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Caucasus 2020: expectations of Russian maneuvers without illusions

Russia continues to brazenly violate international law and interstate treaties, treacherously occupy part of Ukraine's territories, while at the same time trying to avoid responsibility for aggression against Ukraine by suppressing its logic of implementing the Minsk agreements. What to expect from the Kremlin? What is Putin preparing for and under what conditions can he really resort to expanding armed aggression against Ukraine and other states? Is there something that can curb his neo-imperial appetites?

Answers to these and other questions through the lens of preparing Russia for strategic command and staff exercises of the Caucasus-2020 in the material of Sergey Rabosh specifically for the CDAC.

Open source is not difficult to find annual information strategic command and staff training the Russian Armed Forces. I would like to draw attention to several basic parameters of such exercises.

They are conducted taking into account the current and projected (from Moscow's point of view) development of the military-political situation in the world. On a real background, a wide range of issues is being worked out - from planning, preparation and conducting of military-special actions of limited (local) character to possible variants of strategic operations at various theaters of war (with elements of mobilization deployment and preparation of the country for full-scale war). Everywhere - with the implementation of a set of tasks of strategic restraint, or more precisely, strategic intimidation of the main likely opponents.

The declared theme is always rather vague, such as the preparation and use of troops / forces to stabilize the situation, ensure military security or protect the interests of Russia in the event of a crisis and its escalation into armed conflict, conduct military actions to localize the conflict. The subject matter of the exercises certainly includes the issue of combating terrorism and illegal armed groups.

The geography of the exercises covers virtually the entire territory of Russia, and their main stages and episodes are modeled and played on a specific TVD, within one or two strategic directions. In this case, the active phase may be carried out in one / several operational directions.

The total number of participants - from 100 thousand to 300 thousand servicemen, including those involved in practical actions "in the field" - from 8-9 thousand to 12-13 thousand, as well as the corresponding number of used weapons and military equipment (depending on the scenario, features TVD, military-political situation and likely opponent).

All functional components of the armed forces, conventional and nuclear, involved simultaneously and sequentially, individually and as part of troop / force groups, are involved. On the occasion of maneuvers, the closest allies and partners of Russia on the CSTO and SCO are drawn up, with which the issues of creation and use of coalition groups of troops / forces are being worked out.

Military maneuvers are preceded by sudden checks on the military readiness of troops and other measures, including the deployment of logistics, training of intelligence services and the civilian sector, etc. That is, in the broadest sense, the SCSF is held as a set of interrelated operational, command, staff, tactical and special exercises (trainings) of governing bodies, troops / forces of various components of the armed forces, special services, and public authorities held throughout the year.

The main "action", which usually takes place in the fall, is actively advertised and covered in the course of events. Russia's top officials have traditionally "observed" the practical actions of troops through "remote access" (from the National Defense Management Center, Moscow) and directly "on the ground" (landfills). Necessarily with demonstration of the available weapons - for propaganda effect both inside and outside the country.

At the same time, each time, swaying with its "muscles", Moscow undoubtedly emphasizes that the Russian military exercises are not directed against other states, have a purely defensive and planned nature and do not violate international agreements.

This is if summarized in terms of the general appearance of the annual SCFM of the Russian Armed Forces.

But it should also be borne in mind that each strategic maneuver of Muscovy has both common (or similar) traits, as well as certain nuances and features, open (official) and hidden sides.

First, there is no doubt that the backbone of the SCSF is working out possible options and forms of action of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in accordance with these ideas and plans for their application in different situations in different directions. Determine (specify) the composition of groups, the procedure and timing of their deployment, tasks, management and interaction issues, security, etc. The ability of the governing bodies and forces / forces to perform specific tasks, the real capabilities of deploying troops in different ways and their regrouping, and other important issues are practically tested. All this is taken into account in the "dark" operational and strategic plans of the highest level of secrecy.

Secondly, looking at the publications of, say, the newspaper "Krasnaya Zvezda" or the website of the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense, it is not difficult to see some details of Russian exercises, which are somehow related to the plans of Muscovy, in particular concerning Ukraine.

