Western arms manufacturers are struggling to increase production. Russia, meanwhile, seems to be taking the path of pressuring labor at defense industry enterprises. Presenting the bill, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, who oversees the defense industry, offered reassurance: “The amendments affect specifically the traditional main suppliers for state defense procurement and their work. The bills don’t entail the forced conversion of civilian small and medium-sized businesses for the needs of the armed forces, or the termination or revision of contracts between defense enterprises and contractors concluded outside state defense procurement.” According to Borisov, no one is talking about forced overtime. At least for now.
A rational person, Borisov understands that structural militarization on the Soviet model is in principle unthinkable under market conditions, even under such specific ones as in Russia. Soviet defense production was based on the so-called planned economy. In the Soviet Union, the overwhelming majority of components for defense production were manufactured at civilian factories. Effectively, Soviet people who bought trousers from the Bolshevichka factory or a Minsk-brand refrigerator financed the production of components for missiles and nuclear submarines. That is why the ban on other, better and cheaper goods in the domestic market was so important. Today, this seems unlikely.
Of course, the Soviet “defense industry” ministries could only exist if there was an omnipotent Gosplan, which allocated funds and set all prices in the country – for goods, for raw materials, for electronic and other various components – thus guaranteeing the necessary profitability of the defense industry. In the 1990s most of Soviet industry died. The current owners of long-reoriented enterprises don’t need defense orders at all, as they will inevitably make their main products more expensive and therefore less competitive. It is no coincidence that occasionally proposals have emerged within the government for a certain prodrazvyorstka, to oblige private manufacturers to produce military products, from which they have deliberately distanced themselves. But now the time for such a prodrazvyorstka seems to have come.
The new powers significantly expand the authority of bureaucrats and consequently their opportunities for corruption. Imagine that officials of a military agency and the Industry Ministry come to a businessman. In full accordance with the new law, they order him to reactivate the capacities indicated in their papers (God knows what happened to them over the last 30 years) and restart the production of some extremely important product at a price that they themselves have already determined. The businessman grabs his head: when he bought the factory, no one warned about mobilizational capacities. He understands that an attempt to restart production will completely and forever ruin his business. And then he is given the hint that a modest donation to some fund to support something will make everything go away. Moreover, if the size of the donation is worthy of attention, officials will go to his competitor with a mandate to produce an important defense product. Thus, the new powers of the government can be successfully transformed into a new source of rent.