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Military Industrial Complex (MIC) is for army and not the reverse
The polemic about Russia's import of weapons goes on
LHA Mistral, general purpose amphibious assault ship. Photo from ship.bsu.by
The matter of Russia's import of weapons and military equipment has passed from the area of theory to the field of reality. Currently we have French IR imagers for tanks and helicopters, our snipers have got English and Austrian rifles, RF Army purchased Israeli UAVs. It was also said that Ansat light helicopter supposed to be army-accepted will be equipped with American-made engines Pratt&Whitney.
LET'S FACE ITMoreover, all that is going to be obscured with possible purchase of French Mistral-class general purpose amphibious assault ship. That buy is incredible, but not only by its price (the deal will unlikely cost less than billion and not nearly rubles). IR imagers, engines and UAVs are not the weapons after all. Sniper rifles are, but not the "ultimate" one. And LHA with over 20-ton displacement - that is really serious.
The situation is certainly unusual, especially for the compatriots, since until recently the USA and the USRR/Russia have been only two countries providing themselves with almost all range of weapons and military equipment. Exceptions (Americans used to buy UK-made Harriers, USSR – Czechoslovakian trainer aircrafts and Polish amphibious ships) could be neglected. Except us and Americans, over 90% of weapon samples for Army and Navy were produced by France, Sweden and China. The latter, by the way, just cribbed everything out of USSR/RF's "exercise book" (and then – a little out of western one).
As consequence, the possibility to import weapons exerts a kind of a repulsion of most Russians (not only inhabitants, but also experts), especially as our country is still one of the key weapon exporters. And then suddenly becomes the importer. Seems like somewhat illogical.
Therefore, there's naturally lot of clamour from number of military community and MIC members. The protests take shape of publications in "paper" and online media; example, Evgeny Trifonov's article "Change Your Weapon" at gazeta.ru on July, 21. The author thinks that import of weapons conflicts with interests of Russia, undermines Russian MIC and deprives Russian engineers and workers of salary. Nevertheless, he correctly recognizes that "our weapons are far from the "world-beating"; that's barbarian's point of view". Really, it's time to stop lying; we don't cheat anybody but ourselves. And self-deception in this area is too dangerous after all.
We should face the fact that native MIC has lost a plenty of most important technologies, and has never had the rest of them. Our technology gap in terms of communication, surveillance, navigation, observation facilities, and electronic warfare and control systems has begun far back in Soviet times, long before the perestroika.
We have never been able to construct tolerable aircraft carriers; even those strange constructions modestly named "air-carrying cruisers" were made in Ukraine. Russia has neither industrial capacities nor staff for that; shameful story of customizing Admiral Gorshkov into aircraft carrier Vikramaditya for Indian Naval Forces gives no chance to cherish illusions. Therefore, if we're not capable to create something ourselves, we have to import it.
It is obviously essential to lift import restrictions for all types of weapons and military equipment (except components of strategic nuclear forces, of course, but anyway nobody is going to sell them to us). Alongside with that, we should understand a simple thing – Army, Navy and MIC can not be a sort of social service. The objective of the armed forces is national defense, but not social welfare of military servicemen and staff of MIC companies. To protect itself, the country should purchase weapons adequate to army's objectives. And no matter where it would be purchased. If such weapons are not available for Army and Navy, they are not able to protect the country and, particularly, MIC staff, too. That is why the thesis of wretch engineers and workers doesn't work here.
THE ORDINARY CASEMoreover, our MIC (at least a part of it) will survive only upon condition of actual severe competition. Both on worldwide and domestic markets. For the time being even the first condition is not fulfilled completely, since Russian arms industry sells considerable part of its production to countries which cannot buy it elsewhere because of political reasons (Iran, Venezuela, Syria), or in such way accustomed to Soviet weaponry that just don't want to change the main supplier, too expensive (Algeria, Vietnam).
India was among the latter category, but as soon as western manufacturers - including the American ones – had come to Indian market, Russian MIC started to loose its positions there. Just because of its noncompetitiveness in many areas. And if it is kept in "hothouse" conditions, that will mean not survival, but assured and very fast death. Basically, it's already at death's door.
