When considering how strong modern Russia is, the first thing to remember that it is Russia, not the Soviet Union, and not even the Tsarist Empire.

The resources available to Moscow today are far less than those that the Soviet Union commanded, and it controls much less territory than the Tsarist Empire. However President Vladimir Putin’s regime has stabilised the country politically and economically.


This article is the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the UK Defence Journal. If you would like to submit your own article on this topic or any other, please see our submission guidelines


Viewed against the backdrop of Russian history over the past 700-odd years, during which the government of Russia has taken the form of autocracy interrupted by periods of chaotic anarchy (1), Putin has provided the average Russian with a significant degree of personal freedom within a framework of a significant degree of stability.

Putin’s Russia does not meet Western democratic standards, but it remains, for the average Russian, an improvement over the disorganisation of the immediate post-Soviet years and a great improvement over the Soviet period.

This has been a source of strength for Putin that seems rarely to get the attention it deserves in Western analyses. (This is not to deny increasing dissatisfaction with his regime, which is not surprising given that he has ruled Russia for some 22 years now, as Prime Minister or President, but it is not clear if this dissatisfaction is strong enough yet to force him out of office.) 

In purchasing power parity terms, Russia has the world’s sixth largest economy, with a value of $4.016-trillion. However, its exports are dominated by petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas. Any falls in world oil and gas prices severely affect the country’s economy (2). Russia is also suffering from demographic decline. Its population is expected to fall by 5.4% between 2018 and 2040, from the current 142-million to 134-million. But this would still make it by far the most populous country in Europe (with Turkey in second place, with a population of just over 89-million forecast for 2040) (3).

Putin has clearly restored the effectiveness of Russia’s conventional armed forces (or of most of them), maintained and is modernising the only nuclear arsenal in the world that is on a par with that of the US, and has reasserted Russia’s status as a major power, through carefully chosen military interventions and actions.

Russian frigate Yaroslav Mudry today.

He and his advisers have done this through a mixture of ruthlessness, shrewdness, unscrupulousness and, yes, daring. Also, Russian military interventions have been kept close to home. As the eagle flies, Syria, Moscow’s most distant intervention theatre, is not far from Russia.

And Russia is of course also a major cyber power, at least in terms of offensive capabilities, both official and unofficial. (Hopefully, the hacking of the Colonial Pipeline in the US, which disrupted nearly 50% of the US east coast fuel supply, has finally driven home the fact that cyber attacks can have severe kinetic effects.)(4)

Regarding the Russian armed forces (5), these are today organised into three services and two major independent commands or branches. The services are the Ground Forces, the Aerospace Forces (not Air Forces) and the Navy. The two independent commands are the Strategic Rocket Forces and the Airborne Forces (often referred to in English as the VDV, from the Latinised version by their Cyrillic abbreviation).   

The Russian ground forces and VDV have been significantly modernised over the past decade (especially their artillery, an arm in which Russia has always excelled), and their operational performance has clearly improved. The ground forces are reported to number 280 000, of whom 55% are 12-month-service conscripts, while the VDV total 45 000, of whom some 30% are believed to be conscripts. There are also about 17 000 Spetsnaz, of whom some are conscripts. (The Spetsnaz are really equivalent to Western Rangers and Commandos, not Tier 1 special forces, but that means that they are still formidable.)

The VDV and Spetsnaz naturally get the pick of the conscripts.

An RAF Typhoon meets a Russian Blackjack

The fact that the Russians still have conscription means they can mobilise impressive numbers of reserves. Assuming 150 000 conscripts are trained every year, mobilising all the conscripts trained over the past decade would bring 1.5-million men back to the colours! And none of them would be older than 30. Of course, many would need refresher training, but would likely to be a matter of weeks, not months, and Russia is known to have large stocks of war equipment – tanks, other armoured vehicles, artillery and much more – held in store. The Russian steamroller is not dead, it is just sleeping. This fact puts the arguments about the size of the British Army into perspective.

The Russian Aerospace Forces have been significantly modernised. Reportedly, 71% of their warplanes are now modern types. After a number of reorganisations since the end of the Cold War, the Russian Aerospace Forces are currently composed of the Long-Range Aviation (LRA – strategic bombers), Frontal Aviation (tactical air forces) and Aerospace Defence. 

The LRA is believed to be composed entirely of Tupolev designs: 72 Tupolev Tu-95 Bear turboprop bombers, 16 Tu-160 Blackjack and 63 medium-ranged Tu-22M3 Backfire jet bombers. All are being modernised. In a major war, they would execute stand-off attacks using long-range cruise missiles.

Russia has invested heavily in such weapons, with the Tu-95 Bear-H type able to carry the Kh-555 subsonic, turbofan-powered conventional cruise missile. This has a 400 kg warhead and a range of 3 500 km. Kh-555s launched from Russia’s western border could reach most of the UK (Wales and south-west England would be out of reach)(6). 

A ‘Bear’.

Russia also has the KH-47M2 Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile. Russian reports, however, suggest that the missile itself  has a range of only about 1 000 km. Russian open-source reports claim that the Kinzhal could reach a range of 3 000 km if carried by a Tu-22M3 Backfire, that range being a combination of the bomber’s range and the missile range. But so far the weapon, which can be fitted with nuclear or conventional warheads, has only been fitted to modified Mikoyan MiG-31 Foxhound heavy interceptor fighters, which also suggest that it is actually a tactical weapon.(7)

And regarding tactical aviation, Russia’s Frontal Aviation is also being modernised, with upgraded and new types in production. The Aerospace Defence Forces include interceptors and surface-to-air missiles, again with modern and upgraded systems coming into service. The evidence is that training has also been significantly improved. In terms of combat aircraft, these two forces combined deploy a reported 255 MiG-29s/MiG-35s, 131 MiG-31s, 274 Sukhoi Su-24s, 342 Su-27/Su-30/Su-35s, and 124 Su-34s (as well as 193 Su-25 attack planes that would not be survivable in a peer-on-peer conflict). These are backed by just 19 tankers, by US standards a tiny force. There is a large transport fleet, and a huge helicopter fleet.(8) And a most formidable force of surface-to-air missiles, in addition to those serving with Russian Ground Forces and VDV units (9).

