Chekhov's gun or some military statistics

Analysis of the Russian Military Industrial Complex
Roman Kunitsyn ( 20 March 2022

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov is credited with the words: "If in the first act of the play a gun hangs on the wall, in the last act it will certainly shoot." This statement has even received the name of the dramatic principle of "Chekhov's gun". Moreover, history has shown that the operation of this principle extends not only to dramaturgy.

After the start of the special operation of the RF Armed Forces in Ukraine, the vast majority of politicians, political scientists, journalists, even ordinary people in Russia and Ukraine unanimously declared that no one expected such a development of events. Moreover, judging by the elongated faces of Russia's top leaders shown to us on TV, even for many of them this came as a surprise.

And only specialists in military economics were not shocked or even surprised by this news. I think they've been waiting for something like this for a long time. Because they were well aware of the statistics regarding the military spending of the Russian Federation over the past 20 years. And this statistics is very interesting and it is simply necessary to cite it if we want to seriously talk about the underlying causes of what is happening beyond our southwestern border, and not be like "sofa political scientists" from television talk shows.

Russian defense spending from 1998 to 2020 [1] .

Year Defense spending (in billion rubles)
1998 65.1
1999 115.6
2000 191.7
2001 247.7
2002 295.3
2003 355.7
2004 430.0
2005 581.1
2006 681.8
2007 831.9
2008 1040.9
2009 1188, 2
2010 1276.5
2011 1526.0
2012 1812, 4
2013 2103.6
2014 2479.1
2015 3181.4
2016 3775.3
2017 2852.3
2018 2827.0
2019 2997, 4
2020 3168.8

So, since 1998, the military spending of the Russian Federation has been steadily growing. Between 1998 and 2016, they increased almost 58 times! In 2017, there was a recession, apparently caused by the fall in energy prices on the world market in 2016, which seriously hit the Russian budget in 2017. But even despite the economic crisis, spending on the military-industrial complex soon crept up again and in 2020 almost reached the level of 2015.

In 2021, Russia took the third place in the world in terms of military spending, spending 68.9 billion dollars on them! Only the United States (582.4 billion) and China (139.2 billion) are ahead of it [2] . Russia outstripped such countries as Great Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia (from 58.8 billion to 42.8 billion) in terms of spending on the military-industrial complex. Meanwhile, Russia's GDP in 2021 was approximately $1.7 trillion [3] , while the UK's GDP was $3.12 trillion [4] . In terms of GDP, Russia is four times inferior to China, and the United States - 8 times! [5] Experts call such an increase in military spending "economically unjustified."

The growth of military spending is dissonant with the fall in spending on other budget items. The RBC website noted in the fall of 2021 that, according to the draft budget for 2022: “Federal budget expenditures under the National Defense section in 2022 will again be higher than under the National Economy section [6] .

But that's not the only thing that's interesting. At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, the so-called “purchasing holidays” that began in the mid-1990s ended. This means that since the mid-1990s, the state has not purchased new weapons for the army. The growth in military spending was associated with the improvement of the financial situation of the military, the repair of infrastructure, etc. Since 2010, the situation has changed: “a sharp increase in expenditures began, and since 2010-2011, noticeable spending on the purchase of new weapons, military equipment and orders for military R&D appeared in their structure ... These amounts hide the money of the State Arms Program - funds for the purchase by the military department new weapons ... it was planned that in 2013 about 1 trillion rubles would be spent on the purchase of equipment and ordering military developments, in 2014 up to 1.2 trillion rubles would be spent on these needs, and in 2015 - 1,[7] .

It should be noted that among those who were somehow involved in the "defense industry" these facts did not go unnoticed. So, 6 years ago, on forums on the Internet, in connection with this, one could see the perplexed questions of ordinary citizens who either worked at military enterprises themselves, or their relatives worked there. Questions sounded something like this: “maybe I'm paranoid? Our plant has not received orders for cartridges, shells, mines, etc. for 15 years, and suddenly received ... Will there be a war? There were no answers, the media were already under strict control by that time, the experts were silent, like water in their mouths...

Meanwhile, guns and shells cannot make war on their own (just as the goods from Marx's Capital cannot come to the market on their own). We need people who will bring a cannon to the battlefield, load it with a projectile, shoot ... In this regard, it is significant to compare the number of active armies of the first three countries that spend the most on defense (USA, China and Russia). There are 332 million people in the USA. Of these, 121 million are fit for military service. The active US military is 1.4 million people.

