Colonel-General Alexei Moskovsky, Deputy Defense Minister and Chief of the Armament Department, recently met with journalists. The subject discussed at the press conference was very typical: the Russian Finance Ministry sees to cut the budget for defense spending. According to the State armament program, the 2004 state defense order must amount to 188 billion rubles. The government plans to halve this sum. It should be noted that before the government was guided by a different approach: the state defense order has been increasing by 30% a year since 2001. Nevertheless, the Army managed to purchase only a few models of weapons. General Moskovsky did not explain why the sum of impending military expenses does not coincide with the parameters of the State armament program. According to the general, impending cuts to the state defense order have nothing to do with the economic situation in the country; the situation depends on subjective views of members of the Russian government. The situation is critical but the president and the prime minister have not yet reacted to the attack on the Finance Ministry. Perhaps they agree with the Finance Ministry, or have not figured out the situation yet.

In the meantime, representatives of the Army state that if Russia postpones the implementation of the State armament program for a year or two it will lose its military parity with other nuclear powers. Combat readiness of the Navy, and the Air and the Anti-Aircraft Force will be undermined. Weapons and military hardware become obsolete, but the Army does not receive new models. Russia planned to test the Bulava shipborne ballistic missile in 2004. It is possible that these tests will be postponed owing to cuts to the state defense order. In addition, Russia will not be able to build strategic nuclear submarines on time (Russia planned to build three project 955 submarines and one project 941 submarine by 2010).

There are problems with the creation of the S-400 anti-aircraft complex. As is known, Russia had to add it to its arsenals four years ago. However, a new missile has not been created yet. The radar station and other devices of the S-400 complex are tested using missiles of the S-300 complex. It is possible that Russia will have to cut the number of satellites launched in the interests of the Defense Ministry. According to the State armament program, Russia must produce and launch 12 satellites and rockets next year. General Moskovsky says that the Defense Ministry will be able to purchase only six satellites.

How will the military solve this problem?

Firstly, the Army will have to prolong the lifetime of intercontinental ballistic missiles of the Strategic Missile Force in order to cover the lack of new nuclear submarines. Secondly, the Army will upgrade military vehicles and warplanes more actively. Military units will have the right to pass over obsolete weapons, which have export potential, to defense enterprises.

This year the Defense Ministry will be able to sell military hardware worth 5.8 billion rubles. General Moskovsky said that “if this project is a success in 2003 next year the quota will increase to 6.3 billion rubles”. The general noted that the Army plans to sell aircraft engines, tanks and other armored vehicles, artillery complexes, anti-aircraft complexes, and ammunition. The general said that the Defense Ministry will not purchase new warplanes for the Air Force: “We have decided to modernize and repair the MiG-31, Su-27 and Su-25 warplanes.” It should be noted that the Air Force upgrades warplanes using Russian componentry only.

In other words, hard times await the Russian Army in the near future. There is only one encouraging fact: the military and politicians are sure that a full-scale war is out of the question in the near future. This means that realization of the State armament program will be postponed.

The Army has received 280 units of new weapons over the past three years. These are the Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missile, the Iskander operational-tactical missile complex, and ten new types of infantry weapons. The Defense Ministry plans to prepare the 2010-15 state armament program this year. It should be noted that the government plans to rearm the Army during this period.