OREANDA-NEWS. Vladimir Putin spoke at the expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board devoted to the progress of military reform and the Armed Forces’ work in 2013.

Taking part in the meeting are chief commanders of the different branches and types of armed forces, the heads of the central military command bodies, and the command staff of military districts, fleets, groups and particular armed forces units. Representatives of the Presidential Executive Office, Government, Federal Assembly, a number of other federal government bodies, and veterans’ and public organisations are also in attendance.

By tradition the Board’s expanded meeting takes place at the General Staff Academy building in Moscow.

Mr Putin presented state decorations to a group of military personnel.

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Speech at the expanded meeting of the Defence Ministry Board

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA VLADIMIR PUTIN: Good afternoon, colleagues,

During the Board’s expanded meeting today, we will discuss what changes have occurred in the Armed Forces this past year and which short- and long-term plans must be implemented.

Russia consistently advocates resolving all regional and international issues exclusively by peaceful, diplomatic means. But I must say that, as previously, military deterrence continues to play a very important role.

We can see that the situation in some regions of the world is very difficult. Armed conflicts continue in several Middle Eastern countries. The upcoming withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan in 2014 has the potential both to complicate the situation in that country and to create a significant zone of instability encompassing neighbouring Central Asian countries. This directly impacts on the Russian Federation’s national interests and our security.

We also know that most of the world’s leading countries are actively upgrading their military arsenals and investing huge sums in developing advanced weapons systems, including in those built with new generation technologies and according to new principles. Attempts to violate and disturb the strategic balance are ongoing; they are first and foremost related to US plans to build a missile defence system, including in Europe.

We must take into account all these potential challenges and threats our country faces, and work accordingly to further strengthen our Armed Forces.

I must say at once that a great deal has been done to this effect over the past year.

Six comprehensive combat-readiness snap inspections represented a serious test for the Armed Forces. For the first time, such inspections covered almost all different branches and types of armed forces throughout the country. In some cases, cooperation between the Army and federal and regional executive authorities was tested.

Of course, not everything is smooth here, not everything is as we would like, but the very purpose of such inspections is to identify weaknesses. This was accomplished, and conclusions were drawn. I very much hope and expect that all this will be integrated in further practical work. But overall, inspections uncovered positive trends in the military, and allowed us to assess realistically their capacities to solve challenges that were not known in advance, that suddenly presented themselves.

I would note the good organisation of the command and staff training exercises involving nuclear deterrence forces, which took place for the second time in modern Russian history. Land, navy and air forces successfully launched missiles and confirmed the reliability of Russia’s nuclear shield.

The combat capabilities of aerospace defence troops, especially the missile attack warning system, are improving. To date, this system covers all major missile-threat directions. Experts know perfectly well the problems in this field; we discussed them very recently in meetings with industry representatives. All are solvable and will be solved.

Our Navy has resumed a permanent presence in the Mediterranean Sea. During the past year all of our fleets made almost three times more trips into the Pacific Ocean than previously, and the number of regular long-range aviation flights increased too.

Special Operations Forces are being established to fight more effectively against international terrorism and to perform tasks outside Russian territory.

We witnessed good cooperation with our allies during the Russian-Belarusian Zapad-2013 strategic military exercises, as well as during drills and exercises involving units from a number of Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) members. Together with our allies we can respond much more effectively to potential security threats and challenges, and we need to continually hone the mechanisms governing such coordination.

The military has been supplied with new equipment, and this implies important qualitative changes. Very few delays remain regarding deliveries of equipment to the ground forces. I expect that in the very near future all orders will be fulfilled, especially because at present defence companies are not only updating their base, but are working at a good tempo, and have amassed experience of large-scale production, something they did not have previously, and have not had for a long time.

Thanks to their constructive dialogue, Defence Ministry officials and defence industry representatives have managed to resolve many problems and establish good contacts between the industry and its customers. Of course, much remains to be done in this respect. First of all we need to work at lowering prices and reducing costs, as well as improving the quality and reliability of special equipment. We will go over all this during our practical work today.

I would remind you that within a year 30% of the Army’s equipment should be new and modern. In 2014, the Armed Forces should receive more than 40 of the most advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles, more than 210 aircraft and helicopters, and more than 200 armoured vehicles. Two nuclear-powered missile carriers – Alexander Nevsky and Vladimir Monomakh – will be deployed in the Navy, and six new satellites will join the existing satellite orbital group.

Along with this, the Defence Ministry must provide all necessary infrastructure for deploying this new technology. In other words, we all know that it’s possible to use this technology without the appropriate infrastructure, but to do so is expensive and wasteful. You need to do everything in twenty-first-century fashion, so that this equipment is in service for as long as possible, serves the people by ensuring our country’s security.

We must create an effective platform for expert training. In general, we should continue improving the content of combat training, including by continuing the practice of conducting comprehensive snap inspections of different formations and units; these must occur in all branches and types of armed forces and in all military districts. The outcome of such combat training will be the Vostok-2014 strategic exercises, which will focus on military security issues in the eastern part of Russia.

In 2014 we also need to finalise work to increase the numbers of Armed Forces personnel and reach staffing levels of 95 to 100%.

We must continue enlisting soldiers and members of the non-commissioned officer corps. This year they exceeded 200,000: the actual number is 205,100. As the results of drills and exercises demonstrate, a growing number of professionals significantly increases our troops’ combat readiness. That much is clear. The more complex the technology, the better trained the professionals who operate it must be.

In addition, next year we must finish establishing new formations and units that are part of the Armed Forces’ potential combat strength. Along with this I would ask you to pay special attention to the deployment of infrastructure and military units in the Arctic. I am going to talk about this in more detail now.

Russia is actively exploring this promising region, returning to it, and should use all possible channels to protect its security and national interests.

I would like to use this occasion to thank the staff and professionals who accomplished complex tasks this year: we re-established our military base on the New Siberian Islands, which are crucial for monitoring the situation throughout the Arctic. Let me also remind you that this year we began to re-establish northern aerodromes, as well as those in the Arctic region: Temp, Tiksi, Naryan-Mar, Alykel, Anadyr, Rogachevo and Nagurskoye. They are at different stages of development but have nevertheless been established. Before the end of the year we plan – and I count on it being done – to conclude state contracts for preparing design documents to develop and essentially to revive Tiksi aerodrome and carry out construction work on the Severomorsk-1 aerodrome.