President Vladimir Putin (right) is at home in Russia’s new high-tech national defence centre. Picture / AP
“Gentlemen. You can’t fight in here. This is the war room!”
could have been a scene straight out of Dr Strangelove when President
Vladimir Putin stepped into the Russian Ministry of Defence’s brand new,
three-tiered, multibillion-dollar control centre this week, for a war
briefing that had its fair share of movie-like pageantry.
fortified National Control Defence Centre was Putin’s first stop after
officials confirmed that the Russian charter jet crash that claimed 224
lives last month was the result of an act of terror.
theatre-size screens, live broadcasts showed long-range strategic
bombers taking off from Russian air bases to fly sorties over Syria.
Putin instructed commanders in Syria to “make contact with the French
and work with them as allies” as Russia seeks a central role in a
proposed anti-terrorist coalition.
But the real star of the show
may have been the building itself, which is designed to be a new nerve
centre for the Russian military that will co-ordinate military action
around the world, including ballistic missile launches and strategic
The building is roughly the equivalent of the US National
Military Command Centre used by the Pentagon, but as one Russian state
news agency noted in a breathless headline last week, “Russian Defence
Data Centre Outperforms US Facility Threefold: Official.” The centre,
which is fortified and said to sit on top of a maze of underground
tunnels, is on the Frunze Naberezhnaya on the left bank of the Moscow
river, 3km from Red Square.
It was finished in 2014 and is part
of a massive, decade-long modernisation of Russia’s army, which has cost
hundreds of billions of dollars, but has also produced noted
improvements, from the expertise of Russian troops deployed during the
Crimea operation to the recent cruise missile strikes launched from the
Caspian Sea. The centre also includes a helicopter pad that was deployed
on the Moscow River and can accommodate Russia’s Mi-8 transport
helicopter. In case of a war, it would be the country’s premier
communications centre in a war.