300 anti-missile systems by the end of 2015.
And even Pakistan, a traditional rival of Russia, is buying Russia’s Mi-35 combat helicopters in addition to importing of the Klimov RD-93 engines from Russia for its JF-17 multi-role fighters.
It must be pointed out that Pakistan requires China’s help in co-production and co-development of JF-17 fighter jets.
And that’s where China comes in. Given the warming relations between Pakistan and Russia, there are indications of the emergence of the world’s new superpower axis between Moscow, Islamabad and Beijing, which raises serious concerns in Washington.
In case such a triangle is created, it would likely lead to a bipolar world with China, Russia, Pakistan and a number of other authoritarian countries of Central Asia on one side, and the U.S., EU, Japan and their Asian allies on the other side.
Russia still dominates with its nuclear weapons
Although Russia’s defense budget has been significantly puffed up by Russian lawmakers, it is a far cry to compare with U.S. budget. Russia’s defense budget amounts to somewhere between $80 to $90 billion, while U.S. defense budget stands at $500 billion, and China’s defense budget at over $100 billion.
Besides, the Russian economic decline doesn’t bode well for purchasing of new weapons. Most of Russia’s military equipment serve as museum objects rather than means to wage a war with.
Most of warships are simply rusting away in ports, warplanes break apart at airfields, while many ambitions projects remain to be just ‘projects’ on paper. Putin has great plans for his country’s military sector, but most of these plans are doomed to fail.
Russia’s leadership understands that the country’s military capabilities will not get even close to the U.S. in the next couple of decades, while it will be also unable to compete with China’s military might.
However, Russia still has potential to grow, which is why Western defense experts must focus on developing ways how to neutralize Russia’s dominance in such field as cyberwars and eliminate a possible threat from Russia, which can use its cruise missiles and tactical nuclear weapons to achieve political goals in neighboring countries.