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Modernization of the army - A tendency after the cold war
16/3/2011 10:16' Send Print

The “collapse without war” of the Soviet Union - one of the strongest military powers - makes quite a few nations feel that military force is no more significant as in a world there is no ideological confrontation between the two international political systems. However, continued wars, conflicts and increasingly fierce political and geo-economic contradictions after the dissolution of the Soviet Union have caused nations to return to traditional thinking that war with armed force is still the succession of politics. Hence a trend of military modernization in recent years.

The driving force of military modernization after the Cold War.

It is possible to find that the two major motivations behind military modernization after the Cold War are the existence of several threats of war and a new military revolution.

1- Threats of war exist in the world, regions and among nations.

First, the threat of war is prompted by the ambition to rule the world of some war-mongering forces. Since the middle of the 20th century, they have run after the strategic objective that is to become the world leader and ruler. That is also the cross-cutting objective of the US global strategy in the 21st century. That objective is unchanged despite American President Barrack Obama’s policy to “change” the US and the world. If changes do take place, they are only tactical changes. The US global strategy has always been in contrast with many nations’ interests and are the fundamental causes conducive to post-Cold War conflicts and wars. They are the Gulf War (1990), the war in Kosovo (1999), the war in Afghanistan (2001), the war in Iraq (2003) and the war in South Osetia (2008).

Second, the threat of war stems from contradiction of ideology. After the Cold War, ideological contradiction has still been one of the basic contradictions of the time in the evolution of human kind. The imperialist forces have never ceased its political and ideological attacks, but scaled up what they called “peaceful evolution” in combination with schemes to instigate chaotic subversion, and separation and bring pressure on “democracy” and “human rights” towards other countries and revolutionary and progressive forces in the world. In face of that situation, countries have staged struggles to oppose and wrought their attempts and plans.

Third, the threat of war comes as a result of national contradictions. These opposing contradictions lead to wars, one of which is the fight over natural resources. In the current development of the world, natural resources have played in extremely important role and have been one of the causes to conflicts and wars due to their uneven distribution in regions and countries. In its military modernization programme announced in 2008, the US’ overall objective was to prepare for the “resource war” in the 21st century.

Fourth, the threat of war stems from ethnic, racial and religious contradictions. After the Cold War, the world political and military situation has become unstable due to increasing conflicts relating to tense relations among nations, races and religions in some countries and regions. This tense situation has been capitalized on by war-mongering forces to instigate internal division and weakening nations.

Fifth, the threat of war stems from global non-traditional security danger. By the end of the 20th century and the early 21st century, global “non-traditional security” threat like terrorism, drug smuggling, and proliferation of mass anti-personnel weapons, transnational crimes and illegal migration. Those dangers have forced nations to beef up their military force.

These threats have also impacted each others due to close relations between globalization and international integration and national interests. In the coming years, the process of struggle and cooperation in the world scale will become for fierce and complicated. The threats of war have developed to different levels and the critical contradictions between hegemonistic and war-mongering imperialism and progressive, peace and justice-loving forces and nations are the overarching factor that leads to aggressive war.

2- New military revolution

In human history, there have been 6 military revolutions in the world.

The first military revolution took place when cold weapons such as knife, sword, crossbow, bow and arrows were made which rendered fundamental changes in the methods of war and establishment of the first professional army.

The second military revolution took place around the later half of the 8th century when explosives were invented-one of the greatest inventions in human history. Hardly has it produced when it was used in manufacturing a new generation of “hot” weapons such as riffle, motor and artillery.

The third military revolution took place in the later half of the 18th century which was closely linked with the first scientific and technological revolution ushered in by the invention of steam engine in 1784 by James Watts (1736-1819). It marked the start of mechanization in industrial production which turned out military vehicles like warship and tanks.

The forth military revolution took place in late 19th century and early 20th century which was closely linked with the second scientific and technological revolution. Many inventions were used by the army to manufacture new weapons that resulted in restructuring of military organization and formation of new technical arms.

