Russia is planning to launch its largest military exercise since 1982.
The defence ministry has described the exercise as an integral part of Russia’s attempts to “fend off terror”, but the exercise is likely to involve the test launches of several ICBMs both in Russia itself, and over the Atlantic.
Obviously an exercise of this scale is not really directed at terrorism, but more as a warning to the US/Europe, and other mid-sized rivals, such as China and India. The Russian military is largely regarded as a joke by many, and a successful exercise would remind the world that the Russian bear still has sharp teeth.
It is also thought that the exercise, which will probably be staged just before the March Presidential election, will boost Putin’s image as a strong leader.
I’ve never really seen Putin as a gambling man, but I can’t help but wonder whether he has thought this plan through as far as he should. Russia’s military is not quite a joke, but there is a good reason why it has such a poor reputation. Can it really guarantee that the exercise will go smoothly? What if there is another Kursk? The damage to Putin’s election campaign would be horrendous, not to mention the fall in Russia’s world standing.