Like other cities connected to defence production and science, Sarov celebrated Armourer’s Day on September 19.
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Excerpts from transcript of meeting with young nuclear scientists
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,
I am very pleased to be here at your professional celebration and to wish you a Happy Armourer’s Day!
This is a holiday that we only began to observe recently, but the production of various defence systems in our country has deep roots. In fact, I think our nation would not be what it is today if it weren’t for previous generations of your colleagues who ensured the sovereignty of our nation, its readiness to protect its interests – and this is without even going further back into history.
Indeed, in the 18th century, our artillery was among the best in the world, and it proved itself during World War II: the Katyusha rockets are famous, as is the T-34 tank and other armament systems. Meanwhile, our most recent history includes nuclear missile programmes, tied to the well-known names of Sergei Korolev, Yakov Zeldovich and others among our outstanding researchers and managers in science and manufacturing. All of this provided us with global strategic stability, which continues to play a significant, if not key role in providing international security and ensuring our sovereignty.
I am very pleased to note that today, our defence complex is also developing successfully and effectively. In the last decade it has – as we were just saying – essentially risen from the ashes like the Phoenix and is showing very good indicators. This has to do not only with solid support for our main component, ensuring our security – I am referring to the nuclear missile component, the strategic component, Russia’s Strategic Nuclear Forces – but we are also beginning to develop and produce modern weapons based on new principles of physics, as well as traditional high-precision weaponry. We just observed what is happening today, what we have on the horizon – all of it is impressive and builds confidence in our nation’s future.
As for other components in this industry, here are some things I would like to point out. First of all, I am very pleased that the number and ratio of young people under 35 working in the sector has increased. In 2009, the share of young professionals in the sector was 25 percent – or even as low as 20 percent – but today, it is at 30 percent throughout the sector, and 33 percent at this specific facility. These are professionals aged 35 and under, and this is a very good trend – a combination of experienced individuals and generations who have proven their efficacy, as well as young people who are just entering the profession. This speaks to the fact that we have a good personnel reserve and it is improving.
Here is another area I want to highlight. The share of civilian products within the defence sectors is increasing. Today, it accounts for no less than 25 percent of the whole: defence products account for 75 percent of the output at defence industry enterprises, while 25 percent are civilian products. And we understand that these civilian products are high-end and high-tech.
You cannot fail to sense and be aware that we are now modernising the entire military-industrial complex. This is the largest-scale modernisation of the last 20 years in our nation. We are allocating very serious resources, and I’m sure you have heard this figure as well: three trillion rubles [$78 billion]. The money is allocated across nearly all the leading companies in the sector, of which there are now 640, I believe.
There is distribution and active modernisation happening between these hundreds of enterprises. This is yielding positive results, as well as creating very good technological groundwork for producing new weapons systems and, as I already said, for producing civilian equipment.
Naturally, we will not lose sight of the social aspects for workers in the industry. Last year, the average salary increased by 15 percent – this is higher than the average salary growth throughout the country, in the overall economy. New instruments are now being used to resolve a problem that is always one of the most important in our country, in all sectors – the problem of housing. We are creating housing cooperatives, which can be organised with the appropriate support, and an individual can join one of those cooperatives regardless of their years of experience.
Overall, in my view, this speaks to the fact that people can and should work in this sector, that it is interesting work and has very good prospects. But most importantly, our people and our nation very much need this.
I would like to congratulate you on this holiday and wish you success.
Roman Korolev: Mr President, I am Roman Korolev, an employee of the Institute’s Mathematics Department.
One of our goals is to develop complex innovative software for modelling the functioning of products for both military and civilian use. Several years ago, we undertook the ambitious task of designing an innovative modelling software package for regular industrial facilities and those in the defence industry. We can say that we were successful and our software is now used by a number of facilities in aircraft engineering, automobile production and the nuclear industry.
We are now facing a task of national significance I would say, namely to take this product to the serial production stage to gradually replace imported software used now by the defence industry. Of course, it would be very hard for us without state support…
Vladimir Putin: Yes, Roman, I am aware of this. I have just discussed it with my colleagues from the Government, and the Industry Minister briefed me on this recently. We will definitely support you.
In this connection, I believe, we have to thank those of our colleagues who are pursuing certain political goals by introducing the economic limitations we all are aware of, because this makes us work. This is very good. Whatever programmes we put on paper regarding the need to diversify the economy, we do not have enough stimulus to implement them if we are doing fine selling the oil and gas that we have and buying everything we need abroad, and it is rather difficult to create such a stimulus artificially. However, when life sets us certain challenges, we are forced to tackle them one way or another and we do.
One such area is the development of our own software. We have one of the best mathematics schools in the world, if not the best, we have a very good foundation, and we can clearly do it 100 percent. Therefore, we will of course support this work.
I will not go into the specific mechanisms, but we need this, we cannot do without it, and this applies not only to the nuclear facility where you are working, but also to various spheres of activity in general: the economy, communications, special services and so on. We will definitely continue working on this.