The fifth military revolution related to the manufacture of nuclear weapon. It is possible to confirm that nuclear weapons were a driving force of one of the biggest military revolution due to their horrible anti-personnel and destructive force.

The sixth military revolution called the new military revolution started since early 1070s of the 20th century under impact of the third scientific and technological revolution. It created war means of completely different specifications such as high accuracy, remote-control or automatic, transnational or global coverage. If in the Second World War, dozens of tons of bombs and shells were used to destroy a tank or a piece of artillery, now only on missile or a motor shell can wipe out the same target. In the past to eradicate a strategic target in the enemy’s territory, aircraft or ground force should be dispatched to encroach upon adversary’s territory. Now with new and high precision weapons, there is no need to enter adversary’s airspace or territory. That is why; almost all countries have to procure new arms to replace existing war means hence a “fever’ in the world weapon market.

Major areas of military modernization.

Almost all of countries in the world have consolidated their military force in three major areas.

First, modernization of weaponry. The rigorous development of science and technology and military technology is the driving force of improvement of weapons, creating a qualitative leap in weapon equipment. At the same time, the cycle of renovation of war arsenal has been increasingly shortened. Some weapons become outdated before they are used. This situation forces countries to unceasingly renew their arsenal, and basically changes their thinking on building and developing defense industry. For example, Russia aims to completely replace their ordinary weapon arsenal equipped since the time of the Soviet Union. China does not manufactures weaponry en mass but perfects the manufacturing technical process and stands ready to produce weaponry en mass at time of war. They have also embarked on researching and developing new weapon systems.

Second, reform army organization. Almost all of countries have streamlined their army, reducing remarkably their infantry force and increasing the navy and air force. By the end of 2010, Russia cut down on their troop strength from three million to below one million. China reduced their troop strength from five million to around two million. Many countries like the US, Russia and China established rapid-deployment force or task force, war information army, space army and integrated force which have functions of different armies, staffed with high quality officers equipped with modern weapons and communication system. These countries have also paid much attention to modernizing military command system at all levels.

Third, renovate military theory. New arms equipment, and army restructure in the new political-military setting require development of military theory such as concept of war and peace, forms of war, military strength, and targets and partners. Thus comprehensive renovation of military theory has been a major military issue in many countries.

Methods to beef up military strength

Depending on their political institution and socio-economic conditions, countries have had different methods to consolidate their military strength.

Independence and autonomy. This is the method that followed by big powers with economic, scientific and technological potential like the US, Russia, France, Great Britain, Germany, India and China. However, in the process of globalization, even countries which are considered military powers like the US and Russia have set up joint-programmes and projects on weapon manufacture with other countries. For economic, political and military interests, this tendency has been promoted. Though international cooperation in arms production, the US attempts to make other countries politically and economically dependant.

International cooperation and procurement in the world market. Under the influence of military globalization and establishment of the thriving weapon market in the world, countries which are less economic, scientific and technological potential to design and manufacture weapons, are often engaged on cooperation programmes with other countries to study, develop and procure arms in the world market. China and India have partnered with Russia in manufacturing modern weaponry like aircraft, warship, and missile and space military technology. South Korea has entered into partnership with the US and Russia in many different areas to manufacture land and sea armament to develop military satellite. Arms procurement has been the most notable tendency in recent years. At present, it is possible to buy all kinds of modern weapons in the world market. Russia has experimented the fighting aircraft of the fifth generation and is prepared to sign export agreement with India. Russia has exported to many countries the air-defense missile S-300 which is valued as the most modern weapons in the world. It can intercept several air-born weapons such as ballistic missile, cruise missile and supersonic aircraft.

According the Russian Center for International Armament Analysis and the International Peace Research Institute, since 2001 to 2008, the total imported weapon in the world increased 2.55 times from USD 22,071 billion in 2001 to 65.029 billion in 2008. The number of countries which imported weapons raises to 153 and that of arms exporter was to up 78. It means that most of the countries in the world have to procure armament in the world market.

The tendency of consolidating military strength in Asia

Asia is known as one of the most dynamic regions as far as military strength is concerned. It is where several countries possess nuclear weapons one of which is the “nuclear hot spot” Korean peninsula. The region also sees the convergence of many geo-politic and geo-economic contradictions like disputes over influence, border, territorial and sea water disputes which can easily lead to conflicts and war. Besides those traditional threats, the region also faces other nontraditional danger such as racial and religious contradictions, transnational crimes, drug smuggling and illegal migration etc... Those threats force Asian countries to increase their military strength with different strategic goals. In that tendency of military modernization, it is possible to divide Asian countries into three groups.

The first group includes Russia, China and India. In recent years Russia has set great store by comprehensively reform the army. It has developed and equipped the army with the “strategic triad” including the new generation intercontinental ballistic missiles which can operate on land like “Topol-M” with range of more than 10,000 km, updated strategic bomber Tu-160 equipped with the long-range cruise missile X-555; new-generation submarine equipped with strategic missile and newly-built aircraft carrier equipped with “smart” ordinary weapons. Russia aims to replace its old ordinary arsenal built during the time of the Soviet Union. China changes its thinking from relying on the mass to relying on the strength of modern weapons, is ready to seize the upper hand in high-tech local war and strives to become a military power by 2020. Its objective is from 2020 to 2050, the Chinese army will join the world leading powers which are able to stage and win wars of whatever scales by whatever kind of weapon. Due to its geo-political position, India has to cope with security challenges from different sides. It has given priority to strengthen its national defense potentiality, modernize its army based on building national defense industrial groups and step up its multilateral military technical cooperation with Russia, the US, Israel, France and Germany.

The second group of the US’ alliance. After the Second War, Japan has several times readjusted its military strategy, gradually developed its Defense Department into the Defense Ministry. Currently, Japan is exploiting its economic and industrial potential, including space industry, developing defense industry, modernizing air force and navy. It has deployed missile defense system with an aim to join the US missile defense system and to form a global missile system. South Korea has also encountered challenges from all sides. It has military modernization gears to form elite, flexible and mobile armed forces. Its infantry, air force and navy are modernized and equipped with high-tech weapons based on strong defense industry built after the US model. South Korea have developed projects “The air force vision to 2030”, “The infantry vision by 2010” and The navy vision by 2020 which have constituted its military doctrine to cope with challenges in the first decades of the 21st century.

Group of some ASEAN countries. Since the 1990’s of the 20th century, due to their high economic growth, some ASEAN countries started their military modernization. On the one hand, they were faced with new threats to their security which came from geo-political, geo-economic conflicts and internal security. On the other hand they made use of the cheap weapon market after the Cold War and achievements of the new military revolution and diversified their armament sources. Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippine modernized their army to be able to take part in military maneuvers with US. Sources of weapons for some ASEAN countries have come from the US (for aircraft F-16, F-18, f-4, F-5E/F); China, India and Russia (for MiG-29, MiG-27, Su 30, Su-35, air defense missiles and warship). In general, their aims are to strength the existing potentiality and seek new ones in future, first and foremost in the field of air force and navy.

Challenges to Vietnam

Vietnam is situated in an area where competition and geo-political conflicts are taking place. It is one of the targets of hostile forces. That is why Vietnam has to realize two strategic objectives of building and defending the country. Thus, consolidating military strength is an objective imperative for Vietnam. The military White Book on Vietnamese military published in 2010 stated that the Vietnamese defense is the national defense which is based on the integrated strength of the country, the great national unity, the political system led by the Communist Party of Vietnam, the combined strength of the nation and the time and the combined strength of the military force and the national defense with the national security force. Vietnam’s policy is to build the revolutionary army of Vietnam- an elite, seasoned and modernized regular army with revolutionary character as the most decisive factor. This is a fundamental difference between the Vietnamese army with armies of other countries. Vietnam does not start any arm race but elevate its military strength to maintain the peaceful and stable environment for socio-economic development and industrialization and modernization./.

Le The Mau