maandag, mei 29, 2006

Russia becoming involved in another strategic arms race - OPINION in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 27 mei 2006.

It appears that the era of strategic arms reductions is now giving way to a new strategic arms race. The efficiency of bilateral agreements is reduced exponentially when mutual relations cool off, and the sides resort to military rhetoric and spend much more on strategic offensive weapons.

Russian-U.S. relations have cooled once again 15 years after the end of the Cold War. Both countries are building up their military muscle, but the United States, which accounts for 50% of global defense spending, is a more frugal spender.
The United States is building only Virginia-class attack submarines and extending the service life of Ohio-class submarines, while Russia is laying the keels of different types of warships. A lack of standardization increases ship-production and ship-maintenance costs, because each warship needs a pier, simulators, weapons and lots more.

The Russian Air Force, which has 14 Tupolev Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers, will soon receive another two bombers. But these warplanes remain grounded, taking to the skies only occasionally, each training flight costing several million rubles. Russia, which spends a lot on producing and maintaining the planes, can build as many as 100 Tu-160s. However, they will never fly patrol missions with nuclear weapons onboard.

There has been much talk of the Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) for Borei-class submarines, now under construction. The Strategic Missile Forces will adopt the missiles, due to gradually replace silo-based UR-100N UTTKh inter-continental ballistic missiles, whose service life can be extended by another 15 years. And, most importantly, Russia has mastered their production long ago.

The Soviet Union, which was engaged in an arms race in the 1970s and the 1980s, subsequently faced economic ruin, which led to its disintegration. Russia, the U.S.S.R.'s legal successor internationally, retains a colossal defense industry requiring additional military contracts. Monopoly concerns, which actively lobby their financial interests, are being established in Russia as vertically integrated holding companies. So far Russia's defense budget is 2.7% of national GDP, but the appetites of sectoral enterprises are bound to increase soon.



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