Predicting Zapad 2017

Moscow’s perception of great power politics is based on long-standing fears of NATO encirclement and European marginalization, while Russia’s grand strategy, strategy and doctrine are tailored to ensure sphere of influence in Europe. National security identifies military risks associated with the build-up of NATO’s military contingents on the territories of the adjacent states and waters.

Since 2009, when the Russian Armed Forces started to implement reforms, big biennial strategic maneuvers in each of the military districts became the most important test of the increasing combat capability. Moscow was particularly paying attention to problem-prone areas such as logistics, state mobilization and expeditionary operations.[i] According to the official line of Russian MoD, drills are assessing the military preparedness in three areas: personnel’s competence, equipment and battle command: in essence, all of the recent exercises are rehearsing logistics and the movement of troops, were inspecting the coordination of involved units and enhancing the command and control. Furthermore, they were used to send political signals to NATO members and their allies, as well as China and Japan about Kremlin’s readiness to act. Putin’s Russia is also aiming to restore and maintain its sphere of domination in the former Soviet Republics area in its attempt to pivot the post-Cold War order into more favorable for herself. The Baltic Sea region is traditionally perceived by Russia as a test bed in attempting to achieve this goal, actions which were recently superimposed on the Black Sea area.

The upcoming Zapad 2017 attracts the attention of politicians, security specialist but and media. Expected to be the biggest military drill in Europe since the end of the cold war, it is perceived as the next opportunity for a Russian aggression. Various tactical aspects of Zapad-2017 could be after all transferred to Russia’s subsequent interventions.

By briefly examining the annual strategic exercises from the current 4-year cycle[ii] , I will try to explain what is expected from and the upcoming Zapad-2017 (West-2017). Furthermore, I will try to assess the role of inspections and snap drills preceding strategic exercises. It will also be an attempt to elucidate the reasons behind NATO’s anxiety over the upcoming drills and answer the question: is Zapad 2017 a reason for concerns for NATO?


  1. Vostok 2014[iii]

Strategic command-and-staff exercises in the Eastern Military District Vostok 2014 were held between September 19 to 26, 2014 on the ranges of the Sakhalin island, the Kamchatka and Chukotski peninsula, and sea ranges of the Kamchatskiy and Primorskiy Regions.

2014 iteration of Vostok was a summary of that year’s staff training and combat readiness inspection exercises. It had a wider scope than in previous years, covering both regular and surprise exercises. The three objectives of Vostok-2014 were to check the actual combat readiness, inspect the infrastructure for long-distance deployments, and examine the effectiveness of command and control systems of joint forces. Officially, scenario of the active phase was apparently related to limiting the spread of an armed conflict of irregular character. 2014 exercises were also a test for the Russian logistical capabilities.

With Russia relying on the railroads as a main communication lines, transport was a key exercise component. Finally, size of the Eastern MD resulted in several operational directions of this exercise.

All the units demonstrated that their tactical capabilities improved, compared to the previous years – especially 2008 Georgia. Also, strategic coordination between the different branches of the military was much more efficient. Vostok 2014 definitely prioritised command and control, and inter-agency coordination. It tested automated system for logistics, and rehearsed the use of conventional and nuclear missile systems. This in turn suggests, that the hypothetical enemy in the Russian Far East is China, even despite extensive collaboration—and only to a lesser extent Japan or de facto the United States.[iv] This being said, repulsing imaginary naval enemy, landing on the island, as an objective, and conducting operations on the disputed Kuril Island is a clear political signaling towards Japan. Perception of Russia as on less favourable position compared to China, resulted in focusing on defensive maneuvers:  Vostok 2014 put a lot of emphasis on delaying hypothetical enemy.[v] Combining conventional and nuclear elements were proof of Moscow’s fears of potential war on the eastern flank. Moreover, posing readiness to launch nuclear weapons is a strong signal of Kremlin’s will to take far-reaching steps in order to defend what’s perceived as territorial integrity.


