Autarky In Weaponry- Russia’s Not So New Option


Russia’s resurgence is reminiscent of the Cold War in numerous ways, and already, some of the same mistakes are being made. In particular, Russia’s latest move towards self-sufficiency in weapons production is doing it no favours.

Over the last few months Russia has announced moves towards domestic procurement of weaponry to offset reliance on imports. Famously we have the French built-aircraft carrier now floating idly in port after France was pressured into halting the transaction.  Vladimir Putin announced moves to invest in domestic high-tech industries. This is the kind of rhetoric that politicians wheel out to appeal to patriotic sentiment, but in the reality is simply untenable and hinders a country militarily. Full-spectrum and autonomous weapons production was once a necessity to be a great power but in the globalised age is untenable.

Soviet closed command economy and refusal to adopt globalized weapons procurement was a major contributor to its loss in the arms race, which was itself amongst the biggest factors that ended the Cold War. From the 1970’s onwards, weapons technology underwent a technological revolution. Modern advanced weaponry is about the most globalised product one can find, with components potentially coming from literally dozens of countries. Simply put, no country can swim upstream against the force of modern economic trends. American arms became increasingly superior to the USSR’s from the 1970’s because they embraced globalization of procurement. Today more than ever, no country can remain autonomous in procurement and competitive technologically. Despite Russia’s historic success in realms of engineering, the country lacks the industrial capacity to produce advanced electronics required for modern armaments. However this fact will generally be lost on a Russian public who will benefit from job creation and also believe that they are asserting themselves again on the world stage.

However, even if the Kremlin realises this, this route may make more sense. With western militaries unwillingly to directly confront Russia, domestic issues such as boosting employment will likely be a worthwhile sacrifice to make for less-than advanced weaponry. Russia’s economy is based on energy and weaponry exports, and with artificially low oil prices set to continue, the arms industry becomes more vital. Expect even more aggressive Russian weapons exports from here on in.

If Russia truly attempts to remain competitive technologically it will need to diversify arms procurement, or more specifically components, from countries such as India and China. Increased defence industrial links between these nations and possibly collaborative projects in the more costly areas (read: fighter jets) are more likely than truly autonomous Russian weaponry.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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