Russia, Technology, and Defense
In summary, it looks like: A) Russia will spend huge amounts of money over the next several years in an effort to become a world player in nanotech development; B) at least in the early stages, that spending will focus mostly on early-generation nanoscale technologies, and not on molecular manufacturing; and C) this announcement, and the language used in making it, would suggest that an arms race built around nano-enabled weapons is more likely now than it was before
It might be worthwhile to place this in a little more context. Much technology in the United States, including the technology that this post exploits in the form of the Internet, solid-state electronics, and integrated circuitry was developed with heavy subsidies from the Department of Defense. But we’ve also developed lots of other technology that didn’t receive subsidies from the military or, indeed, from government in any form.
The Soviet Union is less than 20 years gone. During the Communist Party’s seventy year rule of Russia the country, of course, was a command economy and, since there was precious little entrepeneurship or private enterprise during that period, nearly all of the technology (and the Soviet Union was a technological leader in many areas) was developed with government subsidies and those subsidies were heavily weighted towards technologies with military applications.
Since the collapse of the Soviet system, although much has changed the system of financing technological research hasn’t:
“In my 15 years of observations since the collapse of the USSR and my involvement in defense convergence projects, I find that one crucial problem persists” in Russia, Barbanel [ed. Jack Barbanel, executive managing director of the Moscow-based Strategic Investment Group] told an audience of roughly 100 at last week’s Semi Expo/CIS2006 conference here. “Despite the government’s active role in support of both domestic and foreign investments in high technology, the concept of separate defense and commercial sectors is foreign from a financial-model point of view.”
That should brighten your day.