Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister, Vladimir Popovkin, recently announced that Russia plans to modernize its military. Russia plans to spend roughly 19 trillion rubles ($650 billion) for the purchase of fighters and bombers, helicopters, nuclear submarines and warships.
Procurement of new fighter planes, submarines, helicopters and warships based on Cold War designs strikes some as questionable due to the changing nature of new threats. In order to address new threats it is important to develop hardware and systems that were not originally designed to fight a superpower but are adaptive and posses different capacities and capabilities. Popovkin also announced that the Soviet era SS-18 Satan and SS-20 Saber ICBMs will be phased out in favor of an updated ballistic missile. In addressing the need to update the nation’s armed forces, President Medvedev told a gathering of Defense officials in 2009, “Last year we equipped a number of military units with new weaponry, and we will start large-scale rearmament of the Armed Forces in 2011.”
The modernization and procurement of new planes and warships follows a reorganization of Russia’s armed forces. The reform program, approved following the war with Georgia, will see significant changes to the overall structure of the Russian military. When completed the overall size of the armed forces will be 1 million men from the current level of 1.2 million. Additionally, “phantom” divisions, developed during the Cold War, consisting of generals but no actual troops, will be cut in favor of units that will be fully staffed. Fred Weir of the Christian Science Monitor writes, “the planned changes will slash the 355,000-strong officer corps, particularly the bloated upper ranks, by almost 150,000.”