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Opening remarks at a Security Council Meeting on Developmental Prospects of the Russian Armed Forces for a period up to 2015

August 11, 2000, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimit Putin: Good morning. Today we are having a regular session of the Security Council devoted to an issue that has long been in preparation: the long-term strategy of the military development of Russia for a period up to 2015. It is an important issue not only for the Defence Ministry. It is an issue that affects, without exaggeration, the fate of the whole country and of every citizen. This is not a specialised issue. It is a national problem. Partly, it is a national problem because it requires immense resources. Not only the security of the state, but the well-being of its citizens depend on its correct solution. We already spend huge amounts of money on defence and security needs. We need a precise and clear understanding of the place and role of the Armed Forces, we need to assess precisely and clearly the threats facing Russia. We need an adequate and balanced military policy.

We have lived through a period of unbridled stockpiling of weapons. We all know how that period ended. It was one of the causes of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Where are these mountains of weapons today? Part of them fell into the hands of criminals and is being used against us. Part of them we have to dispose of today, at tremendous cost. Part of this weaponry is in other states. A lot of it is subject to be returned to Russia, but we have been unable to do it so far. Do you call that effective use of national resources? The answer is no.

If we look at the current situation it has to be admitted that the structure of expenditure is hardly optimal both in the Armed Forces and in all the security and military structures. We cannot describe it as optimal if, in spite of the significant investments the Government is making in the military, many units do not conduct military training. If our pilots do not fly and our sailors hardly ever go to sea, the question arises whether the structure of our Armed Forces is right?

The structure should match the threats Russia is facing and will face in the near-term historical perspective. Are our Armed Forces and security forces effective? Unfortunately not. And while today Russia is still capable of standing up to the threats it faces, we have to admit that much of the credit for this goes to the dedication and courage of the military. But one cannot endlessly exploit the human factor.

So, the key task facing us is to determine the strategy of the development of the Armed Forces up until the year 2015 taking into account our needs on the one hand and the potential of the state on the other. We should proceed from an understanding that our actions should be totally balanced, well considered and economically substantiated. Without economic validation, our plans are worthless because it is clear that they will not be fulfilled just like the plans for a military reform have not been fulfilled over the past ten years.

During the preceding months a large amount of work has been carried out to prepare this meeting of the Security Council. It was carried out by the Government’s economic unit, by the Defence Ministry and the Security Council. A complicated, many-sided and thorough review has been made of the state of the Armed Forces and the prospects of their development. Some issues have still to be agreed. I can say more: I have been fairly tolerant of the debates that have been going on in the Defence Ministry and in society as a whole (of course, debate is a natural thing in society). But today we must draw a line. We must take a balanced decision and make plans for its implementation.

August 11, 2000, The Kremlin, Moscow