A full-scale military exercise was finished in the Russian Far East this week. Victor Fedorov, Commander of the Pacific Fleet, said that the exercise was conducted in the Maritime and Khabarovsk regions, the Japanese Sea, and the Sea of Okhotsk. Around 60 warships and speed-boats, 80 warplanes and helicopters, and around 70,000 servicemen of all branches of the Army were involved. The exercise has shown Russia’s ability to ensure the defense and security of eastern regions despite a tragic accident which happened during the maneuvers (two Mi-24 combat helicopters crashed into each other).

Firstly, Russia used strategic aviation, which can carry nuclear warheads. The defense minister arrived in the Far East onboard a strategic bomber. The bombers conducted an operation with the Pacific Fleet and destroyed a naval group of a hypothetical enemy. The newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda noted that the crews of the Tu-160 bombers and four air squadrons of the Tu-22 and Tu-95MS strategic bombers successfully coped with combat tasks over the Arctic Ocean and the Japanese Sea. The bombers found an enemy warship thousands kilometers from the coast. The defense minister said: “We have made sure that it’s reasonable to use such warplanes in order to destroy enemy warships.” In addition, military pilots and specialists of the Transportation Ministry organized a search-and-rescue operation in the Pacific Ocean and rescue the crew of a damaged ship. Warplanes determined the location of the ship and dropped rescue devices.

Secondly, the Army has tested a regional monitoring system under water, on the surface and in the air. Vladimir Kuroyedov, Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, stated: “The subsystem will be launched until 2005. We still have to test its air component.” he noted that “the regional subsystem covered the Japanese Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Tatar Strait, the Kurils, the Kamchatka region and Chukotka”.

Thirdly, the military leadership managed to establish cooperation between military units and structures of diverse ministries and departments. An exercise in the village of Terekhovka (the Maritime region) where units of the Interior Ministry, the FSB, the Emergencies Ministry and the Railroad Troops organized a joint operation, was the climax of this cooperation. A joint group prevented a hypothetical terrorist act on the bridge accross the Razdolnaya River. The defense minister said that “the threat of terrorism exists throughout Russia; not only in the Northern Caucasus. The Far East is not an exception.”

Military units, the fleet, border guards, and specialists of the Emergencies Ministry and the Interior Ministry organized an actual search-and-rescue operation aimed at finding an Mi-8 helicopter carrying the Sakhalin governor.

Fourthly, this was an international exercise. The defense minister said that the maneuvers were not aggressive. Military specialists from Canada, South Korea and China observed the exercise. they arrived in Vladivostok on August 23 on the eve of the beginning of the third phase of the exercise. Japanese and South Korean warships, and an US coast guard ship were involved in the maneuvers. The commander-in-chief of the Navy noted that two US submarines were found in the zone of the exercise. the admiral said: “They did not enter Russia’s territorial waters, which is why we did not have to drive them away.” China took part in the exercise as an observer, though Russia invited its Navy to the maneuvers. Observers say that China’s refusal is explained by the fact that precisely Chinese fishermen poach in Russian territorial waters. This is an illegal but rich food resource for China. Perhaps, this is why the Chinese leadership turns a blind eye to such incidents.

So, Russia is strengthening its defense. The full-scale exercise conducted in the Russian Far East is a graphic example. In addition, Russia conducted a range of military exercises in the Caspian Sea in August. Warships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet recently entered the Mediterranean Sea. In other words, Russia is proving that it can protect its interests in zones and regions, which are very important from the point of view of national security.