Roman Korolev: We will not let you down.
Vladimir Putin: I haven’t the slightest doubt.
You know, India is also good at mathematics. However, when you speak to CEOs of major international companies in the civilian sector, they say, “When we need to get a large work-scope done, we turn to experts from India, while when we need to delve deeper into a problem we turn to Russia.” This tells you a lot.
Anton Blikov: I would like to begin by thanking you for the fact that key workers in our industry now have the opportunity to receive additional allowances as stipulated in the Presidential Executive Order.
Vladimir Putin: We call them scholarships. I am glad you mentioned this, because it was my idea. I thought we had to do it. Despite the fact that salaries in your industry are somewhat higher than the national average, there are certain areas of activity that are crucial for the nation’s defence capacity. Here the situation in terms of pay has to be not only competitive, but we need to pay significant bonuses for properly done jobs in the most important breakthrough areas.
Last year, I believe, we paid such scholarships – and they amount to about 350,000 or 500,000 rubles – to over 500 people, and this year the number is 650 I believe. And we will continue doing this.
Anton Blikov: You have practically guessed what I was going to ask.
Our institute is now focussing on a number of mega-projects, such as the super computer, which is already operating and being upgraded, the UFL-2m laser device, and many others. However, I would also like to draw attention to some other projects, the ones we refer to as ‘dagger projects’.
What are these projects? These are experimental projects dealing with methodology and technology, projects where we face the risk that our research may not lead to anything. However, if the research is conducted properly and we find that we can do what we initially planned, this will lead to a significant breakthrough in certain industries and would help us develop further and maintain our leadership in the areas where we are in the lead or at least not to lag behind our friends (Laughter).
As far as I know, such a programme has been developed.
Vladimir Putin: Anton, frankly speaking, the way you put it makes it sound somewhat complicated: the work has been done, no results were achieved, but we have maintained our leadership, so we deserve a bonus (Laughter).
Anton Blikov: The point is not that there is no result, but that the research is conducted at the cutting edge of science, and at the start we never know…
Vladimir Putin: Are you referring to fundamental research or not?
Anton Blikov: Yes, both fundamental and applied research, where our institute is an acclaimed world leader. This research is very risky in terms of high energy density.
Vladimir Putin: You know, as for fundamental research, I have just spoken to Mr Kostyukov, the Director of your Institute, and with some of your colleagues who have already achieved significant results. We clearly need to increase investment in fundamental research and we shall do so.
As for the bonuses, or scholarships (these are not intended for students, but for people already working in the defence industry), I cannot decide who receives a bonus and what for. The industry leaders make these proposals. I proceed from the idea that these people are capable of establishing the most interesting, prospective and important projects for the defence industry as a whole and for its specific areas. I understand your idea, I appreciate it, but I never decide who is paid and what for. I usually go with your management – there is no other way.
Anton Blikov: I would like to add that this is not just about scholarships, but rather about the overall opportunity to develop this area, about overall support. Salaries do not cover everything – it is important that we have the equipment and materials.
Vladimir Putin: I see.
Anton Blikov: This kind of research is usually very costly.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, I see, but you have to agree that people come to me when an idea is already in a somewhat developed stage. The people who would come to me would be the Chief of the General Staff, or the Defence Minister, if we speak of the defence industry, or Mr Kostyukov if it has to do with your Institute. Also, you may be aware that I have annual meetings with Defence Ministry leadership and chief designers. We meet in November and spend a week discussing current and prospective issues – every day for a whole week. During the year, I regularly turn to certain issues in one way or another, and once a year we get together to brainstorm the situation to see what has been done and where we need to go from there.
However, when we debate which direction to move in and what is more promising (in your area, in nuclear power or in rocket and missile engineering) and more efficient in terms of ‘value for money’, this is when I get involved. However, it is up to the industry leaders, heads of facilities and institutes to decide. I do not undertake the authority to cut things or lobby certain ideas. The experts should do this at an early stage and you should prove it to them. All right?
While overall, your approach is correct and I agree with it.
Viktoria Titova: Mr President, my name is Viktoria Titova, and I am from the theoretical department.
The nuclear industry will turn 70 next year. We would like to propose that a major exhibition is organised in Moscow, so people can learn more about the history of the industry and its achievements, both in the civilian and military spheres, so people can be proud of this country.
Vladimir Putin: To make our people proud and others thoughtful (Laughter). Thoughtful about the fact we have something to be proud of.
Viktoria Titova: Yes, we do have much to be proud of. I would like to ask you to support this idea, and if you have time – we would be happy to see you at this exhibition.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you, I accept your invitation and will do my best to be there.
You have our support. Mr Kiriyenko, do not forget to mention this when the time comes.
Sergei Kiriyenko: We will take care of it.
Vladimir Putin: I will ask the Government to provide support for this idea, if necessary, and the Presidential Executive Office as well – we will make sure everything is done properly.
Viktoria Titova: Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: I agree.
Remark: Thank you, Mr President.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you.
Once again, my congratulations to you on your holiday.