Monday, March 24, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Do Putin’s Moves Reflect Russian Military’s Dependence on Ukraine’s Military Industry?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 24 – Vladimir Putin may have moved against Ukraine because the Russian military is dependent on Ukraine’s military industry if the Kremlin leader is to achieve his plans to launch a broader world war, a conclusion that if true both suggests the directions of Putin’s next moves and the best ways in which Kyiv can counter them.

            The Gorenshin Institute in Kyiv says that an article that appeared in Moscow’s „Sovershenno Sekretno“ magazine in late February provides the basis for such conclusions.  The detailed article itself by Vladimir Voronin is available at; the Gorenshin conclusions are at

            Specifically, the Kyiv analysts say that the article suggests the following conclusions. First, they say, „it seems that the Russian leader is seriously preparing for a third world war,“ given the size and nature of Moscow’s recent purchase orders from its own military-industrial complex.

            Second, they conclude, the idea that „Ukraine’s defense industry depends on Russia“ is wrong. „On the contrary, the Russian military industial complex“ at the strategic level „is highly dependent on Ukraine“ and its military industry for key production. Without that production, Russian firms cannot deliver what Putin seeks.

            Third, given that potential problem, Moscow viewed and views the possibility of Ukraine’s association with the EU and rapprochement with NATO as steps that put not just Russian national dignity at risk but put „in jeopardy“ the goals of Russian defense enterprises. Consequently, the Kremlin concluded that it must control Ukrainian military plants „at all costs.“

            And fourth, the Gorenshin Institute says, „the geography of the Ukrainian defense enterprises, with which Russia links its strategic doctrine, strikingly coincides with the geography of the points of instability in Ukraine ...  some forces in these regions are creating the prerequisites for legitimizing the annexation of the regions based on the Crimea scenario.”

            Moreover, the institute points out, many of these firms are not in eastern Ukraine. “A high concentration of such objects” is to be found in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. And for good measure, the experts suggest that some Russian military experts believe that “Russia may be interested” in seizing Ukraine to gain access to its manpower reserves.

            There are three reasons the original “Sovershenno Sekretno” article was ignored or dismissed out of hand. First, a month ago it seemed highly improbable to many that Putin was actually interested in prosecuting a wider war and challenging the West so openly. Now, those possibilities seem far less far-fetched.

            Second, the enormous detail offered by the article concerning the way in which the Russian defense industry actually works and how dependent it is on plants in Ukraine and other neighboring countries overwhelmed many readers who have forgotten that Stalin located the defense industry in this way to tie the country together.

            And third, many commentators have been so busy talking about the decay or incompetence of Ukrainian military production facilities that they have ignored similar problems in the Russian Federation and in the ways the latter is dependent on the former, despite all of Moscow’s bombast.

            It is certainly the case that the scenario offered by Voronov a month ago and discussed now by the Gorshenin Institute in Ukraine still seems improbable. It appears Putin plans and hopes to get what he wants without war because if he is planning for a larger one, it is a conflict that he and his country will certainly lose.

            But even if that is the case, this analysis is useful. It tells the Ukrainian authorities what Russia cares about most and consequently where Russian forces are likely to move, either covertly or overtly in the coming days and weeks. And knowing that, Kyiv is in a much better position to defend its interests or at least deny key facilities to Putin’s forces.

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