Reports about Russia looking abroad for light armored vehicles and not buying BTR-80s and BMP-3s in GVP 2011-2020 came into better focus this week . . .
On Tuesday Defense Minister Serdyukov announced Russia will buy armor for vehicles and light armored equipment from Germany. In his meeting with representatives of public organizations, he said:
“The RF Defense Ministry will proceed from the need to guarantee the protection of personnel.”
“We have forced KamAZ and other Russian companies to enter into contacts with foreign firms. They’ve already begun to make contact in order to buy light armor and use it in reconnaissance vehicles, BTRs, BMPs and other transport means.”
Kommersant talked to KamAZ officials who didn’t know anything about buying armor for vehicles abroad.
Serdyukov said, in particular, they were talking about purchasing light armor from one German company (reportedly Rheinmetall).
ITAR-TASS said Serdyukov was referring to poor protection of personnel inside Russian armored vehicles when he warned:
“We, of course, won’t buy Russian vehicles and armored equipment in the condition they are in.”
“We want Russian industry to produce what we need and what the times demand, so that they (OPK enterprises) will modernize their production and create quality equipment.”
In Stoletiye.ru, Sergey Ptichkin writes that Rostekhnologiya’s Sergey Chemezov and FSVTS’ Mikhail Dmitriyev have concluded that the purchase of foreign arms for the Russian Army is a ‘done deal’ at this point. Dmitriyev said in particular that the political decision to buy Mistral has been made, and the contract will be signed this fall.
“In connection with this, by all appearances, a large number of domestic military programs are being rolled up. Billions are needed to support the import of ships and weapons.”
Chemezov also said, reluctantly, that Russian armor really doesn’t meet the Defense Ministry’s sharply increased requirements, therefore purchases from Germany are justified. Ptichkin wonders what Rostekhnologiya’s [Chemezov’s] specialty steel holding will do if Germany supplies Russia’s defense industries.
Media sources alluded to past statements by Deputy Defense Minister, Chief of Armaments, Vladimir Popovkin to the effect that foreign purchases would only be to ‘patch holes’ in the Russian Army and OPK. They imply that either arms imports have expanded beyond ‘hole patching,’ or the ‘holes’ are bigger than originally thought.
Nezavisimaya gazeta writes that buying armor abroad will be catastrophic for Russian metallurgy. Without part of the GOZ, they reportedly won’t be able to modernize. Uralsib metals analyst Nikolay Sosnovskiy said, without state orders, enterprises which still produce something won’t be able to survive. He said buying foreign armor for BTRs and BMPs will lead to buying it for tanks, which is much more costly. Sosnovskiy says armor orders were ‘second tier’ for the past 20 years, so no one was working on new types. On the other hand, Aleksandr Khramchikhin thinks the competition posed by foreign armor will force the Russian industry to improve.
Despite this little uproar, it seems unlikely that the Defense Ministry or Russian government are suddenly ardent fans of free trade in all things. Moscow’s economic management remains more paternalistic and state-directed than that. Rather purchases abroad are probably viewed as the only way to: (a) rearm Russian forces quickly with badly needed high-quality arms and equipment; and (b) shake the OPK enough to get it started on the road to competitiveness.