The Russian Navy, although formidable in certain sectors, is no longer a full-spectrum ocean-going force. While its coastal and offshore (roughly, out to 200 nautical miles from the coast) forces are strong, with impressive new designs of corvettes, missile boats and mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) entering service, its ocean-going force has not only declined, but continues to decline. Its one and only carrier might return to service (it is currently under repair) but, even if it does, it is unlikely to be able to execute sustained high-tempo operations. 

Russian carrier Kuznetsov in the dry-sock that was recently heavily damaged.

Sensibly, the Russian Navy is focusing on modernising its submarine force, with new designs being built. However, Russia’s submarine force today is less than 20% of the size of that of the Soviet submarine force near the end of the Cold War. Russia now has about ten SSBNs and 20 SSNs and SSGNs, but these forces being split between two fleets, the Northern and the Pacific. (Russia’s total submarine fleet has alternatively been listed as ten SSBNs, 14 SSNs, nine SSGNs and 22 conventional submarines – SSKs.) 

The surface fleet has shrunk even more severely. Russia’s ocean-going surface fleet is believed to comprise one nuclear-powered “battlecruiser”, three cruisers, five guided missile destroyers, eight large ASW frigates, four guided missile frigates and four smaller ASW frigates, a total of 25 major combat surface warships, split between four fleets. Ship-board aviation is now restricted to helicopters. All fixed-wing naval fighter and strike aircraft are shore-based, and none is long-ranged. The only long-ranged fixed wing aircraft now possessed by the Russian Navy are ASW aircraft (about 24 Tu-124 Bear-F, and some 21 Illyushin Il-38 “May” aircraft). Long-ranged shore-based anti-shipping strike missions are the responsibility of the LRA’s Backfire force.

Faced with difficulties in maintaining the current sizes of its submarine and ocean-going surface fleets, Russia has (also most sensibly) investing in cruise missiles for both surface and submarine forces. For submarines, the conventional-warhead version of the subsonic RK-55 Granat has been developed, which can carry a 410 kg for a range of 2 400km. And then there is the better-known 3M-54 Kalibr land-attack cruise missile, which can be launched from ships or submarines. It has a range of between 1 500 km and 2 500 km. Granat missiles launched from submarines in the Barents Sea can reach the northeastern half of Scotland, while Kalibr missiles launched from vessels in the Baltic Sea can cover the whole of the UK. (10) 

Despite its limitations, Moscow extensively uses its fleet for diplomatic and presence purposes, frequently sending out small task groups (task units, really) of three or so vessels, usually a major surface combatant and two auxiliaries, one of which is usually a tug. It has significantly increased ‘forward’ patrols by its submarine force. The navy also organises and runs supplies to Russian and allied forces in Syria, and guards the “maritime flank” of the Syrian operation.

In this photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official web site, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, a Russian navy ship launches a cruise missile in the Caspian Sea. Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said four Russian navy ships in the Caspian launched 26 cruise missiles at Islamic State targets in Syria. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service)

However, these facts should not obscure a very important development in Russian policy – its increasing focus on Eurasia. Thus, in 2011 Russia spearheaded the creation of a Eurasian customs union, which became the Eurasian Economic Union in 2015.

Today, its membership comprises Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. In 2016 Putin launched the idea of a Greater Eurasian Partnership or GEP. (Moscow and Beijing are seeking to align GEP and China’s Belt and Road Initiative, to ensure they do not clash.)(11)  

What this all means is that Russia is again a most formidable neighbour – whether as a potential foe or friend – for those countries with which it shares borders (excepting only China) and for other near-by but not adjacent countries. But, in conventional terms, Russian military power declines rapidly the further away you go from the country.  

Russian Su-25 aircraft at an air base in Latakia, Syria.

From a British perspective, in conventional warfare terms, Russia is again what is was in the 19th century: a formidable land power (including today its strong tactical aviation and air defence power), too strong for the UK to confront on land without major allies, but a limited naval power, focused on guarding the Russian army’s sea flanks and protecting the approaches to Russia’s coasts, with a certain ability to undertake raiding forays on the high seas. In Tsarist times, that raiding capability was provided by a limited number of big, fast, armoured cruisers.

Today, it is provided by the Russian Navy’s SSN and SSGN force (Russian SSKs can of course reach British waters, but their slow transit speed means that they cannot be ‘surged’ forward and once on station, are pretty much restricted to that station), as well as by LRA bombers.

But the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force would, acting together, be able to handle these, even without the support of other allies.

Thus, the two new Queen Elizabeth-class carriers give the RN, on its own, massive superiority over the Russian surface fleet, even if the latter’s solitary carrier ever returns to service, and also provide protection from any anti-ship threat from the LRA. RN and RAF SSNs, ASW frigates, Merlin helicopters and P-8 Poseidon ASW aircraft would pose a formidable threat to Russian SSNs and especially SSGNs (who would ‘break cover’ every time they fired a missile). And the RAF Typhoon force is large enough to deal with any LRA threat to the UK itself.  

The one problem would be Kalibr missiles launched from Russian warships in the Baltic. And this justifies the British Army deployment in Estonia. As long as NATO holds the northwest coast of Estonia, the Russian Baltic fleet would be unable to undertake sustained operations, split between its forward operating base at Kaliningrad and its dockyards at St Petersburg and unable to move between the two.

This suggests that Estonia should be the British Army’s main focus in Nato, a place where a small force can exercise great strategic effect.

