Since Putin sacked Serduikov and replaced him with Shoigu, the Russian military has been regularly tested in surprise large-scale military exercises involving a sudden order to prepare for battle typically followed by a long distance move to an unknown location. This time it is the the Eastern Military District which has undergone such a readiness test, but on a scale previously unknown. It involved an emergency relocation from the city of Khabarovsk on Russian mainland to the port of Vanino and then to the island of Sakhalin. On average, the forces had to travel 3’000km to get to their destination.
A total of 160’000 soldiers, 1’000 tanks, 130 aircraft and 70 navy ships where involved. The military command declared that “our Far Eastern neighbors were informed of these maneuvers”. What the command did not say, but everybody in the region no doubt understood, is that this was a clear message sent to Japan: Russia can rapidly and effectively reinforce its forces currently deployed on Sakhalin, so do not threaten us there.
This is a Russian TV report about these exercises (in Russian only):
This begs the question whether Japan did threaten Russia or not. The answer is “not directly”.
Over the past decade Japan did reinforce its armed forces which are less and less “defensive” and which regularly acquire better projection capabilities. The Japan as a country never threatened Russia, but there are enough Japanese politicians who did exactly that, not only in regards to the so-called “Northern Territories” issue, but also with hostile statement concerning the Russian presence on Sakhalin. The real problem which these latest maneuvers tackle is not really a Japanese one, but a Russian one: for years the Russian military forces in the Far East have been neglected and their level or readiness reduced to an almost comical level. Yes, some elite forces (nuclear, airborne, navy) were in pretty decent shape, but the bulk of the ground forces has been completely neglected. With time, this resulted in a great sense of weakness and even vulnerability not only amongst the well-informed specialists, but also in the general public, in particular in Siberia.
The purpose of these latest large-scale exercises is to demonstrate the viability of the new Russian military doctrine in which each of the four Strategic Commands is in complete control of all the forces in its area of responsibility and each Strategic Command can autonomously deal with any contingency. In other words, the Eastern Strategic Command should be able to repel a Japanese attack on Sakhalin or even the entire Russian Far East autonomously, without external reinforcements or assistance. The key test of this latest exercise is whether forces usually dispersed all over the huge Eastern Strategic Command area of responsibility could be rapidly moved and concentrated on Sakhalin. So far, it appears that the exercise was generally successful, but with some rather embarrassing screw-ups including a 10 hour delay to refuel some aircraft in Khabarovsk.
I would add that if the “defending” forces were all drawn from the Eastern Strategic Command, the “attacking forces” are being moved in from the other Russian Strategic Commands, some as far as from 8’000km away.
|Defense Minister Shoigu|
Shoigu is clearly determined not only to immediately make such screw-ups public, but also to continue “hunting” for such weaknesses all over the Russian military. Previous exercises had revealed some very bad weaknesses in the readiness of some ground forces and some major issues of command and control which were immediately addressed. Other exercises were pleasant surprises with, for example, the Airborne Forces or the Black Sea Fleet performing exceptionally well.
Does all this really matter to the rest of the planet?
I would say that it does, and a great deal. Simply put, Russia cannot fulfill its role of major power unless its military is in good shape. The Russian economy is still relatively small, and many years of “democratic” rule under Eltsin have terribly weakened Russia as an ally (how can an American colony be considered as a useful ally). The fact is that Russia can only offer one thing at this moment in time: the political will to resist the Anglo Empire and the commitment to do so within the limits of international law, as it did in the case of the US/NATO war on Syria. However, this Russian political commitment only has value as long as the Russian military remains capable of repelling any possible aggression against it because if it cannot fulfill this mission it simply becomes yet another a target for the Anglos.
|“Joint Sea 2013”|
Furthermore, the Far East and the Pacific region are gradually becoming the most important part of the planet and one in which the simmering US-Chinese tensions will, sooner or later, boil over into something overt. Hence the recent “Joint Sea 2013” joint large-scaled naval exercise between Russia and China.
The bottom line is this: Russia is continuing the systematic re-construction of its armed forces in a steady process is involving more and more types of forces and units which are being tested in realistic exercises conducted throughout all the regions of Russia. The final goal is equally clear: to stop relying a few “elite” units and to finally bring the bulk of the armed forces to a readiness level equal to either “satisfactory” or “good”. This will be done by making sure that no less than 70% of all the equipment is modern and by conducting more and more exercises of increasing complexity and size.
|General Valerii Gerasimov|
It is quite remarkable how much Sergei Shoigu has already achieved in his rather short tenure as Defense Minister (he was appointed to this position on November 6th, 2012). True, he is being assisted by an exceptionally capable Chief of General Staff, General Valerii Gerasimov, who replaced the clueless and corrupt General Makarov. Those two men, Shoigu and Gerasimov, are working hand in glove to finally rebuilt a military which has suffered from several decades of neglect, corruption and gross mismanagement. For literally years the worst problems were always coming from the “top” while the simple solider was told to fight in the worst possible conditions. The most amazing thing is that this simple solider managed to succeed in this impossible task, often brilliantly (2nd Chechen war, 08.08.08). Finally, all the signs appear to show that the “top” has finally stopped being part of the problem and has finally become part of the solution. If that means that the line commanders and soldiers will not have to fight “on two fronts” at the same time we could witness a qualitative change in the capabilities of the Russian military which would allow it to make a meaningful comeback on the world stage alongside the rapidly growing and progressing Chinese military.
