|A RUSSIAN MILITARY
convoy nears Pristina.
MOSCOW - The Russian military is gradually
increasing its combat-readiness after a long post-Soviet
decline, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Friday, but cash
shortages still limit training and the supply of
"The process of decline of
the combat readiness of the Armed Forces that continued
throughout the 1990s has been stopped," Ivanov was quoted as
saying by the Interfax news agency on the second anniversary
of his appointment as minister.
In a separate
interview published Friday in the military daily Krasnaya
Zvezda, Ivanov said that Russia needs to revise its military
doctrine to more effectively counter terrorism threats. He
indicated that the military should be given the right to
strike at terrorist facilities outside Russian borders.
"The armed forces must be able, in case of necessity,
to deal strikes at facilities which are used by terrorists to
prepare acts of terror and sabotage both on the territory of
our state and against Russian facilities and citizens on the
territories of foreign nations," Ivanov was quoted as saying.
He added that such strikes can only be carried out
after "political and diplomatic means are exhausted." Ivanov's
comments echo a statement last year from President Vladimir
Putin, who warned after a Moscow hostage-taking crisis that
Russia could strike terrorists "wherever they may be."
Despite the ambitious goals, the cash-hungry military
has not only struggled to house, feed and uniform its soldiers
and officers, but also to keep its aging, Soviet-built
equipment up-to-date. Fuel shortages have meant that pilots
fly an average of 20 hours a year compared with the minimum of
200 hours in Western air forces, and many Russian naval ships
are stranded in harbors, due to a lack of fuel and spare
Ivanov was quoted as telling Interfax that last
year, training improved greatly with tactical exercises
increasing 50 percent, naval voyages 25 percent and flight
hours 11 percent.
"This is not much, of course, and
does not satisfy us, but still it is a tangible step forward
toward what the Armed Forces should be doing in the first
place - combat training," Interfax quoted Ivanov as saying.
He also said that while the Russian Armed Forces don't
need the vast scale of equipment sought during Soviet times,
"the problem of rearmament is very acute."
senior Russian military officials gathered in the southern
city of Rostov-on-Don for command-staff training exercises
around the Caspian and Black Seas, said Major Igor Kaverin of
the North Caucasus Military District. Anatoly Kvashnin, the
chief of the Russian military's general staff, and more than
70 generals and officers arrived for the opening of the
exercises, due to last through April 4.