Russia’s Ministry of Defence has embarked on a construction programme that is similar in scale to the rebuilding that took place after the Second World War.
The projects stretch from the Arctic Circle to Syria, and from Kaliningrad on the Polish border to the Kuril Islands on the border with Japan. In 2016, more than 2,500 buildings were added to the military estate with a total area of 2.7 million sq m.
As well as conventional military installations such as radar stations, cadet schools and bases, the schemes included waterworks, airports, medical facilities, residential buildings, schools and kindergartens, landfills and marinas.
Deputy defence minister Timur Ivanov, giving an interview to Russian business website Kommersant, said the largest of the projects involved the construction of port facilities for submarines at Novorossiysk and accommodation for two missile brigades in the Southern Military District.
To carry forward such a large and diversified programme, Russia’s armed forces are forming a "unified military-building complex" by the forming 114 companies of the Spetsstroy construction agency into 18 state enterprises, a process that is due to be complete before July of this year. Spetsstroy itself has been dismantled.
Demand from this body has the potential to offset the sharp decline in orders from other state clients. Ivanov said: "Construction is one of the industries hardest hit by cuts in funding. The problem is caused not only by a complex financial and economic situation, but the sharp decline in orders from major state bodies.
And in the absence of megaprojects comparable in scale to the Sochi Olympics, the industry is struggling. However, in the sphere of military construction, the situation is better, because the Ministry of Defence guarantees the sustainable financing of the sector."
From a technical point of view, the building campaign has led to a standardised modular approach to repeatable structures like canteens, dormitories, barracks and administrative buildings. Reinforced concrete was the default option for these buildings, but this has been replaced by steel frames.
Ivanov said: "The use of standard solutions allows a 30% reduction in design and survey works, halves the period need to examine project documentation and reduces the costs of survey work is not 5 billion rubles ($83m) a year."
What they are building
In the present round of building, a permanent port will be installed at Russia’s naval base in Tartus, Syria. Russia has held the facility on the eastern Mediterranean since the early 1970s as a logistics and maintenance centre, but now it will be expanded into a harbour capable of basing 11 ships headed by a vice admiral.
Work is expected to take two to three years to complete.
In the Arctic, Russia will begin more than 100 military infrastructure projects this year. Sputnik News reports that more than 200 pieces of construction equipment and nearly 1,000 workers will be deployed across six Arctic locations, including Franz Josef Archipelago, the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, the New Siberian archipelago and the Wrangel Island.
Trade flows through the Arctic are expected to grow once global warming has caused permanent ice to recede. Ships using this route between China and Europe have 40% lower fuel costs, compared with a passage through the Suez Canal, however a recent report by the Copenhagen Business School last year suggested that it may be 2040 before large cargo ships use it.
Photograph: Russian navel infantrymen training in Vladivostok (Vitaliy Ankov/Creative Commons)