The U.S.S.R. has been gone for just over 21 years now, the terror it once exercised over the West deflated into a patched-up old Halloween ghost. Yet, despite the death of the superpower, Russia’s determination to expand its military might has hardly waned. Russia has recently touted itself as producing the best military hardware in the world, and the nuclear power continues to provide all manner of weaponry to the buyers in the Middle East and elsewhere, despite complaints from the western countries whose enemies Russia is arming.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently stated that Russia sold more than $14 billion in arms and services in 2012. Russia exports its weapons and hardware to eighty-eight countries. Fifty-seven countries are regular buyers, and India remains the largest buyer of Russian military equipment. Putin promises to increase his country’s military spending by $770 billion from 2014-2020. Russia’s booming sales and profits from their natural oil and gas resources have allowed them to increase their manufacturing of military hardware for export.
Russia’s T-90, T-70 tanks, and Su-35M jets arm some of the strongest armies in Africa, namely Algeria, Uganda, and Chad. Business Insider has called the T-90 Russian battle tank “just as advanced” as the United States’ M1 battle tank at more than half the cost. Russia plans to introduce the T-99 in 2014.
The Su-35 Russian jet is a twin-engine multi-role fighter, an old name on a new plane that Russia hopes will dominate the world market. Libya was a major buyer of the aircraft before the overthrow of the Gadhafi regime. Fresh talks between the new Libyan authorities and Russia are expected to resume military cooperation between the two parties. Libya recently signed a contract to upgrade 200 T-72 tanks, offering Russia another promising customer as it seeks to build business in the market of restoring, upgrading, and repairing military hardware.
Russia has a healthy portfolio of agreements with Iraq worth more than $4 billion. Between tanks and aircraft, other countries have a shopping list of items to purchase from Russia’s weapons and hardware store.
Russia’s MSTA-S 152mm self-propelled howitzer has been in service since 1989. There are currently 800 in Russia’s inventory. The uniqueness of this weapon is the fact that it can run on six different fuel types, among them diesel, gas, aviation fuel, and spirit alcohol.
The Sukhoi T-50 is Russia’s fifth generation of stealth fighter jets a likely contender with the U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet and slightly faster than the F-22 Raptor by 190 km/h. The Russian Defense Ministry plans to purchase 60 of these fighters by 2016 while confining the development cost to $10 billion with a lifespan of 30 years.
The Yasen-class submarine has been called the quietest sub in the ocean by the Office of Naval Intelligence. It carries up to 32 cruise missiles and is scheduled for ocean deployment by 2015 at a cost of $1.2 billion each. Perhaps the development of the Bulava, Sineva, and Layner ballistic missiles best describe why Russia is obsessed with submarines.
These three submarine-launched ballistic-missiles (SLBM’s) are the forefront of Russia’s naval missile defense. The Layner SLBM is scheduled to augment the Bulava and has 12 warheads capable of piercing anti-ballistic missile defenses. The Bulava SLBM nuclear warhead carries six 150 kiloton bombs with an effective range of 6,100 miles. They are expected to be in operation this year.
Russia is also expanding its littoral water fleet navy with the Steregushchy-class corvette ships. There are currently three ships in service with three under construction, and two more for export to Algeria. At a cost of $150 million per ship exported, these vessels are far more affordable than the planned U.S. Littoral Combat Ships with their price tag of $1.2 billion each.
Russia’s key plan to strengthen its conventional military and strategic nuclear capabilities is perhaps the forefront of Vladimir Putin’s vision to enact a Eurasian Union. The U.S. State Department has accused Russia of using the Eurasian Union as a cover to “re-Sovietize” those countries that were part of the former Soviet Union.
One of Russia’s closest allies is Syria. Syria has opened its port of Tartus, allowing Russia’s Black Sea Fleet to base their warships as a strategic show of force against the Mediterranean NATO fleets. Russia has not confirmed that it has exported a supply of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to the Syrian government leadership under President Assad.
Russia has maintained a strong military presence in Syria, causing a challenge for a future U.S. led intervention in that region. Russia’s military advisors are currently manning Syria’s sophisticated missile-defense systems. Moscow has upgraded Syria’s old surface-to-air systems and deployed new ones since the Syrian revolution broke out 21 months ago. The strategic deployment of these defense systems makes it risky and costly for any future western campaign to support a no-fly zone or air strikes against the current leadership.
Guy Ben-Ari, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said:
“They [Russia] didn’t just sell the equipment. They also help man the crews and train the crews. Sometimes, there is just no domestic capacity to run these systems, and that is the case in Syria where Syrian crews are not capable of using the equipment to its full capacity.”
Moscow has invested a great deal in Syria, and it doesn’t want to lose that investment.
Putin is determined to have his Eurasian Union become “one of the global poles of power.” Some analysts speculate that Russia intends to increase its annual budget for national defense and security by 30 percent. A show of increased military strength at home and abroad is Vladimir’s warning to the U.S. that he is prepared to defend his Eurasian Union policy—with force if necessary.
By Dr. Chuck Missler