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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1755
Equipment quality, personnel problems plague Russia's military;
The Eurasian Economic Union inches forward
Edited by Ilan Berman and Amanda Pitrof
January 4, 2012
Following protracted disagreement over a proposed U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe, Russia has asked England to step in and help resolve the impasse between Moscow and Washington. According to the Voice of Russia, the Kremlin is troubled by America’s repeated rejection of all of its proposals regarding the system, and at the APEC summit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev made it clear that Russia will have to decide how to react — both now and after the system becomes operational in 2015. The Kremlin’s NATO ambassador, Dmitry Rogozin, has stressed that continued tension on this issue could have wider ramifications for cooperation over Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan. Russia’s Defense Ministry has warned that retaliation could involve the creation of its own anti-missile system, or even another Cold War-style arms buildup.
Russia must look outside its borders for arms and military equipment if it hopes to keep pace with the rest of the world, a top Russian military expert has said. Lenta.ru reports that in recent testimony before the country's Public Chamber, Chief of Staff of the Russian armed forces General Nikolai Makarov offered comparisons between Russian weaponry and its foreign counterparts - and highlighted how the Russian variant falls short. To wit, whereas the Russian T-90 tank has a range of 2.5 miles, the Israeli equivalent known as the Merkava-MK4 has a 6-mile range, and where the Russian “Tornado” missile system has a range of 70 kilometers, the U.S. equivalent has more than double that. Makarov insisted that a larger portion of the country’s budget must be spent to rectify the imbalance. The Kremlin recently imposed more stringent requirements on the country's defense industry, but the measure has left Russian companies even less equipped to match consumer demand. Purchases of weapon technology abroad have increased as a result, and the trend is expected to continue.
Russia's military problems don't end with industrial shortfalls. According to Makarov, Russia’s demographic crisis has left the nation's army far short of its personnel quotas. There simply are “no conscript-age young men left to recruit,” RIA-Novosti reports Makarov as saying. Of all young men aged 18-27, only 11.7 percent are eligible for army service, but 60 percent of that total have health problems that prevent them from serving. Most officials believe the medical documentation to be fake, but the shortage still has prompted the Defense Ministry to drastically reduce its recruitment levels from the planned 250-300,000 to only 135,850 in the fall of 2011.
Russia, along with Kazakhstan and Belarus, has taken what it considers to be the first steps toward the creation of a Eurasian Economic Union. Leaders from all three countries have signed a pact to coordinate both trade and economic development. According to the Wall Street Journal, this entails the creation of a commission that will “oversee currencies and manage economic integration” between Moscow, Minsk and Astana. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has suggested that a formal economic union could emerge by 2015; however, at least in the near future, an expansion of the union to include other regional countries seems unlikely.
The Kremlin’s ire over the latest IAEA report on Iran has not abated. Russian officials continue to insist that the report is neither professional nor objective, Ha'aretz reports. China now has joined Moscow in voicing opposition to any unilateral move against Iran, maintaining that dialogue remains the only possible avenue for resolution of the impasse over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Russia's envoy to the UN additionally has suggested that the report was leaked to the public as part of a “well-orchestrated media campaign... aimed at the further aggravation of the situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear program.”
Once a defender of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian methods, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has recently voiced sharp criticism of the current Prime Minister. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Gorbachev warned against the Kremlin’s “habit” of authoritarianism, calling it a “very dangerous thing.” The former president additionally made it clear that he does not expect the approaching Duma elections to be fair, suggesting that the official turnout and election results will be decided before voting even begins. Nevertheless, he encouraged Russians to join him in exercising the right to vote, and to reject Putin’s party, United Russia.