Russia may raise military budgets by 50 percent

By MARTIN SIEFF  |  Oct. 6, 2008 at 3:48 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 (UPI) -- Russia, flush with wealth from its record-level oil and gas exports, is planning to further boost its defense spending by almost 50 percent over the next three years, a senior legislator in Moscow said last week.

"According to a draft federal budget for 2009-2011, expenditure on national defense will increase in 2009 by 25.7 percent from 1.02 trillion rubles -- $40 billion -- to 1.28 trillion rubles -- $51.3 billion -- and would account for 14 percent of total budget spending," Viktor Zavarzin, chairman of the Defense Committee in Russia's lower house of Parliament stated, RIA Novosti reported.

By 2011 Russia's total defense budget would have expanded by a total of 45.6 percent compared with current levels, he concluded.

Zavarzin said much of the money would go toward increasing the pay and boosting the standard of living of serving troops.

Former Russian President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin made a pledge to dramatically improve the living conditions of Russian servicemen and their families when he moved to the prime minister's office in May.

The increased funds, however, also will be used to streamline and modernize the Russian armed forces, a strategic goal that Putin repeatedly felt frustrated over during his two four-year terms as the nation's president.

RIA Novosti said the Russian armed forces were expected to announce in the near future a new military doctrine that would define and focus that aim. The report said the armed forces would have to create new "structures" that would increase the number, importance and efficiency of combined arms units -- something the U.S. armed forces have emphasized in recent years.

RIA Novosti also quoted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as spelling out last week what the main weapons systems of the modernized Russian armed forces would focus on.

"We must ensure air superiority, precision strikes at land and sea targets, and timely deployment of troops," Medvedev said. "We are planning to launch a large-scale production of warships, primarily, nuclear submarines with cruise missiles and multi-purpose attack submarines."

Russia's Defense Ministry previously released figures saying it would have a budget of 1 trillion rubles -- $40 billion -- of federal budget funds in 2008, a 20 percent increase over 2007. In the three years 2008 to 2010, Russian military spending was projected to come to 15.5 percent to 16 percent of total federal budget spending, RIA Novosti said. But those figures were before Zavarzin spoke about adding 50 percent more in funding to the military budget.

Much of the extra money that Russian leaders are budgeting for their military will be hungrily gobbled up by top commanders desperate to replace their aging, obsolete and sometimes defunct Soviet-era military systems.

"We have completely exhausted the Soviet arsenals of weaponry and military equipment," Russia's deputy minister for armaments, three-star Col. Gen. Vladimir Popovkin told the military newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda ("Red Star") in an interview that appeared Sept. 25, RIA Novosti reported.

"This includes weapons for the strategic nuclear triad and conventional forces: aircraft, warships, space and air defense, communications, electronics ... the whole range of weaponry," Popovkin said.

The world was impressed -- and many were alarmed -- by the speed and efficiency with which the Russian army occupied one-third of the former Soviet republic of Georgia in a five-day operation from Aug. 8 to 12. However, Popovkin said the results of the Georgia campaign did not allow Russian military leaders to feel complacent. He argued that, on the contrary, lessons learned from the operations proved the Kremlin had to accelerate its equipment replacement, modernization and new weapons doctrine plans.

"We originally planned to start the modernization of Russia's military arsenals in 2011-2012, but the circumstances force us to accelerate this process, so that our armed forces are equipped with modern weaponry as soon as possible," Popovkin said.

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