Russia has recently embarked on the most massive military maneuvers since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Interestingly, the role of the Ground Forces was this time rather limited and it is the Navy and the Air Force which took center stage. The maneuvers, code name “Stability 2008” included the use of Tu-95MS and Tu-160 strategic rocket bombers, IL-86 inflight refueling aircraft, Tu-22M3 intermediate range heavy bombers, A-50M AWACs, Mig-31 and Su-27 interceptors as well as the participation of the Navy’s flagship the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov (and its Su-33 airwing) and one SSBN which set a record with its submerged launch of an SLBM with ten MIRVs to a distance of over 11’000km. Russia’s newest Topol-M mobile (land based) ICBM was also launched by the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces. There were also less noticed aspects to all this, including the use of at least 2’000 troops from the “Cosmic Defense Forces” tasked with anti-ballistic missile interception and destruction exercises. All this points to one very clear conclusion: the Russians were practicing for a major war, not a local conflict (indeed, according to some media reports, the maneuver’s scenario featured a joint Russian-Belarussian defense against a US-NATO attack).
In the West, the message was received loud and clear, this is why CNS news stated that this “show of force was extraordinary even by Cold War standards” (this is not literally true, but it’s close enough. For example, for the first time in Russian history a strategic Tu-95MS bomber fired *all* of its strategic (nuclear) cruise missiles).
So what are the Russians up to?
I think that these maneuvers have two intended audiences. First, of course, the “crazies” in the West who might seriously be contemplating a conflict with Russia but second, the Russian armed forces themselves whom President Medvedev is trying really hard to convince that the Brezhnev/Eltsin era is over once and for all and that the Russian government is really fully determined to not only restore, but even further develop Russia’s military power. For example, Medvedev was recorded talking about this with the crew of the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov (which is reportedly in need of repairs and upgrades) and this conversation was carried by the Russian military TV channel “Zvezda” for the rest of the country to see:
(sorry for the lack of translation, but the footage really says it all)
Medvedev’s words are not the usual empty promise which has been made to the Russian armed forces for over a decade now: it is an official and long-term commitment to take all the necessary measure to secure Russia’s ability to defeat threats against it at all levels: from local insurgents (like in Chechnia), to a local war (as in Georgia), to a major war against the NATO alliance (as shown by these exercises).
On the heels of a truly amazing total defeat inflicted on the US and Israeli financed, equipped and trained Georgian military in only 4 days, these recent maneuvers point to a very different conflict scenario: the resolve and capability to take on, if needed, Saakashvili’s Imperial patrons and an increasingly aggressive and arrogant NATO alliance.
While none of this is a “full spectrum dominance” a la Neocon, this definitely shows a “full spectrum defensive capability“. Hopefully, this message will also be understood by the crazies in charge in the White House, the Imperial Congress and the Pentagon.