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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

American Forces Press Service

Joint Staff Official Discusses Russian Military Evolution

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2014 – Russia's conventional military is a regional power, but has limited capability for global power projection, the Joint Staff's director for strategic plans and policy told Congress today.

Navy Vice Adm. Frank C. Pandolfe discussed the evolution of Russian conventional military power during testimony alongside Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, before the House Armed Services Committee.

"Today, Russia is a regional power that can project force into nearby states, but it has very limited global power projection capability," Pandolfe said. "It has a military of uneven readiness. While some units are well trained, most are less so."

Pandolfe said the Russian military "suffers from corruption, and its logistic capabilities are limited."

"Aging equipment, infrastructure and demographic and social problems will continue to hamper reform efforts," he added.

The U.S. military, in contrast, employs a military of global reach and engagement, Pandolfe said.

"The readiness of our rotationally deployed forces is high," he said. "We are working to address readiness shortfalls at home. And we operate in alliances, the strongest of which is NATO."

Composed of 28 nations, Pandolfe said, NATO is the most successful military alliance in history.

"Should Russia undertake an armed attack against any NATO state, it will find that our commitment to collective defense is immediate and unwavering," the admiral said.

At the height of its military power, Pandolfe said, the Soviet Union was truly a global competitor. "With millions of people under arms, a vast number of tanks and planes, a global navy and an extensive intelligence gathering infrastructure," he said, "the Soviet military machine posed a very real threat."

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Pandolfe said, its arsenal fell into disrepair. Starved of funding and fragmented, he added, Russian military capability decayed throughout the 1990s.

"From the start of his term in 2000, President [Vladimir] Putin made military modernization a top priority of the Russian government," he said.

When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, a number of shortcomings were noted in its military performance" Pandolfe said.

This led the Russian government to further increase investment in its military services, and since 2008, those efforts have had some success, the admiral told the panel.

"Russian military forces have been streamlined into smaller, more mobile units," Pandolfe explained. "Their overall readiness has improved, and their most elite units are well trained and equiped. They now employ a more sophisticated approach to joint warfare. Their military has implemented organizational change, creating regional commands within Russia."

Pandolfe said these regional commands coordinate and synchronize planning, joint service integration, force movement, intelligence support and the tactical employment of units.

"Finally, the Russian military adopted doctrinal change placing greater emphasis on speed of movement, the use of special operations forces, and information and cyber warfare," he said.

They instituted snap exercises, the admiral said, with these no-notice drills serving the dual purpose of sharpening military readiness and inducing strategic uncertainty as to whether they would swiftly transition from training to offensive operations.

Pandolfe noted Russia's military objectives are "difficult to predict," but said it is clear that Russia is sustaining a significant military force on Ukraine's border.

"This is deeply troubling to all states in the region and beyond," he said. "And we are watching Russia military movements very carefully."

The admiral noted he recently spoke with Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command, and NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe.

"He is formulating recommendations for presentation to the North Atlantic Council on April 15," Pandolfe said. "These recommendations will be aimed at further reassuring our NATO allies. As part of this effort, he will consider increasing military exercises, forward deploying additional military equipment and personnel and increasing our naval, air and ground presence."

Breedlove will update members of Congress on those recommendations at the earliest opportunity, Pandolfe said.

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