Tag: Zapad

As Russia threatens, Sweden ponders joining NATO

Vladimir Putin’s mock attacks on Scandinavia could make the Swedes end 200 years of neutrality

SWEDEN’S Aurora-17 drill, which continues until the end of September, is the biggest war game that the supposedly neutral country has carried out for 23 years. Not only does it involve 19,000 of Sweden’s armed forces (about half of them), including its Home Guard, but also more than 1,500 troops from Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, France, Norway and America.

All except Finland are members of NATO, the big western alliance.

The size of the exercise and its main focus, the defence of Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea some 350km (220 miles) from the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, is a reflection of how insecure Sweden feels.

Vladimir Putin, having gobbled up Crimea and attacked Ukraine, is flexing his muscles near the Baltics and Scandinavia. Russia’s massive Zapad-17 military exercise, which finished this week, involved sending 100,000 troops to Belarus and the Baltic to practise repelling the “Western Coalition”.

Foreign observers were banned, as they never are from NATO exercises. (Perhaps luckily: a Russian helicopter reportedly fired missiles at spectators by mistake, though the government denies this.)

There have been plenty of other causes for disquiet. In March 2013 Russia sent two Tupolev Tu-22M3 bombers, escorted by four Sukhoi Su-27 jet fighters, across the Gulf of Finland to within 40km of Gotland.

Su-27UB , Su-27P and Tupolev Tu-22M3

The planes only veered off after carrying out what NATO analysts believed was a dummy nuclear attack on targets in Sweden. After many years of static or declining defence spending, Sweden had to rely on Danish F-16s, part of NATO’s Baltic air-policing operation, to respond.

In 2014 a Russian submarine penetrated the Stockholm archipelago, departing without being found. Since then Russia has stepped up the frequency of menacing, no-notice military drills in the region.

Small wonder many Swedes think they should end 200 years of neutrality by joining NATO. If they did, any Russian attack on Sweden would be treated as an attack on America and its 28 NATO allies.

All the main Swedish opposition parties want to join, apart from the ultra-nationalist Sweden Democrats, who like many European populists have a curious fondness for Mr Putin.

Polls suggest that a plurality of Swedes favour NATO membership. A Pew survey earlier this year found 47% in support of membership and 39% against.

But for now the Social Democratic-Green coalition government, in office since 2014, wants to get as close as possible to NATO without actually joining it.

Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister, is the author of a policy that tries to square the contradictions in the country’s security policy.

Part of the “Hultqvist doctrine”, as it is known, is to improve Sweden’s neglected capacity for self-defence. Military spending is rising—by about 5% annually in real terms over the next three years—and conscription is being reintroduced next year.

Peter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister

The other part is building closer defence co-operation with its non-NATO neighbour, Finland, as well as with America and Baltic littoral states in NATO. All of which Aurora-17 is meant to demonstrate.

Both Sweden and Finland also entered into a “host country support agreement” with NATO, which allows alliance forces to move through their territory and pre-position kit by invitation.

Mr Hultqvist himself is suspected of hankering after NATO membership. But for now the government has ruled it out. There is still a good deal of anti-Americanism on the Swedish left (which Donald Trump does little to dispel).

There is also a fear, expressed by the foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, of provoking Mr Putin (who has promised to “eliminate the threat” were Sweden to join NATO). Many observers doubt that Finland, where popular support for NATO is lower, would be ready to make a joint decision in favour of membership—something Swedish NATO boosters see as crucial.

There are good reasons why NATO itself might be keen for Sweden (and Finland) to join its fold. Defence of its Baltic members would be much harder without guaranteed access to Swedish ground and airspace. As a member, Sweden would be far more integrated with NATO’s command-and-control systems. Interoperability of its forces with those of the alliance would improve, making them more effective in a fight.

Sweden’s NATO question is being fudged for now, but it will loom large in next year’s general election. If the Swedes do eventually make the jump, Mr Putin will have only himself to blame.

This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “A funny kind of neutrality”

 

Belarusian president comments on military cooperation with Russia

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. AP Photo/Sergei Grits

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.

 

 

 

Estonian Observer Reports that the Russian-Belarus 2017 Drills Appear to have conformed to the OSCE Vienna document Guidelines

MINSK REGION, BELARUS. A helicopter insertion during Zapad 2017, joint Russian and Belarusian military exercises, at Borisovsky range. Ramil Nasibulin/BelTA/TASS

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.

