The Indestructible Brotherhood-2017 drills on the post-conflict settlement involving peacekeeping forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a post-Soviet security bloc, kicked off in Kazakhstan on Monday.
The maneuvers in south-eastern Kazakhstan’s Iliysky firing ground will be held until October 20, the country’s Defense Ministry said.
“The drills involve peacekeeping contingents from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, and police units part of the CSTO Collective Peacekeeping Forces,” the press service said.
Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the joint headquarters and the secretariat of the CSTO have been also invited, it said.
The major goal of the drills will be deepening mutual understanding among the CSTO peacekeeping contingents. During the maneuvers, the commanders and staff will practice to prepare for peacekeeping operations and control CSTO units, solve the tasks on localizing conflicts and improving field training during joint actions in tough conditions of Central Asia.
The participants will also train to hold negotiations, accompany humanitarian cargos, patrol and be on duty at observation points and checkpoints, and destroy militants’ training camps. The maneuvers will also involve psychological operations and information warfare units.
According to the scenario of drills, the situation will gradually change due to the massive arrival of refugees. Special attention will be paid to improving cohesion of the peacekeeping contingents.
Zapad 2017: what you need to know about Belarus and Russia’s military exercises
Russia and Belarus kick off Zapah 2017: what you need to know
Russia and Belarus’ Zapad military exercises have provoked concern among Nato members and allies in eastern Europe.
“We are going to be watching very closely the course of these exercises,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to Poland last month.
Here’s what you need to know
Scheduled to last between September 14 and 20 in Belarus and eastern Russia the drills officially include 12,700 troops, with a little under half coming from Russia and the rest being Belarussian military. However, European sources have suggested up to 100 000 personnel could be involved, a figure denied by Moscow.
According to figures announced by Russia’s Defence Ministry, the drills will involve around 70 airplanes and helicopters, 10 combat ships, along with 680 units of combat equipment, including 250 tanks and 200 machine guns, multiple launch rocket systems and other heavy weaponry.
The Russian Defence Ministry has always insisted that the purpose of the drills is purely defensive
The drills will take place on the territory of three ranges in Leningrad, Pskov and Kaliningrad in Russian and six ranges in Belarus. The name “Zapad” (which translates as “west”) is said to refer to the western part of Russia and Belarus and not the states of the European Union, Russian Deputy Defence Minister Alexander Fomin said in an interview with Deutsche Welle. He also called on western media not to politicise the exercise and not to misinterpret its objectives.
“Some people come to a conclusion, the exercise “Zapad 2017” aims to “set the stage for invasion” and “occupation” of Lithuania, Poland and the Ukraine. None of this surprising theories has anything to do with the reality,” — Fomin announced.
According to the premise of the drills, Belarus gets attacked by three imaginary enemy states: Veyshnoria, Vesbaria and Lubenia. Lubenia is situated on the territory of western Belarus, while Veisbaria and Lubenia — are in territory belonging to Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. The aim of the drills is to test the ability of joint forces of Russia and Belarus to hold off the enemy’s attack and practice cooperation between the military administration of the two countries.
The governments of states sharing borders with Russia have expressed fears that the drills will be used for military provocation.
The main concern is that Russian may use the exercise to relocate a large number of military personnel to Belarus. The head of staff of the Ukrainian Army, Victor Muzhenko, has suggested that Russia could then launch an assault on its neighbours on the grounds of “massive provocations” concerning “the abuse of rights and threats to the safety of Russian-speaking minority”.
Baltic states have similar concerns, even though the idea of an invasion is further off.
Latvia sent a task force to Belarus to observe the drills, justifying the move by citing the risk of incursions into its airspace: The minister for foreign affairs Edgars Rinkevics has indicated it is possible foreign military aircraft could overfly neighbouring territory. At the same time, he played down the prospect of military invasion — especially due to an enhanced Nato presence in the region.
Meanwhile, Latvia is also undertaking some additional security measures. Authorities have even called on fans of strike ball — a military game, where participants dress in camouflage and carry fake weapons — to give up on their hobby for a while, to avoid causing panic among populations in border regions.
