Russia: Running down its defenses to western levels

Russia: Running down its defenses to western levels, by Jim Dunnigan.

The federal budget for 2017 was quietly made public in late October and included a 30 percent cut in defense spending. Even with that Russia is spending $45 billion on defense, which is 3.3 percent of a shrinking GDP. Russia expects oil prices to remain low and forecasts defense spending declining to three percent of GDP in 2018 and 2.8 percent in 2018. …

The US spends 4% of GDP on defense, and China 2%.

Russia has managed to get about half its Cold War era military equipment updated or replaced but the Russian defense industries are still dependent on export sales to survive. That means the Russian military have access to high-tech weapons (like smart bombs and modern electronics) but only if the defense budget can afford to buy the stuff. As operations in Syria demonstrated, Russia has no war reserves of high tech weapons and has few to use in Syria, or anywhere else. Most of the Russian armed forces are equipped with decades old equipment and get little money for training and maintenance. Russia spends a lot of available defense funds on maintaining its nuclear weapons. Even then there are quality and reliability problems with delivery vehicles (ICBMs and the nukes themselves).

Economy is destiny, as the Russians have learned from what happened to China, which is now more of a superpower than Russia. Chinese GDP is more than seven times Russia’s and China is spending more than three times as much on defense as Russia. The Russians see the possibility of China regaining its status as a major military power. That was lost several centuries ago but at the moment China has twice as many troops and most of them have better weapons. But the cost of competing with a hostile China appears to be more than the Russia can afford.