Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin appealed to a conference in Moscow on June 27 to close the military technology gap with the United States, in response to Washington allegedly developing the capability to destroy most of Russia’s nuclear forces within a few hours. The pseudo-paranoia, coupled with the high aspirations for the domestic defense industry to catch up to technologically advanced potential adversaries was contradicted by the failed Proton-M rocket launch in Baikonur, on July 2. Nevertheless, the attending defense ministry public relations campaign to publish its “plan of activities” to 2020 presented fresh hope that political will to implement real military modernization persists (http://nvo.ng.ru/concepts/2013-07-05/1_online.html; mil.ru/mod_activity_plan/constr.htm).
However, the underlying planning processes were publicly challenged by Army-General Makhmut Gareev, who suggested that quite apart from all the other challenges facing the domestic defense industry, there are serious planning flaws that will mitigate political aspirations to modernize the force structures in the State Armaments Program (Gosudarstvennaya Programma Vooruzheniya—GPV) to 2020. Before turning to consider Gareev’s attack on the GPV planning process, which appeared in his two-part article in Voyenno-Promyshlennyy Kuryer, it is worth highlighting his importance and influence (http://www.vpk-news.ru/articles/16198; www.vpk-news.ru/articles/16298).
Gareev is president of the Academy of Military Sciences and Russia’s foremost military theorist, and he stands out as a traditionalist. In 2010, he published Srazhenia Na Voenno-Istoricheskom Fronte (Battles on the Military-Historical Front), encapsulating a traditionalist view of military conflicts. During the Anatoly Serdyukov reform era in March 2010, Gareev argued that military modernization must be pursued as an addition to existing force structures rather than a substitute. He was by no means a supporter of moving to a C4ISR-based modern military; and since Serdyukov was sacked in November 2012, Gareev and his thinking have moved center stage (Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye, March 12, 2010). He stresses “mobilization,” and the need for “reserves” in generating forces, ignoring that these no longer exist as options for the modern Russian state.
In his VPK article, Gareev covered a wide range of issues linked to the need to improve military science. He suggested integrating military and social sciences as part of this process, which would severely limit the former discipline’s potential if implemented. Among other issues in these pieces, Gareev said that the “defense problems” section of the Russian Academy of Sciences is too narrowly focused. Currently it works only in the fields of natural and engineering sciences, and in his view this must be expanded (http://www.vpk-news.ru/articles/16198; www.vpk-news.ru/articles/16298). Gareev concluded by blasting the planning that underpins the GPV. He said Moscow spends “years” gathering plans for the modernizations of the Armed Forces’ branches and an attempt is made to present this as coordinated, while a “general concept” of weapons development simply does not exist.
The retort came from Major-General (retired) Vasily Burenok, the head of the 46th Central Research Institute of the Russian Ministry of Defense. Although earlier articles by Burenok concurred with Gareev that military science needs to drive the modernization process, he took issue with the claim that the GPV was poorly planned (http://www.vpk-news.ru/articles/16482). Burenok accuses Gareev of lying about the issue, saying Gareev is well aware of the seven-volume set on “The Theory and Practice of Development Management Weapons Systems of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.” This work sets out a methodology for developing new weapons systems, and coordinating the planning involved, and according to Burenok it is “performance oriented.” However, these volumes are classified as secret. Burenok published two diagrams showing the scientific nature of the process. The second figure shows “needs” and “opportunities” as shorthand for the work of “major research groups” as a part of the methodology involved. This included, as part of the “military-technical background,” cost-timing, development, procurement of advanced weapons, drafting the state armaments program, forecasting the development of science and technology for national defense, and security priority areas (http://www.vpk-news.ru/articles/16482).
Setting aside known issues plaguing the modernization of Russia’s Armed Forces—including corruption, incompetence, poor planning as well as the massive challenges in the defense industry and the presence of questionable “managers” of the system including Rogozin—it appears that Burenok reacted to Gareev on the central point of the existing capacity to plan a modern weapons and equipment program (http://www.vpk-news.ru/articles/16482). However, as retired Russian officers told Jamestown, Burenok simply acted to protect his position in the system. Presenting the GPV planning process as highly calculated and following a clear and known methodology—though it takes labyrinthine knowledge of a seven-volume set of secret books on this issue and ignorance of the failures of the previous GPVs—flies in the face of a number of basic facts that are underestimated by these “specialists.” The first is that a military statistical foundation does not exist to support the process, leaving planners to simply make informed guesses as to what is needed. Second, the whole process lacks transparency, accountability or any effort to involve civil society in questioning and correcting the planning estimates. The figures and the aspirations contain little that is credible, reliable or subject to real testing; this equally applies to the defense ministry–published figures on the “plan of activities” to 2020.
This “debate” may seem tangential in assessing whether the Russian state can deliver success in the GPV to 2020. Yet, it is very important for a number of reasons. It reveals the semblance of “planning” at the heart of a process that is abstracted from any real consideration of what the modernization requirements are, if this may be afforded, or how it can fit with the force structure and manpower limits to 2020 and beyond. It also shows how central Gareev and his strand of thinking has become in the effort to “continue” the reforms, which by definition cannot be pursued by a defense leadership bereft of any influence of the original determination to adopt C4ISR as the driving force in the “reform.” Russia’s Armed Forces in 2013 are only capable of simple combined-arms operations, or counter-insurgency or peacekeeping operations that belong to the 20th century. Despite the fantasy of a “reform” continuing, the current leadership has abandoned the pursuit of a modern military based on small elite and professional forces with a reformed officer corps and a new non-commissioned officer cadre. What emerges will now depend on what the defense industry can deliver. The “debate” between Burenok and Gareev cannot mask the failure of the “new look.”