The Zapad 2017 exercise will begin on September 14, 2017. It will be carried out jointly by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and Belarus, as well as by other smaller allies.It will be a technical test to check the full interoperability between the Armed Forces of Russia, Belarus and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), namely Kazakhstan, Armenia, the above mentioned Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
It will also include military leaders from Afghanistan and Serbia as observers.
Also Iran is a possible candidate for the CSTO and the vision of the Zapad 2017 operations, which will be present with some unofficial observers.
Apart from China, considering the countries which founded the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in 2001, only Uzbekistan is missing in the CSTO.
Another essential geopolitical factor which is worth recalling is that in 2013, on the same day, Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Therefore the CSTO is basically the Russia-linked part of the strategic block which – pending the counter-terrorist and anti-jihadist struggle – merged into the China’s current and future area of interest.
The “Zapad” (namely West) manoeuvres are already being prepared – especially in Belarus – and will take place with at least 100,000 Russian and allied soldiers, with 13,000 Russian soldiers, 280 heavy artillery units and 25 Russian military aircraft.
There is no additional news on the presence of Russia’s allies.
The Zapad 2013 manoeuvres had been even more impressive, with at least 75,000 Russian soldiers officially declared and many others belonging to the Russian Federation’s allies.
Considering a 24% additional units compared to the official figures, including also the GRU, namely the military intelligence service, the wide structures of the Russian “covert warfare” – improperly called hybrid warfare – the forces of other allied intelligence services, as well as the infowar and e-warfare ones, we reach approximately a number of 125,000 soldiers and officers.
In Belarus, however, the Russian operative units are not supposed to exceed 3,000, including those of the airborne division stationed in Pskov and those of another division, usually operating in the Western front of the Russian forces.
The manoeuvre areas of the current exercise are Belarus, the Baltic, Western Russia, as well as the Kaliningrad exclave – the old Koenigsberg of Immanuel Kant – and the command will be a single one mainly led by Russia.
Kant’s city is now central again in the Russian military system after the 2008 war in Georgia and it is in this area that the Russian military system can plan joint operations capable of penetrating the enemy lines.
Currently Kaliningrad’s Oblast can always hit also at a distance over 300 kilometres.
Since August 2016, in the region there have been Oniks anti-ship cruise missiles (NATO reporting codename SS-N-26 Strobile), Mach 2 speed, which are launched also by the Hezbollah, Indonesia, obviously Syria and even Vietnam.
In Kaliningrad there are also the Iskander tactical ballistic missiles (NATO reporting code name SS-26 Stone), having a 415 km range in the version for the Russian Forces – carriers which can go undetected by the Patriot missiles and the North American THAAD networks already deployed in Chechnya and Poland.
It is worth recalling that THAAD is the Terminal High Attitude Area Defense and it is a short and medium-range US missile defense system.
Both the Oniks and Iskander missiles, as well as Kalibr (NATO reporting codename SS-N-27 Sizzler), an anti-ship and land attack cruise missile, are all adaptable to armament with nuclear warheads – as already defined in the chain of command of the Russian 11th Army Corps, created in Kaliningrad in 2009.
In the Russian decision-makers’ typical perception of the NATO and Western threat, Kalingrad is the center of an arc stretching from the Arctic to the Barents Sea, to the Baltic and Transnistria up to Crimea and the Black Sea – an arc which is now one of the most advanced Russian defense system.
With specific reference to the Arctic, the issue is clear: for Russia, all attack and response missiles towards the United States transit mostly there.
From the Kola Peninsula, the Northern Fleet – the most powerful of the five Russian fleets – will anyway have easy access to the world’s oceans through the Arctic waters.
It is by no mere coincidence that Putin’s planning is fully focused on both naval power and the Northern Fleet, in particular.
For Russia, the presence of oil and gas in the region and Westerners’ pressure on the traditional route of Russian trade – namely the Northern and Arctic one – are real direct and explicit threats to national sovereignty.
According to Russian laws, the Northern Sea Route stretches from the Kara Sea, around Siberia, to the Bering Strait and surrounds the whole Arctic on the Russian side.
The area is part of the Russian “Exclusive Economic Zone”.
Moreover, in Transnistria, Russia mostly sees threats to its full freedom of military manoeuvre.
There are 2,000 Russian soldiers still operating on that small territory, which some NATO leaders see as the next point of tension between the Alliance and the Russian Federation.
