Russia’s defense minister, Gen. Igor Sergeev, announced yesterday that four new rapid reaction units will be created next year. He described the new formations as "units of the future." That remark comes some five years after similar units were to be formed as part of a grandiose military restructuring plan to create new "Mobile Forces" as the backbone of Russia’s defense establishment. Sergeev did not provide many details of the new forces, but others said that they would include mobile units with air, naval, and other supporting components. Two of the units will be located in the Moscow Military District; one will be based in the Far Eastern and another in the North Caucasus Military Districts.
As in the original plans, these new structures are likely be built around existing airborne units already stationed in these districts, a development that suggests the fortunes of Russia’s paratroopers are on the upswing. This would also indicate that the new units will probably be kept under central control rather than being parceled out to the local commanders. One Russian newspaper, which claimed to have acquired a draft of the new concept of military reform being considered by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin’s Commission on Military Construction, indicated that the original plan for Mobile Forces is far from a dead letter. That plan had called for what amounted to a new branch of the armed forces, to be made up of rapid reaction forces (RRF) and more heavily-armed rapid deployment forces (RDF), each to be subordinated to a commander-in-chief who would himself not be subordinate to the Ground Forces commander. The new proposal reportedly returns to this concept. The paper suggested that, ultimately, 300,000 men from the Ground Forces could be transferred to the Mobile Forces. (Russian news agencies, June 11; Segodnya, June 10)
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