References

  1. See, for example, Richard Pipes Russia Under the Old Regime, 2nd edition, Penguin, London, 1995. 
  2. CIA The World Factbook 2020, (Russia) www.cia.gov/library/publications/resources/the-world-factbook/, accessed 10/05/2020.
  3. James Dobbins, Howard J Shatz, Ali Wyne “Russia is a Rogue, Not a Peer; China is a Peer, Not a Rogue” in Perspective: Expert Insights on a Timely Policy Issue, Rand Corporation, October 2018, www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE300/PE310/RAND_PE310.pdf, accessed 10/05/2020; “List of countries by past and projected future population” Wikipedia, https://enwikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_past_and_projected_future_popultion, accessed 7 March 2021 (Wikipedia used because it proved to be the only convenient and straightforward source I could find in the time available to me).
  4. www.bbc.com/news/technology-57063636, accessed 30/05/2021.
  5. This discussion of the Russian Armed Forces is based on Keith Crane, Olga Oliker, Brian Nichiporuk Trends in Russia’s Armed Forces: An Overview of Budgets and Capabilities, Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, 2019, www.rand.org/contant/dam/rand/pubs/research_reports/RR2500/RR2573/RAND_RR2573.pdf, accessed 9/05/2020; Michael Kofman “The Role of Nuclear Forces in Russian Maritime Strategy” (Russian Military Analysis, March 12, 2020) https://russianmiitaryanalysis.wordpress.com/2020/03/12/the-role-of-nuclear-forces-in-russian-maritime-strategy/, accessed 9/05/2020; Dmitry Gorenberg and Kasey Stricklin “A Guide to Becoming an Admiral in the Russian Navy” (War on the Rocks, August 20, 2019) https://warontherocks.com/2019/08/08a-guide-to-becoming-an-admiral-in-the-russian-navy/, accessed 9/05/2020; the (US) Office of Naval Intelligence “Russian Federation Navy 2019 Recognition and Identification Guide”, www.oni.navy.mil/Portals/12/Intel_agencies/russia/Russia_Ship_Silhouettes-Unclassified.jpg?ver=2020-02-19-081844-763, accessed 9/05/2020; David Axe “Is Russia’s Submarine Force Dying?” in The National Interest January 20, 2020, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/russias-submarine-force-dying-115406, accessed 16/05/2020; “Russian military forces dazzle after a decade of reform” www.economist.com/europe/2020/11/02/russian-military-forces-dazzle-after-a-decade-of-reform, accessed 13/03/2021; “Russian Armed Forces: Capabilities” (Congressional Research Service—In Focus June 30, 2020), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IF11589.pdf, accessed 13/03/2021; and www.everycrsreport.com/reports/IF11603.html, accessed 13/03/2021 (crs standing for Congressional Research Service).
  6. www.economist.com op. cit., map showing range circles; Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) “Missile Threat” https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/kh-55/, accessed 05/04/2021 – note that the Kh-55 is the nuclear armed cruise missile on which the Kh-555 is based.
  7. CSIS ibid, https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/kinzhal/, accessed 10/04/2021; The Barents Observer, https://thebarentsobserver.com/en/security/2019/12/russias-top-general-indirectly-confirms-arctic-deployment-unstoppable-missile, accessed 10/04/2021. 
  8. “World Air Forces 2021”, Flight International.
  9. “The World Defence Almanac 2016”, Military Technology, Vol. XL, Special Issue
  10. www.economist.com op. cit., map; https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/ss-n-21/, accessed 05/04.2021; https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/ss-n-30a/, also accessed 05/04/2021.
  11. Nadege Rolland “A China-Russia Condominium over Eurasia” in Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, Vol. 61, 2019, Issue 1, pp 7-22, published online 29 January 2019, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00396338.2019.1568043, accessed 9/05/2020.
Rebecca graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with a BA in History & Political Science, a BA Honours in International Relations, and an MA in International Relations (with distinction). She started her career in academia, specialising in strategic studies, but subsequently moved to journalism. For the past two decades she has worked as a science and technology journalist for South Africa's leading business and technology journal. Her technology beats are aviation, defence, civil nuclear power, & space.
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stephen ball
stephen ball
9 days ago

If China decides to sea grab like South China Sea, don’t see why they cant with land grab. Russia has land.

Last edited 9 days ago by stephen ball
farouk
farouk
9 days ago
Reply to  stephen ball

I personally believe that a lot of the Russian posturing towards the West is indirectly aimed at China. Moscow knows that China and not the West is the bigger threat, but they only flex their biceps our way, knowing that full well that the west will do very little. China on the other wouldn’t put up with such behavior hence the dramatics . But in shouting out “Never mind the quality, feel the width” Putin is sending the message East, “We will fight if we have to, but we wont say so directly to you face.”

Last edited 9 days ago by farouk
Jonathan
Jonathan
9 days ago
Reply to  farouk

I think you have it spot in there actually. If you look at present global modelling around food production a lot of china is going to become less productive over the next 20-40 years. There is a lot of land in eastern Russia with literally nothing their, it’s likely to become more productive with present warming models. I know China has been steadily allowing farmers to move to Russia to start farming all this empty land. The first steps in tensions are ethnic groups for your nation living in someone else’s nation and food stress. Its not like it did… Read more »

Dave12
Dave12
9 days ago
Reply to  farouk

I think it’s more the case that Russia sees its trade future with China a fellow dictatorship ,and us sending a type 45 to Crimea is hardly doing little ,the Russian state media sure made a big thing of it even painting a picture of a near naval battle lol.RUssia’s grey war acts like Salisbury is hard to know what to do, I personally would like some lipit mines placed on the new pipeline through germany, all in all Russia is in Putin’s image ,bitter about the cold war and cowards in thier petty recent actions on the west.

Last edited 9 days ago by Dave12
AlexS
AlexS
9 days ago
Reply to  stephen ball

China know that land grab of Russia mean nuclear war.

David Steeper
David Steeper
9 days ago
Reply to  stephen ball

Maybe i’m overestimating the Chi Com Regime but they appear to have a long-term plan. It is only a matter of time before they have the largest economy on the planet and it’s likely soon after the strongest military. Only expect fireworks after that happens and it will be Taiwan and/orJapan who will be on the receiving end not Russia. Their rival/s are the US and their Pacific allies. Putin is a smarter version of Mussolini big talk little stick but unlike Mussolini he hasn’t begun to believe his own hype.

