Navalny´s return and the Russian defence industry

Navalny´s return and the Russian defence industry

It is interesting how the German FAZ perceives the sentence against Navalny after his return to Moscow: As competition between the authoritarian East and the liberal West. This will be much more the case if the new Biden administration is more focusing on democratic and human rights and would build an “Alliance of Democracies”.

“Navalny sentenced: Putin’s competition

A comment by Nikolas Busse

The Kremlin sees the Navalny case as part of a competition with the liberal West. One should take that seriously in Germany. Alexej Navalny’s return to Russia doesn’t seem really thought through. He calculated that there was a high probability that the regime would arrest him; after all, it only tried to kill him recently. Is that really so much better than continuing to educate people about Putin’s power apparatus from abroad? Navalny probably shied away from exile because it can lead to insignificance. Should he disappear in prison not just for the thirty days now imposed, but for several years, then his political work would be over for the time being. The Russian opposition would have lost its main leader. The fact that the regime has a prominent critic tried in an urgent manner even when half the world is looking at him is not least a signal to the outside world. Foreign Minister Lavrov describes the handling of Navalny as part of a systemic competition in which the Kremlin sees itself with the liberal West. This should not be dismissed as talk. Putin redefined Russia as an alternative to the democratic world, and this affects not only the criminal justice system, but now almost every field from armaments to foreign policy. You cannot work with such a country as closely as many German politicians would like. The new CDU chairman will have to learn that too.”

https://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/nawalnyj-verurteilt-putins-wettbewerb-17152700.html

However, the question is if Navalny would be really politically dead if Putin imprisoned him for a long time. Putin’s plan after the failed and unsuccessful poisoning to drive Navalny into exile and into insignificance did not work out. Locking Navalny into jail could also make him a Russian Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. Wearing him down through court proceedings provides him with a forum and further attention, especially the campaigns will continue through social networks, provided that Putin does not tighten censorship. Navalny continues his propaganda after the sentence today as the German mass tabloid BILD reports A video on social media about Putin’s alleged luxury and expensive villa, worth 1,1 billion Euro, which he would have acquired through corruption. The same pattern as Medjewde’s villa, including YouTube video with a drone.

https://m.bild.de/video/clip/news-ausland/teuerste-villa-der-welt-ist-das-putins-geheimer-super-palast-74984110,pAi=true.bildMobile.html

An article by political scientist Pavel Luzin  “Russia`s military in the 2020s” also claims that the modernization of the Russian military after initial progress in the 2010s, will face enormous challenges in the 2020s as the Russian armaments industry was highly deficient and heavily indebted, which is why economic and political reforms are necessary to save it, otherwise Putin will have to implement a radical cut program for the military and the defence industry or an austerity program for the people.

Russia’s military in the 2020s

by Pavel Luzin ·Specialist in international relations, expert on the Russian Armed Forces. Political scientist (PhD). 06.01.2021

The performance, trends and problems accumulated in previous years have left a mark on the Russian army as it marches through the 2020s. Problems include the gap between the declared and actual number of troops, fraught inter-regimental relations, and unresolved issues with command and communications systems. That is to say nothing of the economic and technical problems inherited by state-owned defence companies.

That said, troop mobility is constantly being improved. This was most recently shown in November 2020 when a peacekeeping contingent was deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh. Within a few days: almost 2,000 people arrived, along with cars, light armoured vehicles and helicopters.

In 2020, the Kremlin officially announced it had achieved the goals of modernising the armed forces set back in the early 2010s. Now, according to the authorities, it’s time to move forward. On the one hand, Moscow needs to continue procuring new arms, defence technology and military vehicles and upgrading its existing stocks. On the other, there is still the problem of limited resources, which has worsened over the past five or six years. By 2020, this became a qualitative, rather than a merely quantitative, problem. It is no longer only about how much the Kremlin spends on defence and how it allocates defence orders.

The prospect of increased army spending

The Russian government spent roughly 3.1 trillion roubles under the ‘National Defence’ budgetary item in 2020. These were funds earmarked for maintaining the armed forces and for purchasing arms, defence technology and military vehicles.