  1. Tsentr 2015

Tsentr-2015 was held between September 14 and 20 2015 in Kazakhstan, Central and Southern MDs, with final stage at Donguzsky Test Ground in Orenburg Region. Approximately 95,000 servicemen from all branches of the Armed Forces, using over 7,000 arms and equipment units was participating.[vi] Location and deployed equipment proved that Tsentr 2015 was modeling an intervention in Central Asia – it was also assumed the possibility of implementing the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) solutions.

This exercise offered an insight into ongoing evolution of strengthening strategic mobility – transporting personnel and equipment by air and rail over large distances, preparing it for unfamiliar terrain, and efforts in achieving joint action among military and security forces, as well as other government agencies. Furthermore, as all the other massive Russian exercises, Tsentr 2015 provided observers with new references to strategic messaging to other actors during military exercises. Drills involved deploying units to designated areas, raising the level of combat readiness, and directing them by using advanced automated C4ISR systems. These features – present both in the inspection and the exercise – came at a time of increased Russian deployment in Syria. Tsentr 2015 served as a test bed for advanced systems, such as the reconnaissance complex “Strelets” and UAVs: “Zastava,” “Takhion,” “Orlan-10,” “Forpost” and “Leer-3”.

The ability to intervene beyond borders, especially in Central Asia – perceived as a potentially unstable region, but also a sphere of Moscow’s influence – is a vital objective for Kremlin. However, by demonstrating the aptness to undertake expeditionary missions, at the same time increasing military presence in Syria, Russia shows the West its willingness to return as one of the key players in the Middle East.

Perception of Tsentr-2015 in the eyes of NATO observers was also shaped by the fact, that only two days before it commenced, a massive snap inspection was held. It involved airborne forces, air force and air defense units, Caspian Flotilla and Central MD’s ground forces. A key feature of the inspection was to test strategic mobility[vii].


  1. Pre- Kavkaz 2016 : Cooperation 2016 and Indestructible Brotherhood 2016

Apart of Kavkaz, 2016 saw two other big exercises: in August, CSTO rapid-reaction forces staged “Cooperation 2016”[viii] and was followed by the Russian-Belarusian “Indestructible Brotherhood 2016”.  “Cooperation 2016” scenario assumed resolving a border conflict, while “Indestructible Brotherhood 2016” contained exercises in involving peacekeepers enforcing the observance of a ceasefire – strikingly similar to the Donbas situation.

The “Cooperation 2016” drills were held on the training grounds of the Western Military District in Pskov area, while “Indestructible Brotherhood” was held in polygon-shaped training areas close to the Polish and Ukrainian border. The use of rapid-reaction troops was a clear demonstration of upgraded Russian capabilities. At the same time, the character of cooperation between Russia and Belarus in the military sphere provided evidence of Russian perception of Belarusian territory as operational space.


  1. Kavkaz 2016

Kavkaz 2016 was a strategic command-and-staff exercise which took place between September 5 and 10, 2016 in the Southern Military District (Southern, North Caucasus and Crimean federal districts, the Black and Caspian sees).[ix] The main events were held at the Prudboi proving ground in the Volgograd Region, Molkino, in the Krasnodar Territory, Chernovodskoye, in North Ossetia, and here, at Opuk, in Crimea.[x]

The 2016 iteration of Kavkaz was announced in 2014, and it was planned as the culmination of smaller-scale exercises: main one was preceded with twelve special logistics drills and snap inspection between August 25 and August 31, enhancing combat readiness span checks involving the forces of all the military districts, the Aerospace force and the Airborne Troops.

According to the MoD, About 97,000 civilian personnel and 125,000 serviceman took part in the exercise[xi] – but no more than 12,500 simultaneously: according to Gerasimov “In the territory of the Southern Military District no more than 12,500 troops were involved in the exercise at any one time, which does not contradict the Vienna Document”.[xii] 400 pieces of major military equipment, with more than 300 aircraft and helicopters, and 15 warships were used. During the exercise, the formations of the First Tank Army, 20th Combined Arms Army of the Western Military District, the Second Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District, special forces and Airborne Forces Redeployment covered a distance of more than 2,000 kilometers. Aviation districts performed flights within the range of up to 4,000 kilometers.[xiii] The cruise missiles from the missile complexes Bal and Bastion were launched, also coastal radars Monolit and Mineral were tested, providing target-setting data for a missile attack against enemy ships in 320 km radius. Cruise missile was launched from the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s diesel-electric submarine Novorossiysk.[xiv] Also the air defense system S-400 Triumf was tested.[xv]  UAVs Orlan and Forpost, previously used in Syria, were used for air reconnaissance and setting targets for combat aircrafts.[xvi] Also the commando and artillery units were employing tactics they’ve already practiced in Syria.[xvii]