According to Karlin the Russian economy is making significant progress
Karlin also dealt with the Kurile issue a while back
@Robert:According to Karlin the Russian economy is making significant progress
Thanks for reminding me about this blog which I need to follow closer. Karlin does a very good job indeed. As for the economy, I am still rather skeptical, if only because Putin is too much of a “liberal” in the sense of “right winger” in his economics, hence is focus on inflation rather than on other indicators. The interes rates in Russia are still ridiculously too high, most of the large comapnies are foreign-owned or “off shored”, manufacturing and services are still in a bad shape and Russia is still too dependent on its energy reserves. All this is, of course, due to the immense power which Western banks have over Russia and its economic system. I would say that there are clear signs of improvement, like the idea of the creation of an internal development bank, but the tariffs are still too low (‘thanks’ to the Russian accession to the WTO, a huge mistake with Putin mostly ‘inherited’ from Eltisn and Medvedev), state subsidies are still too low, too much of the Russian economy is in private (i.e. non-Russian) hands and all in all the general picture is rather bleaks.
Now with a guy like Sergei Glazev in the Central Bank or a key ministry this could be fixed, but time is running out. I still am hopeful but I honestly cannot say that I am satisfied with the current conditions.
@Robert: I forgot to add this:
The current level of corruption throughout the entire economy is also hurting Russia badly, though at least with this the Kremlin appears to be determined to a real crackdown, beginning with corrupt bureaucrats and civil servants. Then the courts system is also corrupt to the bone, and that makes the very idea of “legality” quasi pointless. There is *A LOT* of kickass which still needs to be in Russia to ensure a good investment climate but I will hasten to say that my feeling is that what Putin is doing is pretty good: corruption is the worst at the top and its at the top which it must be deal with most mercilessly, and there are good signs on this front.
My 2cts, cheers!
off topic; i found this video very interesting.
It deals with the the topic of similarities between Islam and christian orthodoxy. Please have a look when you have time.
Very interesting from the point of view of those who can discern between different versions of Islam on one side and the diffrent versions of christianity on the other side.
I have been following Sheikh Hussein Imran for relatively a long time and i can say that he has a very clear vision of the things happening right now, apart from echatological point of view.
May God bless everybody on this holy month.
@Anonymous: Thanks for the link to the video I did not know and which I will watch with interest either today or tomorrow. The guy speaking on the video is Alexander Dugin, an Orthodox philosopher and a rather interesting guy, very popular in Russia right now. At this point I will tell you that I personally believe that Orthodox Christianity is much closer to Islam in cultural/spiritual aspects than to the Western versions of Christianity (Papacy or Lutheranism). There are two historical phenomena behind this:
a) the cultural proximity of the Byzantine Empire and the Persian Empire.
b) the cultural proximity between Russia and Islam in what is called today the “former Soviet Union” – i.e. the Caucasus, Central Asia and Siberia.
In the fist case, this has resulted in an interesting, shall we say, “exchange of trends” between Shia Islam and Orthodoxy while the second case has resulted in an “exchange of trends” between Sunni Sufism and Orthodoxy.
Without pre-judging of what Dugin said on the video, I will say that I believe that it is a mistake to look for a unity of belief in what Christianity calls “dogmatic theology” (which one can define as “that part of theology dealing with the theoretical truths of faith concerning God and his works”) simply because the differences are too big and the views often mutually exclusive (Christ was either a prophet or a theanthropos a God-man; he either resurrected or not, etc.). However, what Orthodox Christian can, and should, seek are point of agreement in their worldviews, in their moral, ethical, social and even political views even if each side derives these views from different sources. After all, both Islam and Orthodox Christianity are very much *EASTERN* religions, not less than Hinduism (which also has a lot of amazing points of convergence with Orthodox Christianity, in particular in the Hindu Dvaita Vedanta tradition), and these common geo-cultural roots, combined with a long common history (a mix of co-existence and violent struggle against each other) provides a very good basis for a “full spectrum” dialog which would be utterly impossible with the European Papacy (the Maronites and the Papacy in Latin America might be a very different reality with much better chances for a dialog) or with the Protestant world which is, as one theologian put it, the illegitimate child of a union between the Papacy and Judaism.
Anyway, this is a fascinating topic to which I might turn one day in a full-length post.
May this month of Ramadan be peaceful, spiritually profitable and joy-filled for you and your loved ones.
Yes Alexander Dugin who leads the Eurasian movement and wrote a number of books supported by Putin that even has a section at the Moscow State University that in my view took a turn for the worst for what he advocates in his latest book The 4th Political Theory.
His work is distributed in the west by Arktos publications.
Off topic but good article as always from Serbianna about Wahabbi networks in the Balkans and Europe.
A glimpse of Balkan radical Dawa networking
Discussion about the war games on a Kremlin Stooge thread
@Robert: yes, good stuff. Kremlin stooge does some great job and the folks commenting are also sharp.
Its really good to have blogs like Darussophile and Kremlin Stooge actually providing well informed and intelligent discussions, thanks for pointing them out!