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:

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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.

 

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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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Russian army put on war footing

European media and politics are very busy this summer: Brexit, terror attacks in France and Germany, the Turkish president purging secular forces…

In the meantime the most threatening development is not on the top agenda: Russia has used public concentration on the above mentioned events to gradually put the majority of its troops on alert, such as troops in the southern military district, the central military district, the western military district with command-staff exercises earlier this month – including signal units, which also are alerted in other Russian regions. Also alerted is the Russian Navy, the official reason being the Russian Navy Day on 31 July (with significant activities of the Northern Fleet, Pacific Fleet, Baltic Fleet (with its airbase), the Russian defense minister checking the Black Sea Fleet during his visit on Crimea, and increased submarine activity in general). Additionally, troops have been put on alert in the occupied Ukrainian Donbas and Russia issued more threats in regard to Ukraine on 23 July via its ambassador to the UN.

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The non-existent Russian threat then and now

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Some realize the narrative of “Russia is not a threat” – repeated mantra-like since February/March 2014 by the overwhelming majority of western elites – possibly cannot be longer upheld. One narrative ready to be pushed in future is “the Baltics are not defendable” (already here).

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Security analyst from Belarus describes Russian threats

Juri Tsarik told Krym.Realii that he had received information from Russian troops living in “field conditions” in Klintsi going hand-in-hand with speeding up the creation of four new Russian divisions in the western direction and military-political pressure on Belarus. According to him, specialists consented that the forces were enough to stage a proxy-war scenario in the country – with six tactical battalion groups already in place (with the potential for 18-20 groups until the end of the year).

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Belarus under increasing pressure from Russia

While NATO is staging the “Anaconda-16” exercises in Poland, Russian airforce conducts reconaissance flights over the territory of Belarus and has been redeploying the 28th separate motorized rifle brigade of the Russian armed forces in May 2016  from their base in Yekaterinburg to Klintsy near the border with Belarus. Some of the members of the brigade already have combat experience from Ukraine (2014-campaign). A Russian major and member of the brigade was quoted in media reports as being convinced they were there to prevent a further westward-leaning of the country, if necessary using military force.

Dictator Lukashenka also felt obliged to state this week: “I see that today the Russian government is taking whatever action is appropriate in a westerly direction, I mean that we have a joint group of forces in the west, which ensures the safety of our motherland – Belarus and Russia. This group is based on the Belarusian army units. In case of a conflict, they are the first to come into battle, bringing an opportunity for the troops concentrated in the west of the Russian Federation to catch up shortly.”

We also have to keep in mind that Russia has been speeding up the issue of an airbase in eastern Belarus, at Babruysk. “InformNapalm” wrote in December 2015: […] the Russian military leadership develops a plan to create a group of land forces, located in Belarus ca. 500 km westwards from the RF border. This will provide a strategic advantage for building up the defensive line on Belarusian lodgment and give an opportunity to control the land corridor to Kaliningrad. Then the realization of the Crimean scenario in Belarus will enter its final stage.” (this leaves the issue of the “Suwalki Gap” still open – however in order to become active on the issue, full control of Belarus would be recommendable).

In November 2015, some observers had warned Russia’s next adventure might be to return Belarus “home” to Russia.

As we know Russia has focused action on weak neighbors – in terms of military strength and international support. Western support for Belarus is practically nonexistent, due to the cultural-economic-political orientation of President Lukashenka and his entourage towards Russia, and the lack of energy resources interesting to the west. In regard to militiary strength, the situation is also alarming:

High-ranking members of the Belarussian army have been born and/or educated in Russia – according to the data “InformNapalm” presented, all persons belonging to the higher command of the army had a “Russian background”. Additionally persons who support Russia have a far better military training than their “Belarussian” counterparts: They have been organized, trained and/or participated in active combat. Reports of “InformNapalm” indicate members of the Belarussian army have been part of illegal armed groups on the territory of Ukraine in 2014. Also members of the border guards of Belarus apparently have been recruited in order to work for Russia (i.e. in the case of an “emergency” their loyalties would be with Russia).

In November 2015, it again had been underlined young people in Belarus have been trained in special “military-patriotic” clubs to be fighters for Russia and the Russian world – the issue had been also in the media around October 2014 in order to point to the problem of Russia preparing and training diversionist groups in all countries of the former Soviet Union. At the end of 2015, “InformNapalm” had pointed to the existence of some 20 groups in Belarus, operating with the consent of local authorities; some military summer camps had been backed by authorities from the interior and defense ministry, and the Russian Orthodox Church had been providing ideological support in order to train young people for war.

All this information prompted “InformNapalm” to underline in later 2015 that a great part of the military-political government of Belarus were “agents” of Russian influence. The last news on the issue were noting a significant presence of Russian Cossack groups and military training camps around the city of Grodno in western Belarus in February 2016. Additionally, there have been multiple reports of concerned citizens in Belarus on persons with Russian military uniforms and/or “green men” with Russian flags staging provocative events in Belarus in May 2016. Apparently, the authorities did nothing to prevent the actions of the supporters of the “Russian world”.

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Russia stages another provocation against NATO in the Black Sea

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As Ukrainian military intelligence reports , the Russian airforce “exercised” the destruction of a group of NATO-ships in the Romanian port of Constanța, including USS Porter on 8 June 2016.

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