Category Archives: Military Operations

Fire on the Right

One Vladimir Turovskoy published an op-ed on Topwar.ru (aka Voyennoye obozreniye) on April 8. 

Topwar often has useful information on military issues. Sometimes not. It’s a mixed bag. 

Turovskoy’s article is a right-wing critique of Putin’s “special military operation” against Ukraine. 

While anti-war protesters are arrested and fined for “discrediting” the army, this sharp criticism of Putin’s campaign and his regime is not banned.

The piece makes various points about the military’s operational failures to date and the West’s economic war to “destroy” Russia.

Turovskoy directs his main criticism at Russia’s oligarchs. He identifies them with Putin’s “fifth column of national traitors” who “make money here in our country but live over there” (i.e. in the West) and who are “not here with our people and with Russia.” He suggests the oligarchs could try to make some kind of deal to end the war in the Ukraine.

But he fires on Putin too, saying he should have struck Ukraine sooner. He blames Putin’s closest cronies, like FM Lavrov, for falling down on the job. 

Turovskoy does all but urge stripping oligarchs of their assets to support the war and he calls for full military and economic mobilization.

But the commentator doesn’t say Putin himself is the top oligarch sitting astride the Russian economy. Maybe he doesn’t have to. Putin is obviously part and parcel of all oligarchs in thrall to him.

But Turovskoy still seems to hope Putin might free himself from the oligarchs and prosecute a full-scale war.

Lastly, he seems to suggest, however obliquely, that Russia prepare to use nuclear weapons to protect its interests if it continues losing the war on Ukraine.

There has been plenty of debate whether Moscow would go nuclear if its security were threatened by defeat in a conventional conflict. The so-called “escalate to de-escalate” strategy. To Turovskoy and certainly others, losing in Ukraine is worse than nuclear war. But he is afraid to state it plainly.

This kind of essay, from the right, from a more nationalist stance, underscores the war is not just Putin’s. It’s Russia’s war and may last until Russia is defeated or exhausted. 

Here’s a translation.

Special Military Operation in Ukraine: A View from the Sticks

Developing political and military events in Ukraine call forth a lot of questions, primarily about achieving aims announced by Russia’s president, which he said were de-Nazification and demilitarization. The Russian people understood what Putin told them, that these declared goals and missions applied to the entire territory of Ukraine wholly and fully, including its western part.

This is completely logical because to leave a hotbed of evil, hatred, Banderovites and nationalism in its lair is to subscribe in advance to future problems on this very plane, if not even worse. Probably there are few now who doubt that our generals, along with the FSB (where would we be without it), and even Putin himself, believing in the power of the Russian Army exalted to the heavens by our glorious TV and other media, figured on one-two weeks to solve the problem by military means.

But it didn’t go this way.

Military Actions

First. Clear successes of the Russian Army in the first days of the offensive and a number of air strikes with precision weapons on airfields, headquarters and reconnoitered positions of the VSU1, the advantage in weapons quality, including aviation, made it possible to feel quite confident we would easily solve the assigned missions. However, as we moved deeper into the territory of Ukraine, VSU resistance grew in proportion to the inflated in Western media image of Russia as a terrible aggressor who started a war against the freedom-loving Ukrainian people. And taking into account the fact that all this mess in the heads of Europeans and Ukrainians was cooked up long ago, we got an explosion of hatred for Russia with all the ensuing consequences.

Second. Ukraine, pumped up with Western weapons, trained by competent military specialists and using the intelligence of American satellites, having the most advanced U.S. iPhones, iPads and notebooks, in real time, day and night, at a speed of 250 mb/s, has the ability to track any movement of RF troops, down to a matchbox in the pocket of some Russian warrant officer in the latrine. As soon as the effect of surprise and the shock of the initial strike passed, the VSU with the help of Western sponsors and teachers began to organize a well thought-out and furious resistance. Does it turn out we didn’t suppose this would be the case?

Third. Some “analysts” (from the phrase “does everyone have a drink?”2) supposed at the sight of RF tanks the deceived people of Ukraine would run to meet them with flowers. In 2014 it’s possible this might have been the case. But in 2022, even those Ukrainians who went to visit Putin and swore an oath of eternal love to him took machine guns and signed up for territorial defense. Thus, the Russian army began to deal with global resistance on all sectors of the front, in every house, in every city. Of course, you can use the American tactics of carpet bombing, but this is “not our method.”

