Behind Moscow's Arms Buildup

Behind Moscow's Arms Buildup
March 21st, 2009  
Team Infidel

Topic: Behind Moscow's Arms Buildup

Behind Moscow's Arms Buildup
New York Post
March 21, 2009
Pg. 17

By Amir Taheri
RUSSIAN President Dmitry Medvedev has unveiled a plan that commits his government to spending $140 billion on arms within the next two years, the most massive rearmament program in Russian history.
The package is part of what Medvedev calls the New Russian Defense Doctrine, a program of sweeping reform to be completed by 2020. The headlines focus on the modernization of Russia's nuclear capability, but the really significant changes are elsewhere.
Medvedev justified his new military budget by pointing to NATO's further extension to countries closer to Russia, notably Ukraine. But no one in Moscow believes war with NATO is even remotely probable. The new doctrine is prompted, at least in part, by three other fears:
Ethnic unrest: Russia is still smarting from its long war in Chechnya which it only won after the Americans destroyed the Chechen camps in Afghanistan and dismantled the network of logistics that supplied the Islamist rebels.
China's rise: Throughout its history, Russia has seldom felt threatened from the East. Yet it suffered the most humiliating defeat in its history at the hands of an Eastern power, Japan, in 1904.
Islamist militancy: This is now symbolized by the regime in Iran Russia's neighbor.
In 1802 when Russia won the first of its three major wars against Iran, it boasted a population of 80 million compared to Iran's 5 million. Today, Iran has a population of 75 million compared to Russia's 140 million. With Russian demography in decline, Iran is slated to win the demographic race within two decades. By then, Tehran may also have developed a nuclear arsenal.
Complicating matters further, Muslim ethnic groups represent the only growing communities in Russia and many, including sizable nations like the Tatars and Bashkirs, are asserting their Islamic identity.
While the Orthodox Church seems to be back in the country's European regions, Islam is on the ascendancy in the Asian regions. Islamic missionaries, trained and financed by Arab states and Iran, are busy (re-)converting a growing number of people while building mosques and Koranic schools. In current estimates, Muslims account for almost 17 percent of Russia's population. Official studies suggest that Muslims could become a majority by the middle of the century.
In Siberia and the Far East, Moscow also faces the challenge of massive Chinese and Mongolian immigration. In some Russian border areas, ethnic Chinese, including millions of Muslims, already form a majority.
The Russian army is still based on conscription and Muslims represent almost half of all recruits. Medvedev wants to scrap conscription and develop an entirely professional army. The first model units already set up consist entirely of ethnic Russians.
Under the new doctrine, Russia's armed forces, now numbering almost 2 million, will be cut by almost half. Instead, there will be a massive increase in modern equipment. The huge but slow divisional units will be replaced by highly mobile brigades, modeled on the British army.
The new doctrine spells the end of two key concepts. The first is that of mass mobilization. Throughout its history, Russia has used demography against adversaries with smaller populations. Russian defense assumes the quick mobilization of up to 10 million men. With conscription phased out, the idea of a mass land force offering endless cannon fodder will be shelved.
The second concept is that of defense in depth with scorched-earth tactics. Russia depended on its huge land mass to destroy such invaders as Napoleon and Hitler. Under the new doctrine, it will move quickly to prevent the enemy from entering Russian territory. Medvedev spoke of pre-emptive war as an integral part of the new doctrine.
For all his talk of an imaginary threat from NATO, Medvedev's new doctrine is designed to adopt the NATO model. That, in turn, could make it easier for Russia to join NATO when and if there is a new mood in Moscow. That, however, is another story.
Amir Taheri's new book is "The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeiniest Revolution."

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