According to the scenario “Federation of the North” was attacked by a “Western Country”, which followed by the sea and air operations, with the main objective to stop the attack and proceed to counter-attack[xviii]. 2016 drill allowed the army commanders to practice organization of interaction with other security forces in special operations, as well as perform assessment of the command and control abilities during joint force operations.[xix]

“Kavkaz 2016” inevitably aroused controversies due to the clear political message addressed to neighboring countries: redeployment of Russian troops in Crimea, demonstrated their ability to defend their hold there and stepping up the pressure on Ukraine by enhancing multi-service group in the proximity of its border, increasing the level of combat readiness of formations and units of the Russian military in the south-western strategic direction.[xx]


  1. Slavic Brotherhood 2017 and snap drills before Zapad 2017

From June 6 to June 14 2017, the third annual Slavic Brotherhood exercise between Russia, Belarus, and Serbia took place in Belarus.

According to the officials, scenario of this drills was tackling CT operations, however, its approach assumed all-out conflict with a concentrated enemy, with a high likelihood of collateral damage. Apart of scenarios including securing facilities seized by “terrorists” and evacuation of troops [curiously no clear signs of special operations forces or hostage rescue operations were found], number of tactics, such as multinational battalion movement, multiple water crossings in convoys used to transport large numbers of combat-ready troops over unfriendly territory, an airlift using Il-76 aircraft, territorial control training (with the characteristics suited for invading or defending large territories) fit the counterinsurgency or large-scale military conflict. Moreover, amphibious infiltration tactics are designed to achieve a surprise effect on enemy troops are not used in friendly territory due to reduced speed and increased vulnerability. Troops in Slavic Brotherhood 2017 used a full-frontal, attack-and-support infantry approach tactic: an offensive approach used to overwhelm and neutralize an enemy. Big part of the exercise was focused on the airborne branches of the military, expeditionary in nature. Overall, used tactics gave the impression of practicing for infiltrating hostile territory. Similarly, the equipment used in Slavic Brotherhood 2017[xxi] did not fit the precision-based approach of counterterrorism efforts. The weapons were deemed as appropriate for fighting organized military forces, rather than terrorist groups.[xxii] Also the opposing forces were armed in the way imitating a foreign military force – with automatic rifles, machine guns, and anti-tank weapons .

On August 7th Russia announced that one of its heavy artillery brigades had marched a battalion of 2S4 Tulip 240mm mortars to the area near Pskov. These are specialty weapons meant for breaking fortifications or defenses in urban areas. Moreover, an airborne exercise in Pskov region, Kislovo training ground, right east of Estonian border, (from August 7 to August 11) involved about 2,500 people and 600 units of military equipment.[xxiii]

In the second week of August, Russia carried out a large-scale special snap exercise involving various types of support for naval forces exercises close to NATO borders in preparation for the Russian-Belarusian joint military exercise. The drill practiced measures for anti-subversion and sabotage defense of the naval base. Operations included counteracting penetration of the fleet’s waters with mine-and-ground forces, ship formations, aviation, and search-and-rescue forces cooperating.[xxiv] Russian Ministry of Defense announced the Northern Fleet exercise only once the event was already reported by the media. Sudden exercises are a common tactic to cover up a military buildup, which understandably increased NATO member’s anxiety.



  1. Zapad 2017

Military exercises Zapad 2017 (West 2017) will be held between September 14 and September 20, 2017. Practical exercises will be held in the Western military district and Belarus at the Lepel, Borisov, Losvido and Osipovichi training ranges, the Ruzhansky and Domanovsky Air Force and Air Defense Force practice grounds, and also on the terrain near Dretun.[xxv] Apart of being a source of information about Russian state of armed forces, Zapad 2017 is anticipated to provide an insight into how Moscow intends to leverage military power to shape Western decision-making, possibly pivoting the way NATO perceives effective ways of deterring Russia.

