The Supreme Commander-in-Chief assessed progress in force development and activities of the Armed Forces this year, and provided guidelines for the further development of the Russian army and navy. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu also presented a report.
Before the board meeting, the President visited a special themed exhibition on the armaments seized during military operations against terrorists in Syria and other regions of the world.
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Speech at the expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board
Vladimir Putin: Comrades,
Strengthening the defence capability, Russia’s security and strong protection against external forces have been and remain our priorities.
I want to stress that their exceptional importance is well understood by both political and government leaders, society and all the citizens of our country.
Today, during the traditional expanded meeting of the board we will discuss how the force development progressed in 2018 and will outline our further priorities.
I would like to thank everybody who participated in the system-wide and consistent work to modernise the army and the navy.
I want to note that all the services and branches of the armed forces developed gradually and according to approved plans and the new State Armament Programme, and were equipped with modern weapons and equipment.
The nuclear triad significantly improved as it plays a key role in maintaining global parity. The share of modern arms in the triad is already 82 percent.
Serious, breakthrough steps have been made in the development of the unique state-of-the-art weapons that I mentioned in my Address to the Federal Assembly on March 1.
I am referring to the launch of serial production of the Avangard missile system, the successful test of the Sarmat missile, combat patrol involving the Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched ballistic missile, and exercises involving the Peresvet combat laser weapon.
These weapons will multiply the potential of our army and navy, thus reliably and absolutely ensuring Russia’s security for decades ahead.
These weapons are consolidating the balance of forces and, thus, international stability. I hope our new systems will provide food for thought to those who are used to militaristic and aggressive rhetoric.
Furthermore, the substantial upgrades in the level of operational and combat training of our troops is important. This potential is undergoing a qualitative change. Six independent inspections this year confirmed this, particularly, the ability to promptly move forces and equipment over large distances of up to 7,000 kilometres, and to quickly reinforce units in major strategic areas wherever necessary.
A positive outcome was demonstrated during the Vostok-2018 large-scale exercises. Importantly, units from China and Mongolia also acted under the general plan, in single formation with our troops.
The Ocean Shield exercises were held in the Mediterranean for the first time in the modern history of Russia. In cooperation with long-range aviation, a large inter-fleet group confidently performed a broad range of tasks and tested the latest tactical methods for ships and aviation.
I would like to make special mention of the fact that the weapons tested in Syria and the experience of the Army service personnel in the struggle against the terrorists were used in the operational and combat training drill.
The situation in Syria is gradually being stabilised after the rout of major groups of militants. However, these criminals are still trying to show their teeth. I would like to emphasise that this uncompromising struggle against the militants will continue. We will give Syrians all the support they need.
At the same time, our Army service personnel befittingly perform their peacemaking and humanitarian tasks. They are helping revive Syria as a single, peaceful and stable state.
Regarding the results of the year, I would like to mention the development of the system of military education. Over 12,000 professionally trained officers were sent to the Army and Navy. The level of screening under contract has been also raised. Of the over 60,000 people engaged for service in the outgoing year two thirds have a higher or secondary professional education.
In the coming period, it is important to consolidate the results to date. Of course, it is necessary to analyse and take into account international military and political developments.
We see that the situation in the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula remains complicated. NATO continued to build up its military infrastructure near our borders during the year. The conflict in southeastern Ukraine continues unabated.
The US leadership’s statements about withdrawing from the INF Treaty are a source of major concern for us.
Such a step will have the most negative consequences and will noticeably weaken regional and global security. In fact, in the long term, it may result in the degradation and even collapse of the entire architecture of arms control and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The United States is using the already familiar and, one might say, trivial pretext for unilaterally withdrawing from the treaty, which is unsubstantiated accusations that Russia is in violation of its obligations under the treaty, which they themselves have already violated, and did so long ago.
You and I are well aware that the deployment of Aegis sea-based systems in Romania, and, in the near future, in Poland, is a direct violation of the INF Treaty, because these units can be used and, as a matter of fact, are being used at sea to launch missiles of this type. Now, in violation of the treaty, they have appeared on land.
Yes, indeed, this treaty comes with certain complexities since other countries with medium- and short-range missiles are not part of it. But why not discuss their accession to this treaty? Or discuss the parameters of a new treaty?