Fourth. The huge expenditure of high-precision and expensive missiles raises a legitimate question, do we have enough of a stock created for a long conflict? What are the losses of aviation, which also costs a lot of money and its losses cannot be easily compensated, especially flight crew? Judging by the periodically decreasing and increasing intensity of missile strikes, there is an insufficient quantity of high-precision weapons produced by industry. It seems there are simply not enough. They take them hot as pies from the factory to the front, shoot them and wait for the next batch. And then still more will be needed. The alternative is soldiers’ lives…

Political Situation

Putin’s words that “you need to hit first,” which his very ardent and not very smart admirers are fond of quoting, led to a decision that put Russia in front of the whole world in the pose of a woman, as they say, “of low social responsibility.” The world has never seen such unbridled anti-Russian propaganda and outright, undisguised lies about Russia. The goal is to destroy us, primarily economically, to finish off the remnants by military means, to break it up into small principalities, where local princelings will fiercely gnaw at each other’s throats, like Russia and Ukraine now, for the amusement of transoceanic and European publics.

Moreover, at no risk to themselves, since by then Russia’s nuclear weapons will be rendered inoperative, partly by forceful military means, partly by the bribery and betrayal of the highest officials of the RF. Don’t doubt such ones will be found! The state raised them, nurtured them, enriched them, endowed them with appropriate powers, and they are secretly waiting for their finest hour to ensure finally and forever their comfortable and luxurious existence in countries with a high standard of living.

And thirty years of inactivity by the entire state apparatus, including our MFA with its frantic number of highly paid diplomats, its chief and his lover travel about on Deripaska’s private jets3, what do we need to do? This is how it’s necessary to “work” for thirty years to bring the country close to a nuclear war? Maybe, after all, we should have thought earlier, at least a decade sooner, that this Ukraine, which is “not Russia” in the words of the old chatterbox Kravchuk4, could make us hiccup in the future?

No matter what anyone says, this is a complete failure of Russia’s foreign policy, when instead of at least some long–term forecast and analysis of the situation in Ukraine, in the Baltic States, the “Ozero” cooperative5 “made bank,” enriching itself and its children, relatives and lovers. And now they’re throwing up their hands, how so? And that’s it! It was necessary not to steal, but to invest money in the country, in ordinary people, to deal with the economy and security of the state, and not to “express concern,” while actually living on enemy territory with their children and grandchildren who’ve already forgotten Russian. But it’s so, just saying…

Economic Situation

Here’s just one question: how long can we hold out? As long as you want! We have everything, all Mendeleyev’s table6, forests, water, the desire and ability to fight, even with the devil. So why are we, in a pathetic state, still selling the USA and Europe gas, oil, uranium, other rare earth metals? Is it simply charity? Why are supporting countries which see us destroyed in their dreams? After all those dollars and euros, even converted into rubles, will settle in the banks of countries which bought minerals from us. It’s even hard to call that money – they are simply virtual mythical little figures in bank accounts which we can’t spend because they won’t sell us anything we need.

And the treasure chest opens simply! Our oligarchs close to the emperor can’t be without income. Even stones from the sky, there has to be profit. And not to the people, not to you and me, not for the country’s security goes this money. Only into the bottomless pockets of Deripaskas, Usmanovs, Abramoviches, Millers and Sechins, Rotenbergs and Kovalchuks, to secret offshores somewhere on the Cayman Islands. It’s not for nothing that Ukraine received oil, diesel, gas up to the last day, from whom do you think? From Russia! Well and from Belarus, of course…

A question naturally arises: can we possibly allow all this?

It’s possible!

Just don’t think I’ll urge stopping the military operation. In Russian there’s a good saying: Having said “a,” you have to say “b.” Considering NATO’s readiness to enter the conflict, especially since, having “felt” Russia’s chest with the help of Ukraine, their fears have diminished, and the “European hyena” is already eager for battle, wishing, as always, to bite off its piece, Russia will have to stiffen up powerfully.

Only full military mobilization and transferring the economy to a military footing can guarantee our victory over this genuine, evil enemy. Across the ocean they are watching how we’ll cope with this mission. Will they get their backs up? I don’t know, anything’s possible. I hope Russia’s SYaS7 will be ready for this.

But inside the country it’s necessary to eliminate any possibilities for the fulfillment of secret plans of oligarchs, eliminate our own mistakes, both political and military. Here one can quote the correct words of well-known VO8 author A. Timokhin9:

“This is a very important moment – our system can’t recognize its mistakes, even in private, and without acknowledging mistakes, you can never begin to correct them. This political factor must be duly accounted for in any military planning – large-scale changes in the military-technical policy of Russia are almost impossible, even with the country facing ruin, but those changes which impinge on the interests of ‘respected persons,’ are generally impossible in principle, because the interests of respected persons now stand comparatively higher than the survival of the Russian Federation sometime later.”

