Russia Test-Fires Ballistic Missile to Mid-Pacific - October, 2008

Russia Test-Fires Ballistic Missile to Mid-Pacific

Medvedev witnesses record missile launch:

October, 2008

Russia test-launched a strategic missile to the equatorial part of the Pacific Ocean for the first time on Saturday, at a time when Moscow's growing assertiveness is fuelling tension with the West. President Dmitry Medvedev, who watched the launch from the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, has said problems caused by global financial turmoil would not hurt Russian plans to revive its armed forces, a symbol for Moscow's resurgence. Russia's newest missile, the Sineva, was launched by the nuclear-powered submarine Tula from an underwater position in the Arctic Barents Sea, and hit an unspecified area near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, a navy spokesman said. "For the first time in the history of the Russian Navy the target of the missile was in an equatorial part of the Pacific Ocean rather than the Kura testing ground on the Kamchatka Peninsula," he said. Russian television showed the missile emerging from the icy waters of the Arctic Barents sea for the 11,547 km (7,200 miles) journey to the Pacific. "Not one missile of this class has ever flown so far," Russian television showed Medvedev telling sailors. The spokesman did not specify the area where the missile landed. He said the area was closed for navigation and flights ahead of the test in accordance with international rules. Medvedev's predecessor Vladimir Putin focused on reviving the armed forces, which were neglected for around 10 years after the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia's strategic bombers have restarted regular patrols over the Atlantic Ocean, irking NATO, and a group of the Northern Fleet ships is on its way to the Caribbean to take part in joint exercises with U.S. foe Venezuela. Two Russian warships and their support vessels docked in Tripoli ahead of making the transatlantic trip.


Russia's commitment to modernize its armed forces has grown as its ties with the West reached their lowest point since the Cold War after Russian troops crushed Georgia's attempt to retake a pro-Moscow separatist region. On Saturday, Medvedev said Russia would start building aircraft carriers, a type of vessel once derided by the Soviet military as an instrument of imperialism unbecoming of Moscow's defensive military posture. He said Russia should "not scrimp" on its armed forced and called for government spending to improve living condition for its armed forces as well as new weapons systems. Russia, which saw eight years of strong economic growth under Putin, has adopted the goal of becoming one of the world's leading economies by 2020. Medvedev says the economy has enough resources to survive the global turmoil and achieve its goals. Putin, now Russia's prime minister, has said the next year's budges will see another 30-percent growth in defense spending. The Sineva missile, advertised by the Russia military as an element of a new generation of Russian strategic weapons capable of surpassing any missile defense system, was commissioned last year. The Russian military says the missiles of Sineva's class will be operational at least until 2030. Medvedev's appearance with the Northern Fleet in Murmansk is his second major visit to navy installations in just two weeks and he will oversee exercises attended by 5,000 troops, eight warships and five submarines.


Russia to Cut Military to 1 Million by 2012

Russia plans to trim its armed forces by more than 10 percent by 2012 with radical cuts among the officer ranks, the defense minister said Wednesday. The Kremlin plans to streamline and modernize the military which has suffered from inefficiency and low morale despite steady increases in defense budgets in recent years. Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said in a statement that the military will be cut from 1.13 million to a total of 1 million in 2012 including 150,000 officers. The military now has about 400,000 officers, according to Russian media reports, so Serdyukov's statement means that almost two out of three officers will have to quit the armed forces. Serdyukov said the number of officers will be reduced gradually as they retire. "We aren't going to cut living flesh," he said in remarks posted on the ministry's Web site. He said the military will have more high-readiness units.

The defense minister said that the original intention had been to make the cuts by 2012 but President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the cuts sooner faster reduction in a plan approved last month. Officials long have promised to cut the number of officers in the Russian military, saying they make up a much bigger share of the military personnel in Russia compared to Western armies. Serdyukov, the former tax chief, was appointed defense minister in February 2007 in what was widely seen as a Kremlin move to bring more order into the military finances and combat widespread graft. Serdyukov has presided over a series of sometimes painful reorganizations and cuts which has drawn protests from the top brass. Generals have grumbled loudly over his initiatives to sell off lucrative military land, move the navy headquarters from Moscow to St. Petersburg and use civilians in support positions such as legal and medical staff. Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky was dismissed as chief of the military's General Staff in June after he had publicly criticized the navy move. Russian news reports said that the General Staff will be cut by half in the next few months. Russia has a draft but has reduced the mandatory term of service from two years to a single year.


Stability-2008: Back to The Major Leagues

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.