In fact, it was Philip Breedlove, who served as NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) until May 2016, who noted that Russia tended to deploy large forces on the border between Moldova and Transnistria, with a view to annexing that small, but important region.
In fact, this half-Romanian and half-Russian territory is the major supply and logistics passageway for the Russian forces possibly operating on the Western front towards Europe.
Hence, in the Western diplomats’ and leaders’ logic, the Russian conquest of Crimea directly implies the attack on Ukraine as a whole.
A serious mistake. Putin has no interest in creating further tension with the EU and the United States. He simply wants to maintain and reaffirm effective control over his area of influence, which must be well-separated from that of the United States, NATO and the European Union.
Putin does not want to expand by incorporating dangerous areas that is useless to “hold” militarily. Conversely, he wants to eliminate the Western threat, especially the “covert one” from the countries bordering on the Russian Federation.
However, in a possible clash with NATO, for Russia Kaliningrad is the inevitable point for the Northern Flank’s intelligence data collection, especially if it cannot rely on its old bases in Belarus.
Therefore, in case of a war, Kaliningrad’s Oblast structures would be authorized to destabilize politically and economically and later attack the anti-missile sites in Poland.
Hence, in the Russian doctrine, there is not much difference between military coercion and traditional containment.
Part of the threat is always put in place.
On the other hand, the Kaliningrad forces are those preventing NATO’s unrestricted and unlimited use of the Baltic Sea, in addition to stopping the penetration – through possible missile attacks – of NATO’s ground forces wishing to pass through the Baltic straits.
Furthermore, some Western military decision-makers explicitly theorized the “conquest of Kaliningrad” as compensation for the Russian acquisition of Crimea.
This is another factor to be taken into account in the Zapad 2017 operation, a joint exercise which has been repeated every four years since 1999, although under different formats.
Obviously all the four major operational commands of the Russian forces (the Eastern, Central, Caucasus and Western ones) have been alerted, but – apart from the purpose declared by the Russian Command – the purpose of Zapad 2017 is above all “to plan jointly with the allies, as well as develop a common command and advanced troop training tactic.”
This means that the Russian strategic goal is to limit the presence of NATO troops in Eastern Europe and to make the link between the Alliance and the Russian local and peripheral ruling classes more difficult. An essential aspect to be highlighted is that the Russian strategic goal is also to avoid regime change attempts through actions such as the coloured revolutions or, even worse, the various springs. Finally its aim is to destabilize the pro-NATO subversive networks in the countries still linked to Russia thanks to the CSTO and, more widely, to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – networks that Russia has already largely identified.
Zapad 2017 is primarily a political and military anti-destabilization operation that could lead to the use of new techniques for destructuring and disrupting the Western covert networks in the East.
Moreover, it is not surprising that Zapad 2017 will be an excellent training ground for both Russian and Belarusian special forces.
Moreover, the exercise is also designed to warn the Atlantic Alliance not to even dare to threaten Belarus.
At legal, historical and strategic levels, however – also for Zapad 2017 – the central point of the Russian reasoning is that the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia was absolutely illegal – and it is not by chance that 1999 was the year when the Zapad joint exercises started.
It was the bombing of Belgrade and the legitimization of Alja Izetbegovic’s Islamic Bosniaks, as well as the obvious illegality of operations in Kosovo, to make Russia “open its eyes”.
Since then Russia has no longer trusted the West and clearly says so.
The Zapad 2017 operations, however, have already been planned in the exercises as early as last April, when the Russian and Belarusian special forces moved together to the Vitebsk region, an area of 12,000 square kilometers.
Therefore, with the Special Forces – operating with political and intelligence roles – the Russian war is changing. It is no longer the deployment of the 19th century divisions of the brilliant Soviet General Shaposhnikov.
Between May 11 and 16 last, the 106th Russian Airborne Division, stationed in Tula, arrived in Brest and – jointly with the Belarusian units, it carried out exercises designed to block “illegal armed formations”.
Again within the Zapad 2017 framework, e-warfare exercises have been carried out, clearly against a State enemy, although Zapad may have devoted minor actions against the electronic and Signal Intelligence ones, which currently are also often found in non-State group operations.
