Apparently, the Russian leadership and the new heads of the Defense Ministry have remained largely satisfied with the degree of readiness of the Russian armed forces in the Far East. This is all the more significant, because the troops stationed in Siberia have traditionally been considered somewhat inferior to their counterparts in European Russia.
The biggest readiness spot check in the post-Soviet Russian Armed Forces was held in the Eastern Military District from July 13 to 20. In addition to the Eastern Military District, it included the Central Military District, the Pacific Fleet and the Russian Air Force.
The check was conducted in the form of exercises held at various levels. Amphibious landings, including of airborne forces and marines, were conducted along the entire length of the Russian Pacific coast, including Kamchatka and Sakhalin. In all, five armies, 160,000 troops, 130 aircraft, over 70 ships and more than 13,000 units of ground vehicles, including more than 5,000 tanks and armored vehicles, were involved in these exercises. About 1,000 reservists have been mobilized. The exercises focused on the redeployment of forces and facilities using all types of transport over long distances.
The spot check is a new form of monitoring the state of the armed forces and determining their readiness at all levels, from tactical to strategic.
Although the inspection was led by Sergei Shoigu, who became Defense Minister in November 2012, it was intended to assess the reform of the Russian Armed Forces carried out by his predecessor, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. The military disposition involved in the exercises was formed during the Serdyukov-led military reform of 2008-2012, which determined the structure and the staffing of the military units. Thus, it will be interesting to see what conclusions will be drawn from checking the effectiveness of the military system that was built by Serdyukov, and what adjustments will be made.
Apparently, the Russian leadership and the new heads of the Defense Ministry have remained largely satisfied with the degree of readiness of the Russian armed forces in the Far East. This is all the more significant, because the troops stationed in Siberia and the Russian Far East have traditionally been considered somewhat inferior to their counterparts in European Russia. Thus, we can assume that reducing the armed forces and removing the dead load in the form of poorly functioning and cadre units were clearly beneficial.
Of course, the readiness spot check of the Eastern Military District was conducted due to the internal needs of the Russian military structure. At the same time, the foreign policy aspects of the exercises should not be neglected either. Major military exercises in the Russian Far East sent a clear signal that Russia remains a significant player in the rapidly changing military-political balance in Asia.
The rapid rise of China is a cause for concern in Japan and the United States. America has already begun to shift the focus of its military power to the Asia-Pacific region. Japan embarked on a path of legalizing its armed forces. The situation on the Korean peninsula remains tense: North Korea has openly announced a course on developing its nuclear forces, while South Korea is rapidly improving its non-nuclear military capabilities.
Given these circumstances, Russia has demonstrated that it also has significant conventional military capabilities and is able to quickly build up its military presence in the Pacific. Presumably, this show of force was intended primarily for the United States and Japan. It’s no accident that the exercises focused on defending Kamchatka, Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands (as is known, Japan claims the southern part of the latter).
A certain message was sent to China as well, at least to the effect that Russia is not going to further scale back its armed forces in Siberia and the Russian Far East, and is capable of engaging in land warfare. Clearly, the exercise planners carefully tried to avoid any anti-China references. Judging by this readiness spot check, the threat of a sea attack in the Russian Far East is perceived as more likely than any threat of a land attack. One can expect to see upgrading of the military vessels and building up of the strength of the Russian Pacific Fleet.