That’s the main task today. And if we won’t fulfill it – we will be worthless. One of Hitler’s famous Nazis said that victors write the history.10 Therefore we should do everything so tomorrow the Nazis of Ukraine don’t write this history.

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1Armed Forces of Ukraine.

2Lousy pun on аналитики and налито.

3Sergey Lavrov and his wealthy longtime mistress Svetlana Polyakova.

4First post-Soviet president of Ukraine.

5Property association formed in 1996 by Putin and his close associates all of whom became fabulously wealthy through his patronage. Ozero has a common bank account reportedly for them to funnel money to Putin.

6Periodic table of the elements.

7Strategic nuclear forces.

8Voyennoye obozreniye.

9Aleksandr Timokhin is a not particularly well-known military commentator who writes about navies, strategic issues, defense industries, and U.S. military policy for VO, Vzglyad, VPK, etc.

10Apparently a muffed quotation of Hermann Goering’s Nuremberg trial statement that, “The victor will always be the judge, and the vanquished the accused.” 

Army of Marauders

A Telegram post about Bucha from London-based political scientist and scholar Vladimir Pastukhov.

The marauding of the Russian Army in Ukraine is shifting from the periphery of public attention to the center. This was powerfully facilitated by pictures of Bucha liberated from its liberators, which forced many people outside Russia (where they don’t show any pictures except happy ones) to ponder how Russian troops in Ukraine are really carrying out a very special operation.

An international investigative commission will deal with the humanitarian-legal aspects of this operation without any doubt, and I don’t intend to prejudge its conclusions. But besides the humanitarian and legal aspects of this problem, there are purely military ones, more precisely military-political aspects. An army of marauders, stealing and raping the civilian population, cannot fight effectively.

What’s happening in occupied Ukrainian territory no longer resembles war as much as a pirate boarding or a wild Polovetsian (Pecheneg) raid sunken in Putin’s soul. Those who are fighting aren’t a regular army but a rabble. Even in the Soviet and Nazi armies they fought against marauding as best they could, albeit not always successfully. In the Russian Army, they’ve put it on an assembly line and view it, apparently, as a means of extra motivation for personnel.

Bastrykin is so carried away searching for straw in Bandera’s eye that he can’t get the log out of Shoygu’s eye.1 There’s not a single report that Bastrykin’s glorious eagles, if only just to divert evil eyes, if only just to refute, have attempted to investigate the military crimes of his own army on the territory of Ukraine. In this regard, the generally correct thesis about the ideological character of this war against Western liberal values and for the Russian messianic idea needs substantial correction. This is a war for the idea of bandits and with bandit methods. It exudes not so much Orthodoxy or even communism, the banners of which are raised over Russian regiments, as it does the Petersburg alley.2

Such an army by definition can’t long be combat capable and will fall apart in the course of a war, which places in question the achievement of not just the strategic, but even the tactical goals of the Kremlin in this criminal adventure. Everything the thieving ministers of defense reported to their Supreme Commander-in-Chief about the reform of the Russian Army on inspection turns out to be a lie and bluff — not just from the point of view of armaments, but even the most important question of military discipline and training. There are no real contractees, that is professional military men. There is a mix of “wild geese” (professional mercenaries) and untrained, deceived serfs on whom a contract was foisted as a quarterly bonus. This is an explosive mixture which turns the army into a nomadic hellhole.

Generally, there’s nothing surprising in this. Marauding is the essence of the Putin regime, but the army, as real professional military general Denikin wrote, is the core of statehood. What kind of state has such an army?

1Bastrykin heads the SK RF — Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, with statutory authority to investigate crimes by police, local, and federal officials. “Searching for straw” comes from a Russian proverb — one is so busy looking for faults in another that he cannot see them in himself. Bandera was the controversial Ukrainian nationalist leader used here to mean today’s Ukrainian leadership. Shoygu is the RF Minister of Defense.

2Banners refer to the honorific flags carried by regiments marching in the May 9 Victory Day parade on Red Square. They trace back to the Great Patriotic War. “Petersburg alley” refers to Putin’s claims that he learned to hit first when fighting in the streets and courtyards of Leningrad. It also rings of more modern thugs and gangsters in St. Petersburg.

For What It’s Worth

Read and consider a long thread posted yesterday by @igorsushko about the planning and conduct of Putin’s war on Ukraine.

