Russia's tactical missile deployment on NATO borders and President Vladimir Putin’s address to the Federal Assembly, in which he outlined the nation’s military strategy, may be a sign of more to come from Russia’s armed forces.


Crew members march past the guard of honor as they carry the navy jack flag of the legendary Russian cruiser Varyag on their return to Vladivostok harbour. Photo: Reuters

On Dec. 12, President Vladimir Putin noted in his annual address to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation that, “World developments are becoming more controversial and more dynamic, and the historic responsibility of Russia is increasing in these conditions.” Then, just days later, Russia confirmed that it has deployed tactical ballistic missiles near its borders with NATO capable of hitting targets as far away as Germany.

Russia’s latest strategic move comes against the backdrop of increasing political, military, economic and technological competition in the world, all of which requires Russia not only to maintain, but also to strengthen, its military capacity.

This is due to the following reasons.

First, the global ballistic missile defense (BMD) system being created by the U.S. is an integral part of that country’s offensive potential. As the capacity of that BMD system grows, the efficiency of response from a potential enemy – including Russia, according to some potential NATO scenarios - diminishes significantly.

Especially dangerous is the fact that NATO warships equipped with Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Systems and interceptor SM-3 missiles have begun to enter not only the North Sea, but also the Norwegian Sea. This has become a potential threat to Russian strategic ballistic missile submarines.

Thus, if they are up to one thousand kilometers away and shoot in a westerly direction, there is a possibility that Russian submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and their warheads will be intercepted by the American sea-based ballistic missile defense system. And the U.S. armed forces plan to purchase 112 SM-3 Block 1A missiles and 226 SM-3 Block 1B missiles for nine U.S. cruisers and 28 destroyers by 2015. Each of these warships can hold 20 to 30 SM-3 interceptor missiles.

Second, the American concept of a “preemptive instant global strike” is entering the stage of practical implementation. This fact can cause destabilizing consequences for both regional and global security, in view of the significant unpredictability of future developments. In particular, the U.S. is finishing the development of precision conventional hypersonic systems designed to strike within one hour at a distance of up to 8,000 km and may place these into service by the end of 2017.

Such sea-based systems will be located in the combat patrol areas of U.S. strategic nuclear submarines, and their initial (active) part of the flight will be carried out on a ballistic trajectory. In principle, these can be armed with nuclear warheads. As a consequence, every launch of such a system will activate the Russian missile warning system, thus creating a potential danger of a nuclear exchange.

Third, the U.S. is still feeling the euphoria of its own military superiority. A striking example of this fact are the latest events in Syria, where the decision to start a regional war with unpredictable consequences was taken based on the national interests of the U.S. and its closest allies, without a thorough analysis of the available evidence on the use of chemical weapons near Damascus. A similar situation with even more severe consequences is possible in Iran, even under President Hassan Rouhani.

Given the above, President Putin was forced to declare, “No one should have any illusions about the possibility of achieving military superiority over Russia. We will never allow this to happen. Russia will respond to all these challenges, both political, and technological.” And, indeed, the latest deployment of Iskander-M missiles to Russia’s borders with NATO appears to confirm this declaration.

Moreover, earlier in 2013, two regiments equipped with missile complexes of mobile-based RS-24 Yars were placed into combat duty of the Strategic Missile Forces. In 2014, Russia planned to purchase 22 more intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) of this type with multiple independently targeted reentry vehicles, protected by a complex of anti-missile penetration aids.

A new silo-based ICBM with a launch weight of about 100 tons is being developed. By 2020, it should completely replace the ICBM SS-18 "Satan” and SS-19 «Stilletо» that are being removed from service. The lead designer of the new ICBM is the State Rocket Center Academician V.P. Makeev Design Bureau.

A strategic ballistic missile submarine Project 955 (955-A) of Borei Class is being constructed. In late October 2013, a ship of this class, the Yury Dolgoruky, was integrated into the Northern Fleet, a second ship, Alexander Nevsky, is completing sea trials, a third ship, Vladimir Monomakh, was tested at the factory, and a fourth ship, Knyaz Vladimir, is under construction. By 2018, it is planned to increase the number of ships of this type to eight strategic ballistic missile submarines. The inventory comprises Bulava solid-propellant SLBMs, each capable of carrying six warheads along with a set of anti-missile penetration aids.

In order to eliminate a significant lag behind the U.S. in the information sphere, Russia began to create a global surveillance and targeting system for a variety of strike systems. To do this, the outer space group is being expanded, a continuous radar field is being formed, and the amount of air surveillance means is being increased greatly, including by unmanned aerial vehicles. All this will allow the Russian Armed Forces to work in a unified information space and in real-time.

Finally, the recruitment system of the armed forces is also being updated. In particular, the number of enlisted contract ranks has increased by up to 220,000 people. As a result, military conscription was reduced by 10 percent in the autumn of 2012. Without abandoning conscription deferments for students, the system of military training will be changed in higher educational institutions. Thus, all students will have an opportunity to take military training and to obtain a military profession during their studies and subsequent military service. This mechanism will allow for preparing the required amount of reserves in the most needed - primarily technical - military specialties, without conscripting them into the armed forces.

Thus, Russia is forced to increase its military capacity under the current circumstances. This is largely due to the fact that the U.S., wittingly or unwittingly, is creating considerable uncertainties for Russia as it seeks to develop its own armed forces. At the same time, Moscow does not intend to participate in a new arms race, but it is ready to respond technically to new challenges to its national security.