China has 1 billion 394 million people fit for military service - 614 million, the size of the army - 2.18 million.

141.7 million people live in Russia. Almost 2 times less than in the USA, and 10 times less than in China. There are 46.5 million fit for military service in Russia, 2.6 times less than in the United States and 13.2 times less than in China. At the same time, we have 1.01 million servicemen [8] .

That is, by the beginning of the 20s of the 21st century, Russia has an army almost equal in size to the US army and only 2 times smaller than the Chinese army!

It must be stated that over the past 20 years, Russia has been heavily armed. Today it has one of the largest armies in the world. Russia is one of the most militarized countries in the world, if you count the ratio of military personnel to civilians. The military spending of the Russian Federation is completely unthinkable for a state with such a volume of GDP. These are facts you can't argue with...

In the light of all this, the question itself disappears: why did the Russian leadership launch a special operation in Ukraine? Something like this could not help but start with such a level of pumping up military muscles. There would be no Ukrainian crisis, any other could serve as a trigger. Actually, since 2015, Russia has begun to wage "small wars" in different regions of the world - in Asia, in Africa. Moreover, the rationale for bringing troops into Syria was no less shaky than talk about the denazification of Ukraine. Let me remind you that in the case of Syria, it was about the preventive destruction of the Islamists, who otherwise would allegedly come to the Russian North Caucasus. In reality, of course, what we have before us is nothing more than propaganda sophisms. One of the main real reasons is the law of "Chekhov's gun", which should go off if it is already hung on the stage. The more machines bullets, mines, grenades, tanks and aircraft are produced by the military-industrial complex, the more urgent is the need to use them for their intended purpose, otherwise they will lie in warehouses, and the next state order for them will come only in 20 years (as it was in the Russian Federation during the break between the Chechen and Syrian wars). As is known from textbooks on Marxist political economy, the economy includes the cycles of production, distribution and consumption.

To consume food means to eat it. To consume suits is to wear them out. To consume a house is to live in it. To consume bombs and shells is to release them from cannons and drop them from aircraft. Military operations are inscribed in the economic cycle when it comes to the production of weapons. And without consumption there is no production, and hence the profits of those who own this production ...

This economic reason for military special operations, of course, does not negate others - geopolitical, political, even ideological. But it is also important, and in some cases the key.

One cannot ignore another question that inevitably arises as soon as we take a look at the figures for the growth of military spending in the Russian Federation from 1998 to 20021. Can we assume that those who came to power after B.N. Yeltsin, were the "siloviki" deliberately preparing for military special operations in the struggle for Russia's regional leadership (and even in the struggle against the West and NATO)? I understand that the opponents and supporters of today's leader of Russia are tempted to answer this question in the affirmative. The former will declare that an aggressive autocrat was initially hiding under the guise of a “Petersburg liberal”, while the latter will agree that the leader is a patriot and only “like Stirlitz” disguised himself as a Westerner, preparing to revive the former greatness of the country.

However, it seems to me that everything was much more prosaic. And it's not even about the secret thoughts of the head of state (although here, I think, one should not exaggerate the consistency of an individual, whose views inevitably change). As in many other cases, the objective factor is much more important here. Russia inherited a huge military-industrial complex from the USSR.

The largest number of defense enterprises, military research institutes and design bureaus turned out to be on the territory of the Russian Federation (for example, the Ukrainian SSR accounted for only 30% of military-industrial complex enterprises, or 700 factories that produced exclusively military products [9] ). Of the 30 Soviet aircraft manufacturing plants that “worked for the defense industry”, 1 was in Georgia, 1 in Uzbekistan, 1 in Armenia, 2 in Ukraine, the rest in the RSFSR (in Moscow, Leningrad, Kuibyshev, Gorky, Ulyanovsk, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, Voronezh, Saratov, etc.). Ships for the Navy were built in Leningrad, Gorky, Kaliningrad, Severodvinsk, Komsomolsk-on-Amur, and Nikolaev. Of these cities, only Mykolaiv is located in Ukraine. The centers of the armored industry in the USSR were Kharkov, Nizhny Tagil, Omsk, Volgograd, Kurgan, Arzamas [10]. Of the Ukrainian cities, only Kharkov is here. Military-industrial complex enterprises in the USSR were located not only in large cities, but also in the so-called "closed cities" (ZATOs). Most of them were also in the RSFSR, (mainly in the Moscow region, in the Urals and in Siberia (Zagorsk-6, Sverdlovsk - 45, Chelyabinsk - 65, Tomsk-7)).

