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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Sees Military Leading on High-Tech

Itar-TassBauman Institute rector Igor Fedorov hosting the Public Chamber as Ivanov, second right, and Shokhin, left, look on.
First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov spoke Friday about the future of technology in Russia, painting a picture in which the military-industrial complex, rather than private enterprise, would lead the way forward.

"Generally, there is every reason to call the military-industrial complex the locomotive of diversification," he said, adding that it accounted for 30 percent to 35 percent of total domestic production.

This "locomotive" holds the key to breaking the country's dependence on oil and gas exports and "re-establishing Russia as a strong, thriving and influential government," Ivanov said at a session of the Public Chamber held at Moscow's Baumann Institute.

Dozens of members of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs attended the session, and its president, Alexander Shokhin, criticized the government's approach to encouraging technological innovation, in particular over its tax policy.

A visibly agitated Shokhin called for specific tax reforms that would drive private-sector advances in technology. Ivanov stopped short of promising them, and spoke of tax "optimization" in oblique terms.

Despite a highly educated work force, Russia's technology industry has fallen behind since the collapse of the Soviet Union, once a global leader in this field. Russia ranked 37th out of 81 countries in the Innovation Index released Friday by the Economist Intelligence Unit, showing that it has only 1.6 patents for every 1 million citizens. Cyprus has eight times more patents per capita than Russia, the study found.

Formerly defense minister, Ivanov was promoted in a February shakeup and put on an equal footing with First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who heads up the four national projects. The two are widely seen as the leading contenders to succeed President Vladimir Putin next March.

Since Ivanov's promotion, he has been given control over 26 of his own federal projects, mainly having to do with industry and technology, and has since seen his poll ratings climb dramatically, in some showings outpacing Medvedev.

On Friday, he did not miss the chance to boast how much money had been set aside to support these programs over the next three years. "It is a total of 1,314,033,000,000 rubles," he said before twice repeating this figure, which comes to around $50 billion, and adding, "It's an impressive sum, isn't it?"

Above all, the projects will go toward supporting innovation, especially in fields such as transport and nanotechnology, he said. "These federal projects must all be open and subject to the strictest possible control because there is such an enormous sum [devoted to them]."

Even the medical equipment industry, which Ivanov called "one of the most criminalized," should be brought under the umbrella of the military-industrial complex if it is to avoid stagnation, he said.