Finney
Finney
8 days ago
Reply to  stephen ball

China already dominates eastern Russia economically, they will just invest in the area and end up owning most of the businesses and extracting most of the resources indirectly, much like the UK and latterly US used to in South America. The current set-up is mutually beneficial, although China increasingly has a stronger hand. China needs raw materials, resources, and food. Russia needs a market for them as they have pissed off most of their other trade partners. Eastern Russia has extremely sparse infrastructure so after grabbing a few neighbouring regions the Chinese would run out of steam; having only gained… Read more »

James
James
5 days ago
Reply to  stephen ball

Didnt China attempt to lay claim to Vladivostok a year or so ago? Im sure they wanted it back from Russia.

SJM
SJM
9 days ago

very detailed and interesting analysis; China is by far the bigger threat

dan
dan
7 days ago
Reply to  SJM

Very true. Most of this posturing by Putin is because he fears the West will forget about him. The Chicoms are the biggest threat to the West now and into the future. And the West is funding their massive military buildup by manufacturing the majority of their goods over there. Something most Westerners see now problem with unfortunately.

farouk
farouk
9 days ago

“”The Russian Aerospace Forces have been significantly modernised. Reportedly, 71% of their warplanes are now modern types. “”

Is that correct? I was of the understanding that the vast majority of Russian aircraft whilst receiving upgrades are still primarily of 1980/90s vintage . Which explains the many projects for newer craft such as the latest Russian single engine stealth fighter which is supposed to be fully unveiled on Tuesday:
https://theaviationist.com/2021/07/18/new-image-checkmate-design/

Su-75.png
Last edited 9 days ago by farouk
farouk
farouk
9 days ago
Reply to  farouk

1 of 3

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farouk
farouk
9 days ago
Reply to  farouk

2 of 3

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farouk
farouk
9 days ago
Reply to  farouk

3 of 3

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David Steeper
David Steeper
9 days ago
Reply to  farouk

Your right Farouk the article is wrong.

David A
David A
2 days ago
Reply to  farouk

Somewhat amusing since the Russians spent many years dismissing the advantage of stealth. I suspect the Americans are having a beer as by designing one themselves, the Russians are now announcing the technology actually is effective!

Dave12
Dave12
9 days ago
Reply to  farouk

It’s the same situation as the T14 tanks Russia lacks the funds to make full production on their stealth jet and what read the engine is underpowered and they are still trying to improve it.

Finney
Finney
8 days ago
Reply to  farouk

I think “modernISED types” would be accurate, a lot of 80’s/90’s vintage planes have had their avionics and radars etc replaced and updated. Most of them would not have been flown heavily in the 90’s and early 00’s so they probably have a lot more airframe hours left in them than say our Tornadoes did when they were retired.

dan
dan
7 days ago
Reply to  farouk

Their jet engines are still garbage though. Is why they keep trying to steal info on Western engines.

Jonathan
Jonathan
9 days ago

I’m not sure about the comment around the submarine forces. Even the new subs they are building are actual Dusted off soviet programmes. With a drum beat of building that makes…. well everyone else’s programmes look like they are producing subs at record rates. Almost all the submarines in the force are soviet programmes and some of them were started before I was born ( a long time ago) and I’m pretty sure before man walked on the moon.

John Clark
John Clark
9 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Absolutely Johnathan. Most of their equipment is indeed very old, but reliable and effective, if used in numbers and against the right (lower tier) enemy. They do have small numbers of capable equipment across all three services, but that’s just the cream on top, most is watery milk…. I think the case made in Rebeccas well written piece for keeping a robust UK presence on Estonia, is absolutely sound. It doesn’t need to be huge, small and we’ll armed will be fine, it can be rapidly reinforced if needed. We create a ‘really’ annoying spanner in the works for Putin,… Read more »

David Steeper
David Steeper
9 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

And hard as it might be for some to believe we’re the only european power he fears.

Jonathan
Jonathan
9 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Yes he knows the U.K. has a history of being very willing and able to use its armed forces and act with great aggression if it feels it’s in its interest to do so. We also have the forces to back it up and create a very significant problem, and it’s not like Russia could really use the mass of its second line and reservists capacity to bully the U.K. out of the game. A million poorly trained reservists with rifles is just not really something that would be an existentialist threat to the U.K. what would be a worry… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
9 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

I agree, for us the most important thing is that he sees an actual red line with the more potent NATO powers having skin in the game and on the ground especially in the more exposed NATO nations. Sometimes these authoritarian leaders can make misjudgments on actual how western nations will react, being there already removes that potential for an error of judgment.

Airborne
Airborne
9 days ago

Some interesting stuff, some open to interpretation and some not quite true. Not the same thought process as myself in regard to the Spetsnaz, not close to Rangers or Commandos, in fact more akin to a newly trained Tom, in your average “local” British Line Inf Bns. They like to think they are highly trained, but, as is the case for a large number of former Eastern block “SF” or Tier 2s, its a lot of bluster, bluffing and “I can punch that rock dead hard” type of attitude. However there is a hard core of long time served lads… Read more »

Dave12
Dave12
9 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

I suppose you can’t shed some light on your Wagner experience airborne ?

Airborne
Airborne
9 days ago
Reply to  Dave12

Nothing to exciting or secret but come across them (out of the job) while a PMC in a number of the usual messy locations. A number of main things were apparent, firstly it’s a bit of a two tier organisation. Many weren’t “ex russki mil” but blatantly still serving (comms chatter and chain of command amongst a few) and these seemed capable (not great) but capable, and then secondly you had the obvious ex mil, bad attitude, cannon fodder, bullying who seemed to be the “expendables”. I could be very wrong but all my associates thought the same. But as… Read more »

dave12
dave12
9 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

Cheers AB very interesting

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

Interesting mate. And not wholly unexpected from what I read of them re their coverage.