‘National Defence’* budgetary item at current prices, billions

 2011201220132014201520162017201820192020**
1,5161,812.42,103.62,479.13,181.43,775.32,852.32,8272,997.4~3,100
$51.658.366.064.451.956.548.945.146.442.9

* The figures of the ‘National Defence’ budgetary item are lower than Russia’s total military expenditure since the latter additionally includes funding for paramilitary services. For more detail, see the SIPRI Military Expenditure Database. Current maintenance of the Russian Armed Forces accounts for about 40%–50% of the allocated funds, while arms procurement accounts for 50%–60%.(…)

Indeed the ongoing haggling around military spending led to a public squabble between the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Finance in OctoberDecember 2020. Finance officials proposed cutting the army headcount (financed under the ‘National Defence’ budgetary item) from 1 million to 900,000, extending the duration of service required for an officer to be entitled to a military pension and cutting other financial costs. These proposals saw serious resistance from the Ministry of Defence.

Taking into account how the actual size of the Russian Armed Forces can be estimated at 740,000–780,000 military personnel, a formal commitment not to increase the size of the army to 1 million would be expedient. However, this requires a political rather than a technical decision. Indeed, it would involve a partial revision of the ideological foundations of the Russian political system. These foundations include the idea of a never-ending confrontation with the West and continuity of the Soviet army tradition, as well as the notion of contrasting the Putin era with the perestroika period and the first post-Soviet decade. An army of less than a million would signify a major shift within the Russian system of power. As for early military retirement pensions, it is one of the traditional incentives used to maintain morale and loyalty among the officer corps. Loyalty was already put to the test during the vote for ‘Putin’s Constitution’ in the summer of 2020.

Thus, traditional annual declarations of the successful modernisation of the armed forces are only a smokescreen for the growing shortage of resources needed for their maintenance and upgrading. However, no resources will be commensurate with Russia’s capabilities and objective external threats. The solution implies the need to downsize paramilitary agencies. But that entails changing Russia’s political system and economic model.(…)

Military-industrial complexity

The Russian defence industry closes the decade under growing pressure from new US sanctions introduced in NovemberDecember 2020. These affect not only arms manufacturing but also civilian production, especially in the aerospace sector. As in the 2010s, the mismatch between the objectives and needs of the Russian leadership is palpable. A prosaic reality of arms development and manufacturing will persist, if not worsen, in the 2020s.

Let’s take a look at the most striking examples. In 2020, given the economic crisis and errors in the organisation of military production amid the pandemic, defence companies accumulated huge debts. Back in the summer of 2019, for example, these companies were said to have more than 2 trillion roubles in debts to Russian banks, 600–700 billion of which was irrecoverable and had to be written off. In January 2020, the problem was declared resolved, although no details emerged. In December 2020, however, it appeared that defence companies had increased their debts to almost 3 trillion roubles, with debts worth 350 billion fully written off and others worth 260 billion restructured. Loans worth another 150 billion roubles are being prepared for restructuring. Thus, the problem of the systemic unprofitability of state-owned defence companies persists.(…) It turns out that, in the 2020s, the Russian military industry will face the prospect of either being drained under the burden of debts and underfinanced projects, or of draining Russian taxpayers.”

Unsaid: Canons instead of butter, which could lead to widespread dissatisfaction among the population and maybe more foreign military adventures, arms exports. more nationalism and repression could be the way out to legitimize arms spending: This could be the breeding ground the Russian opposition could use for its purposes.

Be it inner elite circles who are dissatisfied with Putin´s policy, be it the exile oligarchs in Little Russia in London and oligarchs in Russia, be it Navalny, Zhirinowski´s fascists, the opposition shaman in the Far East. Navalny has broad support by the West and maybe even in some parts of the Russian elite as he was in a young leadership program at Yale University in the USA and seems also to have support by intelligence communities as the outing of his assassins, the YouTube videos about Medvedev´s and Putin´s villa show. It seems that Navalny is the preferred Russian opposition leader by the West as he is perceived as a charismatic democrat. It depends on the perception, the expectations and political goals the supporters associate with Navalny.

