Russia deploying elite paratrooper units to crucial forward positions

Update (11 October): Russia is testing a lot of troops not having participated at “Kavkaz-2016” – this means the military is bringing even more units in combat-readiness (with the according logistic troops). Additionally, the western military district is into aviation exercises with air defense and signal troops out.

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Geopolitical situation deteriorating quickly

While Russia continues its campaign against civilian infrastructure in Syria (hospitals, bakeries, today a water supply facility, including the large use of banned weapons) and ground troops are reported to mass around Aleppo, western diplomacy appears more than helpless. Also the western media or public have failed to react adequately to the increasing crime record of the Russian leadership.

Above all stands bombing a UN aid convoy heading west to Aleppo city and crashing the Malaysian civilian flight MH-17 over Ukraine in July 2014. Those crimes should have been sufficient to question Russia’s role as on the international scene and should have triggered at least a broader discussion in regard to the Russian role in international organizations, above all its destructive role at the UN Security Council.

But instead Russia still is offered various international platforms (which it happily uses to blackmail, corrupt and spread lies). The culmination of all this is Russia being allowed to preside the UN Security Council in October 2016.

Meanwhile, the Russian military has been preparing for larger offensive military operations in various directions and pushed rhetoric on a possible use of nuclear weapons.

Notably the whole issue of nuclear warfare has been increasingly back on the agenda since the Russian occupation of Crimea, Russia periodically having returned to the topic finding it would use nuclear weapons over Crimea and the Baltic States, not ruling out the first use of such weapons in its current military doctrine.

But it is not only Russia. Iran seems to evade certain provisions that attempted to restrict its nuclear program. North Korea has gone further, and in its most recent provocation produced a Hiroshima-like blast in September 2016.

Just this week, Pakistan’s defense minister threatened to wage nuclear war on India after India’s interior minister branded Pakistan a „terrorist state“ over violent clashes in Kashmir. As both armed forces are at their highest state of readiness and both are positioning troops in and around the Kashmir region (with Pakistan risking major provocations) those threats should be taken very seriously.

This latest escalation fits well into the picture of an international environment where former rules have been increasingly questioned or do no longer apply. China for its part has attempted to increase its sphere of influence in the South China Sea, and has sent nuclear missile submarines to patrol the area in order to underline its claims. Also this week China „warned“ Japan was “playing with fire” in announcing joint training patrols with the US.

For their part US B-52 bombers have trained at the relevant locations (e.g. in the South China Sea, just recently strengthening forces). The US has marked readiness for a (counter-)strike, among others with dropping faux nuclear bombs in the Nevada desert.

The official part of the western world continues to live in its ideal of „eternal peace“, trying to ignore the fact that the use of (tactical) nuclear weapons seems increasingly possible.

How has it come to all this?

There are many reasons. Some of the more important are:

The western mantra of “no military solutions”, even for serious conflicts, two important features being weak western armies ( e.g. % of GDP or combat-readiness/discipline) and a certain arrogance of western state leaders and diplomats who are convinced their diplomatic methods will work against ruthless counterparts, not acknowledging diplomatic efforts must go hand in hand with military pressure and action in certain cases.

The recklessness of autocrats/dictators who do not accept international organizations – namely the United Nations and its Security Council – as authorities in order to ensure stability, but as platforms for the realization of their personal power ambitions and as  instruments to follow their destructive agendas.

Most of the above mentioned countries have to face economic stagnation, recession or even a sharp decline, with leaders preferring not to embark on serious attempts to solve the structural problems of their countries.

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NATO has no plan to defend Europe if Russia should attack

British General Sir Richard Barrons this week told the British Times

“Russia could deploy tens of thousands of troops into Nato territory within 48 hours, backed by warplanes and ships, whereas it would take Nato months to do the same.”

