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Russia's Defense Minister Unveils Plans to Overhaul Military

  • Lisa McAdams

Russia has unveiled plans to replace nearly half the army's hardware by 2015. Welcomed by some as a long-overdue necessity, others question whether the plan can really be carried out. VOA's Lisa McAdams in Moscow reports.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told lawmakers Wednesday the government planned to spend nearly $200 billion on the military upgrade. He said it would allow Russia to maintain its nuclear deterrent, while developing its conventional forces.

Ivanov told lawmakers the plan calls for the purchase of more than 50 new Topol-M missile complexes, 50 new bombers, and 31 ships. He said it also envisions fully re-arming 40 tank, 97 infantry and 50 parachute battalions - a level of purchasing not seen since the Soviet Union's collapse.

Ivanov said Russia's oil revenues now give it the chance to reach what he called, "a qualitatively new level in military procurement." At the same time, Ivanov voiced doubt that Russia's industry could produce the quality weaponry required by the Russian military.

Moscow-based Defense Analyst Pavel Felgenhauer says he shares the minister's concern. He says much of Russia's defense industry was lost following the collapse of the Soviet Union. What remains, he says, is not up to the task of making modern weaponry. Felgenhauer also foresees difficulties with procurement.

"They have grandiose plans of buying lots of new weapons, beginning from ICBM missiles [intercontinental ballistic missiles], to new guns and tanks. But there are problems," he said. "They are not sure what [the] prices will be because the process of procurement in Russia is totally secret, totally closed. Actually, the item prices of items procured are also secret. They are not reported at all to the public, which allows, of course, a lot of corruption."

In addition, Felgenhauer says the Russian military is in the awkward position of having money, but not the means, to buy the material it needs - in large part due to Russia's military doctrine, which forbids the defense ministry from procuring anything from abroad. He says only items made in CIS countries are approved for purchase.

Felgenhauer says this alone could seriously hinder Ivanov's plans.

Despite the substantial projected outlays, Russian President Vladimir Putin says his nation's military budget is 25 times less than that of the United States.

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