Russia's defense budget 2006: offence or defense?

The structure of the budget shows that Russia is changing its defense priorities

The Defense Ministry of Russia has recently outlined the essence of the future defense budget for the year 2006. One may say that the Armed Forces of Russia may count for a more generous state support next year. The draft defense budget of 2006 stipulates the funding of 668.3 billion rubles against 550.1 billion assigned in the budget of the current year. About 225 billion rubles are to be spent on purchasing arms, which is 20 percent as much as in the defense budget of 2004.

According to Russia's Minister of Defense, Sergei Ivanov, the ministry plans to increase the spending on defense and development in the structure of the national defense budget. “Seventy percent of the defense budget was used for maintenance in 2001, and only the remaining 30 percent was used for development. This year, the correlation is 60 to 40 percent, and we plan to come to the 50-50 level by 2011,” Ivanov said.

The State Duma of Russia will give a more detailed consideration to the structure of the Russian defense budget next week. Experts, however, are rather critical in their estimations to the formation of the nation's defense budget. Ruslan Pukhov, the Director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, set out a hope that “those billions of rubles would not be spent inefficiently.” “The inflation rate will nullify the 20-percent increase of the budget,” Lieutenant-General Leonid Ivashov, the Director of the Academy of Geopolitical Research said.

Experts also point out the intention of the Russian Defense Ministry to assign more funds for the needs of aviation and air defense. “I believe that it is a forcible tendency, because these two types of Armed Forces experience the most difficult situation at present moment. Hundreds of battle planes come out of order every year, although Russia purchases only several of them in return,” Leonid Ivashov said. 

Nevertheless, it may also mean that Russia is changing defense priorities. According to Ruslan Pukhov, Russia was assigning a lot less for aviation and air defense in comparison with the funds for the naval forces rearmament. The specialist believes that Russia should first rearm its Air Force and land forces, because Russia is a land power first and foremost, Mr. Pukhov said. “I think that it is logic to increase the funding of these two types of armed forces. Aviation and space forces play an extremely important role in contemporary conflicts and wars. Therefore, it is logic to provide the basic funding for Air Force and Air Defense troops,” Pukhov said.

Acquiring new arms is a traditional weak point in the defense budget of Russia. Increasing the funds to acquire new weapons is not enough to fully rearm the armed forces. In addition, the slow process of purchasing affects the industry negatively. “The defense budget has increased considerably in comparison with 1999, but Russia still can afford buying up to ten planes, up to ten helicopters and modernize 17 planes. It goes without saying that the industry will not be able to survive with such small orders,” Ruslan Pukhov said.

Sergei Malinin

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Author`s name Olga Savka