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Putin Proposes Vast Rearmament, Military Reform

  • Bruce Pannier

Navy sailors walk past an election billboard for Putin's party in St. Petersburg in September 2011

Navy sailors walk past an election billboard for Putin's party in St. Petersburg in September 2011

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has outlined plans for military reform and rearmament that would see the Russian government spending 23 trillion rubles (some $770 billion) over a 10-year period.

Putin, who will almost certainly win the March 4 presidential election, made the pledges in a lengthy article in the "Rossiiskaya Gazeta" newspaper.

In the article, titled "Being Strong Is a Guarantee of Russia's National Security," Putin wrote, "It’s obvious we cannot strengthen our international position, develop the economy and democratic institutions if we are not able to defend Russia."

Putin says the increased spending does not reflect the "militarization of the Russian budget" but he says the military has been "chronically underfunded" for years and it is now time "to pay the bill."

Putin said the potential for developing the military structure of the Soviet era "is completely exhausted" and the huge armies of the last century are outdated. He said a "new army" is needed to confront modern threats.

Proposed Reforms

In recent years, Russia's military has been beset by problems, such as obsolete equipment, an increase in hazing, and dwindling benefits for personnel.

The Russian prime minister complained that up until recently there have been military units that require up to five days to fully assemble. In the article he said that ground forces have "more than 100 regular and special brigades" that should be able to fully assemble in "one hour and be deployed to potential combat theaters within 24 hours."

To support these forces, Putin said money will be spent to build "more than 400 modern intercontinental ballistic missiles" for ground and sea forces, 28 submarines armed with nuclear missiles, more than 50 military surface vessels, and more than 600 modern warplanes, as well as a broad deployment of the new S-400 antiaircraft system and Vityaz antimissile system.

Putin commented on the antimissile shield the U.S. and its allies are deploying in Europe, despite Russian objections, saying Russia would have an "effective and asymmetrical" response to the system.

The U.S. and NATO allies claim the system is defense against missiles from "rogue" states such as Iran or North Korea.

Putin also wrote about reforms for servicemen saying that the armed forces would have approximately 1 million members by 2017 and 700,000 of these would be "professional" soldiers as opposed to conscripted troops. Putin said by 2020 only 145,000 of the 1-million man armed forces would be conscripts. Currently, Russia still heavily relies on a conscripted army.

He also said money would be spent to provide "a package of social guarantees" for troops covering insurance, access to medical care, a "worthy" pension, and greater opportunities to enter the workforce after being discharged from the armed forces.

Putin has cultivated an image as a tough man since first becoming Russia's president in 2000. Part of his popularity among Russians come from his position on Russia having an influential standing in the international community.

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