Russian Defense Minister gave his “first detailed interview in seven years” to Russian daily Moskovskyi Komsomolets. The defense minister spoke about various topics, namely the current military and political situation in and around Russia.
Shoigu said that without the assistance of Russian President Vladimir Putin, very little would have been achieved in modernizing and improving the Russian Armed Forces to the state they are in now.
Starting off the interview, the interviewer asked Shoigu if whether he supported the notion that war was a bad and unwanted thing.
The Russian Defense chief agreed completely, but said that in order for war to not be a reality, a strong army is necessary, simply for deterrence. If the defense of the country is sure, then there would be no war, since possible adversaries wouldn’t wish to engage in any hostilities.
“Naturally, I am the same as you, a supporter of the fact that there is currently no war. But in order for it not to exist, our army must be very strong, well-armed and equipped and, most importantly, internally ready to defend its homeland.”
Following that, the conversation moved to how exactly the army was modernized, and it all began with realizing that it was in a deplorable state in 1999 and it everything needed to change.
The current state of the Russian army, with its high level of readiness and modernization is due to Vladimir Putin being completely engaged, despite his exquisitely busy schedule, with constantly controlling and developing the armed forces.
“Starting in 2013, no matter how busy the work schedule, the president in autumn and spring meets the leadership of the Armed forces, representatives of the defense industry and relevant leaders in the Government of the Russian Federation on all aspects of military development and ensuring military security of the country.
Therefore, there was no magic. There were large and not very large, noticeable and not quite noticeable steps for the comprehensive transformation of the army.
Our key task was to synchronize all aspects of the preparation and construction of troops, including the training of professional personnel and the supply of modern weapons. We analyzed current and future threats, as well as the army’s capabilities to protect our country from them.
We figured out the condition of the troops up to each military unit. And the result of this complex work was the development of a number of program documents, including a defense plan.”
And the state of mind doesn’t just change by training the soldiers and giving them state-of-the-art weapons, it comes from everywhere. Personnel shouldn’t spend days cleaning snow while on permanent deployment or cooking, or cleaning, they needed to be soldiers, first and foremost.
“Having realized all this, we decided to install almost 35 thousand showers, 16 thousand washing machines and 21 thousand vacuum cleaners in the barracks during the year. We bought the most modern equipment for wet cleaning and organized meals according to the “buffet” system. We developed, ordered production at domestic enterprises and gave all military personnel convenient and high-quality field and everyday uniforms made of modern materials. The presence of such equipment where previously there was always only a mop and a bucket is now perceived as a completely normal and ordinary thing. And so gradually, gradually in all directions.”
Essentially, it started from the most basic utilities that waste time and focus, and moved upwards to everything else.
Following the switch in state of mind, the time came to equip the forces with modern weapons.
“In parallel with the transformation of the army itself, the president decided to carry out a program to modernize the military-industrial complex to re-equip troops with modern equipment and weapons. And today I have no doubt that by 2020 we will bring the level of equipment of troops with modern weapons to 70 percent, having increased it by almost 4 times since 2012.”
Shoigu further shed some light on fighting against terrorists in Syria, saying that the Russian army didn’t go there and fight against cavemen with spears and stones.
“We fought with the largest terrorist organization of many thousands, or rather, the system. Let me remind you that it enjoyed the support of individual countries interested in the instability of the region. The terrorists were armed with hundreds of tanks, multiple launch rocket systems, armored vehicles and hundreds of thousands of tons of ammunition that had been seized from the armies of Iraq and Syria in previous years, and had hundreds of trained suicide bombers. It had the most advanced technology, including communications equipment and intelligence equipment.”
The conversation then moved past fighting terrorists in Syria towards a possible large-scale conflict, possibly with the United States. Shoigu was also asked of strategic areas in which Russia was weaker and would need to improve on in the future.
“The question you asked is not simple. Perhaps it is not suitable for an interview such as this. But I will still try to answer it.