John Clark
John Clark
9 days ago
Reply to  Airborne

I would have to agree Airborne, Poland is increasingly well equipped, well trained and focused, ready to fight if needed. As a country, they certainly won’t put up with Russian bullying and they are a trusted NATO partner. The Germans are certainly lucky to have Poland as a human shield, if push came to shove, the Germans would be about as much use as a Chocolate tea pot.. I was reading the other day, the Germans bought the grand total of 150 Meteors for their Typhoons, to replace a similar number of AMRAAM’s bought in the 90’s / early 21… Read more »

simon
simon
9 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

a lot of Poland kit was handed over FOC from Germany. Mig 29 for example.

John Clark
John Clark
9 days ago
Reply to  simon

It certainly was Simon, in the interim period, Germany has (militarily), withered on the vine, while Poland’s has changed beyond all recognition.

With 350 latest spec M1A1 Abrams and the F35 ordered, as a couple of highlights.

By 2030, all the inherited Russian gear will be gone……

Esteban
Esteban
8 days ago
Reply to  John Clark

Yes

Esteban
Esteban
8 days ago
Reply to  simon

You do realize this was 30 years ago right?

simon
simon
8 days ago
Reply to  Esteban

Germany handed the Mig 29 over in 2003. The two batch’s of Leopard tanks were delivered in 2004 & 2014

Nige
Nige
9 days ago

Move Western energy dependency & infrastructure away from hydrocarbons and you remove the financial means for them to update and improve. Take out just 19 refuelling aircraft and their policy moves to defence, this represents a holding point, an olive branch and a chance to save face might stabilise the situation. Pushing beyond this point might result in the perception of a no-win situation. When faced with ‘no-win’ the question is how much of the rest of the world do you take with you. Russian doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons is different to the West’s and a lack… Read more »

John David Mayall
John David Mayall
9 days ago

Russia has always exaggerated its force’s effectiveness & quality, Russia only exists as a so called superpower by it’s mastery of propaganda. In a conventional confrontation they would not last long, that’s why they only attack weak countries. They would not dare attack a NATO country.

AlexS
AlexS
9 days ago

This is an excellent piece analysing Russia, my only quibble is the author considering the past Navy full spectrum capable.
It is when analysing RN/RAF capabilities that it fall short. I don’t think RN have enough anti submarine capability.

Esteban
Esteban
8 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

Right now the Royal Navy can deploy at best 2 SSN. And one of those will be need to be tied to the carrier. That will either leave no subs to do anything else other than be the on call missile shooter east of Aden. Or heading north to play with the Russians where they should be.. at the moment two type 45s are operational. The f-35 fleet at the moment is just about is impotent as you can possibly imagine. And typhoon as well there is no anti-ship missile available for anything. Other than the ancient harpoons from 1985… Read more »

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
8 days ago
Reply to  Esteban

So we will ignore the fact that 4 ssns have been trundling around in the past month or so.
3-4 of the T45s have also been out and about.
Ancient Harpoon from the 1980s…Soviet/Russian systems are still in service with LRA and the Fleet.. and they are early 1960s vintage systems. Harpoon looks positively state of the art compared to that.
The Russian fleet and LRA is aimed at bastion security to keep its Boomers safe in the White and Kara sea. Playing up there is the work of Ssns.

Deep32
Deep32
8 days ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Totally agree with you mate. People tend to revert to the good old ‘rule of 3’ far too often. Whilst it might be over arching over a long period, it’s not necessarily true over a year to year case. SSN availability is up with the Astutes, yes we can’t put all 6 out at once, but 2-4 at any given period is achievable, once we have all 7 in service, I can see the minimum availability being 3, with 3-5 being the norm.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
9 days ago

A good article. However, Putin is like the rest of us biodegradable. The west, if it survives Critical Race Theory, B.L.M. and the rest, should be playing for better relations with Russia at some point. The greatest threat today is clearly disruption of our digital systems, a big effect without firing a shot. Politics is key. I have an old man’s memory and wonder just how reliable our nearest allies would be in a confrontation. Further afield I think the outlook is improving by the year. The expeditionary force being sent ‘east of Suez’ will be mere flag waving unless… Read more »

Last edited 9 days ago by Barry Larking
David Steeper
David Steeper
9 days ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

We’re his reason for ruling. To have better relations with the west would mean the end. The economy is a disaster and it’s all our fault. If it isn’t then who’s fault would it be ?

Last edited 9 days ago by David Steeper
dave12
dave12
9 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Exactly, spot on

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
8 days ago
Reply to  David Steeper

Putin is no Stalin. One does have to look a little more deeply into Russian history. Putin will go one day. Then what?

Jonathan
Jonathan
9 days ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

I don’t think it’s likely we will be normalising relationships with Russia for a very long time. Putin is a symptom of where Russia is not the cause of where Russia is.

Its near abroad policy is not new, it’s something imperial Russia did, the Soviet Union did and now 21c chaos capitalist Russia is doing the same. The west can’t live with a near abroad policy Russia can’t and won’t live without it.

Last edited 9 days ago by Jonathan
Barry Larking
Barry Larking
8 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

No one, not one of the many expensive agencies watching the Soviet Union continuously, foresaw its collapse. There is a large dissident Russian movement Putin is seeking to crush. The same problems that beset the U.S.S.R. are still in play. As for the rest, all major countries have a forward policy when they can afford it.

Jonathan
Jonathan
8 days ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

Hi Barry that’s true, but with Russia it’s need to control a band of countries between it and the rest of Europe is completely engraved in its national view of itself and is likely to resurface even after a collapse in government.

JJ Smallpiece
JJ Smallpiece
9 days ago

The RAF need another 20 P8 Poseidons to be a credible ASW force.

AlexS
AlexS
8 days ago
Reply to  JJ Smallpiece

I am afraid the author do not realize that war is a messy thing and certainty even even less in submarine warfare.

