News / Europe

Putin Flexes Russian Military Muscle in Black Sea Drills

Russian president Vladimir Putin takes part in a government meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi, March 28, 2013.
Russian president Vladimir Putin takes part in a government meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi, March 28, 2013.
Reuters
President Vladimir Putin ordered the launch of large-scale military exercises in the Black Sea on Thursday, projecting Russian power towards Europe and the Middle East in a move that may vex its neighbors.

​Officials suggested the surprise drills were designed to test the reaction speed and combat readiness of Russian forces, but Putin's order also seemed aimed at sending a signal to the West that Russia is an important presence in the region.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Putin triggered the maneuvers as he flew back overnight from South Africa after a summit of the BRICS emerging economies.

Peskov said 36 warships and an unspecified number of warplanes would take part, but did not say how long the exercises would last.

Putin has stressed the importance of a strong and agile military since returning to the presidency last May. In 13 years in power, he has often cited external threats when talking of the need for reliable armed forces and Russian political unity.

Late last month, Putin ordered military leaders to make urgent improvements to the armed forces in the next few years, saying Russia must thwart Western attempts to tip the balance of power. He said maneuvers must be held with less advance warning, to keep soldiers on their toes.

Putin, 60, has also used his role as commander-in-chief and calls for military might to cast himself as a strong leader for whom the country's security is foremost. State media emphasised that he had given the order for the exercises from an airplane in the dead of night.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet, whose main base is in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol, was instrumental in a war with ex-Soviet neighbor Georgia in 2008 over the Russian-backed breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

In addition to Georgia and Ukraine, Russia shares the Black Sea with Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.

But Russian foreign affairs analyst Fyodor Lukyanov said the exercises were "more likely part of a wider attempt to reconfirm that Russia's navy and military forces in the south are still able to play a political and geopolitical role."

"It is flexing muscles and may have more to do with what is happening in the Mediterranean, around Syria, than in the Black Sea"' said Lukyanov, editor of the journal Russia in Global Affairs.

A regional role

Russia's modest naval maintenance and supply facility in Syria is its only military base outside the former Soviet Union, and the defense ministry recently announced plans to deploy a naval unit in the Mediterranean on a permanent basis.

Russia has clashed diplomatically with the West throughout a two-year conflict that has killed more than 70,000 people in Syria, using its U.N. Security Council veto to block Western efforts to push President Bashar al-Assad from power.

Moscow-based military analyst Alexander Golts said unannounced exercises are a good thing for Russia's military, but that the location could raise questions among Russia's neighbors about its intentions.

"We will be watching these exercises very closely as Georgia has its own experience with Russia," Tedo Japaridze, head of the Georgian parliament's foreign relations committee, told Reuters, referring to the 2008 war. However, he said all countries on the Black Sea have the right to hold exercises.

The Kremlin portrays Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili as a bellicose leader, and Russia said last week that annual U.S.-Georgian training exercises that began this month in Georgia put peace at risk. Those exercises are being held far from Georgia's Black Sea coast.

Meanwhile, disputes with Ukraine over Moscow's continued lease of the Black Sea navy base have been a thorn in relations with its former Soviet neighbor.

Ukraine's foreign minister was in Moscow on Thursday. He could not immediately be reached for comment, and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's office declined to comment on the Russian exercises, as did the defense ministry.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid