Staunton, February 14 – Over the last two decades, Vladimir Putin has presided over the de-industrializaiton of the Russian Federation, a development that is now limiting the ability of the Kremlin to rearm the country in support of its ambitious foreign policy, according to Viktor Alksnis, an opposition commentator and, as he says, a former military engineer.
In the current issue of Sovershennno-Sekretno, he argues that the Kremlin has failed to recognize this link or do anything to address the problems it creates, preferring instead to blame shortcomings in military industry on traditional problems like corruption and new ones like Western sanctions (sovsekretno.ru/articles/rossiyskaya-oboronka-mify-i-realnost/).
Russia can’t have a rearmed army and fleet without having its own basic industries. It can’t do so if it has to rely on imports for key components. And it can’t achieve its goals if it doesn’t have a domestic computer industry worthy of the name, Alksnis says. If it is to have a modern army and fleet, it must also have a revitalized industrial base.
But instead of moving in that direction, the commentator continues, Putin prefers to show “cartoons” and talk about “hypersonic” weapons that terrify the Americans. What he doesn’t say is that Russia’s own industrial base isn’t capable of producing these or even more fundamental military materiel.
The gap between talk and ability to act has become most glaring in the case of the navy, although the problems of that branch also affect others, Alksnis says. It was almost impossible to field a navy group for Syria, and its lead ship, Russia’s only aircraft carrier, limped back to Russia accompanied by tugboats and now may be headed for the scrapyard.
Some comfort themselves with the notion that Russia doesn’t need an aircraft carrier or that the problems of the Admiral Gorshkov are unique to it, but in fact several weeks ago, yet another ship Moscow sent to Syria also limped home, its engines no longer functional. That shouldn’t have surprised anyone: it was built in 1968.
Unless Russia changes direction and soon and re-establishes basic industries, Alksnis suggests, this situation will only be worse the next time the Kremlin decides it wants to project power.