Monday, September 17, 2007

The Russia Threat

In comments below, a commentator asks, " Russia is (and has been for a decade now) preparing for war. The question is... who with?"

Well, that is sort of like a "when did you stop beating your wife?" question, because it presupposes something that may or may not be true. The actual state of Russia's conventional military is most exemplified by the following photo: Yep, that's a front-line Russian tank, stuck in the mud. The good news is that Russia's draftees are no longer shivering in the cold and having to sell their weapons for turnips because of a lack of military funding for electricity and food. The bad news is that they're still mostly stuck using aging Soviet-era equipment that has a bad tendency to break down at the worst time. While there are some good post-Soviet developments in the Russian arms industry, the best stuff is going to China and India, not to the Russian armed services. The most that the Russian armed services have gotten out of Putin's defense budget hikes over the past seven years is the ability to actually operate those Soviet-era weapons, thanks to now having the funding to buy fuel and spare parts for the rattletraps.

This isn't to say that the news has been uniformly bad for the Russian armed forces. Those seven years of budget hikes have not allowed them to buy any major new weapons systems, but it has allowed them to fund some minor but important improvements in current weapons systems. For example, there has been significant acquisition of new warheads for their ATGM's (anti-tank guided missiles) to improve their ability to take out M1 tanks at a distance, as well as improvements to the Russian equivalent of our AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missile so that Russian fighters can now take out U.S. fighters at roughly the same distance that U.S. fighters can take out Russian fighters. But by and large, these are defense-oriented enhancements, not something useful for offensive purposes. Russia does not appear to be re-arming to invade anybody. Rather, they appear to be re-arming expecting to be invaded by someone. Given that the usual state of Russia over the centuries has been to be invaded by pretty much everybody in the neighborhood -- Mongols, Lithuanians, French, German, you name it, they've invaded Russia at one time or another -- this is most likely an expression of long-running Russian paranoia about how everybody is out to get them, rather than expression of any intent to invade anybody else.

-- Badtux the Military Penguin

Bonus photo: The Russian Air Force!


  1. I’m surprised to see the Russians seem to still add external fuel drums on their tanks.

    The airplane is a Tupolev TU-16. This is actually a super-secret version that has a detachable nose and cabin section, which allows for easy replacement of the microwave and convection oven equipment used to heat crewmen’s meals on long flights.

    I'll bet though that the Russians are still following the Soviet system of selling stepped-down versions of their tanks for export. The exports classes generally do not have the most recent technology.

    As you said, not really a land combat threat to us, but I'll be they're going to compete strongly for economic advantage in the open market areas of the Middle East, Africa, and South America.

  2. So the Russians are selling the good stuff to other countries so that they will do the fighting for them?

    Seems like a win/win to me. They make money off of the arms and don't lose their own men fighting.

  3. The fact is that Russia is growing in both it's economy and it's Global influence. The recently signed a trade/defense deal with Indonesia, and have arms agreements with several Asian states, including Vietnam. Their new missile program tests have been mostly successful, while most US tests have failed.

    And at the recent APEC forum in Australia, one of the few real deals made was for Australia to sell some 4,000 tons of Uranium a year to Russia (only for use in domestic power plants, of course). :)

    Also, over the past few years, Russia has supplied fully working and capable (according to FAS and GlobalSecurity sources) missile/anti-air defense systems to Iran, and also has trade and defense treaties. Russia has said that it will help defend Iran, and Putin is not at all pleased with Bushmoron right now. Russia has also restored the Soviet-era, cold war, strategic bomber patrols and other military exercises.

    The point is... whilst the USA is embarked on a program of Nation destroying (including itself), Russia is successfully Nation building!

    I never said Russia was going to attack anyone tomorrow, or in the next decade. But they are certainly serious about being fully ready for the possibility. They have managed to modernize a significant portion of their military, especially it's ICBM's. The USA has now made preemptive strikes valid (though the USA has also failed in the attempt, which has increased contempt for the once supposed mighty US military, globally).

    Russia is building some real military allies globally. They are seen as the strength of the future. And people like to back a winner. Where are the US allies?

    I think the real threat from Russia will be economic and diplomatic. They are serious about becoming a leading energy broker/player. The deal with Aus for Uranium confirms that.

    It's lots of (seemingly) small positive things that Russia is doing. Like a possible $3 million increase in Russia's annual contribution to the World Food Organization... To make it simple, Russia is trying to show the Worlds Nations that it wants to be a positive influence, whilst the World sees the USA as a negative influence.

    Oh, and Cuba has just agreed to purchase more military aircraft from Russia (along with several other nations).

    The next decade will be very interesting, to say the least. :)

    Oh... and about that cold war thing? LOL

  4. Lurch, the Russians have sold stuff to China and India lately that are better than the front-line stuff that their own military has. Look at the specs for the SU30MKI some day. The Russian Navy has a few SU30's, but most of that class of fighters flying with the Russian Air Force are still old SU27's. Most of the funding they're pouring into their air force nowdays is being used for taking care of all the deferred maintenance of the Yeltsin era, when most of the old Soviet jets fell into disrepair after the Soviet system fell apart. Given that many of the parts factories were in parts of the Soviet Union that are now foreign and sometimes somewhat hostile countries (e.g. the Ukraine is NOT fond of Russia, funny how attempted extermination via starvation does that to a people!) and thus had to be re-built from scratch or re-purchased at great cost from their new host nation and moved bodily to Russia, this has not been a cheap endeavor, and indeed the biggest hurdle to the SU30MKI sales to India were the fact that they had to actually rebuild the factories to make the parts first.