For example, the main feature of SCFN Caucasus 2012 (17-23.09.2012), according to the then National Security Service of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation M. Makarov, was that in his scenario "… No significant creation was envisagedых groups of troops (forces)". The alleged training had more implications for ensuring Russia's internal security in light of the prospect of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics than working out geopolitical tasks. But then, in March 2013, there was a sudden check of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation "Southern Cross", in early 2014 - the creation of a grouping of forces to ensure the security of "Sochi-2014". And then - a special operation to capture the Crimea, in which this group took an active part ...

On learning West 2013 (20-26.09.2013), conducted jointly with the Republic of Belarus, Russian generals "… Departed from traditionalof these forms of warfare ... while being personal the composition acted on unfamiliar polygons". In particular, units of the 20th Army of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation for 10 days were moved to a distance of about 1,5 thousand km, " a new operating direction". At the same time, at the final stage of the maneuvers, the landing of a unit of the Pskov 76th Airborne Division of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation was canceled (apparently due to difficult weather conditions). At that time, no one “got lost” - it was later…

During the CPSU East 2014 (19-25.09.2014) not without favorite in Russia "unbeaten records" - 16 Mi-8AMTSH helicopters, equipped with additional fuel tanks, made a non-stop flight from Iturup (Kuril ridge) to Yelizovo airfield (Kamchatka), hem 6 hours about 1300 km. But, by the way, it was more like drawing attention to the questionable (if not meaningless) tactical point of view of "achievement" in the use of Army aviation.

Perhaps more important was the transfer to the Far East of the personnel of the units of the Western Military District (more than 6 km away), where they used weapons and military equipment from local storage bases.

Shunting Center-2015 (14-20.09.2015) - another interesting story. They seemed to be concerned about security in the Central Asian region and, as Russian Defense Minister S. Shoigu said, "… Buckasked questions boribs with terrorists "Islamic State" and the Taliban". And on a large scale, with the conduct of "inter-theater" regrouping troops / forces, including aviation.

On this occasion, S. Shoigu stated that during the SCSF for the first time in 25 years, “...practically the questions of creation and application of powerful shock aviation are solved grouping". And shortly after Center-2015, on September 30, 2015, Russia launched a military operation in Syria.

Thus, it is obvious that the training served as a cover for the creation, transfer and placement in the territory of the ATS of the Russian aviation group, and not only…

Along with this, the issue of the mobilization of 16 units and units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, including the territorial defense troops, has been worked out for some reason (by then the concept in Russia had been renewed). About 6 people were called for military training. Was it not then, under the guise of mobilization measures, to recruit so-called "volunteers" to the Donbas and Syria?

Next - Caucasus 2016 (05-11.09.2016) - begins a new training cycle and deserves even more attention.

First of all, it was different from the previous ones "...approbation of new forms of application and methods of action of troops, taking into account the modern experience of warfare. " Of course, the Russian experience in Ukraine and Syria ...

Among the main issues that were worked out during the Caucasus-2016 SCSF were the following:

- Deployment and organization of work of control points at all levels using the latest automation tools. Elements of one of the advanced PUs at the strategic level could be housed in occupied Crimea, as evidenced by the arrival to the Peninsula of S. Shoigu and the National Army of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation V.Gerasimov. “… To inspect the actions of staffs and troops in the exercise of the exercise"; moving a large number of new command and staff vehicles across the Crimea;

- Creation of interspecific troop / force groups in several operational areas in the area of ​​responsibility of the Southern Military District. The plan assessed the district's readiness "...deploy self-sufficient troop deployments to localize crises in a timely manner";

- conducting a strategic regrouping with the transfer of units from the three armies and one tank armies, airborne troops and special purpose at a distance of up to 2,5 thousand km, including the occupied Crimea. It was called "...reviewing the Western and Central military districts on the possibility of increasing efforts in the Southwestern strategic direction";