Nate M
Nate M
8 days ago
Reply to  JJ Smallpiece

the Russian navy is floating pieces of crap. the only part that can make it out of Russian shores is there subs and those are 1980s tech or 1990s tech at the very best. even if they send out cruisers or destroyers they don’t have the logistics to provide for long term mission most likely gonna be quick skirmishes or suicide charges against the carriers. the thing we need to worry about is the Russian air force (or the missile posed by the Russians) . the planes could be described as paper bears but the missiles are very much a… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 days ago
Reply to  Nate M

The Russian navy has no need to send its ships beyond its shores
anyway. They are bottled up by geography in the Caspian, in the Black Sea, in the Sea of Japan ( except for Petropavlovsk ) in the Baltic, and even up north, where the Northern fleet must navigate GIUK gap and NATO.

As GB rightly said they are more interested in protecting their arctic coastline and their SSBN bastions.

I’d beware their cyber and missile capabilities, which they sensibly appear to be concentrating on. Oh and their nukes.

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
8 days ago
Reply to  Nate M

It was said that the only way the decrepit Ottoman Empire could hope to survive in the 20th century was by avoiding war. In 1915 it did not and so collapsed. Russia is not any where near a super power as it was once touted by U.S. mega corporations eager to get millions upon millions from the U.S. taxpayer. Nowhere near today excepting (significantly at lower cost) in cyber where all measures must be undertaken by the western powers to strangle its pernicious influence. Equipping the U.K. to fight a war neither of us can afford and would not wish… Read more »

Nate m
Nate m
8 days ago
Reply to  Barry Larking

i never said anything about uk going to war.

netking
netking
8 days ago
Reply to  Nate M

Senior US military officials have a slightly different view. They have been saying for years now that the latest Russian subs are as good as, or not very far off in capability to the best western subs. The only issue they have is there are in very small but growing numbers right now.

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/41105/russias-new-cruise-missile-submarines-are-on-par-with-ours-says-senior-u-s-general

Paul T
Paul T
7 days ago
Reply to  Nate M

It’s Russias Navy Day on the 25th, I’m sure we’ll all enjoy seeing their Floating pieces of Crap Sail past Mr Putin and Co.

Roy
Roy
6 days ago
Reply to  Nate M

The UK needs to be less arrogant and realize that it has allowed its capabilities to seriously erode. Everyone knows the reality including the Russians. The RN just sent out a carrier task force (with only eight fighter planes on board!) and including two destroyers, one of which has already broken down. Since there is very little behind even this modest “task group”, this illustrates a very serious weakness in sharp end capability. The UK needs to tone down the rhetoric and up its defence investments.

James
James
5 days ago
Reply to  Roy

Considering its more a training exercise than going to war I think they have done very well up to now.

At least 95% of the ships have not had an issue, unlike Russia which would be 95% knackered 2 miles out of port.

Roy
Roy
5 days ago
Reply to  James

Wishful thinking is not going to create a realistic UK defence policy. The fact that the UK has been preparing for years to deploy this task group and within a few weeks one of two destroyers is already out of action is a big problem. As for “95%” of Russian ships being “knackered”, this website tracks the deployments of every naval vessel going through the Turkish straits … https://turkishnavy.net/foreign-warship-on-bosphorus/foreign-warship-on-bosphorus-in-2021/ … Russian deployments are steady, significant and impressive. Pretending, which seems to have become the essence of British defence policy, is just pointless.

Graham
Graham
3 days ago
Reply to  Roy

Roy, perhaps you make too much of one ship needing maintenance work. It’s hardly a disaster for the Task Group overall.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 days ago
Reply to  JJ Smallpiece

I think the UK has credible ASW forces regards kit. How can anyone say otherwise with S2087, T23, Merlin, P8, Astutes, and IUSS.

I’d actually suggest that IUSS is the most important of the lot and is often overlooked.

More numbers will always be needed but remember the P8 operates in a web of allied/NATO ASW and intelligence assets in the GIUK gap and Barents Sea where the threat comes from.

Last edited 8 days ago by Daniele Mandelli
AlexS
AlexS
8 days ago

This what author said:

“But the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force would, acting together, be able to handle these, even without the support of other allies.”

The arrogance and certainty here in comments from some is also telling.

Deep32
Deep32
8 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

It’s not really arrogance, it’s more factual, despite what the author has written, UK PLC wouldn’t be acting alone, but with its NATO Allies, so lots of ASW assets as @DM points out.

Meirion X
Meirion X
8 days ago

Our ASW fleet is rather thin on the water at the moment, with only 5 out of 8 ships that could be deployed relatively quickly, including 2 deployed with CSG.
Yes other vessels could be used to deploy Merlin, but there again limited number of cabs.
We need to increase the overall ASW fleet.

Last edited 8 days ago by Meirion X
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 days ago
Reply to  Meirion X

Agree M. Drones could be the answer. No other economical way within the budget. Or adding dipping sonar to Wildcats.

Wish we would buy more Merlin though would take time to get the crews and ground support for them.

Gavin Gordon
Gavin Gordon
7 days ago

Ageed. That’s’s what strikes most reading the last section of Boyd’s ‘British Naval Intelligence during the 20th Cen’; the sheer scale of Sosus 30 years ago. Nearly all courtesy of the USA, and available to UK as joined at the subsea hip. Cannot creditably be any the less now. Russia probably cannot compete technically (unless they get another one-off boost from a John Walker type), and certainly not financially.

China’s still The One to watch!

Steve R
Steve R
4 days ago
Reply to  JJ Smallpiece

I’d settle for a total of 12.