 

Russian Helicopter Mistakenly Fires At Vehicles During War Games

Kamov Ka-52 Alligator Attack Helicopter

Despite the conjecture of recent days, Radio Free Europe has released footage that appears to confirm that one of a pair of Kamov Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopters did fire rockets at onlookers at the 2017 Zapad wargames in Russia. A car was said to have been hit.

There are no reports of any fatalities. Russian news services claim that one of the Ka-52s suffered from a malfunction which resulted in an accidental firing whilst performing a display for spectators.

 

 

 

Foreign reporters remark upon openness of Belarusian-Russian army exercise Zapad 2017

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.

Observers and military attaches from more than 60 states were invited to one of the central episodes of the Zapad-2017 military drills

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.

 

Putin visits Zapad-2017 to see military eliminate simulated terrorist infiltrators

President Putin reviews the Zapad-2017 military exercise at the Luzhsky proving ground, the Leningrad Region. Mikhail Klimentyev. Russian presidential press service/TASS

LUZHSKY PROVING GROUND /Leningrad Region/, September 18. /TASS/.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has reviewed progress in the Zapad-2017 military exercise at the Luzhsky proving ground, the Leningrad Region. Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, who was briefing Putin on the scenario of the exercise, said 95 foreign monitors from 50 countries were present at the event.

“They appear to be interested,” Putin said.

LENINGRAD REGION, RUSSIA – SEPTEMBER 18, 2017: Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (R-L) attend the main stage of Zapad 2017, joint Russian and Belarusian military exercises, at Luzhsky range. Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS

Under the scenario of the exercise small groups of militants had infiltrated into Russia’s territory across the border to have merged into several large units each having a strength of up to 500 men for staging terrorist attacks and acts of sabotage. They seized a large number of light aircraft and drones at airfields near the border.

For this reason air defense artillery systems Pantsir-S1, air defense missiles Strela-1 and other counter-weapons had to be used. On the ground, the enemy was attacked with support provided by artillery and armored vehicles, including T-90 tanks, the newest tank support vehicles Terminator, front-line bombers Sukhoi-24, fighter-bombers Sukhoi-34 and also Mi-24, Mi-28 and Ka-52 helicopters.

The concerted attack against the hypothetical terrorists on the ground was accompanied by an air assault. The intruder forces were sealed off and eliminated.

LENINGRAD REGION, RUSSIA – SEPTEMBER 18, 2017: Russia’s First Deputy Defense Minister, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (L-R) attend the main stage of Zapad 2017, joint Russian and Belarusian military exercises, at Luzhsky range. Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS

The strategic exercise Zapad-2017 is the last phase of joint training by the armed forces of the Union State of Russia and Belarus this year. Participating in the exercise are up to 12,700 troops, 70 planes and helicopters, up to 680 pieces of military equipment on the ground, including 250 tanks, 200 artillery pieces multiple rocket launchers and mortars and ten ships.

 

 

 

 

 

Two Russian military aircraft violated Lithuanian airspace

Russian Air Force Ilyushin Il-76MD

VILNIUS, Sep 18, BNS – Two Russian IL-76 military transport aircraft last week violated Lithuania’s airspace, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

The incident occurred during the time of the Russia-Belarus military exercise Zapad.

Alexander Udaltsov, Russia’s ambassador to Lithuania, on Monday was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and handed a diplomatic note over the airspace violation, the ministry said in a press release.

According to it, two Russian IL-76 planes, flying from mainland Russia to its Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad, late in the evening of Sept. 16 entered Lithuania’s airspace and stayed there for up to 2 minutes.

The ministry “expressed its protest to the Russian ambassador and requested competent Russian authorities to provide an explanation over the incident as soon as possible”.

It also “called on Russia to take all necessary measures to prevent such incidents from occurring in the future”.

The active phase of Zapad started on Sept. 14 and will run through Sept. 20. Before the drills, Lithuanian officials did not rule out possible incidents and provocations.

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Russian Baltic Fleet helicopters destroy maneuver enemy submarine during Zapad-2017 drills

Kamov Ka-27PL

KALININGRAD, September 17. /TASS/.

Crews of the Russian Baltic Fleet marine aviation helicopters stopped and destroyed a submarine of the maneuver enemy during the Zapad-2017 (West-2017) strategic drills, the fleet’s spokesman, Roman Martov, said on Sunday.

