Russian army: the blade is out of the sheath

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia’s once very powerful military power seemed to collapse. Fighter pilots earn less rubles than Moscow bus drivers. The army did not even have enough rations and had to send hungry soldiers out to search for berries and mushrooms. Corruption is also very common. A general was accused of renting out Soviet MiG-29 fighter jets for use in an illegal “car” race between planes and cars. In 1994, the then Defense Minister Grachev lamented: “There is no army in the world as bad as ours.” However, there is no army in the world that can achieve such a strong rebound like the Russian army. . In 2008, the Russian army won the Georgian War in just a few days, but this war also exposed the weaknesses and deficiencies of the Russian army. Since then, the army has begun a top-down reform.

| Sharpen its tools first |
The first is to invest more money. Between 2005 and 2018, Russia’s military spending roughly doubled. Michael Kaufman of the Naval Analysis Center, a US think tank, said that Russia’s annual military expenditures range from US$15 million to US$18 million, which is about three times that of the United Kingdom and nearly 4% of Russia’s GDP.

Most of this money was spent on equipment. Julian Cooper, an economist at the University of Birmingham, estimates that Russia has added about 600 aircraft, 840 helicopters and 2,300 drones in the past decade. According to a research report published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London last September, in 2007, the traditional armored equipment put into use more than 30 years ago accounted for 99% of Russia’s total equipment; today, the Russian military’s modern weapons and equipment account for 99% of total Russian equipment. The ratio has reached 27%. During the same period, the Russian fighters changed from 97% of traditional fighters to 71% of modern fighters.

The money is indeed spent on the blade, such as the Iskander land-based missile, the “caliber” sea-based missile and the Kh-101 air-based missile and other high-precision missiles. Their range covers the entire Europe. Dmitry Stefanovic of the Moscow Institute of World Economics and International Relations pointed out that the Russian Navy’s Caspian Fleet accurately hit targets in Syria. It was science fiction a decade ago, but it’s a fact now. In modern European battlefields, the Russian army can use this missile to deter civilian and military installations behind the enemy’s army, ensuring that the conflict ends in a situation where the Russian army dominates.

Russia’s ultimate goal is to realize the Soviet era concept and establish a “reconnaissance and strike integrated system”: data from ground combat vehicles, aerial drones, space satellites, and enemy units’ radio signals are collected and processed in real time, and Enter into the weapon. Specifically, no matter which “sensor” (such as a drone) can provide a target to any “shooter” (such as a distant warship). The targets are arranged in order of priority, and ideally they can be hit within a few minutes. Dima Adamski of the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Research Center in Israel said that although Russia lags behind the United States and China in this regard, it has already achieved a “great leap.”

| Field-tested |
The Russian army is not only better equipped, but also faster. As a result of the improvement in combat readiness, Russia can quickly assemble a heavily armed 100,000 troops and dispatch them to European hotspots within 30 days. On the other hand, it is estimated that half of the light forces of NATO will not be fully assembled within 30 days. It is said that about 5,000 Russian airborne troops can be ready within two hours after being ordered. High-intensity training keeps soldiers on high combat alertness at all times. Russia’s “Caucasus-2020” strategic exercise, which ended on September 26 last year, involved approximately 80,000 troops. “The scale is so large that people forget the shortcomings.” Lieutenant General Jim Hawkenhull, director of the British Defense Intelligence Agency, commented.

The advantage of the Russian army lies in the battle-tested battlefield. Kaufman pointed out that although Russia and China have similar weapons and equipment, the former’s armed forces are obviously more “experienced in battle.” In the conflict in Ukraine, the Russian army exercised armored combat and artillery duel, tested cyber attacks and drone transmission of information; in the Syrian war, more than 63,000 Russian soldiers served in Syria, where the Russian army has been improving precision strikes and combat A training ground for countering the enemy’s unmanned aerial vehicle cluster combat capabilities and testing autonomous vehicles.

According to Adamsky’s observations, it can even be seen from the behavior of the Russian military officers stationed in Syria that they are getting rid of the top-down, hierarchical, rigid and rigid command style of the Soviet era, and tend to be more autonomous and creative “mission-style”. Command”, and this is “very different from Russian military traditions.” Also in Ukraine and Syria, the Russian military has honed its electronic warfare skills by interfering with enemy radios, radars, and drones. The GPS signals forged by the Russian army in Syria can even deceive Israeli civilian airliners.

| Deterring opponents |
Of course, the Russian army also has shortcomings. Military journal editor Viktor Murakhovsky was originally an army officer and supported military reforms. He said that Russia’s shipbuilding industry is developing slowly, and the development of long-range drones is also lagging behind competitors. At the same time, the delivery of the T-14 Armata main battle tank, the new generation of Su-57 fighter jets and the new submarine were delayed. Although Russia is good at space detonation technology, its old reconnaissance satellite fleet is declining day by day, and the modernization of its satellite system is also difficult due to Western sanctions. The biggest problem is that the Russian defense industry is weak and lacks technical personnel, machine tools and parts.

The difference in investment in hardware and personnel is also obvious. Although they no longer go hungry, the salaries of soldiers are not high. Murahovsky pointed out that in peacetime, a skilled tank commander in his 20s earns slightly more than 43,000 rubles (approximately RMB 3,800) per month, which is lower than the Russian average. The conscripts enlisted in the army still account for 55% of the ground forces. Their morale is low and their service time is too short to give full play to their role in combat. Although the phenomenon of renting out fighter jets no longer exists, in 2018, the Russian military prosecutors also announced that 2,800 military officers were charged with corruption, amounting to a total of 90 million U.S. dollars.

The revival of military power does not seem to bring peace to the hearts of Russian soldiers. IISS concluded that once a war with NATO breaks out, Russia “will gain an advantage for a limited period of time,” but if the conflict continues, Russia is likely to be at a disadvantage. Therefore, President Putin has been doing his best in recent years to ensure that the conflict will not be delayed for too long. He spent huge sums of money to develop nuclear power and introduced a series of terrifying weapons, such as hypersonic gliders, ultra-long-range nuclear torpedoes that can pollute coastal areas, and nuclear-powered cruise missiles that can circle the earth indefinitely. Missiles such as Iskander, Calibre and Kh-101 can be equipped with conventional warheads as well as nuclear warheads. NATO officials revealed that unless the warhead touches the ground, they have no way of knowing which type of warhead they fired. In the opinion of the Russian generals, the revival of military power is accompanied by nuclear deterrence-they will never need to go to the point of using nuclear weapons.

NATO’s focus is on Russia’s threat to the Baltic States and how to clear obstacles within a few weeks or months to strengthen European defense. However, NATO has overlooked one point-if there is a shorter, more intense, larger-scale war, or even far beyond the Baltic Sea, how the rejuvenated Russian army will sweep the battlefield. NATO military divisions and politicians who formulate defense budgets and determine military objectives may really need to adjust their military expenditures and strategies.