- Officers at the central staff of the Defense Ministry
say that Russian troops will join the counter-terrorism coalition in Afghanistan
and Iraq soon. Even the date is given: October or November this year.
- There is some indirect evidence in support of this conjecture.
For example, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's words at a recent meeting
with his German counterpart - as well as major military exercises due to
start soon all over Russia, from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific coast.
- Colonel General Alexander Skorodumov, chief of the Main
Combat Training Directorate, says: "These are the largest tactical-strategic
exercises run by the Army and Navy in the last fifteen years." All
branches of the service apart from the Strategic Missile Forces will be
deployed, and Military Transport Aviation will be given a chance to prove
- Anatoly Tsyganok, director of the Military Forecasting
Center at the Political and Military Analysis Institute, describes the
exercises as a demonstration of Russia's military might - for the benefit
of Washington and Europe.
- A prologue to the exercises was provided by Ivanov at
his meeting with German Defense Minister Peter Schtruck on June 2. Ivanov
admitted that the importance of Russian-German cooperation at this point
exceeds the framework of bilateral relations. "Russia is cooperating
with NATO in the matter of Afghanistan," Ivanov explained. "Of
all NATO countries, our cooperation with Germany is the closest."
Ivanov added that over 6,000 Bundeswehr servicemen "were flown over
the territory of Russia to Afghanistan and back." An agreement on
military transit by land will come into effect soon.
- Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the
Geopolitics Academy, doesn't believe Russia has the strength or resources
for any kind of "forced march" nowadays (anything like the rapid
march to Pristina in 1999). "If, however, we consider what is happening,
Ivanov's numerous statements about preventive strikes at terrorism on foreign
territory, and his words in Norfolk concerning the possibility of a Russian-American
support operation, then the Mobility 2004 exercises may have something
to do with the future operation, hypothetical as it is," Ivashov said.
"Still, it would be the height of folly."
- In other words, Russia is prepared for participation
in international counter-terrorism operations in theory but refuses to
be an apprentice to the United States.
- Strategic rivalry continues. It should be noted that
Russian units will find their rightful place easier in Afghanistan where
the peacekeeping operation in run by the UN. If the UN passes an Iraqi
resolution like the one it passed on Afghanistan once, it will enable Russia
to send its contingent to Iraq. After all, Russian economic interests in
Iraq worth billions cannot be dismissed out of hand. Something like that
already happened in Kosovo where the Russian and American troops outwardly
performed similar duties and promoted one and the same objective but actually
were rivals. Russia lost then and withdrew. This is its chance to try again
and do better.
- Mobility 2004
- "There have never been exercises like these in Russia
before!" said Ivanov when viewing the plans of the exercises.
- Insiders report that the exercises will be run in several
phases, spanning territory from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific coast. Dozens
of planes will airlift the troops: heavy transports from the Air Force
like IL-76s, AN-124 Ruslans, AN-22 Anteis, AN-12s, and IL-62s and IL-86s
from Civil Aviation and the Transportation Ministry.
- Sources say that at least 800 servicemen, along with
weapons and military hardware, will be airlifted from north-western Russia
to the Far East. According to the minister, almost 50 planes from Military
Transport Aviation are to be deployed.
- The Air Force claims it is ready. Lieutenant General
Viktor Denisov, Commander of the 61st Air Force Army of the Supreme Command,
says Military Transport Aviation will not let the army down. Sources at
the Air Force headquarters report that airfields are ready.
- Skorodumov says that there is more to the intensive combat
training period than Mobility 2004 alone. The troops will remain "at
war" until September - some other major tactical-strategic and command
exercises are to be run as well. One of them, under the command of Ground
Forces Commander-in-Chief Nikolai Kormiltsev, will take place simultaneously
with Mobility 2004. Units from the Moscow and Volga-Urals military district
will be involved. Skorodumov says: "Command exercises with shooting
practice elements will take place in every permanent combat readiness unit.
Coast units of the Interior Ministry and the Airborne Troops will run exercises
too, landing forces on the coast."
- Here is an interesting detail. Mobility 2004 is to be
commanded bu Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin - not by the minister.
Ivanov's enemies sneer that "our minister has already been in command
once, in the Far East last year." That's a reference to a major exercise
in which two MI-24 helicopters collided in midair and crashed, killing
- ORIGINAL - LANGUAGE: RUSSIAN