By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor
As I first reported back in February, Russia is moving forward with the development of its own DARPA. Ruler-for-Life Vladimir Putin has sent a bill to the Duma to establish the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry, which Wired has dubbed DARPASKI.
The establishment of the foundation will be overseen by hardline Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, whom Putin appointed last December as defense czar with the goal of cleaning up the corruption-prone defense and error-prone space sectors.
(The latter effort, incidentally, seems to be working; the Russians haven’t blown up any rockets for six months. Either Rogozin has instituted some serious reforms, or he has scared the living crap out of everyone with the consequences of further failures. My guess is mostly the latter.)
Rogozin said DARPASKI would take charge of “all high-risk and fundamental research projects in the military-industrial complex.” That’s a very broad mandate, one that could be broader than its American counterpart.
Interesting, DARPA was originally founded in February 1958 as a response to Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik, which embarrassed the United States and created widespread fears about America losing its technological advantage. Now the Russians, fearing they are being left behind by other nations, are attempting to emulate it.
And that’s not the only American innovation it is copying. Following a visit to Silicon Valley in 2010, then President (and now Prime Minister) Dmitry Medvedev decided Russia needed one of its own. So, the Russian government is building a brand new tech city called Skolkovo outside of Moscow.
The main difference is that while America’s Silicon Valley grew up largely generically, Russia’s version is a top-down government project being overseen at the highest level. That makes one wonder if Medvedev really understood what he was seeing when he visited Palo Alto.