Sunday, 27 February 2011

Russia´s huge rearmament programme

Intoxicated by the (temporary) rise of the price of oil due to the events in the Middle East and North Africa, the ruler of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has decided to upgrade the country´s Soviet-era military instead of trying to invest in improving the lot of millions of poor people in his country:

MOSCOW: Russia has unveiled the biggest rearmament program since the fall of the Soviet Union, saying that it intends to buy 600 planes, 100 ships and 1000 helicopters within the next decade.
The ambitious overhaul will cost the equivalent of $650 billion. European countries are meanwhile cutting defence spending to try to balance their national budgets.
But with oil prices rising, Russia, the world's biggest energy exporter, feels confident it can afford to upgrade its dilapidated Soviet-era military and believes it urgently needs to do so to confirm its self-proclaimed status as a leading world power.

Read the entire story here.

Even if Russia would actually be able to get all this modern weaponry, it would would not be of much use due to the country´s Soviet style, corrupted conscription system:

Another Soviet military legacy is the system of obligatory conscription. While all other large European countries abolished military conscription in recent decades, Russia continues with a system in which all physically fit male citizens aged 18 to 27 must serve for 12 months. Exemptions are based on medical conditions and are given to university students and employees of certain organizations. About 500,000 young men are conscripted every year.

The system is unfair, inefficient and unpopular. According to the polling firm Public Opinion Foundation, 51 percent of Russians support abolishing conscription, and 67 percent are against extending the age of eligibility for the draft. The Russian military estimates the total number of draft dodgers to be close to 200,000. According to the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights, the current rate for bribes to avoid conscription is as high as $5,000, while a typical lieutenant’s monthly salary is about $500.

Obligatory military service is inefficient because “free” conscript labor is much cheaper for the military than hiring civilians as, for example, cooks and cleaning personnel. Moreover, the military has no incentive to value conscripts’ lives and well-being. According to the Public Opinion Foundation, 79 percent of Russians perceive serious hazing and abuse of draftees as being widespread. Five of six respondents who served in the military since the 1990s were subject to abuse as soldiers. Since 2005, according to official statistics, 2,051 servicemen have committed suicide.

Read the entire article here.

One reason why Putin and his henchmen want to invest in the army and the security services is described by British top diplomat Tony Brenton, who served as UK ambassador to Russia in 2004 - 2008:

Egypt's revolution has disturbing implications for Russia.
There are huge differences between the two countries but the comparisons are still unsettling for Russia's elite.
Long ago I was a young diplomat in Cairo, and the cynicism I heard from Egypt's politically aware classes is almost exactly mirrored in Moscow now.
Both countries have run 'guided' democracies, dominated by electorally impregnable 'parties of power' and untouchable security establishments.
The elites find it hard to give up power; those who do are more likely to face corruption charges than honourable retirement.
Events in Egypt have already produced echoes in some of Russia's client states: Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
They are a timely reminder to the Russian establishment that the demand for freedom is universal, and will sooner or later have to be met.

Putin seems to think that the demand for freedom in Russia can be suppressed with the help of new armaments, but he will be proved wrong, sooner rather than later ...

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