Although the scenarios of drills are supposed to be defensive, Zapad 2009 was based on a nuclear strike on Warsaw, and Zapad 2013 tested new equipment, and tactics – such as use of the UAVs for locating targets for artillery and conducting damage assessment- later used during Crimea annexation and Donbas invasion.[xxvi] Furthermore, it brought over 90,000 Russian troops to the field.[xxvii] Finally, the use of tactical missiles in the deep-strike, as well as counter-guerrilla operations in urban environments were employed in Syria.

Being a multi-phase exercise, Zapad 2017 will be based on a political events. Scenario involves an imaginary country Veishnoria – in the North-West region of Belarus – attacking Minsk and causing a discord between the allies. Two other fake countries are involved: Vesbaria and Lubenia, located in the territory of Lithuania and Poland.

It was expected, that the scenario might involve crisis stemming from infiltration by terrorists or asymmetric threat. Some parts could also fit a situation where Russia is provoked by NATO – like adversary.

Perceived aim of Zapad 2017 is practicing launching and waging interstate war, which is why it generates concerns in countries located along the borders where drills will be performed, as well as in Belarus itself. It has both historical and political underlining: During the Cold War, Soviet Union used Belarusian territory to maintain several major military bases there, some of which stored nuclear-tipped missiles. Furthermore, this territory served as an invasion corridor for the major powers. Finally, the long lasting animosities between Lukashenko and Putin are creating political tensions. 2015 saw decline of Kremlin’s request for permission to establish a military base on Belarusian territory. Having said that, both presidents met in Saint Petersburg on 3 April 2017 (for the first time since November 2016) and all disputes between the two countries are officially resolved now.

Minsk’s fear of so-called color revolutions, allegedly incited by the West[xxviii], is shared by in Russia. Especially after the Euromaidan events in Ukraine in 2014, the possibility that a color revolution in Russia’s neighborhood could be used as a trigger for another Russian military intervention has been raised. Zapad 2017 could give Russia the opportunity for military movement, which may prepare the ground for actions against Belarus itself. Lukashenko has, however, rejected these suspicions as groundless – also Russia had addressed these fears, and stated that such invasion is not planned.[xxix]. Nevertheless, the new 2016 Belarusian military doctrine raises the issue of a ”local war” threat, indicating that the Armed Force take to account events resembling the ”Arab Spring” and  “Donbas scenario” in a Belarusian context.  Minsk’s concern is also based on the fact, that in case of aggression during or after the exercises, most likely Russian Armed Forces would try to raise costs for any intervention for the West, so that they will not be outweighed by the potential gains. Probably as a precaution, Belarusian MoD invited international observers from 7 countries. Minsk informed that by extending the invitation it was following the Vienna Document, however, according to NATO, invited parties were in fact liaison officers, only to observe on “distinguished visitors” days.[xxx]

Russia is maintaining her posture as adhering to OSCE Vienna Document, reporting the number of troops below the threshold of 13,000.[xxxi] At the same time, unknown amount of soldiers will participate in related drills in the Western MD – Russia often intentionally lowers the number of troops, splits them or include in the snap exercise count, additionally providing a small gap in time between drills, or holding them in different areas but as a joint command. Main exercise together with the preceding drills are estimated to involve even 100,000 troops. A possible indicator of Zapad 2017 size many analysts use the fact that Russia has ordered more than 4,162 railcars to transport its troops. It has to be pointed out though, that the 2,081 round trips were made within 11 months. Based on this, according to P. Kovalev, up to two Russian mechanized divisions (around 30,000 military personnel) could be deployed to Belarusian territory. Since some of the drills already took place in Belarus, only 1,254 wagons were left for Zapad itself.[xxxii]

