Oleksandr Turchynov: “Zapad-2017” – reality and threats
The largest in the history of the Russian Federation strategic command and staff exercise of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation "Zapad-2017" has been launched. The formal topic of this exercise is "The use of troops (forces) to provide the military security of the Union State during the period of the growing military threat and the repulsion of aggression in the Western theater of war".
During the SCSE, Russia's higher military command plans to work out options for armed resistance to:
the US/NATO coalition forces to block and seize the Kaliningrad region;
possible attempts to change the political regime in one of Russia's allied states;
attempt to de-occupy Crimea and/or ORDLO by Ukraine with the support of Western allies.
Among the undeclared goals of the "Zapad-2017" exercise one should highlight:
strategic deterrence of the US in Europe, demonstration of determination to use military force to defend their interests, and demonstration of Russia's readiness to provide military security to its allies, of course, if they behave properly;
practical verification and clarification of plans for the use of Russia's armed forces in the Western continental theater of war;
restriction (prohibition) of access of the enemy troops to strategically important areas (regions);
countering the global strike and repulsing a massive rocket and air strike;
hitting critical objects of the enemy with high-precision long-range weapons of all types of deployment using all possible targeting sources;
approbating and introducing new forms of use and methods of operation of troops, including hybrid warfare methods;
testing the readiness for redeploying strike units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation over long distances, in particular from the Asian part of Russia's territory, that is, the Central and Eastern military districts;
assessment of the state of mobilization readiness of the Russian Federation.
Therefore, during the "Zapad-2017" SCSE, the Russian General Staff plans to conduct:
actual verification and clarification of plans for the use of Russia's armed forces in the Western continental theater of war;
assessment of the state of mobilization readiness and the readiness of the state system of management, transport, and economy for functioning during a special period and in time of war.
As part of the operational coverage of the actual scale and real nature of the exercise, which will be worked out during the "Zapad-2017" SCSE, a joint strategic exercise of the Armed Forces of Russia and Belarus is being conducted under the identical conditional name "Zapad-2017".
The "Zapad-2017" SCSE, which will last for almost two months, will be distinguished by the large spatial extent and number of people involved.
It is planned to conduct exercises virtually throughout the whole European part of Russia (within the military-administrative boundaries of the North, West, and South Unified Strategic Commands of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation), in the occupied Ukrainian Crimea, and the ORDLO territory, along the Ukrainian border, in particular, in Donetsk, Slobozhansky and Polissya directions, in Belarus, as well as in the Mediterranean Sea and Syria. Demonstration of the active phase of the exercise is planned on the territory of the Kaliningrad, Leningrad, Pskov, Smolensk regions and in the territory of Belarus.
In addition to the armed forces, state administrative bodies of the federal, regional and local levels, the units of "Russian Guard", the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the FSB, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, representatives of the defense industry, etc., participate in the exercise.
According to the official statements of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, around 13 thousand servicemen, including 3 thousand people from the Russia's Armed Forces, about 280 units of armament and military equipment, and 25 units of aviation equipment will take part in the exercise.
At the same time, the actual number of participants of all "Zapad-2017" events is estimated at 230-240 thousand people, more than 10 thousand units of military equipment, about 100 aircraft and around 40 ships/submarines of different classes.
An important part of the exercise will be elaborating the issues of the use of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps of the 8th Combined Arms Army of the Southern Military District of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, deployed on the temporarily occupied Ukrainian territory of the ORDLO, in the overall operational-strategic background with other Russian troops.
Under the guise of the SCSE, the creation of strike units (forces) of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation for the transition of the state border and military invasion into the territory of Ukraine is not excluded.
It is worth recalling that in recent years such exercises have been used repeatedly to achieve hidden military-political goals.
In particular, the "Kavkaz-2008" exercise (July 15 - August 2, 2008) - Russian troops involved in maneuvers did not return from landfills to permanent locations and unleashed armed aggression against Georgia;
The "Caucasus-2012" and "Caucasus-2016" (September 17-23, 2012 and September 5-10, 2016) - possible options for the use of groups of Russian troops and hostilities in the South-West strategic direction, including against NATO forces, were worked out;
The exercise of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and Belarus "Zapad-2013" (September 19-28, 2013) - the scenarios of armed aggression against Ukraine, which the Kremlin more or less had tried to implement in 2014-2015, were worked out;
The "Center-2015" exercise (September 14-20, 2015) - under its cover, a strike aviation group was created to use in Syria.
Under the guise of ensuring the security of the Winter Olympics "Sochi-2014" in February 2014, Russia deployed a group of troops to conduct a special operation on the occupation of the Crimea.
The "Zapad-2017" SCSE will have a number of peculiarities, among which special mention should go to the issue of the military use of the armed forces during a strategic operation in the continental theater of military operations involving groups of coalition troops and the creation of the major command in the theater of military operations.
I would like to remind you that this issue was dealt with for the first time in 1977, when Europe was the arena for the confrontation between the multimillion armies of the Warsaw Pact and NATO, during the operational-strategic command-staff exercise of the Armed Forces of the USSR and the countries of the Warsaw Pact "Zapad-77".
It is also important that JSC "Russian Railways" is widely involved in the exercise. During the SCSE, control over the railroad on the directions of the redeployment of troops will be transferred to the Military Services Division of the Transport Department of the MoD of the Russian Federation. Moreover, military rail transportation is of primary importance and do not take into account trade and economic activity. The total number of railroad cars for the redeployment of equipment and personnel only in the interests of the Ministry of Defense will exceed 7 thousand units. The peculiarity is the use of solely diesel locomotive traction for military transportation (including on electrified sections of the railway) as a preventive measure in order to prevent the breakdown of military transportation in the case of targeted cyberattacks or other unauthorized influences on the power supply network.
It is impossible to exclude the use of offensive cyberpotential of the Russian Federation, in particular, the relevant units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the FSB, including those disguised as criminal groupings, for the implementation of the general strategic plan.
Overall, all this indicates that not only Russia's Armed Forces are preparing to a great war but the entire Russian state, with appropriate expenditures of material and other resources. Therefore, during the "Zapad-2017" SCSE, the Kremlin is checking to what extent the Russian Army and the state as a whole are ready for a great war with the West.
Against the background of the tough economic situation, which even forced the Kremlin to resort to reducing the state military budget of the Russian Federation, such large-scale exercises cannot be just an ordinary measure of combat training. On the contrary, it is about demonstrating the determination of the Russian military-political leadership to a hardline response to any NATO/US attempt to react forcefully on the next Kremlin's military undertakings in the post-Soviet space. The weak appeal of Russia's modern socio-political and socio-economic model, the progressing limitation of its economic potential force the Kremlin resort to the "Ultima ratio regum" - the military force. Consequently, in the outlined time perspective, new attempts of Russian military intervention in the affairs of Ukraine, Belarus, the states of the South Caucasus and Central Asia are not excluded.