Category Archives: Collective Security Treaty Organization

Tsentr-2011

Tsentr-2011

Yesterday Russia and allied military forces in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO or ODKB) began a series of exercise events which will run until the beginning of October.

Operational-strategic exercise Tsentr-2011 will involve Russian forces and Belorussian, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, and Armenian sub-units in different training scenarios focused on ensuring security on the Central Asian axis, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta.

Twelve thousand personnel, 50 aircraft, 1,000 vehicles and other equipment, and ten combat and support ships will participate under the direction of Russian General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov, according to Mil.ru.  Russian forces will include one army brigade as well as operational groups from other militarized agencies — the MVD, FSB, FSO, and MChS.    

Mil.ru said the exercise theme is “Preparation and Employment of Inter-Service Troop (Force) Groupings in the Stabilization of a Situation and Conduct of Military Actions on the Central Asian Strategic Axis.”

NG cites Makarov who said the exercise will focus on “localizing internal as well as external conflicts.” Extrapolating from his earlier comments about North Africa and the Middle East, the paper claims he wants the army to be ready to perform internal police functions like the Syrian Army.

Mil.ru puts it more technically saying the exercise will improve command and staff skills in controlling troops in the transition to wartime, in planning special operations, and in organizing long-distance troop regroupings.  Exercise phases will include special operations to localize an armed conflict in a crisis region, and joint actions by ground and naval force groupings, according to the Defense Ministry website.

The exercise will consist of different evolutions, with different partners, in various locations:

  • The Ground Troops, MVD, and FSB Spetsnaz, writes NG, will practice liberating a town from terrorists and rebels on the Chebarkul training range. 
  • At Gorokhovets, Russia’s 20th Army and Belorussian forces are playing a series of tactical actions against enemy airborne assaults, specops, and “illegal armed formations” in their rear areas [under a separate exercise called Union Shield-2011 or Shchit Soyuza-2011]. 
  • Russian forces are training with Kazakhs on the Caspian, and at Kazakhstan’s Oymasha range.
  • A command-staff exercise of the ODKB’s Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (KSOR) will be conducted at the Lyaur range in Tajikistan.
  • In Kyrgyzstan, the ODKB’s Central Asian Region Collective Rapid Deployment Forces (KSBR TsAR) will conduct a tactical exercise against “illegal armed formations.”

NG sums Tsentr-2011 up with a quote from Vladimir Popov:

“The Russian leadership, although late, has come to the conclusion that the successful resolution of military security issues, including the internal security of allied countries, is possible only through the creation and use of coalition troop groupings in the post-Soviet space.   This is correct, and there’s no need to fear this.”

Developing some collective military intervention capability doesn’t answer questions about real-world conditions where it might be employed.  The questions proceed mainly (but not entirely) from Kyrgyzstan’s experience.  First, will a threatened regime ask for ODKB assistance and under what circumstances?  Second, will the alliance or any allies answer a member-state’s call?  Training and exercises are good, but ultimately not much use unless such political issues are resolved.

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Makarov’s Press-Conference (Part III)

Army General Makarov (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksey Nikolskiy)

Still plumbing General Staff Chief Makarov’s Monday press-conference . . .

Makarov indicated Russia’s Israeli-made UAVs will be used in the Tsentr-2011 exercise.  According to Krasnaya zvezda, he once again worked Vega over for wasting years and money without meeting the military’s requirements, forcing it to turn to Israel to obtain unmanned aircraft.

According to Interfaks, the General Staff Chief asserted Russia won’t buy anything but PGMs for its combat aircraft:

“The purchase of conventional [unguided] means has stopped.  We are buying only highly-accurate means.”

“Western countries conduct military operations almost without ground forces.  Aircraft operate outside the air defense zone and sustain minimal losses.”

Izvestiya noted, however, replacing Russia’s dumb bombs with smart weapons won’t be cheap.  Tens of thousands of rubles versus millions.  But one of the paper’s interlocutors concluded:

“The Defense Ministry believes there’s money for buying them, contracts for the first deliveries of new munitions have already been concluded.”

He estimates they will comprise perhaps half of Russia’s aviation weapons inventory by 2020.

Izvestiya quoted Ruslan Pukhov to the effect that guided ASMs made up only 1 percent of Russia’s stockpile in the five-day war with Georgia, and Russian aircraft had to brave Georgia’s air defenses on most missions, losing four Su-25, two Su-24, and a Tu-22M3.  He added, however, that a Su-34 employed an anti-radar Kh-31P to destroy a radar in Gori.

Lenta.ru recalled General-Lieutenant Igor Sadofyev’s late 2010 comments about plans for a radical increase in PGMs and UAVs in the Air Forces by 2020.  You can refresh your memory here.

Some military commentators and news outlets managed to tie together Makarov’s comments on Arab revolutions, Central Asian exercises, snipers, and sniper rifles in interesting, but not always accurate, ways.

KZ summarized Makarov pretty simply as saying the armed conflicts in Arab countries were difficult to predict, and similar events can’t be ruled out in Central Asia.  In its replay of his remarks, he said:

“. . . we should be ready for everything, therefore we are working on this in the exercises.”

