Russia is one of just a handful of major military powers to actually make cuts to its defence spending in recent years, and recently dropped out of the top five countries in terms of total spending.
Reductions in Russia’s defence spending are related to the country passing the “peak of modernisation,” allowing the government to contribute fewer resources while maintaining the same level of defence, President Vladimir Putin has said.
“[Cuts] aren’t related to us letting things slide when it comes to these issues, but due to the fact that the main planned initiatives connected to the need to intensify work on ensuring the country’s security…and with regard to the need to ensure the renewal of military equipment and hardware, and we have passed the peak of this work,” Putin said, speaking at a government meeting on Monday.
Putin noted that Russia’s military-industrial complex will need to continue its efforts to create high-tech, competitive equipment, and not resort to “making pots and pans” (i.e. engage low-tech civilian production) as it had to in the 1990s.
The president instructed the government to prepare “clear-cut and understandable” plans to include defence enterprises in the realisation of national projects, a series of government initiatives aimed at improving various aspects of Russia’s economy, science, and human development, and to report back on the necessary regulatory or organisational decisions which could help the defence industry in this area.
“It’s necessary to ensure the strict, targeted use of funds allocated for the purchase of machinery and equipment. I want to emphasise that we must reach absolute transparency in this area,” Putin said. “The flow of funds should be clearly monitored at all levels of government and for all types of budget expenditures,” he added.
‘Russia Won’t Be Dragged Into an Arms Race’
Last month, Putin told media that Moscow would not be dragged into another arms race with the United States, and said that even though Russia was only spending $48 billion on defence and ranked seventh in the world behind the US, China, Saudi Arabia, the UK, France and Japan, Moscow enjoyed “unmatched military capabilities” thanks to “focused research on priority areas” by Russia’s defence engineers and specialists.
“An arms race is a bad thing, and it will not be good for the world. However, we will not be dragged into exorbitant budget spending games,” Putin said.
Earlier this year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent think tank focused on conflict and disarmament, calculated that NATO had spent over $1 trillion on defence in 2018, with seven of the alliance’s members making the list of the top 15 countries in terms of total defence spending.
In October, NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance should be prepared to continue to increase members’ defence budgets, even as an additional $100 billion in spending is expected to be added in 2020.
The Trump administration has pressured all of NATO’s members to increase spending to 2 percent of GDP, and US lawmakers have approved increasing defence spending to $686 billion, up from $667.6 billion in 2018. The Trump administration has also continued the 30 year, $1 trillion programme of upgrading the US’s nuclear forces that was started by his predecessor Barack Obama, and overseen an increase in NATO deployments and drills along the bloc’s borders with Russia.