The Lithuanian authorities share the position of Latvia. “We are prepared better, than during the “Zapad 2009” and “Zapad 2013” exercises, the president of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite declared on September, 14 in an interview for LRT radio station. “More defensive units and measures are now located on our territory”.
A Lithuanian military inspection group is set to visit Belarus, BelTA learned from the press service of the Defense Ministry of Belarus.
The inspection will be held on 10-12 October in line with the provisions of the Belarus-Lithuania agreements on additional confidence- and security-building measures.
The Lithuanian military will inspect the 19th separate mechanized brigade. The inspection will verify the level of reliable information provided by Belarus within the agreement in respect to the military personnel, armament systems and hardware of the chosen military unit.
Moscow – If you read the Western “reviews” of the major Russian military exercise in Belarus, you might get the impression that there is something very superficial about the Russian military. That’s a bad mistake.
The Russian exercises in Belarus were called ZAPAD. They involved all arms of the Russian ground, missile, and air services. Reviews made much of increased Russian drone capacity, huge amounts of firepower, and the proximity to the Polish border.
The expected commentary about “catching up with the West” and “a challenge to NATO”, (perhaps doing a lap of honour before this tired terminology is finally laid to rest), was also very prominent. As reviews go, there wasn’t much new to be seen.
Soviet analogies, increasingly irrelevant, also lurked in the commentary like old drinkers in a bar. The Russian military has been shedding its Soviet-era baggage, including theoretical baggage, for decades now. Even relatively balanced commentaries couldn’t quite resist the temptation to dwell on the old, largely obsolete military model while reporting on the new Russian military. Let’s get this straight – The old Russian model no longer exists. It shouldn’t be part of any analysis.
An inexcusably lot less was said about something much more important – The refocusing of the entire Russian military in to an agile, much more focused, configuration. Since Russia’s entry in to the Syrian conflict, these elements are very high priority in terms of assessing actual military capacity.
A bit of background about the reconfiguration of the Russian military – In the past, the Soviet military was a very high volume, very large, structure. Everything was made in huge numbers, from tanks to ICBMs and submarines.
This type of military model is a true dinosaur, totally unrealistic in modern warfare on just about every level. The absurdity of trying to upgrade vast numbers of anything in any military should be obvious. Large forces are uneconomical in peacetime, and basically not much more than bigger targets for modern weaponry in wartime.
Big numbers may mean added capacity, but can also mean added inefficiencies on a truly unacceptable scale, particularly for Russia. The vast range of very necessary system and force profile upgrades over the last decade shouldn’t be surprising to analysts. Russia is a gigantic country. Modern war moves fast, and fast responses are essential.
To explain without actually using crayons – A big lumbering military bear is far less efficient than a fast military wolf pack. Adding a few divisions, as some analysts have suggested Russia is contemplating, would simply add to reserve and defensive capabilities, without intruding on the new frontline configurations much at all.
NATO missing the point?
Putin is neither a fool, nor superficial. The ZAPAD exercises apparently showed exactly what everyone expected to see. There was even the traditional outrage that the exercises used more troops than advertised. That was about as superficial as ZAPAD needed to be.
As though it matters. As an attention getter, ZAPAD was very effective. It doesn’t really matter whether the Russians used 13,000 troops or tens of thousands. The blunt but clear message is “This is what we can put here right now”. Nor should anyone be too surprised that the exercises as a show were also very high on firepower, a staple commodity in Russian military profiles.
What NATO should be looking at are the new military doctrines which will inevitably arise from the new configurations. Russia is apparently adopting a more forward defensive/offensive posture. Good logistics, better tech and support make excellent sense in this context. You’re now looking at a far more capable and obviously purpose built machine. This very mobile type of force configurations is built to hit hard and fast.
Equally to the point, this is an easily sustainable military profile for Russia. All that’s required is to have a good frontline force which can be expanded if necessary. There’s no need to spend vast amounts on a standing force at all.
