Russian on High Alert

The Russian Pacific Fleet has been put on high alert for snap drills involving practice missile launches, according to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The drills come amid escalating tensions with the West over the fighting in Ukraine and are designed to test the capability of Russia’s armed forces to respond to aggression. The drills will involve nuclear-capable strategic bombers, warplanes, and naval aviation of the Pacific Fleet, along with practice torpedo and missile launches and artillery exercises.

The southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, the Peter the Great Bay of the Sea of Japan, and the Avacha Bay on the southeastern coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula will be closed for sea and air traffic for the duration of the exercises. Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin briefed foreign military attaches on the drills, stating that they were intended to “test the Pacific Fleet’s readiness to repel aggression.” The Russian Ministry of Defense described the briefing as a show of Russia’s “voluntary transparency.”

The drills are in response to an adversary’s attempt to make a landing on Sakhalin Island and the southern Kuril Islands. Japan claims territorial rights to the Kuril Islands, which it calls the Northern Territories. The Soviet Union took them in the final days of World War II, and the dispute has prevented the countries from signing a peace treaty formally ending their hostilities. Russia has recently built up its military presence on the islands.

The drills come just days before Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Li Shangfu’s planned trip to Moscow, during which Shoigu and Li will discuss “prospects of bilateral defense cooperation and acute issues of global and regional security.” The partnership between Russia and China was demonstrated last month during a three-day visit to Moscow by Chinese President Xi Jinping, where the two nations pledged to increase contacts between their militaries and stage more joint sea and air patrols and drills. However, there was no indication that China would provide weapons to Russia, as the US and other Western allies feared.

The drills are part of Russia’s regular training program, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said they are intended to “maintain the necessary level of the armed forces’ readiness.” The Russian military has concentrated most of its forces on the front lines in Ukraine but has continued to conduct regular drills across Russia to train its forces and demonstrate their readiness.

The Russian Defense Ministry released videos showing warships and submarines sailing off to take part in the maneuvers. Marine units deployed to amphibious landing vessels and coastal defense missile systems moved to firing positions.

The Russian Pacific Fleet snap drills show that tensions with the West remain high over the fighting in Ukraine, and Russia is determined to show its military strength and readiness to respond to aggression. The drills also demonstrate the partnership between Russia and China and their determination to increase contacts between their militaries and stage joint patrols and drills.