This effectively means:

1.NATO has no plan to defend eastern Europe and the Baltic region

2. Responsible are Germany, France and Italy (with Germany spearheading, most recently Economic Minister Gabriel shaking hands with the Russian president and Foreign Minister Steinmeier blaming Asad for obstructing the cease-fire at the UN General Assembly while the Russian airforce was bombing Aleppo).

3. Measures NATO is taking are purely symbolic – the effective strength of NATO forces being combat-ready against Russia is not sufficient for convincing bluffing.

Also the recent measure of Sweden to put 150 soldiers on Gotland without artillery and anti-air defense systems – amongst reports of “Russian tourists” inquiring and threatening military personnel on the island – is not likely to alter the plans of the Russian leadership to restore its old sphere of influence in the region.

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Russia determined to expand influence over former Soviet colonies

The overall picture for Russia in autumn 2016 in regard to some of its former European colonies that once belonged to the Soviet Union is rather favorable. Belarus and Armenia have the closest relation with Russia, and are politically and economically dependent on the country. In the western direction, the leadership of Belarus has not shown willingness to open up politically or economically in the western direction – instead it has officially formed a Union State with Russia including tight military cooperation, namely educating forces in Russia and regular military exercises with the participation of Russian forces.

Concerning the southern direction, Armenia just appointed a former Gazprom manager Prime Minister. Russian bases in Armenia (that belong to the southern military district) have seen a strengthening of forces, e.g. Yerebuni recently received more aircraft, and regular drills (for instance reconnaissance troops, signal troops, exercises in mountainous regions). Russia just has passed a Iskander missile system to the Armenian army.

Accordingly, Liveuamap has depicted the area of Russian military influence as following:

InformNapalm has analyzed the Russian “Kavkaz-2016” exercise and found among others that a Russian attack group is in place in the southern military district, capable of short-term offensive operations in the south-western direction, including air support, a layered air defense system and landing of personnel and equipment in several areas. In regard to the latter, there indeed has been a certain “obsession” with water landings and amphibious assault exercises (which for example can be seen here for the last months).

Taking into account Russia exercising offensive scenarios and the existence of an attack group being ready to strike in the south-western direction, this map additionally shows the fatal position of tiny Georgia, run by a pro-Russian parliamentary majority and prime minister – formerly in charge of the foreign office – practically surrendered by Russian military and dependent units. Those forces stage regular “exercises” on the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and have created the phenomenon of the “moving border”.

Moreover, Russia’s Head of General Staff Gerasimov just a few days ago noted that Russia would be able to control the Black Sea, the statement being repeated during his visit in Turkey this week.

Such statements are of very relevance for the security environment of all Black Sea countries, especially those not being in NATO. Moldova in this regard remains far more vulnerable than Ukraine, the latter disposing of military resources and experience that also a country such as Russia has to take seriously.

Russia has succeeded in the creation of an overall instable environment around its “exclave” Transnistria. Still, the establishment of another terrorist entity in the region, the “Bessarabian People’s Republic” including the Ukrainian city of Odesa – with planned “support” from Transnistria, failed in 2015, thwarted by Ukrainian security structures and volunteers.

Moldova for its part has a history of facing similar Russian hybrid war methods as Ukraine. A popular method has been of getting involved in corruption scandals through various methods in order to weaken the country. The most recent example is the case of former pro-European Prime Minister Filat who was sentenced for corruption. The current prime minister has been more willing to cooperate with Russia, and agreed to renew the discussion for a settlement on Transnistria (the issue of a “special status” coming up), met Vice Prime Minister Rogozin in July, and has offered the perspective of deepening cooperation with Russia, after Russian tanks from Transnistria crossed the Dniestr into the territory of Moldova during “anti-terrorist” exercises.

Of the countries mentioned Ukraine remains the only country with a clear western orientation, significant human resources, minimal cooperation with Russia and the will to follow this path despite serious internal problems. Russia has probably realized that the  currently occupied Ukrainian territory will not generate sufficient leverage in order to influence the rest of the country to Russia’s advantage.

