- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 15, 2001

Russian military forces are engaged in a large-scale exercise involving strategic and conventional military forces that will include three long-range missile flight tests in the next several days, according to defense and intelligence officials.
The exercises, involving the "triad" of strategic land, sea and air forces, began Monday and involved Russian strategic bomber intrusions into Japanese airspace and flights near Norwegian airspace. The flights prompted a protest from Tokyo.
Such exercises in the recent past have involved simulated conflicts with the United States and other NATO members, and the officials said they expect that scenario for the weeklong war games.
"They are running a big strategic forces exercise," said one official. "It's larger than we've seen for a long time."
The official said, however, that the Russians have taken steps to structure the exercise in ways to avoid rankling some Western governments. He did not elaborate.
An intelligence official said the Russians notified the U.S. government of the missile flight tests involving a road-mobile ICBM and two submarine-launched ballistic missiles through a new U.S.-Russian missile warning center.
The warning center was set up to avoid the dangerous incident several years ago when Russian nuclear forces went on alert in response to a Norwegian scientific rocket that was mistaken by the Red Army for a U.S. submarine-launched missile.
The highlight of the exercise will be the flight test of the SS-25, Moscow's first road-mobile intercontinental missile. The SS-25 has a range of up to 8,500 miles.
From Russian missile submarines, an SSN-18 missile and an SSN-23 missile will be test-launched during the exercises, said the officials. The triple-warhead SSN-18 and quadruple-warhead SSN-23 missiles have ranges of up to 5,000 miles.
Russian strategic bombers involved in the maneuvers include Bear H and Tu-22 Backfire and Tu-160 Blackjack long-range nuclear-capable bombers operating in both the eastern and western parts of Russia.
The bombers have been flying out of bases in Anadyr, in the Russian Far East; Tiksi on the Laptev Sea near the Arctic Circle; and Engels Air Base west of Moscow, the officials said.
Russian Il-78 tanker aircraft also have been sent to the edges of the vast Russian Federation and have been spotted in aerial refueling of Russian warplanes.
In addition to strategic forces, Russian conventional forces are involved, according to intelligence officials. Troops of the Russian Border Guards and Federal Security Service have been mobilized.
Russia's military press reported Monday that motorized rifle and airborne divisions are participating, along with air force and air defense troops.
"The war games … aim at checking notification systems, combat and mobilization readiness of several military districts, as well as readiness of armed services," Russia's military news agency stated.
A parachute drop of an airborne division is expected today near the town of Ivanovo, and aerial bombing raids also will be carried out, the news agency said.
Analysts view the exercises as timed to exert political influence on the new Bush administration and its plans for a national missile defense, which Moscow opposes.
"These [exercises] appear to be Russia deciding to deal with the West after the fashion of the Soviet Union in the early 1980s, namely to bluster in order to try to prevent an American strategic overture, in this case missile defense," R. James Woolsey, a former CIA director and arms control negotiator, said in an interview.
"I very much hope and believe that these sorts of Russian tactics will backfire both with Europe and with the United States."
Russia recently revised its military doctrine to call for greater reliance on nuclear weapons, since conventional forces are deteriorating under the severe economic problems facing the country. Russian military forces were unable to defeat rebels in Chechnya during several years of fighting.
The exercises are being directed by Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev and the chief of the general staff, Gen. Anatoly Kvashnin. Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to take part in the exercises tomorrow.
U.S. intelligence officials said all three officials utilized the Russian nuclear command and control briefcase, known as a cheget, as part of the exercises.
Japan's Foreign Ministry protested what it said were violations of Japanese airspace by several Russian aircraft, including bombers that were met with Japanese interceptor aircraft.
Russia denied airspace incursions. "We again analyzed all the actions of our pilots, and there were no violations of Japan's airspace," Mr. Sergeyev was quoted as saying by the military news agency.
Russian bombers also flew near Norway's coast but did not intrude on the Scandinavian nation's airspace, according to Col. John Espen Lien of the Norwegian Supreme Defense Command.
The current Russian exercises followed incidents in October and November when Russian fighter-bombers buzzed the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk in the Sea of Japan in a sign of hostility.
The maneuvers also come on the eve of the first talks next week between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in Cairo, and a visit to Moscow by NATO Secretary-General George Robertson.
The exercises are expected to conclude tomorrow.
So far, there have been no Russian bomber flights near U.S. or Canadian territory, although military officials said they are closely monitoring the exercises and are prepared to scramble U.S. Air Force interceptor jets in response.
A Pentagon spokesman said that "we are aware of the exercise" and that it was similar to U.S. maneuvers carried out "to maintain readiness."

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