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Volume X, Number 1 (September - October 1999)

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Stanford University (1)

Russia's initial seven-year rearmament program (1999-2005) had as its objective the production of 21st-century equipment and armaments, although the time frame remained flexible. The armed forces' General Staff subsequently contributed an economic and fin ancial projection through the year 2010.

Much of this program will depend upon additional funding for the military-industrial complex as well as the status of basic research. Russia claims to rank at the top only in two scientific-technical fields (positions shared with the United States), and registers a lag in 13 others. Inadequate funding has contributed to the situation. However, a crash program is envisaged for expansion of scientific research and experimental design work, as well as procurement of new weapons, during the years 2000 throu gh 2004, when these two fields are to consume about 66 percent of all defense expenditures, dropping to about 41 percent during the subsequent years through 2010.

The obvious conclusion is that Russian leaders hope to "leapfrog" into the 21st century by catching up and even surpassing the United States in certain areas of futuristic weapons systems. Will the West help them do so?


Early in August 1998, President Boris N. Yel'tsin approved a 30-page document titled "Foundations (Concept) of a State Policy for Military Construction in Russia During the Period until 2005." This policy statement has never been released to the public. However, the then-national security advisor as well as one of the two first deputy defense ministers at that time, Andrei A. Kokoshin, did provide some information during an interview later that same month.

Kokoshin stated that the "concept" had been in gestation since 1995, i.e., during the preceding three years. One of the fundamental precepts in the document states that "large-scale wars against Russia are not anticipated ... although local conflicts are expected along the country's borders as well as those of the Commonwealth of Independent States,"(2) i.e., former Soviet republics, minus the three Baltic countries. He added that all such documents had been classified "secret" in the past. This one stil l remained locked in safes, even though its classification is at the lowest level, i.e., "for official use only."(3)

The foundation for this new rearmament program (programma vooruzheniya, PV) is centered on the military-industrial complex, which must be informed which of its plants will be utilized only during wartime (i.e., otherwise mothballed) and which will be converted to civilian production. By the year 2005, the armed forces should be receiving 21st-century equipment and armaments.(4) Special emphasis will be placed on research and development. According to Kokoshin, parameters established for the rearmament pr ogram may be refined along the way; moreover, the program's time frame may be extended beyond the year 2005.(5)

Selected Projected Defense Expenditures, 1998-2010
(percentages of defense budget)

Year I II Total

1998 11 13 24
1999 25 16 41
2000 25 16 41
2001 43 24 67
2002 43 23 66
2003 43 23 66
2004 43 22 65
2005 29 13 42
2006 29 13 42
2007 29 13 42
2008 29 12 41
2009 29 12 41
2010 29 12 41

I Scientific Research and Experimental Design Work (NIOKR - nauchno-issledovatel'skie i opytno-konstruktorskie raboty.)
II State Defense Order (goszakaz gosudarstvennyi oboronnyi zakaz) is the amount allocated for procurement of new weapons systems and appears as a separate item in the annual budget for the armed forces.

Sources: "Document: Projection for the Period until 2010," Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, no. 4 (5-11 February 1999), p. 4. See also Aleksei Shulunov, "If the Military Industrial Complex Collapses," Ekonomika i zhizhn", no. 30 (July 1998), p. 6, for annua l percentages between 1989 and 1998.

In order to implement these general propositions, another document was prepared by the General Staff at the Ministry of Defense under the title, "Prognosis for Financial and Economic Support of Military Construction until 2010." This material is in the public domain,(6) and it provides figures that suggest a program which may not be feasible. Military requests for funding, as a rule, have been scaled back by the State Duma, in the form of legislation, and subsequently have been "sequestered" or cut by th e finance minister. These procedures could change, of course.