Russia however is determined to waste significant resources into the restoration of its former sphere of influence. Therefore growing Russian military capabilities in the Black Sea, the Russian foothold of Transnistria and a further instrumentalization of Moldova – in whatever manner – could be used as leverage both over Ukraine to the east and NATO members Bulgaria and Romania to the west.

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Sweden prepones troop deployment on Gotland

Sweden just announced some 150 troops from a mechanized company put on the island in the context of drills would stay there.

The activity of Russian submarines, aircraft and ships in the region has continued to be high (including a most recent readiness exercies in Belarus and landing ships of the Baltic Fleet with “loading exercises”), possibly preparing for military action under the cover of redeployment, drills and military expositions.

Swedish blogger Jägarchefen’s remarks can be seen in this context (translated by Corporal Frisk): “the last three weeks have featured a number of stern statements by both Swedish, US, and Russian officials. This has now culminated in the Swedish decision not to stand down after a readiness exercise. What exactly has caused this development is not publicly known, but at the same time US vice-president Biden gave Sweden some form of security guarantees in the face of Russian aggression, Swedish officials have quietly upgraded the risk of an ‘isolated attack on Sweden’ from ‘improbable’ to ‘low’. Rumours are also circulating that the recent Russian exercise caused the Swedish Defence Force to very nearly raise their readiness, something which has not happened since the Russian invasion of Crimea. From the Finnish viewpoint, there is a natural question that deserves to be asked: What does the Swedish Commander-in-Chief know, that our politicians pretend they don’t?”

Finnish analysts meanwhile have pointed to the fact that the only demilitarized zone in the area is the archipelago of the Åland-islands, situated between Finland and Sweden. As Petri Mäkelä puts it: “Its location allows control over majority of the shipping lines to Finland and mainland Estonia. It’s also perfectly situated for area denial use. Long range surface to air missiles in the islands can control critical parts of both Finnish and Swedish airspace, while Iskander-m ballistic missiles could be used to devastate military infrastructure of both non-aligned nations.”

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The Russian army mobilizes in all directions

In the last few months, Russia conducted a round of intensive exercises “rehearsing” offensive warfare. A development that has culminated in late summer 2016.

Observers noted that in the first two August weeks already, “Russian armed forces have mobilized at least six armies. These formations contain at least 2 tank divisions, 2 mechanized infantry divisions, 1 airborne division, 16 motorized infantry brigades, 7 artillery brigades, 4 missile brigades. Additionally at least 3 spetznatz brigades and 1 airborne division are at 24h readiness at all times.”

Building on recent developments – and encouraged by the active ignorance of western media and politics – the Russian military and political leadership has decided to show even more aggressive attitudes:

In the last August week, the Russian army has mobilized forces in all military districts, including paratroopers and special units. For some districts there is also information on the planned or ongoing mobilization of reservists.

In the focus of course, are Russian efforts to push its military capacities on the border with Ukraine – especially in regard to the upcoming “Kavkaz-2016” exercise, officially starting in a week (on a reduced impression on troop movements and “exercises” concerning Ukraine see for example here; and also a current assessment of Ukrainian intelligence).

We do not have to forget the forces Russia already has “on the spot”, in particular on the occupied territories of eastern Ukraine:


Moreover, it has to be underlined that build-up continues in other directions, too (for some information see for example here). Attention namely should be paid to developments concerning the western military district, Belarus – where a provocative “peace-keeping” exercise near the border with Poland just ended – and Kaliningrad.

Russian analysts have remarked the last time such large maneuvers took place had been in 1968 – just before Warsaw Pact troops invaded and occupied Czechoslovakia.

Update 9 September:

Russia just communicated it was practicing multiple strikes in different direcctions under to cover of “Kavkaz-2016” (see here and here).

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Will Russia now make another move in eastern Europe?

The last days have seen even more intensive Russian military preparations and activities:

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