Yesterday Russia and allied military forces in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO or ODKB) began a series of exercise events which will run until the beginning of October.
Operational-strategic exercise Tsentr-2011 will involve Russian forces and Belorussian, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, and Armenian sub-units in different training scenarios focused on ensuring security on the Central Asian axis, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta.
Twelve thousand personnel, 50 aircraft, 1,000 vehicles and other equipment, and ten combat and support ships will participate under the direction of Russian General Staff Chief, Army General Nikolay Makarov, according to Mil.ru. Russian forces will include one army brigade as well as operational groups from other militarized agencies — the MVD, FSB, FSO, and MChS.
Mil.ru said the exercise theme is “Preparation and Employment of Inter-Service Troop (Force) Groupings in the Stabilization of a Situation and Conduct of Military Actions on the Central Asian Strategic Axis.”
NG cites Makarov who said the exercise will focus on “localizing internal as well as external conflicts.” Extrapolating from his earlier comments about North Africa and the Middle East, the paper claims he wants the army to be ready to perform internal police functions like the Syrian Army.
Mil.ru puts it more technically saying the exercise will improve command and staff skills in controlling troops in the transition to wartime, in planning special operations, and in organizing long-distance troop regroupings. Exercise phases will include special operations to localize an armed conflict in a crisis region, and joint actions by ground and naval force groupings, according to the Defense Ministry website.
The exercise will consist of different evolutions, with different partners, in various locations:
- The Ground Troops, MVD, and FSB Spetsnaz, writes NG, will practice liberating a town from terrorists and rebels on the Chebarkul training range.
- At Gorokhovets, Russia’s 20th Army and Belorussian forces are playing a series of tactical actions against enemy airborne assaults, specops, and “illegal armed formations” in their rear areas [under a separate exercise called Union Shield-2011 or Shchit Soyuza-2011].
- Russian forces are training with Kazakhs on the Caspian, and at Kazakhstan’s Oymasha range.
- A command-staff exercise of the ODKB’s Collective Rapid Reaction Forces (KSOR) will be conducted at the Lyaur range in Tajikistan.
- In Kyrgyzstan, the ODKB’s Central Asian Region Collective Rapid Deployment Forces (KSBR TsAR) will conduct a tactical exercise against “illegal armed formations.”
NG sums Tsentr-2011 up with a quote from Vladimir Popov:
“The Russian leadership, although late, has come to the conclusion that the successful resolution of military security issues, including the internal security of allied countries, is possible only through the creation and use of coalition troop groupings in the post-Soviet space. This is correct, and there’s no need to fear this.”
Developing some collective military intervention capability doesn’t answer questions about real-world conditions where it might be employed. The questions proceed mainly (but not entirely) from Kyrgyzstan’s experience. First, will a threatened regime ask for ODKB assistance and under what circumstances? Second, will the alliance or any allies answer a member-state’s call? Training and exercises are good, but ultimately not much use unless such political issues are resolved.