Technology, too, of course, was a feature of ZAPAD. Did anyone really expect the Russians to showcase more advanced capabilities? Hardly. The far more likely scenario is that what was shown in ZAPAD were baseline forces, not advanced forces.
The West continues to assume that Russia is technically disadvantaged. That may have been the case before, but not now. Russia can access any technologies it wants, directly or indirectly, regardless of Western assumptions of superiority. It would be naïve in the extreme to assume otherwise.
The US, which is looking hard at its own scales of future operations, should take note of the many Russian workarounds. Consider the new T-14 Armata tank, a somewhat sawn-off MBT (main battle tank). It’s lighter than the US M1, with a lot of on-board systems, high speed, and multiple new systems on-board, including defensive systems. Consider also that this is the exact opposite of the previous tank doctrine, and that the Armata is a lot cheaper than Western MBTs.
ZAPAD shows a major, anything but superficial, rethink of Russian military capabilities on all levels. The current military profile is definitely not a global warfighting profile. It’s designed to fight efficiently, relatively close to home. If a few sharp nudges to neighbours are required, it can do that, too. For the price of a few photos, ZAPAD has also shown that the West should be rethinking its own assumptions – Preferably much less superficially.
Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz came up with the assertions on Friday that Ukrainian officials were perfectly well informed on the Russian-Belarusian military exercise Zapad 2017 and hence their allegations that Russian troops had stayed back on the territory of Belarus after completion of the maneuvers were to be treated seriously.
“We’re examining the information from the Ukrainian side very attentively,” he told Polish television. “The Ukrainians are very competent in the affairs of the Russians and I personally would evaluate their information seriously.”
He admitted along with it he was unprepared either to confirm or to disprove the claims of the Kiev officials.
As it follows from Macierewicz’s claims, a total of 120,000 servicemen took part in Zapad 2017 and the pullout of so many military units should take up a long enough period of time.
“It’s always possible to say the process is incomplete and we’re witnessing the procedure of the troops’ return home rather than with the stationing them for long,” he said. “I think we’ll have an opportunity at the end of next week to assess if some troops have stayed back on the territory of Belarus or if the Ukrainians made an error.”
The strategic Russian-Belarusian exercise Zapad 2017 was held in Belarus from September 14 through September 20. Engaged in it was a contingent of up to 12,700 men and officers. The Belarusian Defense Ministry said on Thursday, September 28 the last echelon carrying the troops that had taken part in the maneuvers had left railway station of Borisov in Belarus.
The chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Force, Viktor Muzhenko told Reuters earlier Russia had left behind some troops on the territory of Belarus after completion of Zapad 2017.
Gen Igor Konashenkov, the official spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday the information stood at variance with reality.
He said Muzhenko’s information on the troops Russia had ostensibly hidden in Belarus exposed the degree of degradation of the Ukrainian General Staff and the professional inaptitude of its top official.
All the Russian military, who participated in the Zapad-2017 military exercise, returned to the permanent deployment areas, and claims by Ukraine’s Chief of General Staff Viktor Muzhenko are not true to life, spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Saturday.
Earlier, in an interview with Reuters, Muzhenko claimed Russia left troops in Belarus after the Zapad-2017 exercise.
“As for units of the Russian Armed Forces, which participated in the Zapad-2017 joint strategic exercise, they all are back to the permanent deployment areas,” the ministry’s spokesman said, adding Muzhenko’s claims about the Russian troops “hidden” in Belarus, “demonstrate scale of degradation of the Ukrainian General Staff and incompetence of its chief.”
A large-scale exercise Zapad-2017 was held in Russia and Belarus from September 14 to September 20. The drills were held at three proving grounds in Russia and six in Belarus involving 12,700 troops (7,200 Belarussian and 5,500 Russian), about 70 warplanes and helicopters, up to 680 ground vehicles, including about 250 tanks, 200 artillery pieces, multiple rocket launchers and mortars and ten warships. The last train with the Russian military, who participated in the exercise, departed from Belarus on Thursday, September 28.