So, Moscow’s pretty obviously looking at the possible repetition of a Libyan or Syrian scenario somewhere in Central Asia . . . no surprise there . . . makes sense.

Komsomolskaya pravda said:

“Our military isn’t hiding the fact that current exercises are directly linked to the probable export of military aggression from Afghanistan into the Central Asian republics after NATO troops withdraw from there.”

It cites Makarov:

“[The exercises] envision developing variants for localizing armed conflicts on the territory of these countries.”

That doesn’t really sound Libyan or Syrian, does it?  It’s not internal.  It’s good old external spillover.  Oh well, as long as it’s “localized” on someone else’s territory, and doesn’t cross Russia’s borders.

ITAR-TASS’s version of Makarov got people more spun up:

“The world situation is complex, quickly changing, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East.  It was difficult to forecast what happened in a number of countries of this region, events developed with great speed.  Now no one can say what will happen next.  But this is a signal for all states.  We military men need to be prepared for the worst scenarios.”

This led a few outlets to take the next step on their own, i.e. a repeat of the Arab scenario inside Russia.

You can read likely exaggerations of what Makarov really said in Gazeta.ru or Rbcdaily.ru.  In its version, the latter claimed Makarov didn’t exclude internal unrest following the Arab example in Russia, and the army has to be ready for the worst case scenario of political developments inside the country.

Pouring gas on the fire it lit, Rbcdaily introduced the sniper issue here.

Of course, snipers are great for urban warfare or urban unrest.  Rbcdaily’s Defense Ministry source says Makarov plans to put independent sniper platoons in every brigade.  They’ll be armed with British rifles, of course.  And the snipers themselves will have to be long-term professionals – contractees, so that’ll have to wait until the middle of next year.

Igor Korotchenko tells Rbcdaily:

“A sniper is a piece of work, he can’t be trained in a year, therefore they must absolutely be professional contractees.  We can’t count on conscript soldiers here, like in the old days when there were enough gifted guys who learned to fire the SVD well among the conscripts.”

KZ didn’t mention Makarov talking about snipers.

Just to finish this off, Makarov’s Syrian comments weren’t construed or misconstrued as much.  KZ said simply that he said Russia is not planning a military presence in Syria, nor the introduction of extra security measures at its material-technical support base in Tartus.

ITAR-TASS put it this way:

“This base remains in our hands.  Besides it, our advisors work in Syria.  That’s enough.  We don’t intend to adopt any preventative measures.  . . . we have to watch closely those forces opposing the government.  There are legal demands, and there are opposition demands which, in our view, need to be ignored because they are illegal.”

Makarov’s Press-Conference (Part I)

General Staff Chief Nikolay Makarov apparently held a lengthy press-conference today covering many topics.  He’s still advocating buying weapons abroad (when necessary), despite Prime Minister Putin’s strong support of the domestic OPK against the military’s demands.

ITAR-TASS quotes Makarov on the pending Navy headquarters move to Piter:

“Concerning a decision by the Supreme CINC [President Medvedev] to revoke the transfer of the Navy Main Staff to St. Petersburg, there has been no such decision.  We are now working on this issue.”

The General Staff Chief seemed to say there won’t be any diminution of the role or place occupied by service Glavkomaty, according to the news service.  He said the Main Commands of the services of the Armed Forces are part of the military branch of command and control which he heads.

ITAR-TASS quotes Makarov on buying arms and equipment abroad:

“We will need to buy something that isn’t produced with the quality we require.”

He compared domestic Msta-S and longer-range French Caesar howitzers:

“In France, we were shown the work of an artillery battalion which was ready to fire 30 seconds after a march.  Our analogous norm is 15 minutes.  The difference between one minute and 15 minutes is huge.”

“Therefore, we have to acquire something in order not to lag behind, but on the condition of arranging joint production in Russia.”

Interfaks quoted him on buying armor abroad:

“Some technologies certainly have to be bought in the West.”

The Defense Ministry, he says, has no desire to buy arms and equipment abroad if Russia has analogs or more modern models.  But Russia will find it hard to compete with Western firms that are cooperating with each other.  Makarov cited Renault’s APC which uses a Volvo engine.  “Our producers need to make a revolutionary leap,” Makarov concluded.

The General Staff Chief was ambivalent about the T-90 tank, according to ITAR-TASS:

“I visited the Nizhniy Tagil exhibition and got familiar with our T-90 tank.  The tank they showed us, particularly its turret, calls for serious respect.  But we have questions remaining about many drawbacks.”

“. . . the experimental-design work the factory is conducting will allow them to realize those requirements the Russian military is placing on this new product.”

ITAR-TASS also picked up Makarov’s remarks on the Tsentr-2011 exercises:

“We want to work out common approaches to employing armed forces within the ODKB [CSTO] framework.”

“Besides militaries, all other power structures, which are understood as part of the state’s military organization, in the ODKB countries will participate in these exercises.  As far as Russia goes, we want to check the country’s military organization fully by conducting a series of mobilization measures, including also industry.”