Liberals see him as a new pro-Western liberal democrat and cosmopolitan. However, some critiques have doubts about this image as Navalny was leading a right-.winged march in Russia, calling guest workers from the Caucasus insects, made an election coalition with a nationalist group called Great Russia and Alliance against Immigration and was kicked out of the liberal Yabloko party because of his nationalist world views. However, his admirers think that this was due to the nationalistic atmosphere that Putin creates in Russia that you have to make some compromises to extreme nationalist forces and parties in order to get mass support. Nobody for knows for sure if Navalny is a nationalist, an opportunistic centrist or if he has a hidden agenda. If he wants to use nationalistic support to gain power and topple Putin and then isolate these forces and build a democratic Russia. Or maybe not. However, it is a dangerous game that could have results that might not be the ideas of the inventor.

Theo Sommer, former correspondent of the liberal German newspaper ZEIT thinks that Navalny was not an authoritarian nationalist, but would be a democratic nationalist. Juan Cole even thinks he could become a Russian Trump with a Russia first.

Business circles and military circles in the West hope that Navalny would make economic and political reforms, open the Russian strategic industries and the Russian market for Western investment, modernize the Russian economy, scale down the defense industry, military and the Russian foreign adventures and cancel the idea of Russia as a great power.

Some even think, even if Navalny was a new authoritarian politician due to the conservative political environment in Russia, he however could become a pro-Western autocrat-which would be progress in itself. Putin and Gazprom adviser Prof. Alexander Rahr however thinks that Navalny is perceived by most Russians as a traitor of the Fatherland and would have only limited support. And it could also happen, that the West instead of Navalny gets an even more nationalistic, repressive leader and strong man as there would also be masses of nationalists, ultranationalists and even more reactionary forces. The whole story, however, is that Putin and his supporters are not only reacting to more nationalistic and conservative forces, but are also vigorously fueling nationalism and hubris themselves and working together with a number of these forces.

Prof. Rahr also describes the prevailing mood in Russia in his opinion and possible further options for the Kremlin:

“Navalny is not an issue in Russia. The majority of Russians consider him a Western agent who invented poisoning. Everything is a staged attack on Russia. In the social networks, many are demanding that Navalny should be locked away. This reminds me fatally of the Stalin era in Russia, when people were arbitrarily declared enemies of the people, beaten up and locked in the Gulag – to the joyous applause of the masses. The latter only believe in their state power, which is sacred and inviolable – just like our constitution. We see that Russia, the mentality of the people, has not changed over the centuries. It will stay that way. We in the West cannot change that. For Navalny there are many, but still minorities. I read Russian social networks. Navalny is accused of being a traitor who works for Western intelligence services and who was extracted from Germany. Merkel wanted to get rid of him. So all commentators tell around the clock. The aggressiveness against the West has reached alarming proportions. A large part of the population feels that everything is like a Western attack on their country. Calls to show it to the Germans again are on the agenda. The population feels happy in the narrative they hear. Navalny Case is open. In Russia they might consider deporting him to Germany again or withdrawing his citizenship. Or to give him the choice – 8 years penal colony in Siberia without internet access, or to leave the country. Another convict in the camp can also kill Navalny. Khodorkovsky warned against this. The Kremlin will destroy the Navalny Foundation with all its might. The ruling elite are fed up with Navalny’s investigations into turning the population against power. Yes, in Russia the society is divided, in times of crisis, the problem of social inequality becomes particularly explosive. “

But the hatred against the West is really fueled by Putin and Lavrov and their state media and social media. No wonder there is such a toxic atmosphere in the shop. Navalny’s direct supporters are likely to be a minority at the moment. But if Russia declines, then there can be greater potential and other leaders who come together as a broad alliance, and the fact that Putin wanted to prevent Navalny from flying to East Russia to unite the protests there with western Russia shows how nervous that is being watched. Navalny´s Putin video from the luxury villa is of course the largest possible escalation level after returning, by which he probably wants to threaten: The more you take action against me, the more details I will leak about you! And this is just the beginning! Especially since it is probable that he cannot have all this knowledge and the logistics, including those investigative journalist research pools from the Guardian and SZ, without the help of Western secret services. The options outlined by Rahr are very likely, although the deportation and the revocation of citizenship would probably be the most humane and, from the Kremlin’s point of view, the most effective option.

