180412 BORDERRussian military intervention has inspired drastic changes in the military-political and military-strategic environments both around Ukraine and across all of the European continent. After Ukraine’s 2014 Revolution of Dignity, Russia’s military-political establishment intensified effort to build up Russian military strength in the Kaliningrad enclave, Crimea and along the eastern border of Ukraine. This set off responses from NATO and USA. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the International Criminal Court stated the fact of Russia's military incursion in Ukraine in their respective decisions and resolutions issued in 2016 and 2017.

 

As well as the military annexation of Crimea and the deployment of Russian Armed Forces units and formations to Ukraine’s Ilovaysk and Luhansk areas in August 2014, the waging of war against Ukraine is strongly evidenced by the presence of regular Russian forces in Ukraine. Ukrainian military intelligence estimates that there are now over 30,000 regular Russian troops deployed in Ukraine, including Crimea.

 

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As of this date, the 1st and 2nd Army Corps of Russia-backed insurgent forces reaching over 30,000 personnel total have been set up and deployed in Russia occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. These forces are taking orders from the newly organized 8th Combined Arms Army of Russia’s Southern Military District. Regular Russian forces deployed to those areas include: two battalion task groups and one company task group, about 2,900 personnel, 197 tanks, up to 409 armored fighting vehicles, up to 140 artillery gun systems, up to 87 multiple launch rocket systems, up to 66 air defense missile launchers.

 

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The Russian force grouping deployed in the temporarily occupied Crimean Peninsula is comprised of a joint force grouping, a battalion task group, about 32,200 personnel, 30 tanks, up to 583 armored fighting vehicles, up to 106 artillery gun systems, up to 56 multiple launch rocket systems.

 

Another key threat facing Ukraine on its eastern frontiers is related to Russian military buildup in very close proximity to Ukraine’s State Border.

 

Top Russian military officials have reported completion, ahead of the original time schedule, of deployment of three motorized rifle (MR) divisions in the Russian cities of Smolensk (144th MRD), Valuyki (3rd MRD), and Novocherkassk (150th MRD).

 

Moreover, Russia’s Western Military District is completing forming its 20th Combined Arms Army (Voronezh) – comprising: 144th MR Division (Smolensk, re-organized from the 28th Independent MR Brigade) and the 3rd MR Division (Valuiki, reorganized from the 9th and 23rd Independent MR Brigades). The aforementioned brigades were redeployed for that purpose to Russian locations bordering Ukraine. The 144th MR Division is comprised structurally of the 254th and 488th MR regiments (Klintsy, Bryansk Oblast), 856th Combined Air Regiment (Pochep, Bryansk Oblast), 148th Independent Reconnaissance Battalion (Smolensk), 340th Independent Engineer Battalion (Yelnya, Smolensk Oblast), 686th Independent Communications Battalion (Smolensk), 1259th Independent Antitank Artillery Battalion (Yelnya), 673rd Independent SAM Battalion (Smolensk).

 

The 3rd MR Division is structurally comprised of: 237th Tank Regiment (Valuyki, Belgorod Oblast), 152nd MR Regiment (Kantemirovka, Voronezh Oblast), 752nd MR Regiment (Valuyki/Boguchar, Belgorod Oblast), 99th Combined Air Regiment (Valuyki), 84th Independent SAM Battalion (Valuyki, Belgorod Oblast), 337th Independent Engineer Battalion (Boguchar, Bryansk Oblast), 692nd Independent Communications Battalion (Valuyki), 159th Independent Antitank Artillery Battalion (Valuyki), 1143rd Independent SAM Battalion (Valuyki).

 

The 9th (Nizhny Novgorod), 23rd (Kryazh), and 28th (Yekaterinburg) independent MR brigades have been redeployed to locations bordering Ukraine (Valuyki, Boguchar, Klintsy).

 

The Southern Military District is continuing forming its 150th MR Division (Novocherkassk) that is being manned primarily with professional soldiers and officers with combat experience in Donbas. The 150th MR Division has been organized as part of the new 8th Combined Arms Army that is being formed in Rostov Oblast.

 

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The organizational and staff structure, the weapons and military hardware that are being supplied to them indicate that these Russian divisions are essentially strike ones and are intended for rapid offensive operations. Even their staff name contains the concept ‘strike,’ which makes them different from the other divisions and emphasizes their special purpose distinguishing them from the other divisions and motivating personnel to choose them as a duty station of choice.

 

The accelerated militarization of the Crimea is progressing. As compared with the period prior to the Russian occupation, deployed enemy forces have almost doubled in numbers, while the amount of deployed armaments has increased over five-fold. With the deployment of the newly organized 22nd Army Corps, respective numbers would increase by another one and a half to two times.

 

The Black Sea Fleet has seen its combat capability boosted substantially. It already has more than 30 warships, 6 missile craft, and 5 submarines. In this case, one frigate warship and three submarines are armed with modern, nuclear-capable Kalibr missiles capable of ranges up to 1,500 km.

 

The Russian military presence in Crimea is likely to involve the deployment of weapons of mass destruction; work is being undertaken to rebuild a nuclear weapons storage capability (Facility Feodosia-13) and to prepare for the deployment of strategic aircraft at Hvardiyske Air Base.

 

Beyond that, it is expected that a significant aviation component which is now dispersed among 18 air bases in the Southern and Western military districts may be called into supporting Russian ground forces operations. Two more newly organized Army Aviation brigades have been deployed in Voronezh and Stavropol.

 

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Lessons learned from Russia’s hybrid warfare and other military conflicts of our time suggest that profound changes have taken place in the nature of warfare. Russian military operations are gaining in dynamics, intensity and effectiveness. Tactical and operational pauses are disappearing. This puts forward additional requirements in terms of forces maneuverability, and mobility and the overall sustainability of reserves and resources.

 

Frontal encounters of large force groupings at the strategic and operational level are gradually receding into the past; there is a blurring of the differences among the strategic, operational and tactical levels, and between offensive and defensive operations.

 

Employment of electronic warfare (EW) capabilities is assuming ever increasing relevance in the conduct of modern warfare. As evidenced by the current Ukraine-Russia armed confrontation, the Russian Federation has achieved much progress in this domain and is willing to put to full use its EW capacity it has developed over the past decade.    

 

The propaganda component of Russia’ hybrid war strategy is a particular concern as it strongly affects the consciousness of both the civilian population and military servicemen. So counteraction to Russian propaganda influences is assuming special relevance in the context of the ongoing confrontation.

 

Summing it up: Despite Russian official statements that Moscow is strengthening its defenses on its western frontiers in response to the threats and challenges emerging from there, it is, in actual fact, building a powerful attack force grouping that is being deployed to intimidate Ukraine and, potentially, to militarily attack the country that dared remove itself from Russia’s geopolitical orbit. That said, the Kremlin, in pursuing its self-interests, is probing different strategies for the use of its existing forces and equipment across the broad spectrum of hybrid warfare tools.

 

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