Yesterday President Dmitriy Medvedev delivered the annual Federal Assembly address. It was rather brief, uninspiring, and contained relatively little on the military, except his call for work on a unified aerospace (air-space) defense (VKO or ВКО). This could be a death knell for independent Space Troops. He also repeated his warning that an agreement on missile defense is needed, or another round of the arms race will ensue.
But let’s look from the beginning . . . Medvedev suggested the army’s modernization might help jumpstart the scientific and technical modernization of the economy. He said the 20 trillion rubles for the State Program of Armaments will be doubly effective if they give Russia dual-use technologies that can help modernize production processes and develop both fundamental and applied research. And Medvedev again mentioned creation of a Russian DARPA:
“Therefore we are creating a special structure which will research and develop breakthrough technologies for the defense sector. There are such structures, you know, in other countries. We are expecting many of them will find application in everyday life.”
There seems to be a huge disconnect between Medvedev’s almost offhand comments here and what military men expect out of that 20 trillion. One doubts many in the armed forces see any of this funding going to R&D. They see it going almost entirely toward procurement of existing weapons and equipment woefully lacking in today’s military inventory. Perhaps it’s Medvedev’s way of selling (as if he needs to) these expenditures to the average citizen.
At any rate, Medvedev then gets down to brief comments on the armed forces:
“The development of our state and society is impossible without effective support of national security and defense. We have taken a course for a deep modernization of the Armed Forces, for conducting systemic, meaningful transformations in them. The combat component of the Armed Forces, the combat readiness system, command and control, and material-technical support of troops have already been updated. Our combat exercises have again become regular and, what’s of no small importance, large-scale. Four military districts have been formed instead of six. In the framework of the State Program of Armaments to 2020, troops are being outfitted with modern equipment.”
“What tasks still have to be resolved? First. In the next year, particular attention needs to be given to strengthening the country’s aerospace defense, to unify existing air and missile defense systems, missile attack warning, and space monitoring. They should act under the unitary command and control of a strategic command.”
“Second. Today’s Russia, it goes without saying, also needs a modern army and fleet, compact and mobile troops manned with high-class specialists and the newest weapons. This requires both serious resources (I just stated the volumes of these resources), and new, sometimes complex, decisions. At the same time, it is necessary to fulfill all obligations to people who chose army service for themselves, first and foremost to resolve the housing question within the planned time.”
“Third. The army should free itself from ancillary tasks and noncore functions. These functions need to be transferred to civilian organizations, to concentrate attention, most of all, on real combat training. A young man only goes to the army for one year, and the program of training in military affairs is not becoming easier. It is essential that every young man assimilate the program in full measure.”
Medvedev goes on to describe his discussions about European missile defense with NATO in Lisbon. He repeats his warning that, if an agreement on missile defense isn’t reached and a full-fledged joint cooperation mechanism isn’t created over the next decade, another round of the arms race will begin:
“And we will be forced to make a decision on the deployment of new strike means. It is perfectly obvious that this would be a very grave scenario.”