The reactions to Nawalny’s return are mixed. Some admire the death will, the courage even to die for his cause and perseverance, endurance  the pure will ,the fighting spirit, the heroism, the Russian bushido and the fearlessness that make the true leader. Others speak of stupidity, overconfidence, suicidal behavior, and have even doubts in Nawalny’s.psychological state of mind. But only a few know Nawalny’s exact political positions, especially since nothing specific and detailed was aired in Russian and Western media and by himself. Navalny is somehow against corruption and for democracy and against Putin and more you don’t have to know to be on the good side.

At the Carnegie Foundation Alexander Baunov claims in his contribution“Putin, Poison, and Self-Inflicted Wounds: Navalny’s Return to Russia” that Putin and the Kremlin turned Navalny from a domestic opposition figure “ into the world´s most prominent political prisoner“ and new focus of international diplomacy and foreign affairs while his wife is also gaining a new role, Therefore he thinks that the Navalny hype will eliminate any doubts about the political goals and political positions or any critisism about the person of Navalny:

“Navalny’s leadership of the Russian opposition and his authority among skeptics of the current regime have grown. Not so long ago he was bickering with independent journalists; now even some Putin loyalists are, if not on his side, then certainly not on the side of his poisoners and persecutors. 

It is harder now to criticize Navalny. Foreign politicians and journalists who were previously wary of Navalny’s former experiments with nationalism are now prepared to forget about all that, along with the fact that, judging by his comments, he is still not a typical pro-Western politician in an anti-Western country, and has not promised to change Russia’s geopolitical orientation. In other words, Navalny may be a Putin critic, but he does not fit the template of a pro-Western liberal who could easily be mocked and destroyed in the eyes of fiercely patriotic Russians. Meanwhile, Navalny’s wife Yulia is turning into an influential politician in her own right, not unlike the unexpected and dogged threat that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has become to the Belarusian regime.“

https://carnegie.ru/commentary/83680?utm_source=ctw&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=buttonlink&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWkdFMll6aGtabUZsWkRSbCIsInQiOiJDdTRjR0c3

Somehow this reminds of the hopes in the Arab spring and the democratization of the Greater Middle East.Everythin will be better than Saddam Hussein, Dhaddafi, Mubarak or Assad. Now it is: Everything will be better without Putin The danger is that anyone who asks about Navalnys´ political goals and ambitions,  will be portrayed as Moscow´s 5 th column and as Putinfan. Let´s hope that the hopes for a Moscow Spring won´t turn into the desperation of a Russian winter or even worse.

The Putin critic Boris Reitschuster writes about the Russian opposition, also regarding Navalny:
“The opposition is a democratic alternative

Unfortunately, that’s only partially true. It is a colourful bunch, the spectrum of which ranges from the convinced left to the extreme right.Liberal heads of the opposition – such as the former world chess champion Garry Kasparov – critizise fellow campaigners that in reality they have less to criticize about the authoritarian system under Putin than about Putin himself.The opposition is far from being “flawlessly democratic”; should it come to power, which is not foreseeable, Russia would by no means become a constitutional democracy based on the Western model overnight.
On the other hand, a peaceful change of power would be a decisive step towards democracy and freedom.

The opposition is against Putin’s nationalism


Alexeji Navalny, the organizer of yesterday’s protests and hopeful of the opposition, attracted attention with his nationalistic and xenophobic tones.His supporters claim that these were some time ago and are not the leitmotif of his political statements.Liberal supporters accuse Navalny and other prominent members of the opposition such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky of flirting with nationalism – for example by expressing understanding for the occupation and annexation of Crimea.
The unfortunately quite numerous nationalist tones from the opposition must be seen against the background that Putin and his propaganda media are massively fueling such moods.In the fight for the sympathy of the people, parts of the massively battered opposition are trying to ride on this wave. “

But ridiing the wave of nationalism and of a personal cult is as riding a tiger and can create a dynamic nobody also thought of when the Arab spring started. But this time we speak about a nuclear armed great power.