Baltic Sea region is perceived by Russia as a test bed in attempting to achieve geopolitical objectives. Dividing the West whilst undermining trust in the collective defense of NATO  is possible due to several factors, such as politico-military geography of the Baltic Sea and Eastern Europe, with militarised Kaliningrad and Belarus, significant amount of Russian-speakers, internal political frictions and limited military potential. Furthermore,  any provocations during Zapad 2017 and accompanying snap drills might be used by Kremlin  as an instrument to exert military pressure on the US administration. Recently displayed provocative behavior of the air force might increase again, with elevated risk of unintended clashes between Russia and the Alliance. Russian willingness to test or infringe sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries the in the Baltic Sea region cannot be ruled out. It is expected that Russia could launch a limited hybrid operation, testing responses on the eastern flank of the Alliance: Latvia for example has publicly reiterated that such provocations are considered possible.[xxxiii] But triggering Article 5 could lead to full scale military confrontation – Russia has all the reasons to assume that the West would be hesitant to respond to any confrontation, instead shying away and possibly trying to use diplomatic channels in order to struck a deal. Current NATO’s reaction is to move one airborne battalion consisting of 650 soldiers to the Baltics.[xxxiv] Nevertheless, openly attacking any of the Baltic countries would be way to costly, compared to for example aiding rebels in the Donbas region or weakening Ukraine in general. But if in Kremlin’s understanding the use of military force offers a better chance to achieve its strategic goals, Moscow won’t hesitate to use it, which adds up to the overall tension.

According to some analysts, attention should be paid to any training of CBRN defense, and such troops should be closely watched, as potentially this is a next scenario for the Russian expansion.[xxxv] More plausible scenario would include use of non-strategic nuclear weapons: it would signal Kremlin’s ability to employ powerful means for compelling opponents to its will.

With Russia attempting to test the West, NATO should do everything to avoid such scenario- deterrence posture of the Baltic Sea states should be maintained in order to avoid any misperceptions of Russia and elude accusations of provocation. Any development in Zapad-2017 scenario can be read as a statement of strategic intent.

Moreover, it can outline implications for changes in wider foreign and domestic politics: shows diversion of attention of the Russians from socio-economic problems on external military threats in the eve of presidential elections, the same way as Kavkaz 2016 was for the parliamentary ones.



Since 2013, Russian military conducted multiple snap exercises (not carried out in post-Soviet times) employed to intimidate Russian neighbors. Being an excellent test of ability to mobilise and deploy immediately, often involving substantial number of personnel, such inspection enable training in command and control in joint inter-service operations. Between 2013 and 2014, Russia frequently executed large scale exercises, with six drills involving between 65,000 and 155,000 personnel – at the same time number of personnel participating in the largest exercise conducted by NATO and allied forces was barely 16,000. Tsentr-15 involved 95,000, and Kavkaz-16 could involve 120,000 personnel – numbers being amalgamation of separate exercises and referring to all units concerned by the inspections, snap drills and exercise itself (some of the units could’ve received the order to get ready to move, but did not deploy for live-fire exercises – command and control as well as staff training purposes, a simulation of their participation would suffice). The exercise gap has narrowed – NATO stepped up its game, conducting larger exercises, but none came close to matching Russia’s largest drills – it does reflect NATO’s limited readiness, undercuts the Alliance’s deterrent posture, and creates a stark contrast to Russian determination.[xxxvi] It is essential to address Russia-NATO exercise gap. NATO’s EFP is positioned against larger, heavily armed units of Western MD. NATO’s deterrent value in the Baltic region lies on the effective combination of combat capability of its battalions and the ability to rapidly reinforce them in crisis. In order to prove its credibility, such abilities have to be tested and demonstrated regularly through exercises proximate to the line of confrontation.

With limited power projections capabilities, Russia is strengthening existing resources and honing it to create as much impact as possible, while bearing minimal costs. It is visible that much effort was made to turn the operational environment of the drill relatively close to a real combat. In order to improve the ability to conduct expeditionary operations, Russia is also trying to increase and practice its mobilisation capacities, as well as improve the deployment procedures. Improvement of the ability to intervene outside of its borders, especially in Central Asia, is perceived in Moscow as vital, due to the existing and potential factors causing instability. Moreover, such demonstrations of readiness to undertake expeditionary missions, also proven by presence in Syria, gives West a clear statement of willingness to play a key role in the Middle East.