Russian Naval Task Force to Visit Libya on Saturday

A naval task force from Russia's Northern Fleet, led by the nuclear-powered missile cruiser Pyotr Veliky, will visit the Libyan capital October 11-13, an aide to the Navy commander said Wednesday. Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo said the Neustrashimy (Fearless) missile frigate from Russia's Baltic Fleet would call at Tripoli at the same time to replenish supplies. He added that the frigate would then continue its tour of duty via the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. "The Neutrashimy will go to Somalia where it will ensure the safety of Russian vessels passing through this area against pirate attacks," he said. Last Wednesday, Somali Ambassador to Russia Mohamed Handule said his country's President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed had authorized Russia's military to fight pirates off Somalia's coast and on land. Pirates are increasingly active in the waters off Somalia, which has no effective government and no navy to police its coastline. The International Maritime Bureau said more than 30 incidents of piracy were registered in the region in 2007. More than 30 attacks have been committed so far this year off the coast of the East African nation.


What is The Future For Russia's Submarine Fleet?

Dmitry Medvedev's remarks that Russia is resuming production of nuclear submarines for its Navy have been widely commented on. The country's submarine fleet is in critical condition and calls for renewal. The president's words raise hopes for an early change. Submarines play a special role in Russia's Navy. In the late 1950s, following the death of Josef Stalin, the new Soviet leaders opted for a nuclear missile equipped submarine fleet, and now it forms the core of the Navy's might. A drastic cut in the number of warships coupled with the freezing of construction of new units (only ship construction projects already started were completed) has led to a situation where Russia's submarine fleet is now facing the retirement of many vessels due to age. The construction of new submarines, which has resumed in recent years, is, unfortunately, outpaced by the decommission rate of outdated vessels. Medvedev made special mention of nuclear-powered submarines equipped with cruise missiles plus multi-role submarines. These classes of boats have suffered the heaviest cuts in the previous years, and while Project 955 submarines are now being built for strategic forces, the situation with cruise-missile and multi-role submarines is more disquieting.

Although Project 885 cruise-missile submarines (the first of them was named Severodvinsk) and later between one and three sister ships (according to various sources) began to be built, so far not even the first one has joined the Navy. Many reasons are cited, including one that the design was raw and needed updating when construction began. The fact, however, is that no submarine is yet commissioned, and eight Project 949A submarines, built in the 1980s-1990s, make up the force intended to confront aircraft carriers. These are excellent vessels, loved by their crews and boast high performance characteristics, but they are all slowly aging. The situation with multi-role submarines is even worse. No new vessels designed to engage hostile submarines, surface ships and to hit shore-based targets with strategic cruise missiles are under construction. At the moment, the Navy has 19 boats of this class, of three projects: 671RTMK (four units), 945(945A) (three units), and 971 (twelve units). Most of these submarines were built in the late 1980s to mid-1990s. They can still be considered modern, but the end of their service life is not far off. Some of the shipbuilding design bureaus are known to be developing new multi-role projects, but specifics about dates and specifications are not reported.

How many cruise-missile and multi-role submarines does the Russian Navy need? Estimates vary, but the figure of 30 to 40 non-strategic submarines is considered optimal. At least 20 non-strategic nuclear submarines need to be constructed to maintain the strength of the submarine branch at the required level, considering that about half of the 27 cruise-missile and multi-role submarines currently in service will retire after reaching the end of their service lives. In theory, such rates are not too demanding - Russia has several shipyards that can build submarines - Sevmash, Admiralty Wharves, Komsomolsk and even Red Sormovo, which has the necessary experience. The real problems lie elsewhere: in cooperating enterprises and, most important of all, in personnel, whose numbers and training quality have been drastically reduced. It is to be hoped that all these problems will be solved, and soon.


Russian Navy to Get 8 New-Generation Submarines by 2015

The Russian Navy will receive at least eight new-generation submarines as part of a state armaments program through 2015, its deputy commander said on Thursday. "We have already built a new-generation nuclear powered submarine," Adm. Alexander Tatarinov said, without giving any details. Asked how many warships would be built in total, he said that would depend on the Navy's needs. "So far a series of eight warships are being planned - possibly more," he said. The current 2007-2015 state armament program calls for the development of "across-the-board" new-generation weapon systems by 2011. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said last Thursday that the modernization of the Armed Forces needed to move faster, with priority being given to new, advanced weaponry and improvement of conditions for service personnel. "We are planning to launch large-scale production of warships, primarily nuclear submarines with cruise missiles, and multi-purpose attack submarines," Medvedev said. Russia, with a current defense budget of $40 billion, is reportedly planning to increase its defense spending by 50% in the next three years.


