September 12, 2018
This really is unprecedented. Not since WWII has Russia had such a big drill.
Some 300,000 troops and tens of thousands vehicles, aircraft and warships are participating in the largest military exercise Russia has staged in 37 years. Units from China are to take part in the maneuvers as well.
The Vostok 2018 exercise is meant to test the capability of the Russian military to rapidly move and deploy large forces over long distances as well as coordinating between several branches during a large-scale engagement.
The war games will include around 300,000 Russian soldiers and officers, including 6,000 airborne troops, over 1,000 warplanes, helicopters and drones, about 36,000 armor, and 80 combat and support ships.
For some participants, Vostok 2018 will be their first chance to show off some new weapon systems. For instance, the Airborne Troops will be deploying their freshly-supplied BMD-4M air-dropped infantry fighting vehicles and Patriot pickup trucks armed with Kornet anti-tank missiles. Meanwhile, the military engineers will be doing their best to confuse “the enemy” with inflatable mock-ups of Iskander missile launchers and S-300 anti-aircraft batteries.
One of the key elements of the entire exercise, however, will be hard to notice from afar. Russian military communication specialists have deployed a secure network over an area of around 9.8 million square kilometers to ensure the exchange of intelligence and stable communications between the many military units involved in the drill. A broadband link to the General Staff HQ in Moscow 900km away will keep the military chain-of-command in order.
Russian domestic media has basically transformed itself into a non-stop war promo.
There are constant reports about new weapons, new units, new drills being done and counting down how much longer it will take until Russia’s military carries out its modernization effort.
A quick timeline of the state of the Russian military:
Chechen War 1: Boris Yeltsin leads a bunch of young teenager conscripts to their deaths. Leaves a bunch of war equipment there that gets used against the Russians. Bloody rout.
Chechen War 2: Vladimir Putin makes it the crowning achievement of his ascendent presidency. He wages the war seriously, and with high casualties, he secures a Russian victory and puts his tribespeople in charge.
Verdict: Sub-par Performance.
Fast-forward to Georgia:
With hiccups and coughs and stutters, the Russian army nonetheless dispelled the notion that it was a useless rotting hunk of metal. Problems arose. Military communication mostly. Reforms announced – to finish up by 2020.
Verdict: Good, not great.
Then the whole Crimean thing got started. Also in Syria.
Crimea got captured quietly, efficiently and silently. NATO sat up and rubbed its eyes. It was lightning fast.
And boom, Russia intervened in Syria. All of a sudden, it turned out that Russia had a serious airforce and the will to poke US-Israel in the eye.
Verdict: They’re back, baby!
Seems that the Russians think that war is coming.
Better it comes when they’re ready this time, and not while they’ve got their pants down.
Russia can’t compete economically. Nor can they compete culturally. In the information war, they too are simply out-matched.
There is only one area where the Russian beats all comers. If I were Russian high command, I’d put my faith in my army and use my diplomats to buy enough time to modernize and rearm.
Seems like that’s exactly what they’re doing.