06 March 2019

Russia's Armed Forces - Between achievements, performances and ambitions (II)

Cristian Eremia

Image source: Mediafax

The first part of this paper we have been exploring the priorities of the Russian strategic planning on the development and endowment of Russian Armed Forces (RAF) with new advanced armaments. Using the public reports made by President Putin[1] and his Defence Minister[2], we are continuing to present other important elements which are describing the recorded results and performances, as well as other ambitious projects of Russian military body.

It should be noted, however, the extremely important geostrategic event, produced in the meantime, which is the US withdrawal from the INF Treaty on short and medium range of action missiles. Kremlin’s first reactions showed the tension the Russian part is responding with, upkeeping its well-known force and confrontation positions. Hence, the Russian response announces symmetrical measures, which suggests that Moscow will not shape, in the following six months (the time the US pullout process lasts), any political-diplomatic gesture to ease parts reentry in treaty’s provisions. In fact, it is unlikely to exist any American politician to believe that in the current circumstances of the US-Russia political-military relations, president Putin would admit breaking the treaty.  

Moscow reacted immediately, the Defence Minister announcing[3] the first measures RAF will take along the Russian Industrial Military Complex. These are related to the urgent production, no later than the end of 2020, of the terrestrial version of the long-range naval strike missile “Kalibr”, respectively the long-range of action hypersonic missile systems. The General Staff of the Army will ensure the funds these two projects.

Only two days after (06.02.2019), the General Staff of the Army publicly presented a new successful testing[4], in experimental fight conditions, of the RS-24 “Yars” intercontinental ballistic missile, installed on a mobile platform (such missile was launched from the Plesetk cosmodrome and destroyed the target in the Kura polygon, Kamchatka Peninsula).

We can think of these types of missiles being blatantly and uppermost dislocated closer to NATO’s eastern flank (probably in Crimea and Kaliningrad), with the implicit negative consequences- actually predictable, for the European security system, for the collective defence and the national format of the allied European states, including for Romania. This should not raise panic among the allies. As we will be presenting in this material, Russia already jumped the gun in an early arms race.


The RAF basic task- the monitorization of all NATO military activities

In order to be crystal clear for NATO and all the allies, the Russian defence minister has stated that it was not ignored, nor will be left out, none of Alliance’s actions neighboring the Russian borders. The monitorizations’ results are being systematically analyzed to the finest details, so that RAF can make the necessary conclusions to improve its own tactics and troops.

Thus, in 2018, the number of Russian monitoring flights on the western and southwest strategic (Russian) directions have increased with 10%, closely being monitored, sometimes openly, NATO’s forces military activities in the specific areas. Russian military actions are complex, all movements and tactical evolutions of the Western military platforms being tracked (and whenever possible, "accompanied") into the air and / or at sea, including on the sea and airspace of the Black Sea. The Russian procedures provide for the obstruction and, in essence, for anti-access and area denial (A2 / AD) of any military activities of NATO and, in particular, of the US in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea or the North Sea.

In some situations, there are produced interferences of the Russian forces in the allied military exercises, executing some military “counter-applications”. This is how RAF is training its own forces, applying distinct tactics (usually military defence actions, followed by offensive/counter-offensive actions), matching the concrete “battlefield” exercises scenarios of the allied forces. Russian military actions have a high degree of danger, in the sense that they can cause incidental or even military frontal collisions of the parties with a high probability of subsequent military escalation.

On the other hand, FAR closely tracks the development of NATO military infrastructures, especially the US, in the proximity to Russia’s borders[5]. The Russian strategists think that the US has developed new forms to ensure its superiority on a military plan, starting with the second half of the past year, when developing new categories for the space/cosmic American forces (which aims to have the cosmic supremacy), respectively through the reconstruction and operationalization of Navy’s 2nd Fleet, which, also according to Russians, it would aim to enlarge the American military control in the Arctic Area. Both American military achievements are creating concerns in Moscow and pushes RAF to counter-resistance.