The main purpose of the exercise was to improve the compatibility of command and control centers, test new documentation and let commanders of all levels practice planning and control of operations on the basis of experience gained in the latest military conflicts.
The drills were monitored by observers from seven states, including NATO members.
Muzhenko told Reuters Russia had withdrawn only a few units from Belarus and lied about how many of its soldiers were there in the first place.
His comments could increase tension between the two neighbors and contradict the Belarusian defense ministry spokesman, who said the last train of Russian troops and equipment had left Belarus on Thursday.
Russia’s defense ministry did not respond to an immediate request for comment. The Zapad wargames, held by Russian and Belarussian troops on territory in both countries in September, are a new source of concern for neighboring Ukraine and NATO member states on Europe’s eastern flank.
“I wouldn’t say that the tension has lessened. We can say tension is building up or rising,”“We had information that they had withdrawn only a few units of the declared 12,500 troops, of which 3,000 were Russians, but there were significantly more of them there.”
Muzhenko said the Russians had withdrawn air units from Belarus to make a show of leaving.
“Russia demonstrated, and it was primarily a demonstration, the return of aviation units — they took off from the airfields and flew to airfields in Russia. But we understand that 300-400 km for aviation is a distance that can be overcome in a very short time,”
Muzhenko says Ukraine is still outgunned in terms of its air defense capabilities in the Donbas war and needs air reconnaissance and anti-missile systems.
Kyiv is hoping to receive lethal defensive weapons from U.S. President Donald Trump. Muzhenko said talks had been concluded.
“We expect the corresponding decision because all negotiations are over and the relevant issues have been agreed — on the list and types of weapons — and we expect only the political decisions of our partner countries.”
VILNIUS, Sept 25 (LETA–BNS) – NATO fighter-jets patrolling Baltic airspace were scrambled nine times last week to intercept Russian military aircraft in international airspace over the Baltic Sea, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry said on Monday.
The biggest number of scrambles took place last Wednesday when the Alliance’s jets took off several times to intercept Tu-22 bombers and Su-27 fighter-jets. Officially, it was the final day of the Russia-Belarus military exercise Zapad 2017.
The Russian aircraft had no flight plans, did not maintain radio contact with the regional air traffic control centre and had their automatic transponders switched off.
According to the Lithuanian Defense Ministry, NATO’s fighters were scrambled daily on Tuesday through Friday.
Military cooperation between Belarus and Russia is in the two countries’ national interests and is not aimed against anyone, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said while reviewing the troops that took part in the Zapad-2017 joint drills at the Borisovsky training range.
“We maintain the necessary defense capabilities and take joint measures to counter military threats to Belarus and Russia, as well as to improve the capabilities of the regional forces,” the Belarusian leader said.
At the same time, Lukashenko stressed that “joint military activities and cooperation with Russia in conducting drills are not aimed against any country and only serve defense purposes.” He also pointed out that by boosting military cooperation, Belarus and Russia did not threaten anyone. “We have never threatened anyone and we have no intention to do that,” Lukashenko said.
“Threats and wars never came from our land, but those who invaded this land were always repelled. This is the idea behind our drills. There is no other idea and should not be,” the Belarusian president noted.
On Wednesday, the Zapad-2017 joint Russian-Belarusian military drills, which kicked off on September 14, concluded at the Borisovsky training range in Belarus.
The exercises, held at six training ranges in Belarus and three training ranges in Russia, involved up to 12,700 troops (with 10,200 troops in Belarus), around 70 aircraft, up to 680 pieces of military equipment, including 250 tanks, up to 200 guns, mortars and multiple-launch rocket systems, as well as ten vessels.
Observers from seven countries, including NATO member states, monitored the drills.
TALLINN, Sep 20, BNS – Representatives of seven countries invited to observe the Zapad large-scale Russia-Belarus joint military exercise in Belarus under the Vienna document were shown action of defensive nature and also the number of personnel that they saw was smaller than the declared maximum numbers, an Estonian observer who was present at the exercise said.