“Starting today, we’ve started into mobilization deployment of a number of formations and units according to independent plans.”

After the Pact

Twenty years after the Warsaw Pact, VTsIOM asked Russians what they think, looking back, about the former Soviet glacis in Eastern Europe.

The poll was done 18-19 June with 1,600 respondents in 138 populated areas of 46 RF subjects, and a margin of error not exceeding 3.4%.

First and foremost, two-thirds (66%) of those surveyed didn’t know or remember why the Warsaw Pact existed.

Asked which time period was most secure, calm, and stable internationally, 55% said the 1960s-1980s, 4% said the 1990s, the Yeltsin era, and only 28% said the present day.  Four years ago, the numbers were 47%, 5%, and 34% respectively.

According to VTsIOM, those groups most likely to think the Soviet era most secure are Communists, pensioners, the poorly-educated, and non-Internet users.  Those most likely to see today as more stable are United Russia members, young people, the well-educated, and Internet users.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents look back on the Pact as a defensive, peaceloving, and stabilizing force.  Only 6% say it was militaristic, or held Eastern European countries in an unfree condition.

Eighty percent think Russia lost more than it won when the Pact dissolved twenty years ago.  Ten years ago, 78 percent thought Russia lost more.

Finally, those surveyed were asked if Russia needs, or doesn’t need, to create an international military-political bloc like the Warsaw Pact or NATO.  Overall, 51% of respondents said it’s needed, 23% said it’s not, and 26% found it difficult to answer.  This question was broken out some along the political spectrum without many significant variations.

VTsIOM missed the chance to ask if respondents know Russia already has an international military-political alliance.  Their answers to a question about the Collective Security Treaty Organization would be fascinating, to be sure.

The answers to the questions that were asked are a little surprising and disturbing.  Some of them can be attributed simply to feckless nostalgia or the persistence of Cold War propaganda.  Some are due to a tendency to equate (or confuse) domestic or internal well-being with the country’s external security situation.  Finally, some may come from genuinely perceived threats and insecurities Russians feel today.

Extra Kant Security Sent Home

Russian press services announced this morning that extra VDV troops sent to Kyrgyzstan last month as security reinforcements returned home yesterday.

The VDV’s spokesman said:

“. . . in connection with the reduced tension in Kyrgyzia [sic] reinforced security sub-units at Kant air base from the 31st Independent Guards Airborne-Assault Brigade returned to their place of permanent deployment [Ulyanovsk] on Wednesday.”

“Three Military-Transport Aviation Il-76 aircraft transported 270 servicemen of the brigade commanded by Dmitriy Glushchenkov.”

This reduced strength battalion deployed to Kyrgyzstan on 13 June after increased fighting between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks in the country.

According to Newsru.com, the spokesman said two VDV companies deployed earlier will remain to secure Russian facilities and nationals in Kyrgyzstan:

“At present two companies of airborne troops sent to Kyrgyzia according to the decision of the General Staff Chief in April continue to provide security to the military facilities of Kant air base.”

Those companies comprise about 160 men according to reports at the time.

More VDV to Kyrgyzstan

Escalating violence in southern Kyzgyzstan has prompted Moscow to dispatch more VDV to protect Russian servicemen and their dependents, according to Kremlin and Defense Ministry representatives.

ITAR-TASS reports President Medvedev’s press secretary indicated Medvedev decided to send extra sub-units to reinforce the contingent already located there.  The Defense Ministry said a reduced strength battalion of the VDV’s Ulyanovsk-based 31st Independent Airborne-Assault Brigade arrived in Kyrgyzstan today. 

It will reinforce the security and defense of Russian military facilities there.  Its arrival is also connected with the rotation of other 31st Brigade sub-units out of the country.

ITAR-TASS sources in Russia’s power structures say two reinforced companies numbering more than 300 men have been sent into Kyrgyzstan.  The current contingent of Russians numbered about 160.

The introduction of additional Russian troops comes on the heels of weekend violence in Jalal-Abad, where crowds broke into military units and stole weapons.

Moscow Upgrading CSTO?

Nogovitsyn to be First Deputy Chief of CSTO's Joint Staff (photo: http://www.1tv.ru)

Several days ago, the Russian press reported General-Colonel Nogovitsyn, a deputy chief of the Genshtab and Russian military spokesman during the war with Georgia, would be moving to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).  Nogovitsyn’s an air defense fighter pilot and former deputy CINC of the Air Forces who lost out to Zelin in the bidding to become CINC.  He will replace General-Lieutenant Oleg Latypov, who was not an operator, but a military diplomat who came from the Russian Defense Ministry’s Main Directorate of International Military Cooperation (GU MVS) and had experience in arranging arms sales, supplies, and military activities with former Soviet states.

Nogovitsyn’s move could be a pre-retirement posting or it could mean a little more emphasis on the Russian-led grouping.  Today, Interfaks-AVN reports that an operations center will be established for the Collective Rapid Reaction Force within the CSTO’s Joint Staff.  The chief of the center will be a general-lieutenant and deputy chief of the Joint Staff.  These changes follow decisions on a new structure and functions the CSTO made at its meeting last June.