Hence protection of Russia’s peripheries, which are also the most significant areas at demographic and economic levels, as well as protection of the Russian exit routes both for strategic and commercial security, and protection of the hotspots, such as Crimea, allowing to have a direct line with Europe.
What about dealing with the security of the borders between NATO and Russia with new criteria?
Induction of Pakistan A-100 MLRS and Deterrence Equation of South Asia
Pakistan inducted A-100 rocket in Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) into its arsenals, boosting the strength of Artillery Crop on January 4, 2019. The missile system was indigenously developed by Pakistani scientists and engineers. MLRS which comprise of two main elements: rocket munitions and a self-propelled platform to carry and launch those rockets, designed to disrupt enemy’s mobilization. MLRS is unguided rocket against enemy position in artillery minded sense.
Media wing of the armed forces, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that this rocket is a highly effective and potent for interdiction that can effectively disrupt enemy’s mobilization and assembly. Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, presided over the induction ceremony, paid rich tributes to scientists and engineers for indigenously develop A-100 rocket which shall augment the existing conventional fire power capabilities of Pakistan Army.
While addressing at the ceremony, he emphasized Pakistan Army’s resolve to strengthen conventional forces to meet challenges of full spectrum threat. Pakistani defence industry had maintained steady progress in the recent times and had contributed to defence of Pakistan. This missile system is another addition in the deterrence equation of South Asian region.
In South Asia context, mutual hostility and unresolved disputes between India and Pakistan create instability and insecurity. The induction of nuclear weapons into the national defense structures of both states in 1998 has brought an era of dynamics of nuclear politics. Nuclearisation brought the concept of deterrence in the region. The deterrence equilibrium in South Asia is viewed as an assurance for peace and stability in the region. The strategic significance of nuclear weapons in the South Asian security equation is undeniable because these weapons reduce the chances of limited conflict between the two hostile states. Pakistan as a responsible nuclear weapon state has never been in competition with India in terms of size, scope and efficiency of is conventional or strategic capabilities. Hence, equilibrium of nuclear deterrence between India and Pakistan is the underpinning of South Asian strategic stability.
Recently, India’s doctrinal policy shift and its objectives ultimately forcing an arms race in the region. Pakistan is obliged to rely on the employment of nuclear weapons owing to conventional military asymmetry. India’s aggressive limited war ‘Cold Start’ (CSD) left no choice for Pakistan but to introduce Short Range Ballistic Missile ‘Nasr’ (TNW).
Indian Offensive Military Doctrine which is specifically designed to undermine Pakistan’s conventional capability and occupy its small territory which could be used as a significant tool in post conflict negotiation by initiating surprise attack from eight different fronts by the Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs).
Pakistan developed TNWs to deter India’s conventional military superiority. It is well known that conventional asymmetry between India and Pakistan is continuously widening with the passage of time. India also allocated huge budget for its military which defiantly have ramifications for Pakistan. Pakistan cannot afford arms race with India for the purpose of conventional military parity, consequently Pakistan developed such a capabilities (TNWs) which could deter India’s conventional military superiority. Pakistan views SRBM as a stabilizing addition to the prevailing deterrence equation. Pakistan considers the nuclear weapons as last resort weapons which are only meant for deterrence and their use can only be contemplated as a last resort.
Recent Indian weapons modernization and force posturing is viewed as a threat to the strategic stability of South Asian region. India’s air defence system the latest addition of S-400 system also has the ability to disturb the regional strategic stability. S-400 is a long range surface to air missile system and has the ability to access aerial targets up to 400 km away. It has the potential to counter threats from ballistic missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and aircraft.
To counter Indian doctrinal change, military modernization and proactive military strategy of launching limited conflict and capture some territory of Pakistan adopted Minimum Credible Deterrence with Full Spectrum Deterrence. Now this A-100 missile rocket is also made foe conventional deterrence.
Although, initiation of conventional war, for certain extant will remain a conventional conflict but beyond certain level no one can say that it will remain limited conventional war. It can lead to a nuclear holocaust. It will have series of implications. If India is insisting for operationalizing its Cold Start Doctrine against Pakistan than India will also have to pay for the severe implications at conventional as well as strategic level. No one knows the adversary redlines.
