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Russian Military Policy In 2006

by Viktor Litovkin, UPI Outside View Commentator
Moscow (UPI) Jan 27, 2006
On Jan. 25, the Russian Defense Ministry's newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda ("Red Star") published an article on Russia's military policy written by Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General of the Army, Yury Baluyevsky.

At first glance, his main points coincide with the previous statements and unclassified papers of the Russian Defense Ministry, such as its document on the "Immediate Tasks of Development of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation." But a closer look at his article reveals interesting differences.

First, Gen. Baluyevsky is more emphatic than his superior in raising the question of the realignment of forces in the world arena: "Although a large-scale war (either conventional or nuclear) is unlikely in the current situation, there have appeared a host of other threats, sometimes less predictable and tangible, against the background of the continued active geopolitical restructuring of the world. Conflicts are spreading to larger areas, including the sphere of Russia's vital interests."

Gen. Baluyevsky is clearly hinting at Ukraine, whom NATO has virtually invited to join; at Georgia, whose enthusiasm to become a member is fueled by instructors and patrons from Washington (the reason why Russian military bases have been practically ousted from its territory); at Azerbaijan, where the United States is trying to deploy its military base and radars to monitor Iran and, in passing, to secure its interests in this oil-rich Caspian nation.

There are also Central Asian countries, to which Moscow is not indifferent, and which have bid goodbye to the Pentagon not long ago. The United States still has a base in Kyrgyzstan, but it is not likely to last long. Experts qualify Bishkek's request to pay double for the deployment of U.S. pilots and aircraft at Manas airport as Kyrgyzstan's reluctance to have this base on its territory.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov recently visited Azerbaijan and Armenia, where he discussed closer ties in the military and MTC spheres with presidents Ilham Aliyev and Robert Kocharyan. This means that Russia and its military leaders will not remain passive as states located across the world try to infringe on the sphere of Russian national interests, all the more so since these attempts may threaten Russia's own security.

Gen. Baluyevsky made one more important point in his article: "...armed combat...has undergone substantial changes. Scientific and technical progress has produced new, smart weapons and hardware. Combat efficiency has grown; troops have acquired a strong capability for combined operations in different physical environments. Forms and methods of using the armed forces have changed, as well as the understanding of the notion 'military force'."

This statement could be considered trivial if it were not for the inspired leaks from the General Staff about upcoming dramatic changes in the military structure of the Army and Navy. These include transformation of current military districts into "operational and strategic directions"; restructuring of divisions and armies into more flexible military units with enhanced maneuverability; and formation of task forces.

Defense Minister Ivanov repudiated these rumors the other day, and went on record as saying that there were no plans to make any serious changes in Russia's military structure until the year 2010. But he did not manage to convince experts. Task forces are already operating in the Kaliningrad Region under the name of a "special district", and on the Kamchatka Peninsular, where they are referred to as "the forces of the North-West."

Moreover, the General Staff has been testing the operation of task forces on the brigade-corps level in the Leningrad Military District for over a month. Experts are familiar with the trial although its results have not been made public so far.

The United States is changing its armed forces to make them more flexible and able to adequately respond to the challenges of the modern world. NATO is transforming itself as well by reducing its numerical strength, and gaining advantages in quality instead of quantity. It is not ruled out that the Russian army brains are trying to do the same, but it's still early to report specific achievements.

It follows from Gen. Baluyevsky's article that Russia is giving up a principle of symmetry, that is, an all-out effort to preserve quantitative parity with the potential enemy (unspecified by the Chief of Staff). It will also develop its armed forces asymmetrically, shaping priorities, which will reliably deter any threats. One of such priorities is a "search for ways of most efficient use of military conditions of limited resources, first of all, financial and economic".

An analysis of nuances in Gen. Baluyevsky's article makes it clear enough that Russia is changing its military policy before out eyes.

Vikotr Litovkin is a military commentator for the RIA Novosti news agency. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti.

Source: United Press International

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