Military policy issues were prominent in President Vladimir Putin’s report on the national development strategy to 2020, delivered at an expanded meeting of the State Council. Judging by responses in the foreign media, the West and the US have been informed of President Putin’s statements and are already almost convinced that Russia is prepared to fight another Cold War. However, detailed analysis of Putin’s speech shows that such a conclusion is not obvious. In fact, Putin hints that Russia is being pushed into escalating the arms race.
Putin said: “It is already obvious that a new round of the arms race is beginning around the world. Unfortunately, this does not depend on us – we haven’t started it.” Most Western newspapers quoted this comment. Putin expressed a number or grievances against the OSCE and NATO. For example, he said that for decades Russia has been strictly observing all international agreements in the field of security, as well as all international treaties like the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. However, Russia’s partners among NATO member states haven’t ratified certain documents and do not observe them – while demanding that we should comply with them unilaterally.
Vladimir Putin emphasizes that NATO is expanding, drawing ever closer to Russia’s borders.
“We shut down our bases in Cuba and Vietnam. And what did we get in return?” Putin asked. “New American bases in Romania and Bulgaria. A new section of the missile defense system seems likely to be installed in Poland soon, with another element in the Czech Republic.”
Confirming Russia’s possible involvement of Russia into the arms race, Putin stated, “Russia has and will always have a response to these new challenges. In the next few years Russia will start producing new kinds of armaments, matching the arms available to other countries according to their qualitative characteristics and in some cases exceeding these characteristics.”
Along with this, he emphasizes that “spending in this field should be in line with the country’s capabilities” and should take into account social and economic priorities of Russia’s development. This means that Russia’s militarization will not take place at the cost of impoverishment of the people, unlike the situation in the USSR. Along with this, the plans of doubling GDP voiced in the report, as well as conviction of the need to develop new kinds of armaments, show that priority attention will be paid to development of the military industrial complex and military buildup. Does this mean that Russia’s defense spending will be increased to at least 3.5% of GDP? Putin does not answer this question, but says that “Russia is going to avoid confrontations including those being destructive and exhausting the economy and a new arms race.” This means that Russia will not get involved in the arms race or a Cold War against the US and NATO. In any case, Putin said this in the context that “Russia needs a peaceful agenda of international relations for fulfillment of its strategic tasks.” What if the situation is not peaceful? Will there be an arms race in Russia in this case?
In short, Putin hints unequivocally that a great deal in Russia’s behavior depends on the West itself. Along with this, he outlined the military program of actions very clearly. The Commander-in-Chief announced that strengthening national security in general requires a new strategy for Armed Forces development to 2020.
According to Putin, the strategy should take into account new challenges and threats encountered by Russia. The President said that the Armed Forces should adopt modern developments in the fields of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and information technology that could lead to “revolutionary changes in the field of armaments.” Along with this, Putin points out that “only a military that meets the most modern requirements” can place, maintain and use new generation weaponry effectively.
Putin stated, “The role of the human factor is extraordinarily high at this point. We need an innovative military where requirements of a fundamentally different modern level are set for professionalism, technical outlook and competence of the military.”
The President concluded, “For this purpose it is necessary to substantially increase the prestige of military service, to increase military salaries further, to improve social guarantees for military personnel, and to solve the housing problems.” Thus, from what the President has said about defense issues it is clear that Russia is preparing to reaffirm the superpower status it lost after the break-up of the USSR, and will defend its interests by military methods.
At any rate, Russia will evidently strengthen the Armed Forces – by extensive methods, if possible, relying on a defensive military doctrine. But intensive rearmament is not ruled out either. Russia’s entire defense strategy will depend on the international military political situation. Apparently, this is how Vladimir Putin’s statements should be understood.