It’s based reportedly on the insights of an FSB analyst who was involved at some level in preparing for the Russian Army’s invasion of Ukraine.

Obviously, many say this account isn’t genuine, it’s a fabrication, etc. Who can know? It’s the fog of war. Everyone has to decide whether they believe it’s authentic.

From this observer’s perspective, it rings true.

What follows are the best parts edited and consolidated.

Putin’s plan to invade Ukraine was kept secret from everyone.

The FSB’s analysis seemed to be a check-the-box exercise and it had to come out favorably for Russia. It contained no clue as to the depth and effect of Western sanctions.

The Russian Army’s KIA might be 2,000 but it’s probably closer to 10,000. It’s lost contact with two entire divisions. Of 20 paratroop “groups” deployed, only one had even provisional success.

Russia has proven utterly incapable of supporting its invasion force with supplies. Its roads can’t accommodate logistical convoys. With the Turkish straits closed to Russia, it can’t supply its force in Syria. For Russia, airlifts are akin to “heating up the oven with cash.”

It cannot possibly occupy Ukraine; it would need a force of 500,000. Moscow can’t find a Quisling to run the country on its behalf. And Putin can’t declare a general mobilization. It would cause an economic, political, and social explosion in Russia. There could be a political battle along anti-war and pro-war lines. The only way for Putin to keep control is to “tighten the screws” on his own people.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian resistance grows stronger. Ukrainians now hate Russians as much as the Chechens did in two wars. Though Putin is wantonly destroying major Ukrainian cities, they will be kept alive by humanitarian convoys arriving from the West.

Putin thought war against Ukraine would be a 100-meter dash; it turned out to be a marathon.

Putin doesn’t have an “off ramp” and has no options for victory. He faces the prospect of more losses. It’s like the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 when Tsarist Russia thought it would easily defeat the Japanese. But the Russian Army found itself in a state of calamity.

In economic terms, Putin’s deadline is June, by then there will nothing left of Russia’s economy. Finance Ministry efforts are like plugging holes in a ship with your fingers.

If Putin threatens war unless sanctions are lifted or rattles his nuclear weapons, it’s just a tactic to scare the West.

The SVR is sowing the media with false allegations that Ukraine is building its own nuclear weapons.

Somewhere in the chain of command, someone will refuse Putin’s order to go nuclear. Putin might not even give the order because self-preservation is his main goal.

Mass Fire Strike on Ukraine

Mikhail Khodarenok’s article about the course of a possible Russian war on Ukraine appeared in NVO last week. He’s a knowledgeable and realistic analyst.

And he’s a Russian patriot given his military career and service in the General Staff. But he’s one who says what the Kremlin doesn’t want to hear, but needs to.

Khodarenok points to the danger of Russia’s overconfidence about military action even with its significantly revamped and upgraded forces. His piece resembles what many Western observers write when the U.S. contemplates war. But, in Russia, Khodarenok is a lonely voice.

War on Ukraine, he argues, won’t be easy like Moscow’s hubris would indicate.

We can hope Putin won’t opt for war. But, if he does, it will change everything, including for Putin himself. He probably can’t even imagine how right now.

In either event, here’s a translation of Khodarenok’s timely article:

Predications of bloodthirsty pundits

Of rapturous hawks and hasty cuckoos

In Russia’s expert community recently a sufficiently powerful opinion has taken root that it won’t even be necessary to put troops on Ukraine’s territory since the armed forces of that country are in a pathetic state.

Some pundits note that Russia’s powerful fire strike will destroy practically all surveillance and communications systems, artillery and tank formations. Moreover, a number of experts have concluded that even one crushing Russian strike will to be sufficient to finish such a war.

Like a cherry on top different analysts point to the fact that no one in Ukraine will defend the “Kiev regime.”

IT WON’T BE A CAKE WALK

Let’s start with the last. To assert that no one in Ukraine will defend the regime signifies practically a complete lack of knowledge about the military-political situation and moods of the broad masses in the neighboring state. And the degree of hatred (which, as is well-known, is the most effective fuel for armed conflict) in the neighboring republic toward Moscow is plainly underestimated. No one in Ukraine will meet the Russian army with bread, salt and flowers.

It seems events in south-east Ukraine in 2014 didn’t teach anyone anything. Then they also figured that the entire left-bank Ukraine in one fell swoop and ticked-off seconds would turn into Novorossiya. They already drew the maps, thought out the personnel contingent for the future city and regional administrations, worked out state flags.

