At the recent Sochi meeting between
Vladimir Putin and his senior Defense Ministry officials, officials from
Russia's defense industry as well as the heads of various ministries and
regions, Mr. Putin made a series of very interesting comments about Russia's readiness for
war following the Zapad-2017 military exercise that received relatively little
coverage in the mainstream Western media. While this lack of coverage is
not terribly surprising given the anti-all things Russian sentiment that has taken root in
the Western media since 2014, it is rather negligent given the importance of
the comments and the fact that the world seems to be heading into the Cold War
As background, between September 14 and
20, 2017, Russia conducted one of its largest military exercises since the end
of the Cold War. Zapad-2017 tested Russia's plans for a
full-scale conflict with NATO with the drills taking place along the border
between Belarus/Russia/Kalinigrad and the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and
Lithuania. Here is a map from the European Council on
Foreign Relations showing the locations of the exercises:
Prior to the exercises, some Western analysts postulated that
Zapad-2017 was a springboard for Russia to invade and occupy Lithuania, Poland
and or Ukraine.
According to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Zapad-2017 involved the following:
a video showing Vladimir Putin arriving at and observing the Zapad-2017 war
With that background, let's start
with Mr. Putin's comment as released by the
Kremlin regarding the state of Russia's military defences made on November 20,
2017 at the opening of the tenth cycle of meetings on military matters with
senior officials of Russia's Defense Ministry and the nation's defense industry
held in Sochi:
"The development of a new State
Armament Programme is nearing completion. Its implementation will largely
determine the combat capability of the service arms and branches for the coming
decade and in the long run. We need to carefully check all our plans.
Our Army and Navy must possess the most
advanced weapons, military and special equipment, which take into account,
among other things, potential changes in the strategy and tactics of warfare in
the future and are on a par or, better yet, superior to their foreign
counterparts. If we want to be in front and win, we must be better.
The key indicators of the programme
should, above all, ensure guaranteed strategic deterrence and, in the event of
a potential external threat, its effective neutralisation.
Of course, the implementation of the
State Armament Programme will depend on capabilities of defence enterprises,
scientific and research centres. However, it is important not only to develop
in a timely manner advanced technology or weapon samples that meet the
requirements of the Defence Ministry, but also to be ready to launch them into
mass production without any delays or disruptions." (my bold)
Here are additional comments made by Mr. Putin on November 21,
2017 at the Sochi series of meetings in which he focuses on the fulfillment of
Russia's state defense order:
"As part of the fulfilled
tasks, the armed forces have received over 3,400 items of advanced and upgraded
hardware, including 16 combat vessels, 190 modern aircraft and helicopters, 800
tanks and armoured combat vehicles, 170 missile defence systems, and 1,950
Defence industry experts have carried
out regular maintenance of the main arms and equipment right in the field.
In general, these measures allow
increasing the overall share of modern arms and equipment models at the armed
forces’ disposal up to 60 percent by the end of this year.
Let me note that many arms samples were
tested in action against terrorists in the Syrian Arab Republic. The tests in
actual combat conditions confirmed the high quality of the Russian weapons.
Their traditional advantages are simple operation and reliability.
A number of our international partners,
including the new ones, have already shown interest in buying Russian arms and
equipment and expanding military technical cooperation with Russia.
We have to closely study and use the
practical experience of putting our armament systems to use. We also have to
encourage positive tendencies in planning, placing and fulfilling the state
defence order to make all elements of this interconnected system work
effectively together." (my bold)
Now, lets look at Mr. Putin's final comments regarding the Zapad-2017 war games to his colleagues at the Sochi
meetings on November 22, 2017:
"I propose that we discuss a key
event on our training schedule, the Zapad-2017 strategic military exercise,
primarily its civilian aspects as the exercise involved many civilian
departments and regions.
Attending this meeting are the heads of
ministries and the governors who contributed to the organisation of this
exercise. I would like them to speak about their conclusions and proposals
regarding the issues that occurred and the aspects that still need to be
It should be said that several
important goals have been attained at the exercise. First, we checked our
mobilisation readiness and ability to use local resources to meet the troops’
requirements. Reservists were called up for this exercise, and we also tested
the ability of civilian companies to transfer their vehicles and equipment to
the armed forces and provide technical protection to transport communications.
We also assessed the provision of
transport and logistics services, as well as foods and medicines to the army.
We need to review once again the defence companies’ ability to quickly increase
The exercise has exposed certain
shortcomings. We must analyse them so as to propose additional measures to
enhance mobilisation readiness.
I want to say that the economic ability
to increase the production of defence products and services quickly is a vital
element of military security. All strategic and simply large companies,
regardless of the type of ownership, must be able to do this.
We held detailed discussions on this
topic in 2015 and 2016. Instructions were issued to modernise production, to
create a reserve of material and technical resources, and to ensure the
transportation of military personnel. The ministries and agencies are working
on this in close cooperation with the Defence Ministry under the guidance of
the Board of the Military Industrial Commission. I would like you to make short
reports on this work at our meeting today and to say which shortcomings of the
past few years have been settled and which are still to be dealt with.
Let us talk about all of this in detail
and draw conclusions for the future." (my bold)
To put all of this into perspective,
Russia is the world's third largest spender when it comes to its military.
According to SIPRI, in 2016, the United States spent $611.12
billion (in 2015 U.S. dollars) on defense, China spent $215.18 billion and the
Russian Federation spent $69.25 billion. While Russia spends roughly
one-ninth of what the United States spends on its military, it has the
capability to produce materiel that should cause the United States to think
twice before escalating tensions to the point of outright hostilities. As
we can see from Mr. Putin's comments, the Russian Federation is "in it to
win it" in the event of an all-out war and is certainly preparing for this eventuality by modernizing its forces and preparing its civilian industries to convert to a war production footing.
On the upside, the military-industrial-intelligence complex in America will be very happy!