The monitorization of the allied military activities is being developed along with other permanent hostile military actions of the Russian military aviation and fleet (including the strategic one), close to states’ borders from the Eastern and Northern flank of NATO and EU, trying to interfere in the international legislation in order to enter the air space and territorial waters of target states. It is being tested NATO’s military reaction tactic, are being developed ISTAR military activities (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) from the smallest distance to target states, aiming to find their vulnerabilities and, in some cases, to intimidate them in order to increase the deterrence. And these types of hostile measures can raise some dangerous situations. The military tensions can increase in any of the above-mentioned situations.

Years have passed since president Putin’s military and foreign policies have consolidated the force of the Russian influence beyond its national borders, especially in the close areas, despite all the speculations on the internal financial-economic resources’ depletion to support this endless campaign. Simultaneously, Moscow has launched a large complementary campaign to enlarge its global influence as far as possible, undermining the international relation systems supported by the West.


Moscow believes the time to strengthen the fleet has come

The dynamic of the geopolitical evolutions accompanying the lately Russian foreign relations has pushed Moscow to adopt more sophisticated methods to project its power and force, for larger maneuver spaces and military pressures, to reach concrete foreign policy objectives. However, it seems that Russian strategists believe that intensive land and air operations such as those who marked the confrontations of the last century are not found in the current configurations of current political-military and economic confrontations. Offensive cyber operations are not proliferated enough, their conceptual-technological maturity being expected in the coming decades. But the operations of the naval forces are best suited for exerting influence in large geographical areas. As such, fleets’ importance became vital

At the moment, the Russian Military Maritime Forces have 4 fleets (the Baltic Sea Fleet, the Black Sea Fleet, the North Fleet and Pacific’s Fleet, as well as the Caspian Flotilla[6]. In 2013, it was founded the Mediterranean Sea Naval Group (“Mediterranean squadron”), as well as the Operative Office for the permanent conduction of naval forces operating in the Mediterranean.

Russia is, after the US, the second great naval military power and it is competing with China regarding the fleets’ (re)construction dynamics. Russia’s main fight ships[7], in the operative service, one aircraft carrier (comparing with US that has 11, and China 1), 11 submarines with ballistic nuclear missiles (US-14, China-5), 27 attack submarines (US-57, China- 5), 52 maritime assault ships (US-34, China-42), 13 warships (US-67, China- 38), 134 frigates and corvettes (US-24, China-124) and 5 missile carrier fight cruise ships, where from 3 with nuclear missiles (US- 22, China-none).

The development of naval military systems aims, by 2020, to create naval groups with multiple destination, qualitative and quantitative increase of strategic submarines fight capacities and surface combatant ships, as well as to create some quick-reaction naval forces. Hence, until 2020, the fleets will receive a total of 54 modern surface combatant ships, 16 multirole submarines (wherefrom 8 nuclear submarines), 8 “Borey” strategic carrier missile submarines, at least 20 corvettes and 14 frigates, plus a series of light missile carriers.

In fleet’s second development phase, between 2020-2030, the strategic planning will include, probably, the gradual switch to the large-scale construction of autonomous underwater ships (unmanned) and the automated ship systems installed on military submarine platforms. It will follow the research completion to create armament based on physics’ advanced principles (we are talking about energetic armament, lasers, etc.), in order to pass to next generation’s endowment with naval military technique.


Military infrastructure development

The development plans are envisaging the modernization and construction process of some special military infrastructure objectives to be developed quickly, which would allow for the synchronization of the new types of heavy military equipment with the entry into the service of war, respectively with the establishment of the new military units. In 2018, they have renovated buildings and military infrastructures with a total surface of 3,6 million square meters. They are about to end the reconstruction projects of airstrips for 19 military aerodromes and the infrastructure objectives to host 10 “Iskander-M” missile brigades. The infrastructure construction of six “Yars” surface-based missile regiments is in an advanced phase. This year, it will start the construction of the objectives to ensure the functioning of two new logistics complex, produced in Sevastopol and Arhangelsk.