But even the Russian-speaking population of this part of Ukraine (including also cities like Kharkov, Zaporozhe, Dnepropetrovsk, Mariupol) didn’t support similar thoughts by a huge majority. The “Novorossiya” project somehow imperceptibly deflated and quietly died.

In a word, a liberation crusade in 2022 in the form and likeness of 1939 won’t work in any way.1 In this instance the words of Soviet literature classic Arkadiy Gaydar are true as never before: “It’s obvious that now we won’t have an easy battle, but a hard campaign.”

“WITH LITTLE BLOOD, A POWERFUL STRIKE”

Now about “Russia’s powerful fire strike,” by which “practically all surveillance and communications systems, artillery and tank formations of the VSU2” will supposedly be destroyed.

Only in this single expression it’s apparent that only political workers could say such a thing. For reference: in the course of hypothetical military actions on the scale of a theater of military operations [TVD] strikes on priority targets and mass fire strikes are delivered. We note in the course of operational-strategic planning the adjectives “powerful” (and also “medium,” “weak,” etc.) aren’t used.

In military science it’s emphasized that strikes can be strategic (this for the most part relates to strategic nuclear forces), operational and tactical. According to the forces which will participate and the targets which will be destroyed strikes can be mass, group and individual. And it’s altogether better not to introduce or use other definitions even in works of a political nature.

Strikes on priority targets and mass fire strikes can be delivered in the bounds of a front (fronts on Russia’s western borders still haven’t been formed) or a main command of armed forces in a theater of military operations (such a thing also hasn’t yet been established in the South-Western strategic direction). Anything less than this isn’t a mass strike.

And what is, for example, a front mass fire strike (MOU)? For starters we note that the maximum number of combat ready forces and means of aviation, missile troops and artillery, EW systems at the disposal of the commander of a front (an operational-strategic large unit) are engaged in the MOU. The MOU is one mass sortie of aircraft, two-three launches of OTR3 and TR4 systems, several artillery fire bombardments. It’s good if the degree of fire destruction to the enemy in this is 60-70%.

What is the main thing in this question as it applies to a conflict with Ukraine? It goes without saying that the MOU will visit heavy losses on a probable enemy. But to count on only one such strike to crush the armed forces of an entire state means that simply unbridled optimism has appeared in the course of planning and conducting combat operations. Such MOUs have to be delivered not once and not twice, but much more often in the course of hypothetical strategic operations in a TVD.

To this it’s certainly necessary to add that supplies of prospective and highly-accurate weapons in the VS RF5 don’t bear any kind of unlimited character. “Tsirkon” hypersonic missiles still aren’t in the armory. And the quantity of “Kalibrs” (sea-based cruise missiles), “Kinzhals,” Kh-101 (air-launched cruise missiles) and missiles for “Iskanders” in the very best case number in the hundreds (dozens in the case of “Kinzhals”). This arsenal is completely insufficient to wipe a state on the scale of France with a population of more than 40 million from the face of the earth. And Ukraine is characterized by exactly these parameters.

ON AIR SUPERIORITY

Sometimes in the Russian expert community it’s asserted (by the followers of Douhet’s doctrine6) that since hypothetical combat operations in Ukraine will be conducted in conditions of full Russian air superiority the war will be extremely brief and will end in the shortest time.

But it’s somehow forgotten that the armed formations of the Afghan opposition in the conflict of 1979-1989 didn’t have a single aircraft or combat helicopter. And the war in that country stretched out for a full 10 years. Chechen fighters didn’t have a single airplane. And the fight with them continued several years and cost federal forces a great deal of blood and victims.

And the Armed Forces of Ukraine have some combat aviation. As well as air defense means.

In fact, Ukrainian crews of surface-to-air missile troops (scarcely Georgian) substantially stung the Russian VVS7 in the course of the 2008 conflict.8 After the first day of combat operations the Russian VVS leadership was obviously shocked by the losses sustained. And it wouldn’t do to forget about this.

MOURNED IN ADVANCE

Now on the thesis “The Armed Forces of Ukraine are in a pathetic state.” Naturally, the VSU have problems with aviation and modern PVO9 means. However, we have to recognize the following. If the VSU represented fragments of the Soviet Army until 2014, then over the last seven years a qualitatively different army has been created in Ukraine, on a completely different ideological foundation and largely on NATO standards. And very modern arms and equipment are coming and continue to come to Ukraine from many countries of the North Atlantic alliance.

As concerns the VSU’s weakest spot — Air Forces. It’s not possible to exclude that the collective West could supply Kiev with fighters in a sufficiently short time, as they say, from what their armed forces have — speaking simply, used ones. However those second-hand ones will be fully comparable with the majority of aircraft in the Russian inventory.