The most difficult period is anticipated to be during the years 1999-2002. On the other hand, funding for research and development (R&D) will increase slightly after the year 2000. Such levels may not be sufficient for any breakthrough, however. Still, these and other efforts to modernize Russia's armed forces could be strengthened by undertaking efforts in the following directions:(7)

* During the period from 1999 through 2005, an increase of military expenditures [from 2.6 percent of GDP during 1999] to between 6 and 6.5 percent of GDP thereafter;

* A cut in the number of troops to a level that can be financed with less than 3 to 3.5 percent of GDP; and

* Discontinuation of the existing practice of insufficient financing for military requirements and a shiftin priorities for particular items in the state budget.

The anticipated continuation of difficult economic conditions will preclude any short-term substantive change between 2000 and 2002.

These negative aspects may be remedied in the future, if adequate funding becomes available. The man who succeeded Andrei Kokoshin, also a civilian, claimed in an article that Russia could "preserve" its great power status. Nikolai V. Mikhailov outlined the measures which must be taken to achieve that objective.(8) The author, a first deputy defense minister, suggests a time frame between 2010 and 2020 for the transition period to a qualitatively different kind of warfare.

Written by an individual who had formerly worked in increasingly more important positions for the military-industrial complex (1961-1996), this article reveals significant information, hitherto unavailable to the outside world. Mikhailov writes that the first government program for rearmament until the year 2005 had been approved by Yel'tsin already in 1996. It is no longer applicable, because 84 percent of the armament plants implementing the state defense order (goszakaz) received an average of only 10 million rubles per year, which would not allow them to fulfill their government contracts.(9)
Whether the military-industrial complex (voyenno-promyshlennyi kompleks, VPK) will survive over the long run depends upon the defense budget in general and allocations for R&D in particular. As far as basic research is concerned, Russia claims to rank the highest in the world (together with the United States) in only two fields among the 15 most important ones: unique nuclear technologies and laser technology. (See Figure 1.) The lag in other critical areas must be surmounted, if Russia is to regain the stature attained by the former Soviet Union.

It is imperative also to formulate a common government position before preparing an armaments program for the years 2001-2010. One of the main objectives in such a traditional 10-year plan would be to preserve a potential nucleus of scientific research ce nters and defense industries. The special "locomotive" for this program should comprise prognostication, as well as investigative and experimental research, with a far-reaching perspective.(10)

The General Staff's "Prognosis for Financial and Economic Support of Military Construction until 2010" portrays rather optimistic figures regarding the percentage of the defense budget to be allocated for the purchase of new weapons as well as for research and development.(11) Industrial implementation of the new rearmament program should be based upon a concentration of resources in support of state priorities, with the objective of producing 21st-century weapons in the following manner:

* government support for fundamental work in nuclear technology, achieving a radical increase toward maximizing the effectiveness of new weapons systems;

* thorough modernization of standards which regulate production of these armaments; and

* expansion in utilization of systems meeting international standards in the field of advanced technologies.

The anonymous authors of this document are not at all convinced that the central government will be able to carry out such a program. They say that "experience in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Irkutsk, Komsomol'sk-on-Amur, Tatarstan, and other regions shows that local government as well as financial industrial groups have influenced progressive reform in VPK enterprises which, in a number of cases, has proven more effective than the influence of federation authorities in Moscow."(1 2)

Obviously, all of the foregoing will require a substantial increase of funding by the central government. The budget for 1998 appeared to have been more general than specific. For example, the funding for Russia's 15 "other armies" does not appear in the defense ministry's budget, because their commanding officers report directly to Yel'tsin and receive unknown amounts of money from presidential discretionary funds.(13) The largest of these organizations comprise Ministry of Internal Affairs troops, Border Guards, Civil Defense units, etc. According to the deputy chairman of the Duma defense committee, the total allocated to all 15 of these presidential forces amounted to the equivalent of $8 billion in the1997 budget plan, and their total strength appr oximated 1.2 million men or about the same as the regular armed forces.(14)