I emphasise, whatever complaints one might have with regard to this treaty, it plays the role of a stabilising factor in current circumstances and helps maintain a certain level of predictability and restraint in the military sphere.
In the event the United States breaks the treaty – I have already mentioned this publicly and I believe it is important to state it once again directly for this audience – we will be forced to take additional measures to strengthen our security.
At the same time, Russia, as before, is open to all proposals and initiatives that help strengthen security for all, including preventing a new arms race. This, I am confident, is in the interests of not only Russia, but the United States and the entire world as well.
At the same time, taking into account the above factors and risks, we must continue pursuing the course towards the development of the Army and Navy, and to maintain the high rates of military development we have achieved in recent years.
What priority issues are to be resolved next year:
The first is to further strengthen the combat potential of the strategic nuclear forces. We discussed this in detail during the recent series of military meetings in November, and before that, in Sochi in May.
We need to quickly transition to modern weapons with enhanced capabilities to overcome advanced missile defence systems. Next in line is the production and supply of the Avangard global range missile systems to the armed forces.
Our second priority is to improve the quality of operational and combat training. Here we must constantly raise the bar, every year, requiring any participant in this process to be able to act with immediacy.
The military and long-range naval exercise programmes should include non-standard situations, the most recent forms and methods of warfare, as well as tests for the use of new types of weapons and equipment.
Third. Today, seconds can literally make a difference for the success of a single battle or a major operation. It is important to “compress” the decision-making time at all levels – from senior officers to junior commanders.
For this, we need to improve the management and communications systems, intelligence, and electronic warfare. We need to complete the transition to new standards in data collection, transmission and processing.
I would stress that digital technologies and artificial intelligence, robotisation, and unmanned systems – all this should be on the qualitative development agenda of our Armed Forces.
Fourth, it is necessary to ensure effective control over the implementation of the State Armament Programme. In recent years, we have developed an almost optimal arrangement for interaction between the Ministry of Defence and the defence industry. We have strengthened discipline in all the key areas.
Now we need to quickly identify the remaining problems in the performance of the state defence order system and promptly eliminate them.
The fifth priority is the development of military cooperation with our allies, primarily within the CSTO. In the course of the Tsentr-2019 exercise, we need to work closely with our partners to thoroughly practice cooperation in resolving common security tasks in Central Asia.
A traditionally important aspect of building up the military is boosting the armed forces’ morale and soldierly spirit. First of all, this requires a system of social guarantees for service members and their families.
I would like to note that this year, we have met the obligation of providing housing to almost 100,000 service members of the Defence Ministry, 98,700 people, to be precise.
In the past six years, a total of more than half a million, 560,000 service members, were granted housing. We will continue this project in 2019.
In addition, I would like to remind you that in October 2019, the monetary allowance for service members would be adjusted for inflation by 4.3 percent. Military pensions will be increased by 6.3 percent.
The previous board meeting raised the issue of difficulties with employment for service personnel family members as well as lack of available places in kindergartens. Today I would like to hear a report on what has been done since that meeting.
It is important to continue paying constant attention to these matters. Because it is only by listening carefully to the military’s pressing problems and solving them that we can bolster the social status of defenders of the Motherland. This is how we can enhance the prestige of military service in society.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the command and the personnel of the Armed Forces for their conscientious efforts to carry out their objectives.
I wish you all success.
Vladimir Putin: I will be very brief.
Let me start with social guarantees, which I believe to be a very important subject. Our overall efforts in this sphere are steadily progressing as planned, but our goal is to meet all the social commitments undertaken by the state toward military personnel and their families, including kindergartens, employment, cash benefits, housing, etc. This is the first point I wanted to make.
Second, I wanted to recognise the Defence Ministry for its efforts to attract young, talented and promising specialists to the Army and the Navy, and for ensuring state security in general. This includes creating scientific companies, and the recent inauguration of a new innovation centre, the Era Technopolis, in Anapa where young talented recruits will be serving. I cannot help but praise you for these efforts. I would like to ask our civilian educational institutions and research centres to contribute to this work.
Finally, let me mention patriotic education for young people. This is very important, and I hope that the Armed Forces and the Defence Ministry will continue making this effort.