Of course, today the VSU significantly lag the VS RF in combat and operational potentials. No one doubts this — not in the East or in the West.

But you can’t treat this army lightly. In this regard it’s necessary always to remember Aleksandr Suvorov’s precept: “Never scorn your enemy, don’t consider him dumber and weaker than yourself.”

Now as concerns assertions that western countries won’t send a single soldier to die for Ukraine.

We have to note that most likely this will be the case. However this hardly excludes in the event of a Russian invasion massive assistance to the VSU from the collective West with the most varied types of arms and military equipment and large volume supplies of all kinds of materiel. In this regard the West has already exhibited an unprecedented consolidated position, which, it seems, was not expected in Moscow.

One shouldn’t doubt that some reincarnated lend-lease in the form and likeness of the Second World War from the USA and countries of the North Atlantic alliance will begin. Even the flow of volunteers from the West of which there could be very many can’t be excluded.

PARTISANS AND UNDERGROUND FIGHTERS

And finally, about the protracted hypothetical campaign. In the Russian expert community they say several hours, sometimes even several dozen minutes. Meanwhile somehow they forget we have already been through all this. The phrase “seize the city with one parachute regiment in two hours” is already a classic of the genre.10

It also pays to remember that Stalin’s powerful NKVD and the multimillion-man Soviet Army struggled with the nationalist underground in Western Ukraine for more than 10 years. And now there is a possibility that all of Ukraine could simply turn into partisans. Additionally these formations could easily begin to operate on Russia’s territory.

Armed struggle in large Ukrainian cities is generally poorly suited to forecasting. It’s commonly known that a big city is the best battlefield for the weak and less well-equipped side of an armed conflict.

Serious experts note that in a megapolis it’s possible not only to concentrate a grouping in the thousands and even tens of thousands of fighters, but also to protect it from the enemy’s superior fire power. And also supply it with material resources for a long time and replenish losses in people and equipment. Mountains, forests, jungles don’t present such a possibility today.

Specialists are convinced that an urban environment helps the defender, slows the movement of attackers, allows the deployment of the highest number of fighters per square meter, compensates for the gap in forces and technology. But in Ukraine there are more than enough big cities, including ones with a million in population. So the Russian Army could meet far from a single Stalingrad or Groznyy in the course of a hypothetical war with Ukraine.

CONCLUSIONS

Generally, there won’t be any kind of Ukrainian blitzkrieg. Utterances by some experts of the type “The Russian Army will destroy the greater part of VSU sub-units11 in 30-40 minutes,” “Russia is capable of destroying Ukraine in 10 minutes in a full-scale war,” “Russia will destroy Ukraine in eight minutes” don’t have a serious basis.

And finally, most important. Armed conflict with Ukraine now fundamentally doesn’t meet Russia’s national interests. Therefore it’s best for some overexcited Russian experts to forget their hat-tossing fantasies. And, with the aim of preventing further reputational damage, never again to recall them. 

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1“Liberation crusade” of 1939 refers to Moscow’s conquest of western Ukraine under the secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

2Abbreviation for Armed Forces of Ukraine.

3An operational-tactical missile generally capable of striking targets to the depth of a front’s responsibility up to 500 km.

4A tactical missile with shorter range.

5Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

6Italian strategic bombing theorist Giulio Douhet, 1869-1930.

7Abbreviation for Air Forces.

8Khodarenok is saying Ukrainian troops participated in the air defense of Georgia during its Five-Day War with Russia.

9Abbreviation for air defense.

10Reference to former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev’s claim that Russian forces would easily take the Chechen capital Groznyy in 1994. They were decimated during an ill-advised attack on the city over New Year’s.

11Tactical forces below regiment-level.

Arctic Interceptors

On January 16, Russia’s Northern Fleet announced the deployment of long-range MiG-31BM fighter-interceptors for “experimental” combat duty on Novaya Zemlya. They will secure the RF state border and expand the protected airspace over the Northern Sea Route.

The Russian fighters will operate from the airfield at Rogachevo (Рогачёво).

MiG-31BM combat radius from Rogachevo

Here’s another handy map.

From Rogachevo, the MiG-31BM’s approximately 1,500-km combat range would allow it to cover an arc from the northern Norwegian Sea, Svalbard, Franz Josef Land, and Severnaya Zemlya to the Taymyr peninsula. In other words, the entirety of the Northern Fleet’s Barents and Kara Sea bastion.

The 1,500-km is something of a WAG; the actual radius depends on variables like exact mission profile, ordnance loading, external fuel tanks, and aerial refueling.