Russia's Warships Head For Exercise With Venezuelan Navy

Russia displayed its military strength in the Mediterranean yesterday after warships heading to Venezuela passed through the Strait of Gibraltar in the second deployment of Russian naval vessels in the waterway since the Cold War. The nuclear-powered missile cruiser Peter the Great, accompanied by the Admiral Chabanenko, an anti-submarine destroyer, as well as a reconnaissance vessel and a support ship, are destined for a maritime exercise with the Venezuelan navy. En route, however, the aim appears to be to demonstrate to the West and Nato that Russia is once again back in business as a blue-water power. “It's all about strutting your stuff and cocking a snook at the West, in the same way that the Bears [Russian strategic bombers] have been doing since they began patrolling again,” said Andrew Brookes, of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Jason Alderwick, naval analyst at the institute, said that the Russian warships, which set off from their base at Severomorsk, near Murmansk on the Arctic coast, were Cold War “legacy ships”, not the modern vessels deployed by Western navies with advanced communications and surveillance systems. "This is a case of naval diplomacy rather than a demonstration of capability,” he said. Mr Alderwick said that the only other occasion since the Cold War when Russian warships had passed through the Strait — coming within a few miles of the strategically important British naval base — was last year, when Russia's sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, and five other ships were deployed from Severomorsk. The dispatching of the Peter the Great was a significant event, he said, particularly because Moscow had clearly decided to make its presence felt in the Mediterranean before engaging with the Venezuelan navy during the exercise.

The Russian naval force is due to call at the Libyan port of Tripoli and the Syrian port of Tartus, which played host to Soviet ships during the Cold War. Reports suggested that the warships may have made a stop-off in Tartus, but this was not confirmed by Moscow. The flotilla may also visit the Syrian port of Latakia, where the Russians are helping to build a new facility. The arrival of the four Russian warships in the Mediterranean comes after Moscow's military operation in Georgia. After the defeat of Georgia in August, Moscow made it clear that it intended to deploy its military on regular manoeuvres around the world. It has also moved to intensify contacts with Venezuela, Cuba and other Latin American countries. Russia has signed weapons contracts worth more than $4 billion with Venezuela since 2005 to supply fighter jets, helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov AK47 assault rifles.

Despite the new muscular approach, there was evidence yesterday of Russian withdrawals from Georgia. Russian troops began dismantling checkpoints in the “security zones” they have occupied in Georgia since the brief war in the former Soviet republic. Russia is supposed to be pulling back its troops under the terms of a deal brokered by President Sarkozy of France on behalf of the European Union. Moscow has said that it still plans to keep thousands of troops inside the two breakaway regions of Georgia — South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia has formally recognised the independence of both regions.


In other news:

Suspected Russian Arms Dealer Strikes Back at U.S.

A suspected Russian arms dealer detained in Thailand said his arrest and trial had been arranged by the United States because he refused to become an American spy. Viktor Bout, 41, was arrested in March in Bangkok during a joint police operation led by agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The second hearing in his case in a Thai court started on Friday. In an interview published Friday in Kommersant, a Russian business daily, Bout said Washington fabricated charges against him after he had refused to work as an informant. "I was approached by some recruiters, especially in South Africa, who said it would be good if I shared with them information about the situation in one country or another and offered me a lot of perks. But I was not interested and I refused," Kommersant quoted him as saying. "They attempted to recruit me because we worked with Libyans and ... some other countries that the Americans had an interest in. And after I refused, the UN started a sham investigation," he added.

Western law enforcement agencies consider Bout to be "the most prominent foreign businessman" involved in trafficking arms to UN-embargoed destinations, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. UN reports say Bout set up a network of more than 50 cargo aircraft around the world to facilitate his arms shipments, earning the nickname "merchant of death." Bout admitted that his company transported weaponry around the world as part of its business operations, but said the shipments were legal. "Everyone is attempting to picture me as an 'arms baron' or a 'merchant of death' ... but all shipment companies deliver weaponry, which is considered a legal cargo if declared properly," he said. DEA prosecutors accuse Bout of conspiring with others to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a leftist group listed by the United States as a terrorist organization.

Thailand received in early May a formal request from Washington to extradite Bout to the United States, where he has been indicted on four charges: conspiracy to kill Americans and U.S. officers or employees, conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, and conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile. The former officer in the Russian army faces a life sentence if tried in a U.S. court, while Thai authorities earlier announced that they would not press charges against Bout. Bout's Russian lawyer, Yan Dasgupta, said Thursday that the United States had no chance of securing extradition of his client under Thai law. "As a lawyer I can say with certainty that if the case is reviewed [by Thai court] in line with the law, there is no chance for his extradition whatsoever," Dasgupta said.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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