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Medvedev takes on Russia's outdated military-industrial complex

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday that the Defense Ministry should open its contracts to bidding by foreign firms if Russian products didn't fit the bill.

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (C) speaks with Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov (l.) and Defense Minister Anatoly Serduk (r.) at the presidential residence at Gorki outside Moscow July 12. Medvedev urged the Russian military on Tuesday to buy weapons from abroad in order to ensure its forces are properly armed, highlighting mounting concern over a decrepit industry.

Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Reuters

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Russia's ambitious $730-billion rearmament program appears to be stalling amid skyrocketing prices, late deliveries and, in some cases, the sheer inability of Russia's military industries to deliver the goods.

Experts say the increasingly frustrated tone of public statements by Russian leaders, including President Dmitry Medvedev, suggests that they are only now fully realizing that the once-mighty Soviet military-industrial complex, which produced everything from bullets to intercontinental missiles, is irreparably shattered.

In a testy meeting with top military officials Tuesday, Mr. Medvedev voiced the previously unthinkable idea that the Defense Ministry should open its contracts to bidding by foreign firms if Russian products were too pricey or substandard.

Earlier this year, Medvedev sacked several top industry managers over unfulfilled contracts, and last week he ordered a full investigation into claims by one of the country's top weapons designers, Yury Solomonov, that the 2011 military procurement program had been "botched."

"We're dealing with a systemic problem here, and nobody knows what to do about it," says Vitaly Shlykov, a former Soviet war planner and ex-deputy defense minister of Russia. "After 20 years of doing nothing about the decay of our defense industries, they've just unexpectedly noticed it. If they go ahead and spend the vast sums of money they're talking about (on new Russian military equipment) it's obvious that much of it will just be wasted or stolen."

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