Russia is renovating and maintaining at least two other air bases in the Arctic — Nagurskaya on Franz Josef Land and Temp in the New Siberian Islands.

Airfield at Rogachevo

The MiG-31BM aircraft (likely a three-aircraft flight) are detached from the Monchegorsk-based 174th Guards Fighter Aviation Pechenga Red Banner Regiment named for B. F. Safonov. Part of the 45th AVVSiPVO, the regiment has about 20 MiG-31s. The unit was established only in 2019. Its aircraft flew training missions from Rogachevo in 2020.

The 45th also maintains a SAM regiment — one battalion of 12 S-400 launchers and two battalions of S-300PM SAMs — at Rogachevo.

The MiG-31BM presence may not be entirely for strategic air defense. There are reports that Russian naval air regiments are getting the hypersonic Kh-47M2 Kinzhal system — essentially an air-launched Iskander ballistic missile — for their MiG-31s (MiG-31K).

As “experimental” suggests, the MiG-31BM deployment may or may not be permanent or become a routine part of Russia’s military posture in the Arctic.

As far back as 2013, the RF MOD said it planned to base a group (probably 4-6) of MiG-31s on Novaya Zemlya. Putin ordered the establishment or reconstruction of various Russian military facilities in the Arctic at that time.

Pacific Fleet Naval Aviation reportedly began flying the MiG-31BM from Anadyr in late 2020.

If the climate and weather on Novaya Zemlya doesn’t put you off, the archipelago’s history as one of the USSR’s main nuclear test sites might (although the Russian Navy says serving there is safe, if you believe that).

It also plays a role in the modern GULAG. The MOD sent one of Aleksey Navalnyy’s top supporters to Rogachevo for his conscript service before moving him to an even more remote outpost 200 km north of the airfield.

Peacekeepers Deployed

On November 20, Interfaks-AVN reported 250 VTA flights have deployed 1,960 troops of the Samara-based 15th Independent Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade (Peacekeeping) to Nagorno-Karabakh. Citing Defense Minister Shoygu, the news agency said 552 equipment items were also delivered.

Russian peacekeepers checking for roadside mines

Shoygu indicated Russian peacekeepers occupy 23 observation posts to oversee the ceasefire. Russian troops are divided into two zones — north and south.

Interesting what it takes to airlift a brigade, even a light one.

Army-Level Spetsnaz Training

Mil.ru often highlights counter-sabotage training by Russian forces, particularly RVSN mobile missile regiments on combat patrol. It frequently relates how “anti-terrorist sub-units” prevented a notional act of sabotage by hostile elements or naval base personnel foiled an attack by “submarine sabotage forces and means.”

But on May 29, the MOD site posted doubly rare news — a brief mention of a tactical sabotage exercise by a Spetsnaz group subordinate to the 20th CAA

Here’s what Mil.ru wrote:

Spetsnaz of Western MD combined arms army sabotaged riverine base facilities of notional enemy in the course of training in Tambov oblast

For the first time the special designation group of Western military district (WMD) combined arms army sabotaged riverine base facilities of the notional enemy in the course of a tactical-special exercise in Tambov oblast.

According to the design of the activities, servicemen conducted a covert landing on the shore, eliminated sentries, and also mined the territory and energy facilities of the notional enemy. In the framework of the exercises spetsnaz also practiced landing on the shore in boats without SCUBA, and airdrops with the D-10 parachute system.

More than 100 special designation servicemen of the WMD combined arms army participated in the exercise.

The earlier announcement that Spetsnaz are now part of a WMD army (the 20th) indicated the contingent is about 100 men, i.e. a Spetsnaz company or group. It also said the sub-unit would train with the 16th Spetsnaz Brigade in Tambov.

An airdrop with D-10 parachutes

An airdrop with D-10 parachutes

The scenario of sabotaging an enemy riverine base is fairly elementary, especially because it was likely a daylight evolution. Had it been conducted at night, Mil.ru would have said so.

More challenging future training scenarios for the independent Spetsnaz company will probably feature long-range reconnaissance and the destruction of enemy tactical nuclear weapons, precision strike systems, C3, and logistics in support of 20th CAA objectives.

COVID-19 Update (3)

Here are the Russian MOD’s numbers on coronavirus infections in the military through May 8. It’s important to follow the official figures, accurate or not, just to compare with other data and events.

