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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2059

Russia's incredible shrinking military modernization;
The National Guard: more than national

Edited by Ilan Berman and Ivanna Kuz
May 9, 2016

April 10: 

Russia's declining economic fortunes will soon take a bite out of the country’s military ambitions, a leading analyst of Russian affairs has predicted. "The drop in Russian state revenues has affected Russian military modernization to some extent, though the Russian government has made an effort to insulate the military from budget cuts" by boosting financial allocations to the armed forces, 
writes Dmitry Gorenberg of the CNA Corporation in The Cipher Brief. But this situation is not sustainable; "With oil prices remaining low, the military is facing a more difficult financial picture in 2016" and, as a result, "the fulfillment of the 2011-2020 State Armament Program is now in question." "The Russian military continues to develop new designs and receive new hardware but has been forced to reduce the quantities purchased of some items and to defer some big ticket items," Gorenberg explains. "Longer term projects have also faced delays, with procurement of a new long range strategic bomber being postponed in favor of modernization of existing bombers." 

None of this, however, is a reason for passivity on the part of the United States. "U.S. policymakers should not assume that Russia's budget problems mean that they can stop thinking about the Russian military," Gorenberg cautions. "The potential threat posed by the Russian military to Western states does not depend on the full implementation of all of the procurement plans," and Russia's "existing capabilities will present a concern for U.S. military planners regardless of Russia's ability to complete its larger military modernization program." 

April 11:

Russian President Vladimir Putin's new militia may soon have missions abroad. 
According to news portal, a key future task of the Kremlin's newly-created National Guard may be the conduct of foreign operations. This is because the statute authorizing the creation of the new super-agency specifies that the Guard will be tasked with carrying out operations "to maintain or restore international peace and security" at the direction of the country's head of state. 

April 12:

Despite President Putin's announcement of withdrawal of military forces from Syria in March, Russian military forces continue to be present - prominent - on the battlefield there. 
According to the Washington Post, Russian helicopters and special forces are in evidence on the ground and in the skies above Syria, and Russian forces "maintain a muscular presence on twin air and naval bases in coastal Syria." The result is that, despite its public pronouncements, "the Kremlin [is] running a large-scale operation in war-torn Syria even as Russia's powerful state media insists otherwise." 

Lithuania has initiated a blacklist against Russia in solidarity with Ukraine. 
Reuters reports that the Baltic state has blacklisted some 46 Russian and Ukrainian individuals - prohibiting them from entering its territory for ten years. The list of proscribed individuals includes separatists from Ukraine's occupied Donbas region, as well as investigators, prosecutors, judges who had a part in the prosecution of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius is now encouraging other European countries to follow this example, hoping to highlight Russian violations of international law and human rights abuses. 

President Putin is continuing to reshuffle his national security bureaucracy. 
Vedemosti reports that Putin has made the head of his new National Guard, Viktor Zolotov, the newest member of the country's powerful Security Council. At the same time, Boris Gryzlov, who previously served as the Council's Chairman, has been ousted from the body - ostensibly to focus exclusively on his work with the Minsk Group on Ukraine.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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