Coming at a time of poor relations with the United States — during which Russia has conducted nationwide emergency drills amid warnings about the possibility of nuclear war — the latest exercise at least raises the question in some Russian minds: Do President Vladimir Putin and company know something we don't know?
No, according to the Federal Guard Service, which termed the exercises part of “regular” security practices.
So what are they practicing for? According the official news agency TASS, the drills will include countermeasures against attempts at “illegal penetration,” various and unspecified “extremist activities,” detection and elimination of “equipment and gear meant for acts of terrorism and sabotage,” and fire safety precautions. All reasonable. The United States has the same sort of precautions at the White House, where fence jumpers and drones have punctured security.
“Also, certain measures of ensuring the safety of motor vehicles on the route will be practiced,” according to TASS.
That last one is a good idea. Since 1998, at least six citizens have tried to illegally breach Kremlin defenses by car, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.
Back to the list. Of particular interest are unauthorized flyovers by drones.
“Drones today represent an objective security threat,” the state-run Rossiiskaya Gazeta commented this week, and so Russia understandably makes it illegal to fly one over the Kremlin.
Lured by the incredible view, people sometimes do anyway. And they get caught. Russia has some of the most sophisticated air defenses in the world, though ordinary Russian people have proven very resourceful at downing drones by any means available.
The Kremlin, incidentally, uses modern means to confound potential aerial aggressors, as a programmer found recently when his research revealed that Putin's heavily guarded residence has a system for blocking GPS signals that was repositioning them to an airport 18 miles away.
More inconveniences await anyone who tries to get around central Moscow while the drills are underway. Entire sections of road will be blocked off for the exercises, which should further snarl what is already one of the world's most impassable downtowns.
One commuter who won't be inconvenienced is the Kremlin's main resident.
Putin this week is in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, huddling with his military and security top brass about the country's defenses.