MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik)
The Stability-2008 strategic maneuvers of the Russian armed forces are gaining momentum.
On October 6, TU-95MS Bear-H and TU-160 Blackjack strategic bombers began training flights with full combat payloads and the live firing of cruise missiles at practice targets.
The Stability-2008 strategic exercise, which began on September 21 in Russian and Belarusian territory and at sea, is the largest since the Soviet era. Within the next month the armed forces will be practicing a wide variety of tasks, including containing armed conflicts and strategic deterrence. In total, the drill will feature tens of thousands of servicemen, thousands of vehicles, air and naval forces, space troops and strategic nuclear forces in mass.
The exercise is remarkable not only for its scale but also its character. The Russian and Belarusian armed forces practice operations both in simulated local conflict and in full-scale warfare, involving aggressive fighting for air superiority, missile defense, naval warfare and strategic strikes.
The potential adversary is not directly specified, but, judging from the drill's scale and the tasks, it could be fairly stated that it is considering NATO and its allies. It's not the first time that "anti-NATO" drills are being held, but with anti-Western rhetoric gradually hardening after the recent five-day war in South Ossetia, Stability-2008 is an open demonstration of preparedness for a new Cold War.
Not only are certain combat missions being practiced, but also new methods of troop command and control are being tested. Reportedly, cutting-edge reconnaissance technology, automatic troop command and control and real-time data exchange systems are being put through extensive testing.
The logistics services practice long-distance cargo delivery and ground troop support for deployed naval and air forces. Also, combat and logistics units practice interaction with regional and local authorities, the police and the Federal Security Service (FSB).
Such major exercises, comparable with real military operations, must check the state's capability of operating in modern warfare. Notably, the Interior Ministry's forces practice team action with military units in the field, using police helicopters for reconnaissance missions in some cases.
The intensity of the Russian armed forces' operations has been growing in recent years, and is now a bit closer to that of the Soviet era, when large-scale exercises like Dnepr-67, Okean-70 (Ocean-70) or Zapad-81 (West-81) were held on a regular basis. Large-scale exercises demonstrated the Soviet armed forces' capability of meeting any challenge, and their current resumption is a fairly positive development. Preparedness for a full-scale conflict, which would involve a variety of missions ranging from counterinsurgency operations to elimination of the adversary's strategic nuclear forces, could be tested only by major exercises.
Limited tactical drills alone, although necessary to maintain the armed forces' capabilities, offer no opportunity to the military to practice team play of large units in strategic operations, which makes the army a set of units incapable of operating in high-intensity conflicts. Russia needs no such army today. It's time to prove its Major League status.
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