“What we saw was basically of defensive nature by all means,” the observer, Lt. Col. Kaupo Kiis, told BNS on Wednesday. He said that the joint Russia-Belarus exercise, just like the military exercises held in Estonia, started with an imitated invasion by an enemy, which was then halted and the enemy eventually driven out of the country.
On the first day operations of the air force took place, on the second day it was action by the ground forces and on the third day an air defense operation took place. On the last day, Wednesday, a large-scale operation took place that was watched also by the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, foreign defense attaches and representatives of NATO, the UN, the Red Cross and the OSCE.
Kiis said that the number of personnel seen by the observers was smaller than what Belarus had declared.
“The kind of number of people that was declared by the different sides we never saw. There may have been more, because Belarus is big, but I guess that I didn’t see 5,000 on different days combined,” the officer said.
Moscow and Minsk have said that 12,700 personnel were to take part in Zapad, including about 7,200 from Belarus and about 5,500 from Russia. Of the Russian personnel up to 3,000 were to take part in the exercise in Belarus. Representatives of NATO meanwhile have questioned these numbers as too small.
Kiis pointed out that the exercise was held in two stages, of which the observers invited under the OSCE Vienna document saw the second stage. “We don’t know what happened in the first stage because Russian soldiers were given honors after the end of the first stage,” he said.
Kiis said that the actions of offensive nature spoken about in international media may have taken place in the first stage, but since he did not see it, he can not confirm of deny this
“This is all that was shown to us, that was spoken to us. I can speak about these things,” he said.
The active phase of the exercise lasted from Sept. 14 through 20.
“And one more thing — we could not speak to conscripts, regardless of our repeated requests, to ask about their opinion. We could speak though to senior officers of various ranks on both the Russian and the Belarusian side,” the Estonian observer said.
The Estonian officer was an observer at Zapad alongside officers from Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, Sweden and Norway. Each of the countries sent two observers.
IVATSEVICHI DISTRICT, 19 September (BelTA) – Foreign reporters, who are accredited to cover the Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017, have remarked upon the exercise’s openness, BelTA has learned.
About 50 reporters from Ukraine, Germany, France, the UK, the USA, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia came to the Domanovo army exercise area to cover the second stage of the Zapad 2017 exercise. Nora Thorp Bjornstad from Norway was one of them.
“I think everything is sufficiently open. It is very important. We’ve talked to colleagues from Norway and Sweden. They are satisfied, too,” said the Norwegian reporter.
“We were quite surprised to receive accreditation. We thought it would be quite difficult to achieve. We are glad to be here. People in Belarus are very hospitable,” she noted.
Nora Bjornstad works for a European printed media and does not specialize in military affairs. However, people in Europe are interested in the Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017, this is why not coming to observe the exercise would have been a mistake, she noted.
A mixed unit consisting of one battalion of air defense missile systems S-300 and one battery of air defense missile systems Osa worked together with battlefield air defense units in the Domanovo exercise area on 19 September. In line with the concept of the exercise the mixed unit had to repulse group strikes of the enemy’s air force units, which were simulated by two Mi-8 helicopters and four Yak-130 aircraft. Two Osa air defense missile systems and Igla portable air defense missile systems successfully destroyed the targets. As many as 150 personnel and 45 military and special vehicles were used in this episode of the Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017.
The Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017 began on 14 September to end on 20 September. In Belarus the regular army exercise areas Lepelsky, Borisovsky, Losvido, Osipovichsky, and the Air Force exercise areas Ruzhansky and Domanovo are used for the exercise in addition to two regular sectors of terrain in Vitebsk Oblast — Dretun and Glubokoye. In Russia the army exercise areas Luzhsky, Strugi Krasnyye, and Pravdinsky in Kaliningrad Oblast, Leningrad Oblast, and Pskov Oblast are used for the exercise. Some 12,700 military personnel are taking part in the Zapad 2017 exercise.