History has shown that the division of labor between the republics within the USSR largely predetermined their future, post-Soviet fate. Let's say Belarus was the "assembly shop" of the Union. After the Great Patriotic War, many enterprises were built there, where they assembled products (from vacuum cleaners to tractors and trucks) from parts that were produced mainly in Russia. This determined the pro-Russian course of the Belarusian leadership. The victory of the Belarusian nationalists at the beginning of the 90s, who were oriented towards the West, would lead to the collapse of the economy of the republic, turning it into an agricultural appendage of Europe, like the western regions of Ukraine.

Russia, as we have already found out, in addition to the source of oil and gas for Europe (which it became under Brezhnev), was also the "arms shop of the Union." True, the liberal reformers who came to power in the 1990s initially relied on the export of hydrocarbons and believed that post-Soviet Russia needed neither a strong army nor a powerful defense industry.

At the beginning of the 90s, the collapse of both the army and the military-industrial complex actually occurred. But the separatist rebellion in Chechnya, centrifugal tendencies in other republics - from the North Caucasus to the Ural-Volga region, the bloody, unsuccessful First Chechen War and terrorist attacks in various cities of the Russian Federation - all this made the Yeltsin administration seriously think about strengthening the army and security services. One of the consequences of this was the gradual revival of the Soviet military-industrial complex. The reader has already seen the table, from which it follows that the growth of military spending began in the Russian Federation as early as 1998 (when Putin had just begun his ascent, becoming the head of the presidential administration). By the way, an interesting conclusion follows from this fact. It is generally believed that Russia began to militarize with the coming to power of Putin and the security forces. In fact, everything was the other way around - it was Putin and the security forces who came to power, because Russia began to militarize. The Chechen war strengthened the position of the army leadership, and the fight against terrorists strengthened the special services. The “civilian” young reformers had to make some room on the Olympus of power. They did it with great pleasure, because they understood that without powerful power institutions it would be impossible to either preserve the integrity of the country or resist the “red revenge” (I already wrote that Putin’s coming to power was preceded by liberal statements that Russia needed “its own Pinochet" and even torture to make General Lebed such a Pinochet).

In turn, the strengthening of the army and special services breathed new life into the military-industrial complex. Arms production grew at an unprecedented pace. In 2007, the state created the Rostec Corporation, which by 2019 brought together over 700 companies (including 18 holdings and 21 city-forming enterprises). The corporation's revenue in 2019 amounted to 1,771.6 billion rubles. Rostec began to control 42% of the domestic arms market (Almaz-Antey is next with 14%) [11]. There were so many produced weapons that the Russian Federation began to sell them. In 2014, Russia's income from arms exports amounted to 15.5 billion dollars, in 2017 - 14 billion (the economic crisis associated with falling oil prices affected). In 2019, this figure already amounted to 15.2 billion. Russia's share in world arms exports has grown to 25%. Only the United States is ahead of Russia in this market [12] .

The arms export of Russia predetermined the attempt to resolve the Karabakh conflict by force in 2020. The fact is that Russia simultaneously sold weapons to both Azerbaijan and Turkey [13] and in the end, these weapons began to shoot.

However, the weapons that the military-industrial complex concerns produced under state orders for the Russian army soon began to shoot. It turned out to be so much that even after the export there was still a full-fledged special operation. And if you think that this special operation is the last, then you need to remember that in 2021 V.V. Putin announced the state arms program. It is calculated until 2034 and involves an even greater expansion of the state order [14] .

Let's summarize. Putin's reign, which began with the revival of the former Soviet military-industrial complex, ends with a series of military special operations - from Syria and Africa to Ukraine. This is not an accident, but a pattern, like everything significant that happens in history (although, of course, it depends on historical figures how these patterns will manifest themselves). Having a huge military-industrial complex, becoming the world's largest producer and exporter of weapons, having armed its own army and the armies of neighboring states "to the teeth", the leadership of the country and the military-industrial complex could not resist the use of these weapons. According to Chekhov, even one gun on the stage should shoot, but here - a whole arsenal ...


[2] Konstantin Bogdanov Why is Russia Arming? 26.05. 2021



[5] Konstantin Bogdanov Why is Russia Arming? RIA Novosti 26.05. 2021

[6] Ivaan Tkachev The military section will rise to second place in the Russian budget in terms of spending. RBC. Oct 3 2021"

[7] Konstantin Bogdanov Why is Russia Arming? 26.05. 2021



Links Search