Shoigu: Russia seeks army 'modernization'

Jan. 29, 2013 at 12:04 AM
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MOSCOW, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Russia's armed forces need to be modernized and be capable of responding to "hot spots" near its borders, newly appointed Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says.

Speaking Saturday at the Academy of Military Sciences in Moscow, Shoigu -- who was named to succeed Anatoly Serdyukov as defense minister in November -- said the modernization of Russia's army would be among the goals of his leadership, a Defense Ministry statement indicated.

The idea, he said, is to make Russia's armed forces ready to respond to a range of 21st-century challenges such as cyberwarfare, as well as to regional conflicts involving the former Soviet republics arrayed along its periphery.

"We must be prepared to respond to any challenges and threats," to guard against which the Russian Federation needs an "armed forces with the best structure, an efficient management system, modern weaponry and professional staff," Shoigu said.

Future threats could come from "hot spots located close to our borders," he asserted, adding that the incorporation of new, modern technology into the army will be key for Russia's defense.

"We expect that researchers at the Academy of Military Sciences will take an active part in the scientific investigation of ways to develop the armed forces," the defense minister said.

Military analysts have said Shoigu faces a challenge inherited from Serdyukov to remedy underinvestment and corruption in the armed forces that have affected its battle-worthiness, The Moscow Times reported.

The Russian army is viewed as capable of fighting only small-scale wars, such as the 2008 conflict with Georgia over the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but not a prolonged war, Alexander Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute for Political and Military Analysis, told the newspaper.

Serdyukov had embarked on a campaign to retool the military from a Soviet-era institution into a more modern, technologically advanced force capable of responding quickly to regional conflicts before he was sacked for alleged corruption.

The reform efforts have since stalled, leaving the military in limbo and focusing attention on which way Shoigu will move, Khramchikhin said.

In his weekend address, Shoigu indicated he will push for enhanced troop control efficiency and integrating state-of-the-art weapons and military hardware into service.

"The priorities of our development is to improve the management of troops, equipping them with modern weapons and equipment, improving military training, the development of the mobilization base and improving logistics and quality of military education," he said.

Also speaking at the event was Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Col. Gen. Valery Gerasimov, who stressed that modern warfare includes not just military but also political and social aspects.

"Recent trends erase the boundaries between peace and war," he said. "Wars are not 'declared,' and are not started on a template as they used to be."

He cited the so-called "color" revolutions, such as the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and the Rose Revolution in Georgia, as examples that "even a relatively prosperous state can become a victim of foreign intervention and plunge into chaos."

Modern conflict management, Gerasimov said, now includes "widespread use of non-military measures -- humanitarian, economic, political -- that relate to the protest potential of the country's population."

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