Peter S
Peter S
8 days ago

This seems like a fair analysis of Russia’s capabilities. It also shows deficiencies in the UKs ability to counter them. Our ASW forces may be state of the art but they are too few in number, both ASW ships and submarines. With a CSG needing at least 2 frigates and a submarine, there is not a lot left. This problem will get worse if the proposed littoral combat groups also need ASW protection. The other area of concern is the UK deep strike capability, limited to sub launched Tomahawks and Storm Shadow on Typhoon. F35b will not on present plans… Read more »

Finney
Finney
8 days ago
Reply to  Peter S

If a war broke out, or was about to break out, I think all of these “X missile not qualified for Y airframe” and “Storm Shadow not currently programmed for surface to surface engagements” etc would change within about 2 weeks. Money gets found, risks get taken, everything would suddenly be much more heavily armed. That said there would be a risk that anything not already in inventory or produced here would be much harder to get hold of at short notice if the producer-nation were also at war. Imperative that we continue to produce and hold reasonable stocks of… Read more »

Dern
Dern
8 days ago
Reply to  Finney

I think you’ll find the days of strapping a 1,000lb bomb under a typhoon and telling the blokes at the War Office to ask the germans for them back when they complained are well and truly gone.
Without the software integration on a lot of modern weapons you just won’t be able to fire them.

Last edited 8 days ago by Dern
Peter S
Peter S
7 days ago
Reply to  Finney

Absolutely. We have come to rely on very sophisticated weapons and platforms whose production cannot be stepped up quickly. So we
fight with what we have. On the whole, the long term relationship between MBDA and MOD seems to have been successful. The curious omission is the absence of a modern heavy weight missile for ship or surface launch. Even here, the project that was Perseus seems to be offering a solution sooner than feared.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
8 days ago
Reply to  Peter S

We should always look at the totality of NATO assets and capabilities when considering how Russia would be countered in a hot war where Article 5 has been triggered. Even without the US, the European navies have very strong AAW and ASW capability that is continuously being modernized.

Rob
Rob
8 days ago

It’s a great article. I would add 3 points. Firstly, the dependence on oil and gas exports for hard currency is both a strength and a weakness. A strength because Mr Putin does have some EU countries by the short and curlies because they are, at the moment, dependent upon Russia for energy. However this is going to change as major nations (like Germany who has just suffered such horrific floods) move to renewable energy. Oil & gas are not a long term growth industries and this will directly impact Russia’s ability to project influence and deploy military power. Secondly,… Read more »

Peter S
Peter S
8 days ago
Reply to  Rob

Absolutely agree on the threat posed by the Northern fleet. Yet in pursuit of the “global Britain” theme, we are dispersing our naval assets more widely than for 50 years. We will have LSG North, but I can’t help thinking that we should be deploying a greater proportion of our forces in this key area.

Rob
Rob
8 days ago
Reply to  Peter S

What can we do in the high north then? I’d suggest regular under sea ice SSN patrols, more airborne ASW platforms and NOT basically disbanding 3 Cmdo Bde along with our Amphibious Ready Group. If it hit the fan NATO needs to get serious capability into northern Norway ASAP.

Graham
Graham
3 days ago
Reply to  Rob

What is this about disbanding 3 Cdo Bde?

Meirion X
Meirion X
8 days ago
Reply to  Peter S

I am also concerned about our main arterial trade route that passes though the South China Sea, of which some of our important imports pass, like microprocessors, electronics of all sorts, and car parts.
We should be helping to defend it too.
That is Not to say, we should abandon all our European commitments. Our commitment in the Baltics is important too.

Last edited 8 days ago by Meirion X
Nathan
Nathan
8 days ago

I’d be interested to see what the strategic impact of their hypersonics and those nuclear powered cruise missiles will be when, if, they’re rolled out and what about that city killing, nuclear submersible drone.

These are significant standoff devices that could change the calculus of things.

AlexS
AlexS
7 days ago
Reply to  Nathan

If we are entering in Missile Age – by that i mean you can just launch them from 500km or more and they can target any ship, it mean that surface ship are in danger of being not viable.
We will need submersibles. The return of sourcouf !

Last edited 7 days ago by AlexS
AlexS
AlexS
6 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

“The Pentagon announced that the it was aware of the latest test of the Zircon missile, and criticised it as a destabilising activity. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby stated: “Certainly, we are aware of [Russian] President Putin’s claims [regarding hypersonic missile systems]. It is important to note that Russia’s new hypersonic missiles are potentially destabilising and pose significant risks because they are nuclear-capable systems.” 

Meirion X
Meirion X
6 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

UK should build the Deadnoughts with Virginia Playload modules(VPM’s) silos. Which could in future, larger Hypersonic missles.

AlexS
AlexS
5 days ago
Reply to  Meirion X

Finish company ICEYE want all world covered by synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) satellite constellation. Obviouly enemies have them too. How a carrier is supposed to go undetected?

Last edited 5 days ago by AlexS
dan
dan
7 days ago

The Russians that went up against the US in Syria a few years ago were taught a very painful lesson in the use of combined and coordinated fires by the US forces there.

Mike
Mike
7 days ago

Russia has the will to act outside of the global norms, and in doing so has been able to achieve a lot. Examples being Crimea and Syria. They may lack funding and some high end tech, but they still have mass, and will. They remain a real threat.

Clive
Clive
7 days ago

This article is devoid of economic understanding. The whole article doesn’t even mention the economy. GDP per capita in Russia is one of the lowest levels in the entire world and at the end of the day that is what allows you to project force. Putin has been a highly damaging handbrake on Russian development that looked set to finally rid itself from socialism, nationalisation, and union led economic theory of the left which literally led to the collapse of the country. All Putin has done is seized power and used petrochemical dollars to fund it. He has neither stabilised… Read more »

Rob
Rob
7 days ago
Reply to  Clive

Clive, and those petrochemical dollars are about to run out, what then? With such massive natural resources Russia should have become a renewable energy giant but instead Putin has wasted his fossil fuel profits on nuclear weapons, missiles, submarines and tanks. If he had invested in getting ahead in hydro, bio-fuels and general green revolution he could guaranteed Russia’s future for decades but instead he spent the lot on vanity projects and firming up his dictatorship.

James
James
6 days ago
Reply to  Rob

And not to mention banked a load of it for himself and his mates, hes not interested in the future of the country just in himself and the now.

Roy
Roy
6 days ago
Reply to  James

Look, Russia may have bet correctly on resoure development or it may have bet wrongly. Nobody actually knows. And nobody really will know for quite a while. What we do know is that today, Russia is a major military power with an extensive array of nuclear weapons and formidable conventional capabilities. It has a GDP of at least $1.7 trillion USD. That provides a military capability that far exceeds that of the UK. So if one is going to develop a serious UK strategy, then one must begin with a credible defence strategy that matches that current reality. So far,… Read more »

James
James
5 days ago
Reply to  Roy

I wouldnt say it far exceeds the UK, in nuclear terms yes by far its much stronger and we couldnt really compete especially as the UK is such a small land mass Russia could do 100% damage to the UK repeatedly, the UK could only damage a fraction of Russia back. Yes Russia has a much larger land force but it cant get that force from Russia to the UK, its air force is also much larger but hardly as capable and again can it realistically get those forces such as fighters from Russia to the UK to operate? Not… Read more »

David A
David A
4 days ago
Reply to  James

Is it much use having thousands of nuclear weapons? We have 180 (i’m guessing here). The two largest cities in Russia are St. Petersberg and Moscow (18 million people). a good deal of the others are around a population on 1 million people. A 100 nuclear weapons will pretty much destroy Russia. Russia can flatten the UK multiple times but its kind of like taking a automatic weapon to a duel.

Meirion X
Meirion X
2 days ago
Reply to  James

Russia has also long range bombers(Blackjacks, Blackfires), that could launch cruise missile strikes at the UK from the North Atlantic. A radar blind spot to the west of Ireland.

Last edited 2 days ago by Meirion X
David A
David A
2 days ago
Reply to  Meirion X

Wasn’t that blind spot supposed to be filled by the new radar installation announced last year or am I thinking of something different?

AlexS
AlexS
6 days ago
Reply to  Clive

“GDP per capita in Russia is one of the lowest levels in the entire world”

what?!

Russia $28200

UK $44900

Meirion X
Meirion X
6 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

No one receives PPP income, not even average income, unless you are earning spot on average income per head.

AlexS
AlexS
5 days ago
Reply to  Meirion X

PPP is what make Russia pay less for the equivalent, similar.
An AKM bullet is much less expensive than a sa80 one.

AlexS
AlexS
5 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

I forgot population size.

Russia Fed. 143M absolute GDP PPP 4,133,083.56
UK 68M absolute GDP PPP 3,019,057.45

AlexS
AlexS
5 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

You can’t get the biggest nuclear arsenal in world without sizable economic muscle regardless if it is achieved by brute force of number and natural resources or not.
That do not change the game here.

Meirion X
Meirion X
4 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

The Standard Of Living By Country, is a better comparison.

It places Russia as No. 70, the UK is 19th richest per head.

AlexS
AlexS
4 days ago
Reply to  Meirion X

“The Standard Of Living By Country, is a better comparison.”

Disagree
That do not account for population size. If you take 10 from 70M and 5 from from 140M the cheese have the same size.

Also do not account that in one country people are willing to do X being paid Y and in another country only do X by being paid Y+Z. supposedly being paid more give more quality but that is not always linear or even true in all circumstances.

Meirion X
Meirion X
4 days ago
Reply to  AlexS

They pay less for bullets because the defence Industries is state owned and heavily subsidised by other state owned enterprises such as the oil and gas industry. Raw materials are brought at cost to produce.

AlexS
AlexS
4 days ago
Reply to  Meirion X

If they own the resource they can price it how they like.

David A
David A
7 days ago

Putin has played his game perfectly. He has managed to hold onto power by FUD. It’s a masterclass in deception and manipulation. Just reading through the comments on RT and other social media written by Russians who are constantly spouting the same misguided and factually incorrect drivel offers us in the West the level at which Putin has successfully shaped his status as a kind of “protector of the faith”. Putin heralds NATO as the evil power pact which is constantly trying to undermine Russia and would invade at a moments notice if it were not for his defence of… Read more »

Meirion X
Meirion X
4 days ago
Reply to  David A

The Cold War ended in 1991, Putin had to wait to 1999 before he became President of Russia. NATO continue to exist for 8 years after ending of Cold War, before he came to power!

David A
David A
4 days ago
Reply to  Meirion X

And in the timeframe you mentioned NATO had downsized significantly. The percentage of military spending for the UK and the US was 3.68% and 4.88% respectively in 1991. In 2000 that figure reduced to 2.14% and 3.11%. There were many people in the UK wondering what was the point of NATO. After Georgia and certainly after the annexation of Crimea, those conversations no longer occur.

Bluemoonday
Bluemoonday
5 days ago

We have to hope that our military planners are not as dismissive of Russian capabilities as so many on this site appear to be. Given that our forces were stretched to the point of breaking by operations in the War on Terror, then you would hope such hubris might be reduced when discussing a potential confrontation with Russia. Although this should be no surprise, as there is an enduring prejudice and underestimation of Russian military technology among foreign analysts, so I was pleased to see this article offer a refreshing balance to those reports. I also thought this piece provided… Read more »

andy reeves
andy reeves
4 days ago

in addition, much of the russian military assets are obsolete and in many cases in such poor condition. that they are virtually scrap

Tim
Tim
8 hours ago

Why would in a global world where Russia is heavily dependent on imports of high tec equipment would the author use PPP as a way of showing how large Russia’s economy is that’s really only useful to show how much shopping a person can buy or how it compares to rent a house etc also to make the claim that a conscript who serves in spetsnaz is on par with a green beret or the Royal Marines is just laughable

AlexS
AlexS
4 minutes ago
Reply to  Tim

It is useful and the least worse option, showing why Russia is capable of full spectrum warfare, from ship to nukes, to aircraft, tanks, spy and comsat, space warfare, glonass system etc. while UK is much more dependent on others.