Friday, May 30, 2014

The Vineyard of the Saker: Does Russia really need the Ukrainian military-industrial complex?

I really like the Asia Times, but the article I saw in it today left me wondering how it could have gotten past the editors. The article in question is Ukraine: A military-industrial complex to die for by Gregory J Moore. While I most definitely encourage you to read the article in its entirety, its thesis is simple: the Ukrainian military-industrial complex is, if not vital, then at least crucial for Russia. Moore gives several examples which I want to quote here:

1) Antonov is not a Russian aircraft manufacturer, its Ukrainian
2) The Ukraine builds many aircraft and helicopter engines
3) The Ukraine builds missiles, rockets and the SS18
4) The Ukraine accounts for 30% of the USSR's shipbuilding industry
5) The Ukraine builds APCs and tanks including the T-84
6) The Ukraine builds air-to-air, surface-to-air and cruise missiles

And all this is true. So what is the problem here?

The problem is that all the examples Moore gives are Soviet-era systems. Even the T-84 is nothing but an upgraded T-80. The Ukraine, just like Russia, has inherited a lot of top-quality Soviet technologies. These technologies were, in fact, so good, that both the Ukraine and Russia could literally "coast" for almost 20 years on that technological basis without really developing any truly new systems. A good example of that is the SS-18 missile which is still one of the most powerful ones on the planet. But it's design is really late 1950s early 1960s technology and it runs on liquid fuel. And yet the Russian Ministry of Defense recently wanted to purchase more of these missile. Why? Money: the Ukrainians were willing to sell them cheap. Now the deal appears dead, much to the delight of the Russian military which did not want that missile to begin with, but which had been told that it was the cheaper solution to a more expensive but also more modern purely Russian alternative.

And here is the key issue here: Russia does not need the Ukrainian MIC, Russia could produce all it needs indigenously, but that would be more expensive. So why spend more when you can spend less and use the difference in developing other sectors?

When the Soviet Union broke apart Russia lost not only the Ukraine but another 13 republics many of which had Soviet MIC resources and many have wondered whether Russia could go by without them. The test of that proposition is simple: can Russia produce completely new weapon systems or not? And the clear answer is yes - Russia can and Russia has.

Take, for example, the new Russian submarines (Borei-class or Yasen-class), new combat aircraft (Su-34 of PAKFA), new tanks (Armata), new ICBMs (SS-27) or SLBMs (SS-N-32). Now, of course, since the weapons-design cycle is very long, all these systems have their origins in Soviet designs, and some might even have part purchased from the Ukraine (or other ex-Soviet states). But the fact that Russia assembled, tested and deployed these systems proves that Russia has the technological know-how to control all the technologies used in them. This is especially true of very complex systems like submarines or advanced combat aircraft. For the general military, the goal is to have the Russian armed forces equipped with new military systems for 70% of all its equipment by 2020. That is ambitious but doable.

Complete story at - The Vineyard of the Saker: Does Russia really need the Ukrainian military-industrial complex?

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3. Manufacturing Consent - Edward Herman, Noam Chomsky
4. Gladio - NATO's Dagger at the Heart of Europe - Richard Cottrell
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