- the mobilization and transfer of territorial defense units, in particular a motorized rifle battalion formed in the Novosibirsk region (!) To the occupied Crimea (?!). That is, it was something not quite similar to territorial defense, taking into account the principles of its organization (if it is really about TRO, is it not logical for Siberians to go through their Siberia, where it is already full of Chinese, than to go to Ukraine?);

- Deployment of the system of logistical support of troops for all types (fuel, food, medicine, etc.). At the same time the newly created 10th repair and evacuation regiment (military unit 25356, Slavyansk-na-Kuban) of the Southern military district was involved for the first time. A military unit designed to perform a wide range of troop maintenance tasks (from the evacuation of damaged equipment from the battlefield to its full recovery) during high-intensity combat operations.

It should be noted that for the first time the administration of the 8th all-military army (Novocherkassk, Rostov region) was involved in the training, the formation of which near the eastern borders of Ukraine then began. And it would be naive to assume that the maneuvers had nothing to do with the already established, sufficiently completed and structured two army corps of the Russian occupation group in the Donbass.

All in all, in conjunction with the large-scale nationwide training in civil defense and the training of Russia's strategic nuclear forces in early October 2016, it has led many experts to view the Caucasus 2016 as a "rehearsal of a full-scale war."

Then there were West 2017 (14-20.09.2017), East 2018 (11-17.09.2018), Center-2019 (16-21.09.2019) - also with certain similar features and peculiarities. At the same time, all of them, like previous studies, had a broader meaning beyond the official "direct" subjects.

Russia is now preparing for an SCSSN Caucasus 2020. In particular, certain organizational issues were raised during the operational gathering of the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (11.02.2020/XNUMX/XNUMX). We will soon have an opportunity to see how the preparatory process (staff trainings, unit coordination, preparation of communications, facilities and resources, etc.) will gain momentum.

What kind of “shades” will the Caucasus 2020 have?

It is clear that the active phase of training, with demonstration episodes, will take place traditionally in September for 5-7 days, mainly on the landfills of the Southern Military District and in occupied Crimea. Indeed, the actions of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps of the Russian Occupation Troops in the Donbass will not be advertised within the sole framework of the SCSF (because “ichtamnet").

Aggregate picture maneuvers will cover the entire Southwestern strategic direction of the Russian Federation, under the responsibility of the Southern Defense Forces, and even extend beyond its borders - both adjacent and remote operational areas (territories, areas of responsibility) of other military districts of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

Regarding the area of ​​responsibility of the Southern Region, it includes: the territories of the Rostov, Volgograd and Astrakhan regions, the Krasnodar and Stavropol Territories, the republics of the North Caucasus; southeastern part of Ukraine, including temporarily occupied territories of Donbass and Crimea; The South Caucasus; the waters of the Black, Azov and Caspian seas. From open sources it is known that by geographical conditions, the nature of the operational equipment of the territories, the location of troops / forces and important objects, Muscovy divides the said space into five operational directions - Don, Crimea, Azov-Black Sea, Vladikavkaz and Caspian. And the overall operational area in which the troop / force grouping can be deployed is even greater in front and depth.

Obviously focus The Caucasus 2020 against Ukraine, its closest partners in the Black Sea region, and the US / NATO in the broadest sense, should not cause any debate at all, despite the disgusted narratives of Muscovy and its common sense (about “open and peaceful"Russia's policy,"an aggressive NATO bloc" etc). At the same time, the demonstration component of the exercise will be determined by Moscow's brutal desire to "play on the nerves" of its neighboring countries and show that it is the only "master" in the regional triangle Black Sea - Azov - Caspian with a projection on the Mediterranean. And at the same time, through pressure and blackmail, to strengthen our negotiating positions, to force Ukraine and key Western players to become more in agreement with Russia.

Study environment will be closely linked to the current development of the military and political situation in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Caspian regions, and especially in / around Ukraine, where the Russian Federation has paramount interests.

Obviously, the nature and content of the Caucasus 2020 will depend on the main trends and events that will determine the balance of power in the short term, including:

- a global increase in the confrontation between the Russian Federation and the US / NATO in the global dimension, termination of the Treaty on the elimination of medium and short-range missiles;

- the election of the President of the United States in November 2020;

- the process of leaving the UK from the EU;

- the presidential elections in Poland (May), Belarus (August) and Moldova (October);

- parliamentary elections in Georgia and Lithuania (October), as well as Romania (end of year);

- Strengthening the US military presence in Europe, implementation of NATO's 4-30 Initiative on Defense Strength and Policies (NATO Readiness Initiative "Four Thirties"), envisages the deployment of 30 mechanized battalions, 30 aviation squadrons and 30 warships ready for use within 30 days);

- plans for large-scale NATO Defender Europe 2020 maneuvers and related exercises (Swift Response, Saber Strike, Allied Spirit, Dynamic Front and others);

- a significant increase in the recent years of US / NATO military activity in the Black Sea region and their planned participation in the Sea Breeze 2020 international training;

- shaky situation in the North Caucasus of the Russian Federation, "frozen" conflicts in the South Caucasus (Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh) and Transnistria;

- rising tensions around Iran, Syria and Libya, complicating relations between Russia and Turkey;

- turbulence of the socio-political situation in Ukraine.

These aspects, as is customary in military circles, will be "painted" under the legend of training. States / unions and individual regions will be given conditional names (such as "Veishoria","Vesbaria"And"Watermelon”At the CCSN“ West-2017 ”). However, the essence of current trends and key events will not change. On their basis, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation undoubtedly worked out and modeled possible variants of the development of conflict situations, and perhaps in the first place - around Ukraine. But when is it practical to check and refine them, not during military exercises?

Speaking of composition and possible actions of participants The SCSF will probably play a major role occupation group of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Crimea. Today it is a major part of the Black Sea Fleet (surface and submarine forces, naval aviation, 22nd Army Corps, Marines, coastal missile troops, security forces); 27th Airborne Airborne Division and 31st Airborne Airborne Division from the 4 th Army of the Southern Air Force and Air Defense. We also add the 171st separate airborne assault battalion of the Novorossiysk 7th airborne assault division, the 112th separate brigade of the operative assignment of troops of the national guard, the force of the FSB Border Guard Service and the 47th Territorial Defense Corps.

Directly for the Russian Black Sea Fleet participation in the training "Caucasus-2020" is defined by the main task for this year, which began for the fleet quite actively. Thus, on January 9, 2020, a joint training of the Black Sea and Northern Fleet forces was conducted in the Black Sea area, involving: about 30 ships and boats (including 6 caliber launchers), 22 auxiliary vessels and 39 flying aircraft. devices. Admiral Makarov, a small rocket ship Orekhovo-Zuevo and a submarine Kolpino, equipped with a caliber rocket, made practical launches of cruise missiles for marine (surface) purposes. The tactical team in the missile launchers "Ivanovets" and "Naberezhnye Chelny" performed missile launches of the Mosquito complex. The calculations of the coastal rocket complex "Utes" of the 15th separate coastal rocket brigade of the Black Sea Fleet (Sevastopol) made two rocket launches for the purpose, imitating the ships of a conventional enemy. In turn, a pair of MiG-31K fighter jets (probably from the Akhtubinsk airfield of the 929th Main Flight Test Center, Astrakhan Region) fired a hypersonic rocket at Dagger at a target located in the occupied Crimea. During the training, the marching staff was aboard the Marshal Ustinov rocket cruiser, from which Putin, Shoigu and Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Admiral Yevmenov watched during the maneuvers.

Of course, there was a political implication here, since the day before (January 8, 2020) in Istanbul, Putin met with Turkish President R. Erdogan. And before that, the Marshal Ustinov RCR of the Northern Fleet of the Russian Federation was disgraced during the passage of the Turkish Straits. It was also necessary for Putin to somehow offset some of the “inconveniences”…

At the same time, the aforementioned training is logical to consider in the context of the future Caucasus2020. And now we can safely say that during its conduct the fleet will work out a number of tasks, which will include:

- bringing to battle readiness "Complete", increasing the control system with the deployment of additional elements of control points, strengthening all types of intelligence;

- deployment of shore (ground) troops / forces, naval groups (including strike, search and strike and landmine groups, amphibious and search and rescue forces) in operational / combat areas;

- Measures to ban / restrict the activities of the probable enemy (US / NATO) in the Black Sea and its access to Crimea and adjacent marine areas (within the framework of the A2 / AD containment concept), in particular by two C-400 regiments from the 31st Air Defense (Sevastopol) and the 15th Separate Coastal Missile Brigade (Sevastopol, Bastion, Ball, and Utes Missile Complexes);

- Strengthening of protection and defense of the transport crossing through the Kerch Strait, ensuring unimpeded transportation by the Crimean Bridge (starting from 01.07.2020 it is planned to start regular freight rail transportation);

- conducting various types of combat / special operations at sea, land and in airspace, including in cooperation with long-range (strategic) aviation of the Russian Federation's air and space forces and land groups in related operational directions.

Of course, measures will also be worked out to mobilize units of the 47th Division of Territorial Defense, to strengthen the protection of important objects, the defense of the Crimean coast, the landing of air and marines, practical artillery and rocket firing.

In general, the Black Sea Fleet may in the complex work conducting an operation to block Ukraine's maritime blockade both in the Azov and Black Sea directions. Elements of such actions have already taken place in 2018, when, in the guise of the exercise of the Russian Federation, it closed some areas of the Azov Sea, thereby effectively blocking the maritime communications leading to the ports of Mariupol and Berdyansk. During the multinational Sea Breeze 2019 exercise, Russia closed five areas of the Black Sea, creating significant obstacles for international civil navigation. We also recall the repeated entry into the Azov Sea of ​​the Caspian flotilla strike forces, in particular the small rocket ships Uglich, Grad Svyazhsk and Veliky Ustyug with the Caliber-NK missile systems (8 PU each).

At the same time, much attention will be paid to the activities that will take place within the framework of the Caucasus 2020 in the area of ​​responsibility Of the 8th Armythat is, in the Don operating direction. At present, the main combat units of the army are the 150th Motorized Rifle Division (Persianovsky) and the 20th Specialized Rifle Brigade (Volgograd). Moreover, both units of “heavy” type are formed: 150 msec - two motor-firing (on BMP-3) and two tank (on T-72B3) regiments (formation was completed in early 2020); 20 ohms - three rifles (on BMP-3) and one tank (on T-90A) battalions. On two separate occasions (in September 2017 and October 2018), units of 150 msec and 20 mps were engaged in bilateral KSF, during which various forms of fighting were worked out, in particular - conducting a maneuver offensive with overcoming water obstacles. Then it happened at the Prudboy landfill (Volgograd region). It should not be ruled out that this time, within the framework of the Caucasus-2020 SCSF, their "movements" may be closer to the borders of Ukraine.

In addition, according to some sources, in 2019, the 464th Missile Brigade was created (Znamensk, 12 PU Iskander), which also appears to be part of the 8th Army. Well, as we continue to prepare and conduct the Caucasus 2020, we will be able to see if this is indeed the case. We will wait for conditional / practical rocket launches. The relocation of the crew from Astrakhan to Rostov or Volgograd may also take place.

The same can be seen that the 8th Army already has a certain impact potential, and its further expansion continues. Yes, of course, it has not yet received the full set of forces and means for conducting army operations on its own. However, the available capabilities make it possible to create operational-tactical groups based on it, with the necessary additional forces (constant readiness, diverted from other directions, or mobilized) to be included in their composition. In reality, the command of the operative grouping of troops, which includes the 8st and 1nd Army Corps of the so-called "DPR / LNR", is deployed on the basis of the management of the 2th Army, and as a reserve - units and units said army.