More recently, the military budget for 1999 includes many defense items that are concealed under innocuous designations within the budgets of other ministries.(15) On 22 February 1999, the federal budget for the current calendar year became law. Numerica l strength of the regular armed forces and allocation of funds for the new rearmament program as well as troop maintenance all appear in secret annexes.(16)

The other, perhaps even more significant items in theuccessive annual defense budgets, as projected through the year 2010, pertain to the state defense order as well as scientific research and experimental design work (nauchno-issledovatel'skie i opytno-konstruktorskie raboty, NIOKR). The figures suggest that a crash program in the above two areas during calendar years 2001 through 2004 will consume approximately two-thirds of all defense expenditures, dropping to about two-fifths for the out years through 2010. (See table.)

Some of the big-ticket items that already are or soon will be coming off the assembly line include:

* The new fourth-generation Topol M-2 (SS-27) ICBM, already in series production, with the first 10 deployed by the end of 1998, another 10 by the end of 1999, and a target of 25-30 per year thereafter;

* A new tactical nuclear weapons system, with a range of 400 kilometers, tested successfully in 1995 and may be in production;

* Miniature nuclear warheads, weighing 198 lbs., and already coming off the assembly line;

* The first of between 10 and 16 strategic Boreas-class submarines, named "Yuri Dolgoruki," with the new SS-NX-28 SLBM; keel laid on 2 November 1996. Each submarine would carry between 64 and 96 warheads on its 16 missiles.(17)

Futuristic weapons systems being developed by R&D centers and design bureaus include the following:(18)

* directed energy weapons: lasers, microwave radiation emitters, and particle beam generators which use subatomic particles for electromagnetic radiation with the speed of light;

* a new mass plasma weapon, already tested, which could ionize the atmosphere so that missiles and aircraft would be destroyed by enormous stress;

* a new radar to detect "stealth" weapons systems;

* Russian "stealth" cruise missiles to be carried by aircraft; and

* a plasma coating that would make 5th-generation Russian aircraft invisible to radar.(19)

On 29 April 1999, Russia's Security Council met in Moscow where it heard Yel'tsin call for an across-the-board upgrade of R&D as well as production of new nuclear weapons. TASS quoted him as stating that:

Today, we must consider in detail the entire technological cycle of the nuclear weapons sector, including research in the field of nuclear arms, the conduct of tests, the production and storage of such weapons, with the assurance of their safety and reproc essing.(20)

Such experiments will be conducted at the Novaya Zemlya testing facility. "The new tests will take place on a completely different qualitative level and as a matter of priority."(21) [In the current US Senate debate on ratification of the nuclear test b an treaty, there was reference to signs of nuclear tests at the Novaya Zemlya facility.--Ed.]


The decision makers in the Kremlin intend to adapt their armed forces to the conditions of the new millennium. By committing soon after the turn of the century some two-thirds of the defense budget to advanced R&D of futuristic weapons systems as well as production thereof, they intend to "leapfrog" the gap between their lagging advanced technologies and those of the West. The question is whether Russia can attain these objectives, without help from international financial institutions and the United Stat es.

The US government has provided Russia with more than $1.7 billion already, just for the Cooperative Threat Reduction and associated programs (extended on 24 June 1999 for another seven years), to help secure fissile materials and nuclear warheads "held in reserve." The 50:50 arrangement has deteriorated to the point where United States officials are proposing that the US pay the entire cost for the construction of such facilities. Furthermore, their Russian counterparts refuse to allow transparency with r egard to the destruction and even storage of their nuclear warheads.

In other words, what is being destroyed will be replaced with new generations of nuclear weapons both tactical and strategic. The Security Council's press service revealed that Yel'tsin approved a document on Russia's new policy of nuclear deterrence. It elucidates "conditions for using these weapons in defense of the country's national security ... as well as that of its allies and for use when all other measures have not been able to eliminate the threat."(22) This presumably would be done without warn ing in a first strike mode.

