The first deputy minister of defense, Vladimir Popovkin, told journalists how his ministry is planning to spend the 19 trillion rubles (about $650 billion) allocated to the State Armament Program for 2011-2020. According to Popovkin, who will oversee the program, about 10 percent of this money - about $70 billion - will go to the strategic triad.

As far as the strategic forces are concerned, the key elements of the program have been discussed for some time now. If all goes according to the plan, the Navy will get eight Project 955 submarines with Bulava missiles. That hasn't changed since the early days of the Project 955 program, although the previous plan was to have eight submarines in service by 2015. We'll see how this one works.

Unlike the Navy, the strategic aviation is not expected to get any new systems - the program apparently calls for modernization of the existing planes. It is not clear if the bomber fleet will be cut - the 2007-2015 armament program called for reducing the number of bombers to 50 (from what was 79 then).

The program will aim at completing deployment of the network of new early-warning radars, which would provide full coverage of the periphery of the country. Construction of radars in Lekhtusi, Armavir, Irkutsk, and Kaliningrad are clearly part of this effort. It looks like Popovkin also mentioned new early-warning satellites, but from the press reports it is hard to tell exactly what the plans regarding those satellites are.

The part of the program that will likely to be the most controversial is the new "heavy" liquid-fuel ICBM. The ministry of defense issued a call for proposals for the new missile in December 2009 and it looks like it will materialize in some shape or form. ARMS-TASS quotes a source in the industry as saying that the missile would be ready by 2018. Popovkin defended the program saying that Russia needs a new MIRVed missile to deal with U.S. missile defense. Which, of course, it doesn't, but one can see that the industry would be happy to spend the money as long as it's there. Also, I'm sure that the thinking is that the new MIRVed ICBM could come handy as a bargaining chip in the missile defense discussions with the United States. It won't work this way, of course, but we should prepare ourselves for endless discussions of the interrelationship between offense and defense.

The massive increase of the military budget is hardly surprising and should not be alarming on its own - a country does need an army. However, there is a question of whether the money is spent wisely. As far as the strategic forces are concerned, I think the answer is no - the armament program very much tried to replicate the Soviet strategic triad, even if at a lower level. It appears that the key funding principle is to give money to every program that the industry has a realistic chance of implementing, without asking whether a program is really necessary or why it would strengthen national security. We know that the Russian industry can be good in building large liquid-fuel missiles, but that should not be a sufficient reason to start building one.

This is a very Soviet approach to military planning and it shows how little strategic thinking is going on in Moscow. I'm afraid that Russia will eventually find itself in the same situation as the Soviet Union did - with a pile of expensive hardware that is useless as far as the security of the country is concerned. With the strategic forces that's where it seems to be heading.

UPDATE 03/12/2011: Here is, by the way, a good tally of what happened to the previous armament program.