Unfortunately, competition – both internal and external – will never be honest, the administrative resource is used in struggle and the corruption factor is very strong (especially inside Russia). Alas, that's objectivity. The strongest survives and there's nothing to add. Anyway, there are no other variants. By the way, the fact that a country is both large arms importer and large arms exporter is the ordinary case. The most shining examples are Israel and China. They import significant part of weapons (besides, most state-of-the-art) for their own armies; meanwhile, they export great part of their own production (primarily to developing countries).
Additionally, more and more military projects become to be international. That is especially typical for Europe; however, this trend has already affected the US, traditionally "unapproachable" for export and cooperation. Even France starts to allow foreign companies working at its market, or cooperates with other countries. For instance, construction projects of destroyers and frigates for French Navy are running with Italy. As for Germany, Great Britain, mentioned Italy the import of weapons or production cooperation despite own very powerful military industry has become not exclusion, but rule. Especially, if the matter is production of most sophisticated hardware (aviation, missile, naval).
The latter variant seems ideal for Russia: it is not as psychologically depreciative as direct import; besides, via cooperation we get access to most state-of-the-art technologies which will never be achieved in other manner (unless they're hopelessly obsolete).
WHAT MAY RUIN NAVY AND ARMYObviously, there's a nuance in the matter of arms import. It goes without saying that only Western countries may be the import source, since only they produce what we can't. But we have listened day and night for 5 years to Kremlin's propaganda harping about West's monstrous intrigues against Russia "rising from knees". That's the issue of confidence.
On this subject Evgeny Trofimov writes the following "The battleship Novorossiysk (captured Italian Gulio Cezare) exploded off Sevastopol harbor in 1955. The great majority of experts make no doubt of the fact that before transfer to the Soviet Navy the battleship had been mine-studded by Italian specialists.
Who may guarantee that the imported ships won't be mined - in case of aggravation with Russia?"
"The great majority of experts", be it known to Mr. Trofimov, are convinced of the fact that Novorossiysk was mined by Italian frogmen in few days before the explosion. The version that the battleship was transferred with "planted bomb" is not found anywhere. For it means that Soviet mariners and engineers at least were suffering from mass clinical cretinism; and 6 years of operation in Soviet Navy was not enough to find a ton bomb in the ship's fore. So French will unlikely mine the Mistral. Especially as nowadays there's a simple solution technique for this issue – installation of "bookmarks" (practically undetectable) which will turn a ship into a junk heap disabling electronic equipment upon a corresponding signal. But that are particulars, the root of the matter is nonconfidence.
And now the question is about real changing of foreign policy concept. Moscow should recognize that the West (represented by "terrible" NATO) is not only the "not-enemy", but ally. Actually, it's very easy to come to that decision and voice it, since it's still unclear why the West is our enemy, what's the point of antagonism. Basically, Kremlin should jump down throats of some TV paranoiacs, and the concept will "bounce back" soon. And there will be a chance to buy ships without "bookmarks". As a matter of fact, our armed forces and MIC have already come to the condition when there's no another choice but to interpret the West as a friend. Just because of self-protection considerations.
However, while considering the problem of military import, it's impossible to miss one question: why just that weapon is purchased but not another? Why among all Israeli UAVs we have chosen the most obsolete ones? What's the reason of buying Mistral? Undoubtedly, that is a very good state-of-art ship, and our MIC has never been able to create anything like that (in Soviet period even smaller amphibious ships were Poland-made). But do we really need it in the conditions of actual collapse of the native Navy? What's our business with that monster, where we will launch assaults with it, how it will be covered from air and sea? Presently the Navy needs frigates and destroyers, the time of air carriers and amphibious assault ships will come at least in ten years.
So, we turn back again to the interminable problem – absolute non-transparency of the Russian military posture for society, total absence of any distinct, meaningful and balanced concept of this posture. If the "military reform" is actually becoming a synonym for liquidation of the Armed Forces, no import can save it. It is not west's "bookmarks" what will ruin our Army and Navy. We'll do it ourselves. With our incompetence, covetousness and indifference.