“A maneuver enemy submarine was detected in the area of sea routes. Ka-27PL marine aviation helicopters were sent to the designated area. The crews used radar and hydro-acoustic tools to detect and chase the submarine,” he said, adding that once spotted the submarine was destroyed with the use of air bombs.

Earlier in the day, the Ka-27PL helicopters were used to back Baltic Fleet warships which destroyed another submarine of the maneuver enemy.

A large-scale exercise Zapad-2017 began in Russia and Belarus on September 14. The drills are 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 main purpose of the exercise is 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 exercise will last till September 20.

 

Russian attack helicopters provide aerial backing to land troops during Zapad-2017 drills

Kamov Ka-52 Alligator attack helicopter

LUZHSKY GROUND /Leningrad region/, September 17. /TASS/.

Attack helicopters of Russia’s Western Military District provided air support to ground troops and hit more than 20 maneuver enemy targets during the Zapad-2017 (West-2017) drills, the district’s press service said on Sunday.

“As part of the Zapad-2017 joint strategic exercises, crews of Mi-28N and Ka-52 attack helicopters drills the skills of aerial reconnaissance, delivering missile strikes at land-based targets and backing land troops at the Luzhsky training ground,” the press service said.

While drilling aerial reconnaissance skills, the pilots conducts nap-of-the-earth flights at set intervals and distances.

Apart from that, the helicopters launched unguided missiles and used onboard weapons to hit more than 20 targets imitating armored vehicles, artillery positions, strongholds and other facilities of the maneuver enemy.

Mil Mi-28 Night Hunter

A large-scale exercise Zapad-2017 began in Russia and Belarus on September 14. The drills are 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 main purpose of the exercise is 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 exercise will last till September 20.

 

Air defense units destroy simulated enemy’s drones at Zapad-2017 exercise

 

Surface-to-air missile system 9K35 “Strela-10″

Over 30 air-defense missile systems of the Russian Airborne Troops’ air defense units have destroyed high-speed drones of a simulated adversary in a border area of the northwestern Pskov region, Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

“During the Zapad-2017 military exercise, paratroopers destroyed about 40 high-speed ‘drones’ of the simulated enemy. The targets were destroyed with Strela-10M vehicle-mounted surface-to-air missile systems (NATO reporting name is SA-13 ‘Gopher’), Igla man-portable air defense systems (NATO reporting name is Grouse) and machine guns mounted on BTR-D [armored personnel carriers],” the defense ministry said.

Small air targets were spotted while scanning the sky in conditions of low cloud at altitudes of up to 800 meters.

“Leading elements of the Airborne Troops’ air defense opened fire, destroying all the detected targets,” the ministry said.

Zapad-2017 exercise

A large-scale exercise Zapad-2017 began in Russia and Belarus on Thursday at three proving grounds in Russia and six in Belarus with 12,700 troops (7,200 Belarussian and 5,500 Russian ones taking part). Also involved in the exercise are about 70 planes and helicopters, 680 ground vehicles, including about 250 tanks, 200 artillery pieces, multiple rocket launchers and mortars and ten ships.

The main purpose of the exercise is 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 exercise will last till September 20.

 

 

Baltic Fleet corvettes destroy air, sea and coastal targets during Zapad-2017 drills

Russian Navy Ship Boiky (532) (Бойкий – Brisk) Steregushchy-class corvette, deployed with the Baltic Fleet,

KALININGRAD, September 17. /TASS/.

Corvettes of the Baltic Fleet destroyed aerial, naval and coastal targets during the Russian-Belorussian Zapad-2017 military exercise, fleet spokesman Roman Martov said.

“As part of the joint West-2017 strategic exercise in waters of the Baltic Sea, crews of the Soobrazitelny, Stoikiy, Steregushchiy and Boikiy have successfully trained tasks to repel an aerial attack of a simulated enemy and hit naval and coastal targets,” he said.

He said the ships’ crews fired at simulated targets representing a group of warships and a simulated enemy’s coastal artillery.

In addition, the corvettes repelled an aerial attack, simulated by Su-24 attack aircraft and Ka-27 anti-submarine warfare helicopters.

A large-scale exercise, Zapad-2017, began on Thursday at three training grounds in Russia and six in Belarus. It involved 12,700 troops (7,200 Belarussian and 5,500 Russian servicemen taking part), as well as about 70 planes and helicopters, 680 pieces of military hardware, including about 250 tanks, 200 artillery pieces, multiple rocket launchers and mortars. Ten warships are also taking part.

The exercise will continue until September 20. The second stage begins on Sunday.