    I think the deal is that they need the dough more than they fear being invaded by India or China. And they're selling this stuff for top dollar. You can't get top dollar for stepped-down versions of your gear. This isn't like Soviet days where they sold gear at a net loss in order to keep countries in the Soviet orbit. This is pure capitalism, and they used the first infusion of dough they got from the Indians and Chinese to rebuild the parts factories (the first jets built for the Indians and Chinese were built using parts already on hand), and they're using the dough they get from the Indians and Chinese now in order to do the R&D needed for their next-generation weapons systems, unlike the American system which is basically Communism (the government funds the weapons R&D here in the U.S.).

    In the advanced jet fighter realm in particular there is a lot of competition, from the French, the Eurofighter coalition, SAAB, and of course the Americans. The Russians have had only limited success sellng even their best gear into this crowded marketplace, and cannot compete with China in the low-cost marketplace (China can stamp out a million AK-47's for what it costs the Russians to stamp out 100,000 AK-74's). So that's why China and India are getting their best gear right now, while the Russian military is still mostly stuck with Soviet left-overs.

    As for whether Russia is seen as a force for good or not, nations don't have friends, nations have strategic interests. Russia is not seen as a force for good but, rather, as a force for sanity. Putin's 70% popularity rating amongst the Russian people are because he has imposed sane economic and foreign policies after the insanity of the Communist and Yeltsin years. The shrunken Russian rump state left over after the spinoff of the ex-Soviet republics is never going to be a superpower of Soviet scale because half of the old Soviet economy now rests in foreign and sometimes mildly hostile nations, Russia is currently experiencing demographic collapse (the population is expected to shrink by 25% over the next four decades), and the Russian education system collapsed during the Yeltsin years so the next generation of Russians will not be as well educated as the current generation and thus not as able to contribute to the advanced weapons systems that are all that differs Russia from, say, Brazil, at this point. But people are so desperate for a counterweight, any counterweight, to U.S. power that is being applied arrogantly and indiscriminately, that they'll pump up Russia as the Great White Hope, which it isn't but it's in Russia's national interest to pretend since this gets them more bucks for modernizing their economy and military, and so they do.

  5. PS - Russian tanks are physically smaller than U.S. tanks and Russian distances and logistical challenges are enormous. So they do train with the fuel drums to extend their range.

  6. chernisova11/1/08 8:23 PM

    who ever made this is a piece of shit!

    i serve in the russian armed forces and they are nothing like you... this you idiots is propaganda... russia has all the latest and cutting edge equipment india and china get downgraded shit...
    we have over 5,000 cutting edge tanks full of technology and advanced armor and our fighters are the best in the world!

    your words "i'll bet" show your ignorence to its fullest extent... see you assume all of this shit but i can asure you that its not true you fucker!
    russian armed forces are very strong a superpower! just because you fucking stupid burger fuckers cant accept that dosent mean you have to open your mouths about it... by the way your photo of the airforce at the bottom that you obviously fine humorous is a Tupolev badger from the 1960's and its sitting in a scrap yard... try posting an up-to-date photo... try the TU-160 and trust me i have plenty of pictures of the M1 stuck in the mud and all sorts of situation also our tanks are more than capable of taking down an abrams! stupid bitch!

  7. Perhaps you need lessons in "irony". I realize English is not your first language, so here is the meat of my argument: Russia has done a very good job of bringing its military up to professional standards over the past seven years. I pity anybody who would dare try invade Russia, they will be utterly demolished. But a dozen Tu-160's (roughly the equivalent of the American B-1 bomber, of which we have 100) is not sufficient to turn Russia into a state that has the ability to invade other countries. Russia does not seem to be building the sort of military that can invade other countries. Russia seems to be building the sort of military that can defend the motherland. Thus we do not need to be alarmed about improvements in the Russian military (unless we intend to invade Russia, in which case it's say goodbye to the soldiers doing so, because they will not come home). Does that seem clearer?

  8. chernisova12/1/08 5:16 PM

    much better but still wrong...

    russia has 24 TU-160's and an army fully capable of invading another state...
    we have an extremly advanced and well armed and trained 1 million man military we are a super power

  9. Here is a joke from 2005. It is called: A people-watcher's guide to Moscow. It is in question/answer form. Such as:

    Q: You see a black Mercedes with a flashing light driving down the middle of the road, with other cars getting out of its way. What are you seeing?

    A: A minigarch's wife on her way to a shopping spree.

    Q: He is thin, hurried, young, with fashionably messy hair and androgynous boutique clothes; always rushing about; permanent snarl.

    A: Gay Novikov Restaurant Waiter.

    Q: You see an emaciated man standing on the street corner wearing ragged clothes. The man is shivering in the cold (or perhaps from hunger). He begs you for a crust of bread. What are you looking at?

    A: A Russian soldier.

    Enjoy :-).


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