Despite the economic and political sanctions of the EU countries and the US in the last few years, Russia, which does not make any concessions to their stance in the Middle East, reawaken their active participation in the Syrian war, as well as their armament, and the mobility of their army. While the government expenditures for the public is being calculated at the end of 2018, military budget received a significant share. Russia will only spend approximately 350 billion dollars for the modernization of their defensive force in the upcoming 10 years.
Their priorities are listed as preventive systems for nuclear attacks; highly accoutered missiles, and other instruments of war for general use. As part of their navy modernization, they are planning to increase the number of new powerful submarines, new generation intercontinental rocket carriers, corvettes, frigates, wireless ships, and scientific research vessels. A significant part of the budget allocated for defense will be devoted to Ministry of Interior, and Foreign Intelligence Service. Russia’s annual budget for military expenses is around 70 billion dollars, and this number constitutes 5.4% of the GDP. It is in the public eye that Russia has been spending appreciable amount of money for their military and modernization in the past 10 years. And they get obvious results in return.
Hypersonic Avangard Missiles
Last week, Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced that they have successfully tested the new hypersonic missile “Avangard”. Consequently, Russian media gave wide coverage to the announcement. Many television channels broadcasted the missile live, which hit the target successfully in Kamchatka region, which is 6500 kilometers away from the initial launching base, Yasny, the southern region of the country. Kremlin stated that the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, who visited the National Defense Management Center, personally gave the order of launching the missile during the test. Brief information was provided after the launching of the missile, which was accompanied by the Defense Minister, and Chief of General Staff.
As you will recall, the leader of Russia, Putin, had announced many new weapon systems last March including the Avangard, and stated that they would be capable of hitting any targets in the world. Furthermore, he had added that they would be able to overcome the missile defense systems of the US. And on 7 June, Putin had stated that they will start the mass production of the Avangard missile, which is capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads, and will be included in the inventory of the Russian Army in 2019.
The distinctive feature of the Avangard missile, which makes it different than any other missile, is its ability to fly at hypersonic speeds over Mach 20 for intercontinental ranges, its maneuver ability both vertical and horizontal for thousands of kilometers, and the way it outclasses the air and missile defense systems. The utilization of the composite maneuvers is long, it is compatible for guided routes, and it is in the form of plasma as a winged glider. It navigates as a fireball or a meteor, and surface temperature can reach up to 1600-2000 degrees. Sergey Karakaev, the Commander of the Strategic Missile Forces of Russia, stated to Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper that the Avangard missiles will enter into the service of Dombarovsky Missile Unit, which is based in Orenburg region in Southern Ural.
Just like in the example above, the announcements of the successful products are generally made by Russia’s Head of State, Vladimir Putin, together with his staff. Another example is the Iskander-M missiles, which were announced back in the spring of 2018.
“Iskander-M” Tactical Ballistic Missiles
The testing footage of the new 500-kilometer-range “Iskander-M” tactical missile, which was assertively introduced by Vladimir Putin as unbeatable by any existing air defense systems, was published. The testing of the missiles, which was carried out in the field called “Kapustin Yar” located near the city of Astrakhan, was announced to the public after the missiles successfully destroyed the targets located more than 100 kilometers away.
Iskander-M tactical ballistic missiles with great movement ability and maneuverability, which is named “SS-26 Stone” by NATO, can be ready for an operation in 20 minutes. These systems, which has a range of 500 kilometers, had replaced the OTR-23 Oka systems, which was abolished after the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed between the US and USSR in 1987.
Russia’s new missiles
Russia’s Ministry of Defense published footage showing the successful hitting of the targets 3100 kilometers away again near Kamchatka region, by the submarines located in White Sea. The following explanation was made in the footage, which shows four ballistic missiles to be tested simultaneously for the first time in history: “Our strategic submarine called Yury Dolgorukiy successfully launched four intercontinental “Bulava” missiles simultaneously for the first time in history, from the waters of the White Sea around the North Pole region. The missiles, which were launched consecutively within seconds from 40-meter depth, hit the targets in “Kura” polygon located in Kamchatka Peninsula”.
Putin, Russia’s Head of State, had mentioned about different type of weapons, which are unprecedented in any other armies in the world, and it had created a tremendous impression in the beginning of March during his speech in the Federal Assembly. Putin had stated that they developed “new generation missiles”, and added that the active testing phase of this new missile system had already been started with the intercontinental missile code named “Sarmat”. Without a doubt, the capabilities of these Sarmat missiles are far superior than the Voevoda missiles, which date back to the Soviet era. Actual flying time is quite short, and this makes it very difficult for the missile defense systems to detect them. During the introduction of Sarmat, it was stated that “it is capable of carrying a range of efficient nuclear warheads, including the hypersonic ones. Furthermore, it is also capable of piercing through the most up-to-date missile defense system.”
After the short-video presentation of Putting in the Federal Assembly, he had stated “there is no range limitation with the new system. It is capable of hitting the targets in North Pole from the South Pole. Because of its capabilities, today’s or future’s missile defense systems will not be able to intervene” and added, “I am very proud of Russia remaining as the biggest nuclear power in the world despite all of the problems. Nobody wanted to talk with us, nobody wanted to listen to us. Listen to us now!”
Russia’s “New Military Doctrine” had been decided back in February 2010 during the presidency of Dmitri Medvedev. Together with this doctrine decision, it was aimed for the Russian army to leave the weighty habits of the past, and to become more modern. The new military doctrine included the word-class development of the nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, annihilating international terrorism, and every other factor which is a threat for militaristic and political stability, following the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also in many countries located in the Near and Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. It was effective for all military decisions, and the missile defense system program of NATO was a determinant towards the modernization process. Moscow did not find the statements of the US sufficient about the missile defense systems not being against Russia. In June 2011, Russia had legally wanted to guarantee that the target country of the US was not Russia, towards their work about the European missile defense system, and requested the missile shield to be established in a full sense of cooperation. While NATO gave a negative answer, in order not to damage the Russian relationship, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO, had stated “20th century was an era full of conflicts between the Soviet Union and NATO. The 21st century on the other hand, will be an era of cooperation between Russia and NATO”.
After Vladimir Putin became the Head of State in Russia, recoveries started in social and economic fields, as well as defensive force and arms industry. Despite the reflex, which was adapted against the US and West because of the cold war, makes itself evident, the components of “being a powerful nation” are being also searched in different factors. Reasons like NATO’s statements towards expansion, the Georgian war, and Syria getting into the war environment consecutively are amongst the serious factors which pushed Russia to be faster towards the modernization of the military. All of the developments made by Putin towards Russia’s economy and other fields were perceived in the international arena as Russia retrieving its old status as a “super power”. And the decision makers of Russia were aware of this situation and they followed an active and effective foreign policy. Moscow controlled the relationships with other “inner circle” countries firmly, and strengthened regional dominance. On the other hand, they took steps to improve their relations with the US, and stayed away from the matters which had potential to cause conflicts. As an alternative for foreign affairs, they improved their agreements and trade with the Far Eastern countries. They also followed a strict diplomacy in the Middle East in order to have authority in the region. “Other countries strengthening of their military powers” statement of Putin appeared as a new armament process
Arif Asalıoğlu is General Director of the International Institute of the Development of Science Cooperation in Moscow; expert in the field of Russian-Turkish relations; columnist of Informational agency REGNUM; Founder of Russian and Turkish Intellectuals Meeting.