The Vostok-2010 strategic war games were the largest exercise Russia held in the last few years. Held at dozens of ranges from the Altai in southwest Siberia to Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast, the games aim to strengthen the new elements of Russia's army.
These new elements include the inter-arms command, with joint staffs commanding units from different arms. This allows strategic command to control the troops involved in real time, focusing their efforts more promptly on the required target.
The second element is a new structure of the Russian army. It has been changed from a four-level command system (military district, army, division, regiment) to a three-level system (strategic command, tactical command, brigade).
Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov told the media that their main goal is to test the new system in practice. "The goal of the exercise is to see how the new structure works, to check whether our decisions were correct, and if necessary, to change them," he said.
The third element is mobility. In view of strength reductions and gradual transition from a conscripted to a professional army, groups of forces in the given theater of operations should be reinforced first of all with troops promptly moved from other areas. This puts special requirements to the combat readiness of units and formations, which must be ready for rapid redeployment and be highly mobile strategically and tactically.
The Vostok-2010 war games included flights of frontline bombers with midair refueling. Many motorized and air defense units also covered long distances by rail and in self-propelled mode.
The war games did not have a designated enemy; the troops trained in different strategic and tactical moves simply to enhance their combat unity against any enemy.
However, the territory of the war games is a telling sign, as their plan includes repelling an attack by an enemy landing group and air strikes and directing one's own landing troops against the enemy. Although the military say the goal of the games is purely defensive, this is a clear demonstration of Russia's intention and ability to protect its Siberian and Far Eastern territories.
The naval part of the games includes, apart from the Pacific Fleet, also the heavy missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky from the Northern Fleet and the missile cruiser Moskva from the Black Sea Fleet and Baltic Fleet marines. This shows that Russia can relatively quickly reinforce its Pacific Fleet with warships from its other fleets.
Changes in the command structure of the Russian army will not resolve its other problems, such as the shortage of modern weapons and inadequate training of personnel.
A new army needs new officers. The methods of warfare have changed so much in the past decades that officers now need to have broader military knowledge to be able to command and coordinate inter-service groups, and also better civilian skills allowing them to act as managers, diplomats, financiers and lawyers. Taken together, these skills will allow modern officers to be more flexible in a situation that implies a broad use of non-military methods of conflict settlement and to be highly selective as regards military instruments.
In fact, the industrialized Western countries put these requirements to their officers, in particular high-ranking ones. In Western armies, officers hold a variety of related posts during their carrier, which makes them versatile professionals. Russia has only entered this path.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik)