Rogozin the Ridiculous Believes That Military Production is the Key to Prosperity. Yeah, That Worked Out So Well for the USSR
Rogozin the Ridiculous is on a roll. He has been chosen by Medvedev to lead the effort to protect Russia from meteorites (!) and is proposing a global effort to protect the world from objects hurtling from space (!!).
Rogozin is also the main cheerleader for Putin’s ambitious rearmament plan, which envisions spending $600+ billion on new armaments by 2020. Putin largely makes the argument for rearmament on national security grounds, but Rogozin is much more expansive in his advocacy. He sees the arms program as a way of transforming Russia from oil fields defended by nukes into a modern industrial powerhouse:
“By 2020, the moment of the weapons program implementation, we will be living in a quite another country…In the country, which will surely get off the oil and gas needle, in the country which will have new modern plants, in the country, where the cult of an engineer and constructor will be created,” Rogozin, who is in charge of the defense industry, said.
“We will turn the tide, this will be an industrial power,” Rogozin said on Saturday at a meeting of Russian patriotic organizations in Krasnogork, in the Moscow Region, marking the holiday, known as Defender of the Fatherland Day.
This is as delusional as many of his other pronouncements-which is saying something. Resources-human and physical capital-dedicated to military production are not available to create, design, and produce advanced technology or manufactured goods for civilian use or trade. The only way that a burst of military procurement will produce “modern plants” doing anything other than producing for the military is that there are large externalities-spinoffs- from military technology and production into civilian technology. This is a leap of faith with little or no empirical basis.
Indeed, there was once a country by the name of the USSR that focused on military technology and production. It is still unknown just what fraction of GDP the USSR devoted to military purposes, but it was immense. And this investment had few, if any, positive spinoffs for civilian goods and technology. Indeed, the military industrial complex sucked up virtually all the best minds and most of the capital, leaving the civilian economy a technological backwater. Any externalities were negative ones.
This is hardly news. All but the dinosaurs knew in the late Soviet period that massive arms expenditures had bankrupted the state and left Russia with a completely uncompetitive civilian economy. But RtR seems to have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.
In truth, the main impetuses behind rearmament are nationalist nostalgia for the days Russia (i.e., the USSR) was a military superpower and cupidity. Large sums spent on overpriced arms disappear into private pockets.
As I’ve written before, Russia’s biggest military issue is a software problem, not a hardware problem. It has too few men to serve, and many of those who do are sickly. Plans to transform to a professional military are way behind schedule, resulting in a continued reliance on conscripts who serve a total of 12 months. Their training has been cut to three months before being assigned to combat duties-far too little, especially given the absence of experienced NCOs in combat units. Moreover, the old guard is pushing back against organizational reforms (mainly the shift from divisions to brigades), and seems intent on retaining as much as possible of the old Soviet structure.
In brief, the rearmament program will not even transform the military, let alone the entire Russian economy. Indeed, it will likely hamper the development of the civilian economy without substantially increasing military capability, because that capability is constrained by manpower and doctrinal deficiencies.
Rogozin should stick to protecting Russia from meteorites. These efforts may be futile but are less likely to be as dysfunctional as attempting to create a simulacrum of a Soviet military industrial complex.