Ankara, May 13 – For the first time since 1990, military equipment dominated the Victory Day parade in Moscow’s Red Square this year, a development many in both Russia and the West suggested was evidence of Moscow’s growing self-confidence about its role in the world and possibly even an effort to intimidate others.
But Anatoly Tsyganok, a regular Moscow commentator on security questions, has now called attention to one aspect of this event most have passed over in silence: The equipment in the parade, he said, was in almost every case intended not for the Russian military itself but rather for sale to foreign governments (www.gzt.ru/politics/2008/05/12/060008.html).
Yesterday’s “Gazeta” noted that there was “an unprecedented quantity of soldiers and military technology” on Red Square during the parade: “more than 100 pieces of equipment, more than 8,000 soldiers and 33 military planes and helicopters,” a display of enormous power even though much of the equipment is out of date.
But the display does not mean what many thought it did, Tsyganok told the paper. Little of this technology is intended for the Russian military – its units have only a few examples of the kind of weapons that passed through the square. Instead, “the greater part is to be exported to India, China and the countries of Africa.”
To give but one example, Tsyganok continued, Moscow has sold India approximately 500 T-90 tanks, but there were only 90 added to the Russian military service. And “unfortunately, our armaments now,” he continued, are like those the Americans had before they went into Iraq: “ready for parades but in no way suitable for conducting a partisan war.”
Given the Russian government’s penchant for selling military equipment rather than supplying its own military first, the Moscow analyst said, it will take “not less than 100 years” for the Russian army to “renew” its arsenal, something that will leave it increasingly behind not only its traditional competitors but also behind those Moscow is selling military equipment to.
And because the equipment shown and, in the view of Tsyganok being offered for sale, is conventional, the Red Square military parade had the effect of reinforcing the view that Moscow is relying ever more heavily on nuclear weapons for its national defense, something that limits the Russian governments options under certain circumstances and thus contributes to insecurity.
If most journalists and members of the public did not notice this, the expert community and some of Moscow’s leading opposition politicians did, “Gazeta” reported. Dmitry Orlov, the general director of the Agency of Political and Economic Communications, pointed out that the parade did send a message about Russia but certainly not the one intended.
On the one hand, military experts could easily see that what Moscow was putting on display was anything but cutting edge. And on the other, even with this military component, the Victory Parade did not manage to become “the leading world news story” that day, something that reduced any broader meaning.
And Gennady Zyuganov, the leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), was even more dismissive. “All the technology you see,” he told journalists, “is the last gift of Soviet power to present-day Russia. “It must be renewed and made more contemporary,” not simply sold off to others.