Pakistan in recent years has been trying to modernize its forces as per demands of the contemporary security challenges. Induction of A-100 MLRS into Pakistan army will give it the utmost superiority to overcome conventional threats coming from Indian side. It allows Pakistan artillery corps to keep an eye on enemy’s mobilization and prepare them for any Indian military adventure. Induction of A-100 system also affects the surprise element of Cold Start Doctrine. This system makes Pakistan capable to meet the needs of deterrence against the conventional and unorthodox threats. Interestingly, MLRS computerized fire control system enables a reduced crew, or even a single soldier to load and unload the launcher. Furthermore, The MLRS offers a devastating physical and psychological effect on the enemy, covered with high explosion, anti-personnel or chemical warheads as needed.
Lastly, sophisticated technology and long-range ballistic missile development has not only made Pakistan more determined to acquire similar capabilities to counter Indian threat but also to ensure credibility of its nuclear deterrence. Long history of military confrontation, the growing asymmetry and disparity in South Asia has accelerated the process of mastering the latest sophisticated conventional and nuclear technologies. Therefore, both South Asian nuclear states have developed enough nuclear capable warheads, bombers and ballistic and cruise missiles.
So far Pakistan has been doing great overall three domains, Air, Sea, and land, in terms of meeting the needs of deterrence against the conventional challenges.
Rising geopolitical and geo-economic tensions are the most urgent risk in 2019
The world’s ability to foster collective action in the face of urgent major crises has reached crisis levels, with worsening international relations hindering action across a growing array of serious challenges. Meanwhile, a darkening economic outlook, in part caused by geopolitical tensions, looks set to further reduce the potential for international cooperation in 2019. These are the findings of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2019, which is published today.
The Global Risks Report, which incorporates the results of the annual Global Risks Perception Survey of approximately 1,000 experts and decision-makers, points to a deterioration in economic and geopolitical conditions. Trade disputes worsened rapidly in 2018 and the report warns that growth in 2019 will be held back by continuing geo-economic tensions, with 88% of respondents expecting further erosion of multilateral trading rules and agreements.
If economic headwinds pose a threat to international cooperation, efforts will be further disrupted in 2019 by rising geopolitical tensions among major powers, according to the report. Eighty-five percent of respondents to this year’s survey said they expect 2019 to involve increased risks of “political confrontations between major powers”. The report discusses the risks associated with what we describe as a “multiconceptual” world order – one in which geopolitical instabilities reflect not only changing power balances but also the increasing salience of differences on fundamental values.
“With global trade and economic growth at risk in 2019, there is a more urgent need than ever to renew the architecture of international cooperation. We simply do not have the gunpowder to deal with the kind of slowdown that current dynamics might lead us towards. What we need now is coordinated, concerted action to sustain growth and to tackle the grave threats facing our world today,” said Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum.
In the survey’s 10-year outlook, cyber risks sustained the jump in prominence they registered in 2018, but environmental risks continue to dominate respondents’ concerns beyond the short term. All five of the environmental risks the report tracks are again in the high-impact, high-likelihood category: biodiversity loss; extreme weather events; failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation; man-made disasters; and natural disasters.
Alison Martin, Group Chief Risk Officer, Zurich Insurance Group, said: “2018 was sadly a year of historic wildfires, continued heavy flooding and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. It is no surprise that in 2019, environmental risks once again dominate the list of major concerns. So, too, does the growing likelihood of environmental policy failure or a lack of timely policy implementation. To effectively respond to climate change requires a significant increase in infrastructure to adapt to this new environment and transition to a low-carbon economy. By 2040, the investment gap in global infrastructure is forecast to reach $18 trillion against a projected requirement of $97 trillion. Against this backdrop, we strongly recommend that businesses develop a climate resilience adaptation strategy and act on it now.”
Environmental risks also pose problems for urban infrastructure and its development. With sea levels rising, many cities face hugely expensive solutions to problems that range from clean groundwater extraction to superstorm barriers. Shortfalls of investment in critical infrastructure such as transport can lead to system-wide breakdowns as well as exacerbate associated social, environmental and health-related risks.
John Drzik, President of Global Risk and Digital, Marsh, said: “Persistent underfunding of critical infrastructure worldwide is hampering economic progress, leaving businesses and communities more vulnerable both to cyberattacks and natural catastrophes, and failing to make the most of technological innovation. Allocating resources to infrastructure investment, in part through new incentives for public-private partnerships, is vital for building and strengthening the physical foundations and digital networks that will enable societies to grow and thrive.”
