Russia: The Red Army Gets Its Mojo Back


June 16, 2013: The U.S. announcement that it would more actively support, and arm, the Syrian rebels led Russia to warn that any American air support for the rebels would be illegal and wrong. Russia did not threaten to fight the Americans over the issue. Russia is still steamed over what happened in Libya two years ago, when they were not able to prevent air support for the rebels there and it led to the death of long-time dictator and Russian ally Moamar Kaddafi. Russia is determined to prevent this from happening in Syria, even though the U.S. just announced that F-16 fighters recently sent to Jordan for a training exercise will stay there until further notice, along with the American ground crews. Jordan also uses F-16s.

Russian intelligence believes about 200 Russian Moslems are fighting for the Syrian rebels, most of them for Islamic terrorist groups.

Russia still threatens to deliver S-300 anti-aircraft systems (similar to the U.S. Patriot) and ten new MiG-29 fighters to Syria, but so far this is just talk.

Although Russia was very unpopular in the Arab world for trying to block NATO air support for Libyan rebels two years ago, the Russians did eventually allow that support. That apparently rehabilitated Russia’s reputation in Libya sufficiently for Libya to now ask Russia to resume arms deliveries for weapons ordered by the deposed Kaddafi government.

June 12, 2013: In the south (Dagestan) two Islamic terrorists fired on a group of policemen, killing three of them and wounding two civilians nearby. Return fire killed the two terrorists. Elsewhere in Dagestan police raided an apartment and seized two suicide belts, each containing 200 gr (7 ounces) of explosives.  

June 7, 2013: Police raided a mosque in Moscow and took into custody all 300 people (including 170 foreigners) found there. This is the third such raid this year. Those taken in are usually released after questioning. This is all part of a government effort to eliminate, or greatly weaken, Islamic terror groups in the country before the 2014 Winter Olympics are held at Sochi (just north of the Caucasus).

A Persona spy satellite was launched from the Plesetsk space center (some 800 kilometers north of the capital, near the port of Archangel). This is the second Persona satellite to be launched. The first one went up in 2008, but suffered an electronic failure after launch and was useless. This is the sixth Russian satellite launch this year. In the last few years Russia has been rebuilding its satellite fleet, which had deteriorated in the 1990s, when there was no money to replace satellites that had worn out (most have useful lives of less than ten years). The Russian satellite fleet is much smaller than the Soviet one but uses higher quality birds, since there is now access to more Western technology.

June 6, 2013: The government made it official, there is now a permanent Russian naval task force in the Mediterranean. In the last month six more ships arrived to join the ten ships recently sent there. The force now includes two destroyers, a frigate, two amphibious, and several support ships. From 1967 until 1992 Russia maintained a force of 30-50 warships and auxiliary vessels in the Mediterranean. Russia was building a base in the Syrian port of Tartus but that has been suspended because of the civil war. Nevertheless, ships will be rotated in and out in order to maintain a permanent force of about a dozen ships.

In the southeast (Kapustin Yar, in Astrakhan) there was a successful test of a new ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) design. This was either an upgrade of the existing Topol M or a new design. The ICBM was fired from a mobile launcher.

June 1, 2013: For the first time in two decades, the air force held large-scale training operations involving aircraft, air mobile infantry, space satellites, and air defense units all at once. Some 8,700 troops were involved in two weeks of activity in late May. No foreign observers were allowed and the government announcement was, in part, to prevent paranoid rumors of something more devious. This is yet another sign that the Russians are getting their military mojo back. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, so did the mighty “Red Army” (which included all the armed forces) that had defeated the Nazis in World War II and dominated European military affairs for over four decades. In the last decade the armed forces have been rebuilding, more as a 21st century force than one that served the Soviet Union.

In the south (Dagestan) police arrested the mayor of the provincial capital and charged him with being the head of a large criminal gang. The mayor (Said Amirov) has been the target of many assassination attempts, by Islamic terrorists and rival gang leaders. Amirov was long rumored to be a local crime boss and now prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to put him away. Amirov was immediately moved to a Moscow prison, to make it more difficult for his associates to free him by force. Ten of Amirov’s key gang subordinates were also arrested. The government will often tolerate local politicians with gangster ties but Amirov’s criminal activities had become more trouble than they were worth.

May 30, 2013: The government announced that the first of three new Borei class SSBNs (ballistic missile equipped nuclear subs) (commissioned earlier this year) would patrol waters south of the equator next year. This would be the first time a Russian SSBN had done that in 20 years. The other two Boreis are still undergoing sea trials and should enter service by the end of the year.

May 29, 2013: In the south (Kabardino-Balkaria) two policemen were wounded when men in a car they stopped at a checkpoint opened fire and sped away.

May 28, 2013: The Defense Ministry announced that production has begun on a new generation of trucks for the armed forces, especially the army. These vehicles will be similar to the new ones Western forces have been introducing in the last three decades. Some of these new designs have already appeared, in small numbers, in the military. But the new program will replace all the old Cold War era vehicles that are still (often just barely) in use. These include Russian versions of the American hummer and the multi-wheeled and articulated trucks so common in Western armies.

In the south (Kabardino-Balkaria) police disabled two bombs found in a car. Also found in the vehicle was a loaded pistol.




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