Staunton, February 22 – Elections in Russia may not be about selecting a leader, but they are appropriate occasions for comparing what candidates have promised in the past and what they have achieved as a way of assessing the probability that they will or even can keep their current promises in the future.
Among Luzin’s key points are the following:
- Putin promised to improve military research and development but he has overseen a degradation of basic science and without that no significant improvements were possible in the military sector.
- Putin promised to buy significantly more advanced weapons but in fact he spent only about half as much as he said he would and ever less of it on modernized weapons.
- Putin promised to revive the military-industrial complex, but it has decayed as a result of sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine and Moscow’s loss of access to parts and equipment from Ukrainian plants.
- Putin promised to redirect the Russian military to meet emerging threats but instead has simply doubled down in focusing on NATO and the West even though there is no indication that any attack will come from there. This may prove a self-fulfilling misconception.
- Putin promised to build an invulnerable anti-missile system but there is no evidence that he has made much progress toward something that is probably impossible in any case.
- Putin promised to revive and modernize the country’s military industrial plants, but six years later, most of them remain “’walking dead,’” perhaps still on their feet but incapable of meeting production targets or deadlines.
- Putin promised to end corruption and improve efficiency in defense plants but, “everything remains as it was.”
- Putin promised to attract more young people into defense industries but the best and the brightest aren’t going or are leaving as soon as they can.
- Putin promised to move in the direction of a professional army with 70 percent of all uniformed personnel being professionals by 2017 but in fact only 38 percent are.
- Putin promised to restrict the use of force abroad to only those places vital to Russia; but in Syria, he has been forced to defend his intervention by suggesting that it provides a testing ground for new weapons. That is “the logic of cannibals.”
Unfortunately, Putin hasn’t learned from his mistakes and is likely to continue to make them, Luzin says. It is entirely possible he will bomb Libya and send in mercenaries – Moscow has enough of them and they are cheap and expendable. But there is one big problem: conducting such a war requires that the population feel it is justified.
“Remember your history,” the commentator says, “even Soviet conquest operations against Poland, Finland and the Baltic countries were based not only on the force of arms and propaganda but on a mass faith in the correctness and necessity of what was taking place.” Putin’s challenge would be to recreate that if he can.