At an individual level, declining psychological and emotional well-being is both a cause and consequence within the wider global risks landscape, impacting, for example, social cohesion and political cooperation. The Global Risks Report 2019 focuses explicitly on this human side of global risks, looking in particular at the role played by complex global transformations that are under way: societal, technological and work-related. A common theme is that psychological stress relates to a feeling of lack of control in the face of uncertainty.
This year’s report revives the Future Shocks series, which recognizes that the growing complexity and interconnectedness of global systems can lead to feedback loops, threshold effects and cascading disruptions. These “what if” scenarios are food for thought as world leaders assess potential shocks that might rapidly and radically disrupt the world. This year’s sudden and dramatic breakdowns include vignettes on the use of weather manipulation to stoke geopolitical tensions, quantum and affective computing, and space debris.
The Global Risks Report 2019 has been developed with the invaluable support throughout the past year of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Advisory Board. It also benefits from ongoing collaboration with its Strategic Partners Marsh & McLennan Companies and Zurich Insurance Group, and its academic advisers at the Oxford Martin School (University of Oxford), the National University of Singapore and the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center (University of Pennsylvania).
NATO generals do not believe in good relations with Russia
In December NATO allies agreed the civil and military budgets for 2019. At a meeting of the North Atlantic Council allies agreed a civil budget of €250.5 million and a military budget of €1.395 billion for 2019.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the agreement of the budgets, saying: “The world is changing, and NATO is adapting. Allies are investing in NATO to address the challenges of our time, including cyber and hybrid threats, a more assertive Russia, and instability across the Middle East and North Africa.
Thus, according to the NATO Secretary General, Russia remains one of the main threats the Alliance will face in 2019. The message that NATO is eager to negotiate with Russia is not always proved by the Alliance’s actions. The more so NATO high-ranking officials even contradict such message by their statements. It has become obvious that NATO as well as Russia is not always aboveboard.
General Philip Breedlove, former supreme allied commander Europe, and Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, former NATO deputy secretary general made a report “Permanent Deterrence: Enhancements to the US Military Presence in North Central Europe” that assesses the adequacy of current US deployments, with a focus on North Central Europe. A full report will be completed in January 2019. But there is a short summary of the task force’s conclusions and recommendations.
All recommendations are made in order to bolster NATO deterrence and political cohesion. The authors say that “military build-up in Russia’s Western Military District and Kaliningrad, and its “hybrid” warfare against Western societies have heightened instability in the region, and have made collective defense and deterrence an urgent mission for the United States and NATO. ”
They innumerate significant steps taken by the United States and NATO to enhance their force posture and respond to provocative Russian behavior.
The Alliance adopted the Readiness Action Plan, which called for the creation of a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) and expansion of the NATO Response Force (NRF) to increase the Alliance’s capacity to reinforce any ally under threat.
At the 2016 Warsaw Summit, the Alliance took the next step in building deterrence by agreeing to deploy four multinational NATO battle groups of about 1,200 troops in each of the Baltic states and Poland.
The NATO Readiness Initiative, the so-called “Four 30s” plan, would designate thirty ground battalions, thirty air squadrons, and thirty major naval combatants to be ready to deploy and engage an adversary within thirty days.
Other steps were taken to bolster the NATO Command Structure and reduce mobility problems through Europe. Among others the main report’s recommendation are:
enhance the United States’ and NATO’s deterrent posture for the broader region, not just for the nation hosting the US deployment, including strengthening readiness and capacity for reinforcement; reinforce NATO cohesion;include increased naval and air deployments in the region, alongside additional ground forces and enablers; promote training and operational readiness of US deployed forces and interoperability with host-nation and other allied forces; ensure maximum operational flexibility to employ US deployed forces to other regions of the Alliance and globally; expand opportunities for allied burden-sharing, including multilateral deployments in the region and beyond; and ensure adequate host-nation support for US deployments. All these steps do not look like a diplomatic compromise or an intention to decrese the tension between NATO and Russia.
In its turn Russia flexes its military muscle. Moscow is to hold 4,000 military exercises in 2019. Russian defense minister said that Russia will increase combat capabilities in response to the U.S. intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.
The two super powers increase their military capabilities and put Europe at risk of war. The only way out is to negotiate, to show goodwill to change the situation, to stop plotting war hiding behind mutual accusations.
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