The reactions to Nawalny’s return are mixed. Some admire the death will, courage even to die for his cause and perseverance, endurance the pure will,the fighting spirit, the heroism, the Russian bushido and the fearlessness that create the true leader, others speak of stupidity, overconfidence, suicidal behavior, and even doubts in Nawalny’s psychological state of mind. But only a few know Nawalny’s exact political positions, especially since nothing specific and detailed was aired in Russian and Western media and by himself. Navalny is somehow against corruption and for democracy and against Putin and more you don’t have to know to be on the good side.

At the Carnegie Foundation Alexander Baunov claims in his contribution“Putin, Poison, and Self-Inflicted Wounds: Navalny’s Return to Russia” that Putin and the Kremlin turned Navalny from a domestic opposition figure “ into the world´s most prominent political prisoner“ and new focus of international diplomacy and foreign affairs while his wife is also gaining a new role, Therefore he thinks that the Navalny hype will eliminate any doubts about the political goals and political positions or any critisism on the person of Navalny:

“Navalny’s leadership of the Russian opposition and his authority among skeptics of the current regime have grown. Not so long ago he was bickering with independent journalists; now even some Putin loyalists are, if not on his side, then certainly not on the side of his poisoners and persecutors. 

It is harder now to criticize Navalny. Foreign politicians and journalists who were previously wary of Navalny’s former experiments with nationalism are now prepared to forget about all that, along with the fact that, judging by his comments, he is still not a typical pro-Western politician in an anti-Western country, and has not promised to change Russia’s geopolitical orientation. In other words, Navalny may be a Putin critic, but he does not fit the template of a pro-Western liberal who could easily be mocked and destroyed in the eyes of fiercely patriotic Russians. Meanwhile, Navalny’s wife Yulia is turning into an influential politician in her own right, not unlike the unexpected and dogged threat that Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has become to the Belarusian regime.“

https://carnegie.ru/commentary/83680?utm_source=ctw&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=buttonlink&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWkdFMll6aGtabUZsWkRSbCIsInQiOiJDdTRjR0c3

Somehow this reminds me of the hopes in the Arab spring and the democratization of the Greater Middle East. Everything will be better than Saddam Hussein, Ghaddafi, Mubarak, or Assad. Now it is: Everything will be better without Putin The danger is that anyone who asks about Navalny’s´ political goals and ambitions,  will be portrayed as Moscow´s 5 th column and as a Putin fan. Let´s hope that the hopes for a Moscow Spring won´t turn into the desperation of a Russian winter or even worse.

The Putin critic Boris Reitschuster writes about the Russian opposition, also regarding Navalny:


“The opposition is a democratic alternative

Unfortunately, that’s only partially true. It is a colourful bunch, the spectrum of which ranges from the convinced left to the extreme right.Liberal heads of the opposition – such as the former world chess champion Garry Kasparov – critizise fellow campaigners that in reality they have less to criticize about the authoritarian system under Putin than about Putin himself.The opposition is far from being “flawlessly democratic”; should it come to power, which is not foreseeable, Russia would by no means become a constitutional democracy based on the Western model overnight.
On the other hand, a peaceful change of power would be a decisive step towards democracy and freedom.

The opposition is against Putin’s nationalism


Alexeji Navalny, the organizer of yesterday’s protests and hopeful of the opposition, attracted attention with his nationalistic and xenophobic tones.His supporters claim that these were some time ago and are not the leitmotif of his political statements.Liberal supporters accuse Navalny and other prominent members of the opposition such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky of flirting with nationalism – for example by expressing understanding for the occupation and annexation of Crimea.
The unfortunately quite numerous nationalist tones from the opposition must be seen against the background that Putin and his propaganda media are massively fueling such moods.In the fight for the sympathy of the people, parts of the massively battered opposition are trying to ride on this wave. “

Maybe he could become a sort of Russian Adenauer, a conservative who integrates all the old nationalists and fascists in a democratic system or he will be another Putin or he will be drowned in a nationalistic wave and even more nationalistic forces or Russian Nazis like Zhirinovsky are taking over the movement and seizing power. But riding the wave of nationalism and of a personality cult is like riding a tiger and can create a dynamic nobody also thought of when the Arab spring started. But this time we speak about a nuclear-armed great power.

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