Ever since the U.S. has been trying to isolate Russia on the world stage, the need to move on to import substitution has become the cornerstone for the Russian leadership. The problem of restoration of all segments of the industry, especially in the military-industrial complex, is discussed at the top level now. International journalist Yuri Ursov shared his views on the subject with Pravda.Ru.
"For 20 years, the Russian industry has been declining. Specialists would leave the country, engineers would turn into market vendors, military factories would offer their premises for rent. Can it all be recovered?"
"Is it necessary and it is real to recover. Sanctions contribute to this like a blessing in disguise. Russia needs import substitution. The world is now facing a threat of World War III and the expansion of NATO forces with the catalyst in the form of the Ukrainian conflict.
"As far as I know, in the defense industry, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, tries to overcome many evils and vices of corruption. Electro-information support suffers most, but the facilities that we have in Zelenograd (the Moscow region) could create the elementary base, if they had not been destroyed and sold to Western corporations. The second problem that has now appeared in connection with the events in Ukraine - it goes about boosters that were made at the Southern Machine-Building Plant in Dnepropetrovsk."
"So the main problem for today's Russia is the collapse of the system that was built during the Soviet period, i.e. cooperation in the defense industry with the republics of Belarus, Ukraine, etc.?"
"Not exactly. In Kharkiv, for example, there are different areas of the defense industry. There are strategic missiles. We designed a strategic missile, constructed, developed it and put into production in 1985. This weapon can be reproduced for 30 years. Tanks need to be updated faster. Planes need to be updated every five years. We can not replace tanks. Tanks are produced at the famous Kharkiv Tank Bureau, which designed the T-34 tank."
"Why did Putin pay special attention to the industry and guaranteed additional funding to the defense sector?"
"Because Russia needs to build strategic missiles. The only thing that now stops NATO from talking to Russia, not listening to the Russian opinion, is strategic missiles. In the near future, Russia will look into the problem to replace boosters and, accordingly, the maintenance of rockets in connection with the events in Ukraine. With regard to electronic security, all electronic components for the creation of state-of-the-art information systems are manufactured in China. Therefore, in this area, sanctions do not threaten us with anything. There were sanctions during the Soviet times, but the USSR would import new products through Finland to be reproduced on the territory of the Soviet Union.
"How much time would it take to replace something with Chinese or our own developments?"
"The problem is not about obtaining a technology. The problem is about obtaining and training personnel. We do not have that, but we have a program developed by the Military-Industrial Commission, which provides for a number of economic incentives. At universities, they will finally prepare defense industry engineers, not just lawyers, journalists, economists, etc., as it was a fashion before. It should be understood that these technologies are not about inventing new ways of roasting coffee beans. These are very complicated processes, and, of course, they may take five or ten years.
"What role do French Mistral vessels play in the Russian defense industry?"
"The Mistrals, as I understand it, are the legacy of the former defense minister and his former team. There are certainly a lot of different controversial moments there. I think that if Russia were going to buy these vessels now, no one would decide to buy them. It goes about the French warships, and the entire concept of the navy would have to be changed for them. Why does Russia need them? Where can Russia use them?
"If we talk about the aviation industry, experts say that we have been destroying our aviation industry for many years purposefully. There are a few Tupolev planes flying, but most of the Russian fleet consists of Boeing and Airbus aircraft. There are no more Russian planes. How can we restore the Russian aircraft building?"
"A lot of money was spent to destroy the Russian civil aviation industry. Yeltsin and his government approved many documents that strangled the industry, not only aviation, but the heavy industry in general. But aircraft industry was particularly noticeable. At that time, there were only five countries that produced aircraft: France, America, Germany, Brazil and the Soviet Union. Even China, it seems to me, was not an aircraft maker at the time.
"The example of the Russian aviation industry shows what happens in the economy in general and in the models of relations between powerful states on the world market and the weak ones. Due to the lack of the work capital, aircraft-making factories were killed, and they were forced to do anything to survive. A production cycle to make an airplane is not a cycle of three months. This is a year, at the very least. The USSR used to produce 30 aircraft per month, of all modifications. Now Russia makes not more than five a year."
"They used to say that it was all because competition, that domestic aircraft did not win against foreign producers, the same story with cars ..."
"Foreign companies do not have any advantages, except for economical engines. The West started selling us used Boeing, used Airbus planes, etc. There were scandals, when they were released even from customs duties. And then, foreign companies opened a very large sales market for themselves. At this stage, Airbus and Boeing were not competing much with each other, as they had a lot to sell here in Russia, there was enough space for them here.
"The second step was technical maintenance. All coloring works and ameliorations were made on their base. The foreign companies thus received extra income for many years. At the moment, since there is no special support from the state, aircraft-making was left to the mercy of fate. There are not many prospects, but if they do impose sanctions, up to the withdrawal of Boeing and Airbus, it will be a positive move. We had a strong aviation industry, and we will be able to restore it. Such sanctions are not likely to take place, because they will affect economic interests of large companies - they will not let politicians do that.
"In this regard, it was reported that NPO Energomash of Russia will not fall under the sanctions, and Boeing will be able to continue cooperating with the Russian company in rocket and missile engineering."
"Yes, but at the same time, the Americans seriously intensified the work to develop their launch vehicles. US boosters are weak, and they still can not reach the level of the rockets that we were creating 30 years ago. Their boosters can not take many tons of cargoes to orbit."
"What will happen to the Ukrainian companies, which Russia was cooperating with in the field of defense?"
"It depends on what the outcome of the conflict will be. If Ukraine does not preserve independence, it will be a different country, if the breakaway republics separate from the country. Ukraine is not a space power, it does not have strategic missile troops, so Ukrainian defense companies will die.
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The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969