I hope that there is no possibility of a full-scale war today. And all the risks and consequences that such a full-scale war entails are obvious to everyone. Regarding the third world war, there are a very large number of different statements.
The most accurate and adequate of them seems to me: “I do not know what kind of war the third world war will be. But I know for sure that it will be the last.”
However, if we talk about the number of threats to our country, then they don’t get any less in number or smaller.
The United States has already withdrawn from two important nuclear arms control treaties. So far, the START-3 treaty remains, which is also under discussion in the USA: to renew it or not to renew it?
As a result of this approach, the world is becoming more unpredictable and less secure. At the current level of informatization and automation, there is a high probability of errors in the weapons control system.
That is why recently issues of ensuring information security have come to the fore.
When you are aware of your vulnerability and are interested in maintaining balance and universal equal security, it makes you turn on your head.
And when you think how the United States continues to believe that the balance of power develops in its favor by inertia, a variety of ideas may come to your head, including not the most reasonable ones.
It is in this situation that I see now the main threat, and not only for Russia.”
Regarding the situation in relations with Ukraine, the interviewer reminded that Kiev threatens entering Moscow with tanks, however unlikely that is.
“I don’t even want to think about it. I really hope that the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian authorities have enough will, strength and ability to cool those hot heads that call for such stupidity and a crazy plot. Extremists in Ukraine need to be stopped, once and for all. It is a pity that this has not been done before.”
He further said that the Ukrainians are brothers and he believed that they would live in peace.
Shoigu further said that the concept of “military reform” in Russia should be permanent, it shouldn’t be an end-goal but rather a philosophy through which to operate the entire system.
He said that the reform is, in a large part, due to the West’s “democratic values” that attempt to overthrow any political leadership that doesn’t fit with the agenda.
“But the meaning of what is happening, from my point of view, is as follows: in the West, patterns and algorithms for overthrowing any legal authority inconvenient for them in any country have long been created.
Of course, all this is done under the banner of promoting democracy. Well, in which country where they “came with democracy” did this democracy take root: in Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya?
Or in the former Yugoslavia, which they forcibly divided into 6 countries with their “democratic” bombing in 1999.
And you can simply forget about sovereignty and independence after any American intervention.
And does it surprise anyone that in Libya the majority of oil deposits belong to American or US-controlled companies?
Our Western colleagues like to accuse Russia of waging some kind of “hybrid wars” there. But I must say that the West itself is waging the real hybrid wars.”
In terms of military budget, Shoigu repeated Putin saying that despite the US budget being 10 times as big as the Russian budget for defense, the Russian Armed Forces are more than capable of effectively opposing the US.
“And besides this, we are not trying to compete with them on all fronts. If you put the US military budget on the shelves, understanding will come to you: they have huge expenses for various bases scattered all over the world. America has 170 such bases.
The American costs of the same operation in Afghanistan alone are almost equal to our annual defense budget. Gigantic money is being spent by the United States on private military companies, on aircraft carrier groups. But does Russia really need five to ten aircraft carrier groups, if we are not going to attack anyone?”
Moving on to dialogue between the militaries of the US and Russia, Shoigu said that on some topics the two sides are in contact each day.
“Where it is required – for example, in Syria – we are in contact every day.
And we absolutely clearly understand each other and do not cross the line that we agreed not to cross. By the way, in Syria we are in constant contact not only with the US military, but also with the military of Turkey and Israel. And here everything is debugged. We also have contacts with the US military at the level of the General Staff.
Also, these contacts, in general, are quite constructive. I really hope that we and the USA will come to contacts of a higher level. Of course, one has to take into account the changes in the ministers of defense of the United States and its allies. When creating close working relationships, this causes certain difficulties.”
Other than that Shoigu spoke of compulsory military service, hazing, organizing a potential different kind of command structure in the Russian Armed Forces.
He concluded by saying that he dreams of going back to Siberia to live a peaceful life with his family.
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