After the annexation of Crimea and involvement in the war in Syria, the developments in Russian politics convinced NATO, that Russia poses a long-term and complex challenge to the West itself. Incoherence between the official scenario presented by the MoD and actual operations causes anxiety over the direction of Russian territorial expansion. The augmentation of some of the combat units during the recent conscriptions makes the ongoing buildup at the western border of Russia the most daunting prospect, with scheduled drills preceding the big exercises are announced within 24 hours prior to their commencement, and increased ability to move troops long distances, enabling Russia to concentrate forces in the border areas in a short time. Understandably, countries most concerned by Russian performance are the ones which already experienced Kremlin’s interference, also in the sphere of information operations.

Intensification of snap maneuvers in the span of few years clearly reflects the factors perceived as threatening to Russia’s interests: political instability in the former Soviet republics, terrorism and color revolutions. Military drills, as well as snap exercises, are integral part of Russian political discourse. What is more, the armed forces will try to signal that they have the ability to impose substantial costs on a (potentially) technologically advanced adversary. Finally, the boastful display of military power and prowess might be an extension or element of the campaign, as the 2018 presidential election is just behind the horizon. The economy is facing many difficulties, which are mirrored by the state of defense industry. Russia is obviously not lacking the willingness to build up, however lack of resources, combined with a brain drain and lack of manufacturing base (for ships), forces her to build but only an image of military confrontation. A positive aspect of the recession could be an increase in the number of professional soldiers (compared to conscripts), as the military service is an appealing option for the profession-seekers in times of economic instability, and increased media presence of military exercise could be perceived as a marketing tool.

Russian authorities aim to use their growing military capabilities to demarcate the country’s area of influence as a message to the international community, NATO, and, above all, Ukraine. Whatever its purported justification is, military maneuvers on this scale also have a propaganda dimension in terms of the Russian public, which perceives the condition of its Armed Forces as one of the main indicators of the country’s status as a world power. Big exercises are Kremlin’s instrument to gain the public support and legitimize Putin’s power. Confronted with serious economic challenges, with frozen pensions and looming crisis, the government is no longer able to do so by extending guarantees of stability and prosperity. By deploying aggressive media presence of military drills, as well as comprehensive videos picturing military prowess of the Russian Armed Forces are not only creating perception of powerful Russia, awakening nationalist sentiments, but also consolidating the society against a common enemy. It is also helping Putin as a proxy of victories, which usually spike the popularity ratings. Any demonstrations of military power, especially the one that targets actors seen as threat, are successfully distracting public from domestic problems.

Increased media presence, as well as uncertainty and lack of transparency – inherent parts to Russian military drill – are also undermining local trust in the collective defense of NATO, and by extension destabilizing internal politics.

Russia believes that the rules of war became more blurred, and hybrid, non-linear measures has been adopted successfully (as proven after the 2014 exercises, during the annexation of Crimea) to account for the modern technological complexities, highlighting the role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals, with the potential to exceeded the power of expensive weapons in their effectiveness. Many nonstandard tools are being tested during the exercises: mixed-type groups of forces in a single intelligence space enable new possibilities of command and control systems. Actions observed during the drills, in line with the current doctrine[xxxvii], tend to be more dynamic, while the enemy’s weakness is exploited and concluded with a quick disappearance.

Increasing inter-agency coordination as well as civil-military cooperation during the strategic exercises shows that they are intended to prepare Russia for a wider war effort, unlike what the MoD pictures as the official line. Furthermore, the rotation of locations shows that Moscow believes that armed forces have to be prepared for a strategic conflict from any direction. Observing the exercises will provide a valuable insight into the capabilities, focus areas, and implemented innovations. Zapad 2017 will be a good opportunity not only to understand strategic goals of Moscow, but also to build predictions on how Russia plans to fight future wars.