With regard to mobilization issues, it will not be superfluous, apart from the territorial defense forces mentioned above, to pay attention to the plans of the Russian Defense Ministry to create security centers mobilization deployment (Russian - TSOMR). In particular, one of these centers was planned to be set up in 2019 in the Southern Military District (meeting of the board of the Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation on February 27.02.2019, 91). We can assume that this is the formation of the TSOMR in the occupied Crimea (Novoozernoye) or the reorganization of the 48670st Central Base of the reserve of automotive equipment (military unit 8, Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, the band of responsibility of the 2018th army), on which in 230 there were placed at least 62 T-XNUMX (enough for Division!) tanks deployed from eastern Russia. It is possible that these centers will also be involved in the exercise. Need to watch…

At the same time, it should be noted that the Russian Federation will try to create visibility of the international character of the Caucasus-2020. According to the Southern Military Press Service, military personnel from 17 foreign countries will take part in the maneuvers. What countries and format of participation they are talking about - we will still know (they will definitely join the CSTO). But here is a quasi-state entity like South Ossetia (!), Which apparently has not yet been translated by "volunteer militias", has already announced plans to involve its "soldiers" in training. According to the “Minister of Defense” of the self-proclaimed territory of Ibrahim Gasseyev, this is the first time that a framed infantry battalion is planned to be formed in July-August 2020.

By the way, the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine stated in September 2019 that in the course of the Caucasus 2020 CCSM, Moscow was practically planning a military invasion of Ukraine, including plans for the use of compounds and units of the 8th the army of the Southern HE. According to the MOU GUR, which was released on September 05.09.2019, 2020, Russia supports the high level of threat of large-scale armed aggression against Ukraine by increasing troops near the Ukrainian borders, as evidenced, in particular, by the completion of the process of forming three Russian rifles in 3 (144) , 150th and XNUMXth).

At the beginning of March this year, Ukraine's military intelligence, based on the facts and results of the analysis, reminded again that Russia had almost tripled its military potential near the borders of Ukraine. According to GUR MOU, 87-90 thousand soldiers, about 1100 tanks, 2500 combat vehicles (BMP / APC), 1600 artillery and rocket systems, 340 combat aircraft and 240 combat helicopters, more than 50 ships / boats and 6 submarines . Plus mobilization deployment centers, designed for mobilization of up to 40 thousand people. This potential will continue to increase, using the territory of the occupied Crimea “… As an outpost for the projection of strength not only in the Black Sea region, but also as the main base for the deployment of Russian troops in Syria".

Undoubtedly, such conclusions and forecasts are sufficiently balanced and objective and have good reasons, unlike the “we should not be frightened by Russia”(Dating back to 2014) or as if“Russia did not attack”(From today). In a strategic dimension for military intelligence, it is natural to predict and model probable scenarios, including the worst-case scenarios. It would be extremely sad and pernicious if the Ukrainian intelligence did not see potential and real threats and "lull" the state and society.

In any case, during the preparation and conduct of the Caucasus-2020 CCSN in the wake of the demonstration of force and military "turmoil" on the part of Muscovy, one should expect at least insidious actions in the usual adventurous style (violations of Russian planes, helicopters and UAV air borders of other countries; detention / seizure of foreign civilian ships; dangerous maneuvering of Navy ships, etc.).

For example, you do not have to go far. At the beginning of March this year, two Russian ships (the FSB RF Border Guard Ship and the Shuya BSF Missile Boat) tried to provoke provocation against the Pryluky missile boat of the Ukrainian Navy, which carried out training tasks in the northwestern Black Sea . At the same time there were attempts at night without approaching lights to approach a dangerous distance and blind the crew of the Ukrainian boat.

The picture of "Caucasus-2020" will continue to emerge, with explicit or indirect signs of Russia's true intentions. But today, as before, there is no guarantee that Putin, who relies on military force, will, on occasion, not dare to direct the troops withdrawn for training to further invade Ukraine. It is not to be hoped that the threats from Russia are far-fetched or have disappeared. The aggressor does not give up his imperial goals, which Ukraine stands on.

Sergiy Rabosh, specially for CDAC