[FPSPACE] Russian War Exercise

joel carpenter imagery@ufx.org
Sat, 31 Jan 2004 11:08:24 -0500

Russia planning maneuvers of its nuclear forces next month
VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press Writer
Friday, January 30, 2004
©2004 Associated Press


(01-30) 18:37 PST MOSCOW (AP) --

Russia's nuclear forces reportedly are preparing their largest  
maneuvers in two decades, an exercise involving the test-firing of  
missiles and flights by dozens of bombers in a massive simulation of an  
all-out nuclear war.

President Vladimir Putin is expected to personally oversee the  
maneuvers, which are apparently aimed at demonstrating the revival of  
the nation's military might and come ahead of Russian elections in  

The business newspaper Kommersant said the exercise was set for  
mid-February and would closely resemble a 1982 Soviet exercise dubbed  
the "seven-hour nuclear war" that put the West on edge.

Official comments on the upcoming exercise have been sketchy. The chief  
of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces, Col.-Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, was  
quoted by the Interfax-Military News Agency as saying the planned  
maneuvers would involve several launches of intercontinental ballistic  
missiles in various regions of Russia, but he wouldn't give further  

A Defense Ministry spokesman refused to comment on the reports. The  
Russian military typically says little about upcoming exercises.

In Washington, the State Department said it has seen reports that  
Russia has plans to conduct the exercises in February. The department  
also said Russia is obliged to notify the United States 24 hours before  
a missile test and has done so in the past.

Kommersant said the maneuvers would involve Tu-160 strategic bombers  
test-firing cruise missiles over the northern Atlantic. Analysts  
describe such an exercise as an imitation of a nuclear attack on the  
United States.

Other groups of bombers will fly over Russia's Arctic regions and  
test-fire missiles at a southern range near the Caspian Sea, the  
newspaper said.

As part of the exercise, the military is planning to conduct several  
launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles, including one from a  
Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea, the Kommersant report  

The military also plans to launch military satellites from the Baikonur  
cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and the Plesetsk launch pad in northern Russia  
-- a simulation of the replacement of satellites lost in action,  
Kommersant said.

Russia's system warning of an enemy missile attack and a missile  
defense system protecting Moscow will also be involved in the exercise,  
it added.

Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military analyst, said the military  
has regularly held nuclear exercises that were timed to coincide with  
the annual test-firing of aging Soviet-built missiles.

"It has been a routine affair, but it can be expanded if they want a  
show," he said.

Ivan Safranchuk, head of the Moscow office of the Center for Defense  
Information, a Washington-based think-tank, said the maneuvers would  
further strengthen Putin's popularity ahead of the March 14  
presidential election he is expected to win easily.

Putin has repeatedly pledged to rebuild Russia's military might and  
restore pride to the demoralized service. When he ran for his first  
term in 2000, he flew as a second pilot in a fighter jet and later  
donned naval officer's garb on a visit to a nuclear submarine -- images  
that played well with many voters who are nostalgic for Soviet global  
power and military prestige.

"This exercise will make a great show, with Putin receiving reports  
from military commanders," Safranchuk told The Associated Press.

Kommersant said Moscow had notified Washington about the exercise,  
describing it as part of efforts to fend off terror threats even though  
it imitates the Cold War scenario of an all-out war.

"The exercise follows the old scenario, and casting it as anti-terror  
is absurd," Safranchuk said.

Putin's support for the United States following the Sept. 11, 2001  
terror attacks bolstered relations with Washington and helped broker a  
new U.S.-Russian nuclear arms reduction deal and a Russia-NATO  
partnership agreement in 2002.

But the U.S.-Russian honeymoon has soured lately over Moscow's  
criticism of the war in Iraq , U.S. concerns about authoritarian trends  
in the Kremlin's domestic policy, and Russia's perceived attempts to  
assert its authority over ex-Soviet neighbors.

©2004 Associated Press