On May 6, irresponsible and ridiculous as it may sound, Defense Minister Shoygu came close to claiming that the Russian Armed Forces are turning the corner on COVID-19:

“Our military medics have been doing great work in battling coronavirus. As a result the number recovered exceeds the number of sick. We understand this could and should be the same plank, shelf, I don’t what else to call it. But to defeat it is possible only when the quantity recovered is more than the quantity sick. Every day.”

Mr. Shoygu seemed to be fumbling toward asserting that the MOD is flattening its infection curve. But epidemiology and even his numbers don’t really support the contention. Even assuming they are true and accurate. Shoygu may be confused by the military’s reporting on those in contact with infected people who didn’t contract the disease.

The Russian MOD ended the training year for pre-military cadets on April 30, and seemed to drop reporting on their cases but then resumed a few days later. New positive tests among VVUZ students appear to have leveled off. But again it’s all about who gets tested and how accurate the test is. And students deemed healthy presumably went home after April 30.

With the number of cases the MOD has reported, it’s hard to believe there have been no deaths from COVID-19 in the military.

The next test for the Russian MOD will come when it starts bringing young men into military commissariats and sending new conscripts out to their units later this month. Draftees are supposed to be tested and free of coronavirus, but we’ll see how this goes.

On the larger picture, the Russian government on May 8 reported 188,000 cases with just over 1,700 deaths — a mortality rate of just 0.9 percent. Russia is being ultraconservative in estimating causes of death. Most countries report rates of four, five, or even seven percent. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin — the public face of Russia’s response to the crisis — says Russia’s COVID-19 infections may be double that official 188,000 number.

Meanwhile, President Putin continues to be distant from all this, having turned his famous manual control into remote control.

Remote control

Independent pollster Levada reports Putin’s approval has dipped to 63 percent, the lowest since before Russia’s seizure of Ukraine and war in eastern Ukraine.

COVID-19 Update (2)

Catching up two days of COVID-19 in Russia’s military . . . . Here’s the latest inelegant spreadsheet.

The Russian MOD added numbers for those who recovered from the infection (highlighted in green). Pre-military schools no longer have pupils in isolation. They apparently didn’t turn positive.

Six of 16 military medical centers rapidly built exclusively for coronavirus opened today in Podolsk, Smolensk, Volgograd, Novosibirsk, Ussuriysk, and Orenburg.

New MOD medical center in Smolensk

New MOD medical center in Smolensk

The other eight are supposed to open by May 15. Each center can accommodate about 100 patients.

Russian Defense Minister Shoygu told the MOD Collegium yesterday that his department has an inventory of nearly 7,000 hospital beds and capacity for 30,000 patients “under observation.” His deputy Timur Ivanov said the MOD has also formed seven 100-bed mobile hospitals out of independent medical battalions and companies.

Ivanov also stated that the MOD is buying 300 ventilators for 450 million rubles. They are due for delivery before May 15.

The RF government’s “operational staff” reports 106,500 Russians have been diagnosed. That’s 7,099 new cases in 24 hours.

Now RF Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin is positive for COVID-19. Who else in the Russian elite will turn up with the virus?

COVID-19 Update

When I started tapping these keys for Russian Defense Policy 3,792 days (two or maybe three computers) ago, I couldn’t have guessed my 1,000th post would be about an infectious disease bedeviling our planet (Russia included). But it is about that.

And despite COVID-19, I’m taking a moment to congratulate myself for that nice, round 1,000 number.

The posts don’t come as frequently right now, so who’s to say if or when there’ll be a 2,000th. Even harder to imagine, what would or will it be about?

But enough of that . . . . COVID-19. The RF MOD issued another bulletin today on the spread of the novel coronavirus infection. Let’s track the numbers as long as they last. Can’t help suspecting they’ll be less than forthcoming eventually (or disappear altogether). Here’s a link to an inelegant spreadsheet.

The Russian military is giving numbers for servicemen, VVUZ (higher military, i.e. commissioning, school) cadets, pre-military (Suvorov, Nakhimov, etc.) students, and MOD civilian workers.

Highlighted in red on the spreadsheet are significant day-to-day jumps. The Russian military school population is getting hit pretty hard. VVUZy cadets testing positive went up by 262, and, sadly, young pre-military school patients went up 85.

The Suvorov and Nakhimov schools seem like a pretty good deal for many Russian parents, but perhaps not so much now.

Today Defense Minister Shoygu ordered the obvious. The conscript cohort demobbing this spring must be released into the reserve while protecting them against contracting the virus as they make their way home. The trick of course is how. No specifics.

Yesterday, belatedly, he ordered that the academic year in VVUZy and pre-military schools will end early, on April 30. Why not immediately one wonders.