What is the danger of the Russian-Belarusian military exercises?
From September 13-19, at the Mulino training ground in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia, the active phase of the Russian-Belarusian operational exercises “Union Shield-2019” will be held. Similar large-scale exercises of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and Belarus are held annually, alternately in the territories of the western and eastern military districts. In the case of exercises in Belarus, they get the name “West”, and in Russia - the “Union Shield,” expert of the Ukrainian Maidan of Foreign Affairs Foundation, Major General Oleksandr Polishchuk writes on Facebook.
The previous West-2017 strategic exercises were remembered for the rocket fire at the journalists from the Russian Ka-52 combat helicopter. In addition, it was not unreasonably believed that Russia could try, under the guise of exercises, to carry out a “silent” annexation of Belarus, leaving some of its armed forces on its territory. After all, the actual number of participants in the exercises was kept secret and deliberately underestimated. According to official figures, 13 thousand troops took part in the exercises. At the same time, independent western sources estimated the number of troops deployed on the territory of Belarus at about 100 thousand servicemen.
The West-2017 theme was quite provocative as well, which provided for “striking and conducting military operations in the neighboring states - Poland and the Baltic States, as part of the defense of the common borders of the union state”.
According to official reports, about 12,000 military personnel will take part in the “Union Shield-2019” exercises - up to 8,000 Russian and more than 4,000 Belarusian. About 950 units of military equipment will also be involved, including more than 230 tanks (200 of them Russian), 240 multiple launch rocket systems (190 of which are Russian) and mortars, 360 armored vehicles, as well as up to 70 aircraft and helicopters (over 55 of them are Russian).
In addition, it envisages the use of new models of engineering equipment, armament of the troops of the chemical, biological and radiological defense, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
The stability of the officially announced strength is explained very simply. According to the Vienna document “On confidence-building measures and security”, if the number of participants in the exercises does not exceed 13 thousand people, they are not subject to mandatory international monitoring.
The Mulino training ground, located in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia, appears an interesting choice of venue for the current exercises. The Center for Interspecific Training of Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation functions here. Its construction was carried out from 2011 to 2014 by the German company Rheinmetall. The project cost at that time was 100-120 million euros. The completion of the construction was planned in September 2014, but the German government, despite the stiff resistance from Rheinmetall, forced the company to terminate the contract ahead of schedule due to Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea.
The completion of the facility was carried out by the Federal Agency for Special Construction of Russia, which directly reported to Putin. Despite this, in the best Russian traditions, about 150 million Russian rubles were stolen from the treasury during work. Not for the first and not the last time - only in 2016, the military prosecutor's office revealed 197 violations by “special builders” worth more than 2.5 billion Russian rubles in the construction of another “landmark” facility - the Vostochny cosmodrome.
Obviously, to play it safe, in September 2017, the scandalous agency was reorganized into the military-construction complex of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, which did not prevent its leadership from continuing corruption deals.
The theme of the exercises “Union Shield - 2019” provides for the verification of command and control in operations to ensure the security of the “Union State” and the ability of a regional group of troops to carry out their mission.
At the same time, during the regrouping of the Belarusian part of the group of forces, an assessment will be made of the transport infrastructure and its capabilities for the strategic deployment of troops. The latter goal should be a response to the development of the “strategic military mobility” of the Alliance.
Based on this, last year’s anxieties and experiences of NATO generals were in vain. Putler does not repeat his scripts. It would have been too primitive to attempt to leave the Russian troops in Belarus after “West-2017”.
The accelerated completion of the integration processes begun back in 1997 regarding the creation of a “union state” of Russia and Belarus looks much more spectacular, which allows Putin to legitimately continue his “reign” in a new status - the president of the “union state”.
It is in connection with this that the Kremlin has recently stepped up the implementation of a project to form a military organization of a “union state,” in particular the creation of a “regional group of forces” at the first stage, in accordance with Article 17 of the Treaty on the Creation of a Union State.
At the same time, the management of these groups is determined in accordance with Article 2 of the “Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus on joint ensurance of the regional security in the military sphere, exclusively for wartime”. In such a simple way, the Kremlin actually obliges Minsk to impose martial law on the territory of both states.
Tightening the grip of “fraternal embrace”, in 2001, by the Decree of the “Supreme State Council of the Union State” #8 “On the Military Doctrine of the “union state”, they added to the military organization the military command and control bodies of the “union state”(which in fact do not exist), the combined (regional) group of forces, the national armed forces and other military units, as well as part of the military-industrial and scientific complexes of Russia and Belarus. The doctrine provides for the creation of a permanent governing body of a regional grouping of troops. Guess where it will be located.
According to the results of the “Union Shield-2019”, one should expect “victorious” reports by Kremlin propagandists about the approval of the new version of the military doctrine of the “union state,” the provisions of which were “tested and confirmed” during the exercises. The draft new doctrine was coordinated and “expediently” approved by Putin back in December last year. In addition, the document was approved by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus.
One does not have to be a visionary to predict that the new military doctrine of the “union state” will finally “swallow and digest” the national armed forces of Belarus. It is enough to look at the agreement between the Russian Federation and the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia on cooperation and integration since March 2015, which stipulates that “... certain units of the armed forces and security bodies of the Republic of South Ossetia are part of the armed forces and security bodies of the Russian Federation by the agreement of the parties”.
Thus, the army and special services of Belarus, as part of the signs of a sovereign state, will be completely under the control of another state. And then, as they say - it’s a matter of technology.
Traditional Russian-Belarusian military maneuvers are in the “zone of special attention” both in Ukraine and among Western allies.
By coincidence, from September 13 to 27 this year at the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security, which is located near Yavorovo in the Lviv region, the annual Ukrainian-American exercises “Rapid Trident-2019” will be held.These exercises are the largest in terms of representation and number of participants. In addition to the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the units of the National Guard, the State Border Guard Service, the National Police, the State Emergency Service and the State Guard Department will take part in the exercises.
In addition, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Georgia, Lithuania, Turkey, Moldova, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania sent their military units to the exercises. For the first time, military personnel of the multinational Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade named after the great hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Kanstancin Astrozski will take part in the exercises.
3600 troops and 600 pieces of equipment will be given, including the Delta special-purpose company from the US Armed Forces, will be provided for the Ukrainian command. The infantrymen of the 10th separate mountain assault brigade of the operational command “West” will be able to share with their foreign colleagues the experience gained during the hostilities in the Donbas.
In turn, Western instructors will be able to assess and certify individual units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in accordance with NATO standards.
The main goal of the current “Rapid Trident” exercises is to work out joint actions as part of the peacekeeping coalition forces.
And quite “unexpectedly” for the Russians, the head of the exercise and assessment department of the US European Command, Major General John P. Healy announced this autumn a new type of military exercise to be held involving “non-traditional partners” - American diplomatic institutions in Europe - from Baltic to Israel.
“Before moving on to any kinetic operations, there is a nationwide approach that precedes everything,” the general said.
“Over the past few years, the EUCOM war games have grown in size and complexity, thousands of military participated in the exercises along the eastern flank of NATO due to the concern over a more aggressive Russia. But less attention was paid to how commanders coordinate with civilian colleagues in a crisis that is unfolding.”
This statement literally made Moscow leaders freak out, and caused mass hysteria in the Russian media. It’s not clear why, because NATO annually conducts international civil-military crisis response exercises called Crisis Management Exercise.
And back in September 2002, in Russia, the Bogorodsk-2002 international rescue exercises with NATO were quietly held. And it seems that the president was the same, but younger and with no marasmus yet.