Norms and Values
UAVs in the Air, at Sea, on Land and in Semantic Space: A PR Tool or Weapons of the Future?
List of speakers

On January 31, the Valdai Club held an online discussion, titled "Unmanned Weapons and Artificial Intelligence: Is Russia Ready for the Challenges of Modern Tactical Warfare?" The discussion moderator Oleg Barabanov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion  Club, pointed to the acuteness of the topic and the importance of combat drones in recent military conflicts. He asked the participants how high the combat effectiveness of UAVs is in reality, compared to their effectiveness in terms of PR, as well as  how far along Russia has progressed with its own unmanned weapons.

Dmitry Stefanovich, Research Fellow of the Centre for International Security at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO RAS), pointed out that Russia had started to deal with drones too late and, in addition, is experiencing problems developing their electronic components. Now the situation is improving, but the leap to a higher level has not yet been made. In the field of UAV exports, Russia also remains on the side lines. Drones are a very broad category, he said. Unmanned aerial vehicles can perform many different functions, and in addition to UAVs, there are surface and underwater drones, as well as land ones - and Russia is investing very seriously in these areas. Speaking about the Karabakh conflict, Stefanovich noted that drones acted as a means of reconnaissance and target designation rather than strike weapons. Apparently, the Azerbaijani forces hit most of the targets with the help of traditional means, and not with the help of Bayraktars, but it is important that everything worked as part of a system.

Vasily Kashin, Director of the Centre for Comprehensive European and International Studies, Higher School of Economics, explained Russia's lag in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles, citing two factors. First, the leap in this area in the West coincided with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the associated systemic crisis. Second, there were problems with the understanding of unmanned technologies by the Russian military brass, and the realistic requirements and requests for a new type of equipment from the RF Armed Forces were formulated only after a marked delay. However, as Kashin emphasised, unmanned aircraft are good because they allow you to quickly and successfully catch up, which Russia is actively engaged in. The expert also stressed that now the remotely controlled aircraft are no more important than autonomous systems which use artificial intelligence - and Russia has made great strides in this area. An important feature of such devices is that a clear boundary does not yet exist between military and civilian technologies. This means that the money invested in it can bring significant economic returns.