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21 Sep, 2010 12:07

Russia to modernize army for $600 billion till 2020

Russia intends to spend more than US$600 billion to re-equip its armed forces with cutting-edge weaponry. Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov says the program may even include buying US military technology.

Actually, Russia already has experience of buying equipment from the US, which could be considered military or paramilitary, acknowledged Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technology.

It all started before the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, when the Soviet Union’s Interior Ministry bought some Motorola walkie-talkies.

Today’s FSB counter-intelligence service has some American equipment with the units that fight Islamic extremists in Chechnya.

Still, Russia’s Ministry of Defense has never bought any military equipment from the US.

There would not be any massive purchases, of course, and the reasons for this are numerous. First and foremost, because Russia is neither a NATO member nor an official ally of the US, and the American legislation strictly prohibits selling of military equipment to third parties which are not US allies or do not have special agreements with the US government.

“The current system of military exports control is changing in the US,” said Pukhov. Due to budget restrictions, arms producers are asking the Obama administration to ease the legislative restrictions as far as the exports are concerned.

But even if this happens, this change would help Russia to buy more American military technology, shared Pukhov.

The US has almost full spectrum of conventional weapons and spend on research and development much more than any country in the world – and definitely has a lot of goodies to sell, from small arms to battle systems.

The US is probably ready to share certain technology that helps fight terrorism with Russia, but it is highly doubtful anything specific for the army or navy could be sold, predicted Ruslan Pukhov. So it would be “mostly some surveillance and tracking systems for special services.”

The US itself has been buying some Russian equipment, like helicopters, because it is highly reliable and cost-effective, sometimes specifically designed for the war in Afghanistan, which the US is currently busy with.

Another issue is that Russian equipment is much less sophisticated and it would be easier to teach the Afghan army using Russian equipment instead of American, “if the US is planning to leave the country in a foreseeable future.”

The $600 billion that Russia plans to spend on defense only “sounds very huge,” assessed Pukhov. It means this money would not only be spread out over ten years, but a good deal of it would be spent on the military reform the Russian army is undergoing right now. So the direct purchase of arms would be less than it first appears.

The Russian army is transforming from the old Soviet model of a huge military mass into a modern, compact and mobile type of army.

The military in Russia has had a sort of “procurement vacation” – not buying weapons since 2005 – and now has to catch up to bridge the gap.