I completely missed this story due to packing for travel and settling in, so I’ve been unable to blog about it until now.
One thing I’ve been saying about Russia since about 2008 (and I still hold this point of view) is that it is a resurgent world power. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the US government has really cut back on Russia-related stuff. Russian speakers just aren’t as respected and valued as we used to be.
The CIA especially seems to have scaled back on its Russia-related activities. I talked to a CIA recruiter at my school once, and he said that it is extremely hard for Russian speakers to get hired because they simply aren’t hiring that many anymore.
Which brings me to my point: last week, Russia conducted a massive war games exercise. The fall of the Soviet Union devastated the military and the Russians have spent the past twenty years trying to build up their military might. From Foreign Policy:
No one seems to be paying much attention, but in the seas off the coast of Japan, the wilderness of Siberia, and little towns north of Moscow, the Russian military is currently engaged in a massive training blitz.
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a snap military exercise in the country’s Far East, deploying 160,000 troops, 1,000 tanks, 130 aircraft, and 70 ships. If those sound like big numbers, that’s because they are — the exercise has been described as Russia’s largest since the fall of the Soviet Union.
But that’s not the whole story. Last week, Russia engaged in an unprecedented naval exercise with China that included live-fire drills and the crown jewel of the Russian Navy’s Pacific fleet — the guided-missile cruiser Varyag. And last Tuesday, Russia convened 500 soldiers from the Collective Security Treaty Organization — the body that emerged out of the Commonwealth of Independent States — for a theatrical counterterror exercise at a training center north of Moscow. Taken together, the three training operations represent a remarkable flurry of military activity — one that has put nearly every component of Russia’s armed forces under the spotlight.
By far the largest of these war games is the current one in the Far East, which has focused on rapid deployment and tested the army’s logistical abilities. Some 100 tanks made a nearly 700-mile train journey to southeastern Siberia, near the Mongolian and Chinese borders, and some 562 train cars have transported 320 tons of equipment. “The peculiarity [of this drill] is that [although] we deployed here 24 hours … it hasn’t yet been disclosed to us where we will move from here and what we will be ordered to accomplish,” tank commander Dmitry Manyukin told Russian television — an indication that Russian military leaders are issuing new orders over the course of the drill and probing soldiers’ ability to respond to new sets of directives.
In ordering the exercise on Friday, Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu that “special attention should be paid to … the mobility of large military units.” And in an indication of how seriously he takes the exercise, Putin plans to personally oversee its final phase. After ascending to the top of Russia’s Defense Ministry in November 2012, Shoigu has made these snap military exercises something of a hallmark of his time in office, carrying out similar activities on the Black Sea in March. More broadly, Shoigu is engaged in an effort to modernize the army, improve its mobility, and strengthen its ability to respond to hot spots on its borders.
What do you bet that the CIA changes its policy and recognizes that Russia is formidable and we should, just maybe, pay a little more attention to it?
Yeah, I’m not betting on that either.
In case anything here is unclear: Russia has a perfect right to engage in these exercises. All countries engage in military exercises, as far as I know, and there’s nothing wrong with that. My issue is with how the US government underestimates and even ignores Russia. I hope events like this are a wake-up call, but no one in a position of power seems to pay attention or even care.