By Tim Stickings For Mailonline 14:06 01 Oct 2020, updated 14:31 01 Oct 2020
￼•Russia’s ‘high-technology’ forces are in a ‘high state of readiness’, a new report by a British think-tank says
• Moscow has upgraded its nuclear equipment and wants to develop new hypersonic and underwater missiles
• The report says Russia’s military is more capable than at any time since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991
Russia’s military might is at its greatest since the Cold War with its nuclear weaponry and air forces gaining particular strength, a report by a British think-tank says.
A decade-long revamp has given the Kremlin a well-equipped military in a ‘high state of readiness’ with upgraded aircraft and a ‘high-technology’ army based on professional recruits rather than conscription.
Moscow has the world’s largest nuclear warhead stockpile and has upgraded its equipment in the last 10 years – and is now pursuing hypersonic missiles and nuclear ‘torpedoes’ to modernise its doomsday devices.
The overhaul has made Russia’s military ‘more capable today than at any time since the end of the Soviet Union’, the International Institute for Strategic Studies says, emboldening Vladimir Putin to spread his influence in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere.
With relations strained between Russia and the West, the institute’s Strategic Dossier warns that the revamped army is a ‘capable military tool that Moscow has demonstrated a willingness to use or to threaten the use of’.
Russia’s military spending is dwarfed by America’s but the Kremlin possesses the world’s largest nuclear warhead stockpile and a new report says Moscow’s military might is at its highest point since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991
The report traces the overhaul back to the ‘near-debacle’ of Russia’s five-day war with Georgia in 2008, when Moscow ‘struggled to defeat’ the small ex-Soviet republic.
Russia’s conventional forces had long been under-funded after the collapse of the USSR and the resulting economic crisis, with only missiles given sufficient attention.
Russia fought bloody wars in Chechnya in the 1990s, and the Georgia campaign in 2008 ‘exposed shortcomings in equipment and training’, the report says.
In response, a new State Armament Programme approved in 2010 led to a massive increase in spending and upgrades to equipment including combat aircraft and land-attack cruise missiles for the Russian navy.
‘The upshot of the near debacle in Georgia in 2008 was a reform and modernisation programme that over the course of the following decade has seen a revamped military intervene successfully in Crimea, wage a covert campaign in eastern Ukraine and rescue the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war,’ it says.
‘Though significantly smaller than their Soviet predecessors, these forces are better equipped, with professional personnel increasingly prevalent.
‘Elements are held at high readiness, and Moscow has left behind the era of mass mobilisation, where units would be rapidly brought to strength with reservists.
‘Today, Russia fields capable conventional armed forces, which Moscow has been willing to use operationally, as well as one of the world’s two largest strategic arsenals.’
The modernisation efforts have ‘ultimately provided Moscow with a credible tool for pursuing its national policy goals’, the report adds.
New introductions include the Su-57 stealth fighter which was conceived as a rival to America’s F-22 Raptor and made its first appearance at a Red Square parade in 2018.
Russia has tested the fighter jet in Syria and plans to have three Su-57 regiments in place by 2028, joining a fleet of more than 1,500 combat aircraft.
However, there was a setback last December when one of the jets crashed in the far east of Russia in an accident blamed on a steering system fault.
Meanwhile, the Soviet-era fleet of Su-27 fighters has been given a modern variant, the Su-35, with gives the air force its ‘most capable fighter/ground-attack aircraft’.
Russia has also sold Su-35s to China in a deal worth more than $2billion and has held talks about a further sale to Turkey.
Moscow’s total fleet of 4,163 aircraft across its army, navy and air force is the second-largest in the world and the same goes for its supply of transport aircraft and combat helicopters.