[ii] Vostok-2014 (East-2014), Tsentr-2015 (Center-2015), Kavkaz-2016 (Caucasus-2016)

[iii] Approximately 155,000 servicemen were involved, with 8,000 units of equipment, 1500 tanks and 600 aircrafts[iii]. Final quantification of strategic transport provided by the MoD was the distance of 5,000–12,000 km; 30 aircraft and helicopters were moved from the Baikal lake region to the Pacific coast, which entailed covering a distance of 900 to 7,000 km for aircraft, 500 km for helicopters.[iii] Furthermore, heavy strategic bombers, S-300 missile defense systems, Iskander tactical missiles launches, cruise missiles (launched from the sea and air), as well as submarines and mine sweepers were used[iii] – in 2014, Vostok 2014 was the largest exercise since the Soviet era. The drills were held in two stages, with the troops primarily practicing in eliminating a potential enemy task force in open sea (with the use of Varyag missile cruiser), repulsing airstrike and combating an aircraft carrier. Russian Pacific Fleet was practicing protection of the coastline from seaborne assault, anti-submarine and anti-sabotage training, mine-laying operations, and a landing on Vrangel Island (Arctic), while the paratroopers were participating in survival tests in the Arctic Circle. Most types of available military aircrafts were used: Su-24 fighter-bombers, Su-25 ground attack aircraft, MiG-31 heavy fighters, Su- 27 fighters and Su-30, Su-34 and Su-35S multi-role aircraft. Stand-off attacks involving cruise missiles were performed with the use of Tu-95MS and Tu-22M3. MiG-31 fighters and airborne surveillance and command and control aircraft (A-50s) were covering naval units at seas, with Il-78 performing mid-air refueling.


[v] Roger McDermott, “Vostok 2014 and Russia’s Hypothetical Enemies (Part Two),” The Jamestown Foundation,


[vii] 40 IL-76 transporters were redeploying troops and TMM-3 heavy mechanized bridges were set to lay three river crossings to enable a tank company. UR-77 mine clearance systems, BMR-3M mine clearance vehicles and Uran-6 mine clearance robots were employed.  Four Andromeda-D mobile automated command posts were deployed for command and control over the “immediate-use group of forces” from the Airborne Troops. According to observers new automated electronic warfare command-and-control systems were prominently tested with around 150 pieces of equipment used, such as Borisoglebsk-2, Krasukha-4S and Infauna, Zhitel automated jamming station. According to estimates, it was approximately one third of the Russian transport aircraft capacity at that point. Moreover, tactical missile systems Tochka-U were redeployed to training ranges in Orenburg (distance of 1,000 km). Air force landings were specially designed to evade fire from man-portable air-defense systems.

[viii] Involving 6,000 troops (three times more compared to 2015), aviation and artillery support.










[xviii] The scenario assumed tactics such as rapid mobile defense, coast defense, elimination of enemy’s sabotage and intelligence groups. Moreover, the command systems dedicated to the various troop units and the cooperation between them and with other state services and local authorities were also tested. The communications systems and interactions between various formations was thoroughly inspected.


[xx] They were preceded by a series of smaller exercises that included defence of a Russian sea base in Sevastopol from submarine attack: between 25 and 31 August 2016, the combat readiness of the armed forces in the Southern, Western and Central MD’s, the Northern Fleet and the commands of the Russian Aerospace Forces and Airborne Forces were also checked. According to international rules, the Russians did not have to offer notification of these drills.

[xxi] Good example of which is BMD-2 infantry fighting vehicle, designed to fight large numbers of well-equipped infantry or other armored vehicles, which would not be used in civilian areas, due to the possibility of collateral damage.


[xxiii] The official MoD report have not confirm the information about the number of people or military equipment involved (apart of use of the Su-27 and Su-34 fighter jets).





[xxviii] Lukashenko has accused foreign spies of encouraging the protests in Belarus against him.









[xxxvii] Current doctrine  reflects continuity – with a big scope of potential application within its permanent sophistication prone to a constant conceptual evolution. As an adaptive approach to the use of military force, it includes elements like: search for a pretext for a military intervention, use of military force to pressure governments and inflict chaos, military training of rebels, assisting armed opposition in seizing power.


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