What else can I say at this point? As you know, twice a year, in spring and in autumn, we hold meetings to review the performance of the Defence Ministry, the Armed Forces and the defence industry in the preceding six months in terms of fulfilling defence orders.
This format has proved to be very effective, enabling us to carefully analyse our achievements and, most importantly, what has not been achieved, in order to take immediate action to catch up whenever there are delays. There is no doubt that we will continue working in this format.
We are aware of the disparities between the leading military powers in terms of defence spending. The Pentagon has a budget of over 700 billion.
How much did you say?
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu: 725.
Vladimir Putin: This is a record high.
Even taking into consideration the modest inflation rate, all this amounts to… This amounts to a militarist budget, to tell you the truth, while Russia’s military spending was 46 billion last year. Moreover, our defence spending is expected to decline in terms of percentage.
This will not be detrimental to our security, since we did most of our armed forces-related spending in previous years.
Nevertheless, the parity is still very large, and we need to preserve the strategic balance. Can we do it or not? If yes, how? To be sure, we know we can.
We have innovative weapons systems unmatched anywhere in the world. No one has hypersonic weapons, but we do. Moreover, this is not just something planned, but rather it is already operational and goes by the name of Kinzhal [Dagger].
This is a matter of principle – to correctly identify spending priorities, not to waste money, but to take correct decisions and direct resources to areas that will give the maximum effect.
So far, we have succeeded in this. I strongly hope that the senior officers of the Defence Ministry and the General Staff will, in conjunction with the industry, deal with these tasks responsibly in the future as well.
Of course, discipline comes next. I am talking about administrative, industrial and financial discipline. Not a single ruble should be spent other than for the intended purposes.
Of course, it is necessary to make full use of the intellectual capabilities of the state in general. I mean education, research, the potential of our defence industry, the existing capacity and advanced designs. All of that, of course, will allow us to ensure Russia’s parity and security for the long term.
Now, a few words about the announced withdrawal of the United States from the INF Treaty, which, of course, is the most important issue that has everyone’s attention both in our country and internationally. I mentioned this in my opening remarks.
As you may recall, it was signed in 1987. I think I have already discussed, maybe even before this audience, the meaning of this treaty. It meant that medium- and short-range missiles, 500 km to 5,000 km, were to be eliminated. Land-based missiles were to be liquidated, since the Soviet Union had no others.
The United States had sea- and air-based missiles, while we did not. Therefore, from the point of view of the Soviet Union, this was unilateral disarmament. God knows why the Soviet leaders decided to go ahead with unilateral disarmament.
However, it was done. Meanwhile, our partners continued to expand sea- and air-based weapons systems.
Sea-based systems included the well-known Tomahawks. True, they are rather outdated. According to our military experts, actually, their use in Iraq and Syria showed that their efficiency is around 30 percent. Of course, they need to be improved. Their air-based component is slightly better, but can also benefit from improvement.
Moreover, these aspirations are hardly peaceful in nature. The buildup of weapons is yet another push towards an arms race. I am not even talking about such systems as the Kinzhal. These weapons are also medium-range, 2,000 kilometres, but they are unique, nobody has them.
Kinzhal with a range of 2,000 kilometres is a hypersonic weapon, in excess of Mach 10. Nobody else has them yet. Yes, we have them now but this is not a violation of the INF Treaty. How could it be? These systems are deployed on MiG-31 aircraft, not on the ground.
They are the ones violating the treaty with the deployment of Aegis systems in Romania. They are also planning to place them in Poland. This is a direct violation. And what about attack drones that have all the features of medium- and shorter-range missiles?
These are being used to the utmost, and nothing happens. In other words, they are directly violating the treaty and we are being presented with some hypothetical, completely unfounded claims. We will wait and see how this goes.
By and large we have everything anyway, but if what they are trying to scare us with happens, we will have to give a fitting reply. As you understand, if we have such air- and sea-based systems, it will not be too difficult to conduct R&D and put them on the ground, if need be.
However, let me repeat once again that to be effective in general, we must be extremely disciplined. We have everything we need for this and we have enough resources that we are directing to national defence and security.
I would like to thank the Defence Ministry and all service members of the Army and the Navy for their work in the outgoing 2018. We have taken a very significant, powerful step in ensuring Russia’s security.
I would like to thank you for your service.