A special attention was on the military infrastructure development in the Artic Area, as it was completed the construction of 20 infrastructures (aerodromes facilities, including for the technical and radiolocation equipment, etc.) which are necessary to resume the military flights from the “Severomorsk-1” airport. There are planned the construction works of the modular camp from Tiksi, where will be dislocated units of Division of Air Defence Northern Fleet, to be ended this year. On Zemlaya Aleksandra, Sredny, Vrangelya and Myse Shmidta islands there will be ended, this year, the infrastructures for the dislocation of some radiolocation centers, the air defence units and the military aviation support units, and on Kotelny they have passed to reconstructing the “Temp” military airport.


International military cooperation

Last year’s RAF activities regarding the foreign military cooperation have included 98 states. As for the technical-military cooperation, the “favorite” states remained China, India, Egypt, Algeria and Vietnam. A special attention was, of course, on the technical-military cooperation with one of CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), especially with Azerbaijan, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Also, it clearly has been increased the military contacts with SCO member states (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the Association of South-East Asian Nation (ASEAN) and the military dialogue and cooperation formats “SMOA Plus”. With some of the above-mentioned organizations’ states, last year, there were organized around 25 common military applications, the most important being the OTCS exercises - “Interaction-2018” and the SCO military maneuvers “Peace Mission-2018”.

A quite efficient way to mediate the RAF relations and the Russian military industry with other states, regarding the foreign military-technical cooperation, was the International Forum of Military Technique “Army 2018” organized in Russia, whereat have participated delegations from 118 countries, which, according to Russian military authorities, represents and increasing foreign interest for cooperation in the field. Furthermore, it was remarked the increasing interest of the foreign political-military and diplomatic circles (except the western ones) for the International Security Conference from Moscow (planned as an annual conference alike the München one), which had many representatives from 95 states and 8 international organizations.


Great efforts for RAF funding and personnel policies

President Putin has been very careful with the Russian military budget, recognizing the great difference between US military defense - about $ 725 billion, and RAF's, whose real budget for the past year was $ 46 billion.The numbers speak for themselves, also highlighting the strong difference between the big ambitions and the limited financial and economic power to cover the expenses needed to materialize those ambitions to build a military power with global ascents. The tendency to reduce military spending this year has also been recognized, given that the projected economic growth is very low. Putin has explained that this was the reason why he chose to firstly finance the research and production of high-performant and “unique” equipment. On the other hand, the impossibility to finance defence to that level, forces Moscow to go to the serious prioritization of new strategic capabilities development.  

Also, the Russian minister of defence has told, at the end of the last year, that all programs regarding the implementation of personnel policies across RAF are being analyzed. These are related to the professionalization of the military service, hence recruiting militaries contract-based, well-prepared, from the civil environment.  The objective is for this personnel category, by the end of 2025, to get to 475 thousand of militaries (in 2918, of the over 60 thousand employed persons, two-thirds had higher education).

It is interesting to note that, according to the Russian military authorities, at the command of the big units and units were selected and appointed only officers who, in addition to the graduation of military schools and military academies, have experience of fighting in theaters of foreign military operations in which FARs have been present over time. The application phase of this policy refers to all commanders of military troops, joint forces units’ commanders, terrestrial, air, anti-air forces units, divisions commanders and 96% of the brigade and regiment commanders.

Great attention was also on the quality of the professional training of RAF’s officers (more than 12 thousand officers entered RAF last year), in the last period being registered a continuous development of the military education system.  

Also, it was recorded a significant increased interest for the military career among young people (in higher military education institutions, last year’s number of candidates was 20 people for one position). In the last years, RAF started to develop the political-military institution “YunArmia”, exclusively dedicated to the patriotic and military education among young Russians. These institutions have subsidiaries in all federation’s subjects, last year training more than 276






[5]On 19.01.2019, the US warship, Donald Cook, armed with cruise missiles, entered the Black Sea aiming to develop operations to consolidate the maritime stability.The Russian Defence Minister has ordered for Black Sea’s Fleet ships to start to track the American war ships since their entrance in the Black Sea.