The new policy of deterrence was tested during "West-99" (Zapad-99) maneuvers with 50,000 Russian troops from five military districts between the Black Sea and the Arctic. They responded to a simulated NATO attack against Belarus with 450 tactical and str ategic aircraft plus 120 guided missiles as well as another 110 planes with 40 such weapons striking Russia's enclave of Kaliningrad oblast' (formerly Königsberg and part of East Prussia).

Unable to stop these conventional airstrikes, the High Command in Moscow ordered 63 of its Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic aircraft to fly toward enemy territory and simulate launches of nuclear-tipped missiles at NATO targets, including the continental United States.(23) These six-day exercises were the largest ever held since the war games code-named Zapad-85, which had never dissembled as to the "main enemy," namely the United States.


1. Richard F. Staar is a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University as well as an associate of the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard University. He has been a professor of foreign affairs at The N ational War College and served as US ambassador to conventional arms reduction talks in Vienna, Austria. Dr. Staar held a visiting research professorship at Boston University during 1997-1999, where this article was completed.

2. Interview with Vadim Solov'yev, "Rossiya poluchila razvernutuyu Kontseptsiyu voennoi reformy," Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie, no. 29, 7-13 August 1998, p. 1; henceforth, cited as NVO.

3. Solov'yev, op. cit., p. 3

4. Revealed by Marshal Igor D. Sergeev, the defense minister, in a speech at the air defense university in Tver oblast' on 8 February 1999, according to ITAR-TASS; cited by RFE/RL Newsline, vol. 3, no. 27, 9 February 1999.

5. Solov'yev, op. cit., p. 3.

6. "Prognoz finansovo-ekonomicheskogo obespecheniya stroitel'stva VS RF na period do 2010 goda," NVO, no. 4, 5-11 February 1999, p. 4.

7. Ibid.

8, Nikolai Mikhailov, "Rossiya mozhet sokhranit' status velikoi derzhavy," NVO, no. 36, 25 September-1 October 1998, p. 1.

9. Ibid., p. 4.

10. Ibid.

11. "Prognoz finansovo-ekonomicheskogo obespecheniya ...," op. cit., p. 4.

12. Ibid.

13. Sobs. inf., "Finansirovanie silovykh struktur -- na kontrole Prezidenta," Krasnaya zvezda, no. 181, 13 August 1998, p. 1.

14. Alexei G. Arbatov, "Military Reform in Russia," International Security, vol. 22, no. 4, Spring 1998, p. 98.

15. Efim Lyuboshits and Vitali Tsymbal, "Voennyi byudzhet -- 1999 ostayetsia nesovershennym," NVO, no. 11, 26 March-1 April 1999, p. 4.

16. Vladimir Georgiev, "Voennyi byudzhet stanovitsya gostainoi," NVO, no. 8, 4-10 March 1999, p. 1.

17. General Staff Colonel (ret.) Denis Baranets, "Bolshoi Sekret," Komsomol'skaya pravda, 7 August 1997, p. 1.

18. Mary C. Fitzgerald, "The Russian Image of Future War," Comparative Strategy, vol. 13, no. 2 (1994), p. 168, citing Major General V.I. Slipchenko, then General Staff research director.

19. Nikolai Novichkov, "Amerikansky 'stels' -- vcherashny den'," NVO, no. 4, 5-11 February 1999, p. 6.

20. Cited by American Foreign Policy Council, Russia Reform Monitor, no. 634, 14 May 1999, p. 1.

21. Vladimir Georgiev, "Rossiya sovershenstvuet yadernye sily," Nezavisimaya gazeta, no. 83, 12 May 1999, p. 2.

22. "Iz Kremlya: Garant bezopasnosti," Krasnaya zvezda, no. 58, 16 March 1999, p. 1.

23. Yuri Golotiuk, "Voennye ne priznaiutsia po komu oni nanesli uchebnyi iadernyi udar," Izvestia, 29 June 1999, p. 2.
Copyright ISCIP 1999
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