Russia Plans to Build up its Own Arctic Force

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Russia is planning to build up its special troops in the Arctic to be better prepared for possible security threats from the north.

For more than half a century, the Arctic ice cap has been regarded by the military as a potential theater of war. Nuclear-capable missile-carrying submarines have been secretly patrolling the Arctic seas during and after the “Cold War”. That’s where a key threat comes from, Mikhail Khodaryonok, editor-in-chief of the Military-Industrial Messenger newspaper, told the Voice of Russia.

1“As Arctic ice packs melt due to the continuing global warming, more ice-free areas emerge, which might serve as convenient launch spots for ballistic missile attacks. It’s one of the main threats to Russia. A surprise disarming strike involving ballistic nuclear missiles and cruise missiles might potentially come from the Arctic,” he said.

The Defense Ministry is planning to build new warships, including ice-breaking ones, and create a specialized coastal taskforce. The Soviet-era Arctic infrastructure will be restored.

2“The Arctic airfields are the first to be restored. These are the Rogachyovo, Alykel, Tiksi, Khatanga, Nadym and many others. Airfields are crucial to ensuring the fast deployment of forces. They can also be used as bases for anti-submarine aviation and flying radars and as command headquarters,” Khodaryonok said.

The Arctic holds an estimated one-quarter of the global energy resources. Some experts predict armed conflicts in the Arctic in the coming decades. Others are skeptical.

“Such statements will always be made. One should take them calmly. There isn’t going to be any war or any armed clashes in the Arctic in the near future. Rather, it’s an information war, which has been gaining momentum lately, a kind of ‘Cold War’,” said Sergei Melkov, Co-chairman of the Association of Military Analysts.

As Russia moves to beef up its Arctic Force, it risks facing new accusations from the West that it militarizes the Arctic. But, as Mikhail Khodaryonok pointed out, that’s what all the Arctic nations have been doing to some extent.

6The Arctic has always played a significant role from the perspective of Russian Navy. Although Russia is the only country in the world with a nuclear icebreaker fleet (Rosatomflot), limited maintenance and construction capacity has caused general deterioration since the 1990s. At present, Rosatomflot possesses 18 icebreakers, of which six are active nuclear-powered ones. However, they are aging quickly and will be decommissioned by 2020. Viacheslav Ruksha, head of Atomflot (which operates the fleet), warned that Russia will face a “collapse” of these capacities in 2016-2017 (Kovalenko 2012). Moscow already emphasized the priority of the acquisition of new nuclear-powered icebreakers in Osnovy 2008. In July 2012 Rosatom (state-run corporation) signed a deal to begin construction of a multi-purpose new-generation nuclear icebreaker budgeted at 1.1 billion US dollars. The new icebreaker will be launched in 2017. In addition, in the next few years, Kremlin plans to build another three third-generation icebreakers to maintain the country’s potential in the Arctic (Kovalenko 2012).

5On the strategic level, the Arctic is particularly important for the maintenance of Russia’s maritime nuclear deterrent forces. The defence significance is underlined by the fact that only through the Arctic, Russia has full open access to the world’s oceans and the possibility of broad operational manoeuvre for the Navy’s submarine forces (unlike the ports on the Black Sea or the Baltic). Russia’s most powerful Northern Fleet with nuclear triad, is based close to Murmansk in the north of the Kola Peninsula at Severomorsk.

Crimean Military Units to Join Russia

5The self-defense forces of Crimea that played a key role in securing the peninsula ahead of its reunification with Russia will be regularized and enter into the ranks of the Russian military, a member of Russia’s parliament said Friday.

2“After Crimea and Sevastopol join Russia the self-defense forces of Crimea should be reformed and become part of [Russia’s] Southern Military District,” said Vladimir Komoyedov, the chairman of the defense committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament.

Komoyedov, the former commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, stressed the changeover should be expedited given the mobilization of reserve troops in Ukraine and the need to guarantee Crimea’s security.

On Thursday it was reported over 70 Ukrainian military outfits stationed in Crimea, including 25 navy ships, had changed allegiances and raised the Russian flag.

Over 22,000 Ukrainian troops were stationed on the Black Sea peninsula prior to Crimea declaring independence following the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych amid often violent protests last month.

1Meantime a total of 72 military units in Crimea have hoisted Russian flags instead of Ukrainian and applied to join the Russian armed forces, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

“Yesterday, 72 military units almost in full strength decided to join the Russian armed forces. We are now dealing with service and citizenship issues of officers and soldiers from these units,” he said.

Shoigu said that every serviceman can choose from three options: continue his service in the Russian armed forces, end his service and stay in Crimea or leave the region.

Those willing to continue their service in the Ukrainian army will be provided with transport to carry their families and belongings to the Ukrainian territory.

1Leaders in the predominantly Russian-ethnic republic refused to recognize the legitimacy of the government in Kiev that came to power amid often violent protests last month, instead seeking reunification with Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to ratify the treaty providing for the reunification of the Crimean Peninsula with Russia.

3Moreover the St.Andrew’s flag of the Russian Navy was raised on Ukraine’s only submarine, the Zaporizhzhia, on March 22.

The Zaporizhzhia, commissioned in 1970, will join the Russian Black Sea Fleet, which previously had three submarines.

Captain 1st Rank Anatoly Varochkin, the commander of the Black Sea Fleet’s submarine flotilla, told RIA Novosti that half of the Zaporizhzhia’s crew, including the captain, refused to serve in the Russian Navy and left the vessel.

“Half of the submarine’s crew is ready to serve [Russia] and fulfill their tasks. They know their vessel and will continue service,” Varochkin said adding that the submarine was in a poor technical condition.

The submarine will be relocated to Yuzhnaya Bay where the Russian Black Sea is based.

4Leaders in the predominantly Russian-ethnic republic refused to recognize the legitimacy of the government in Kiev that came to power amid often violent protests last month, instead seeking reunification with Russia.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Crimea to inspect troops and military facilities, the first senior Russian official to travel to the Black Sea peninsula since Moscow absorbed the region into its territory, Russian news agencies said.

Shoigu, one of the closest allies of President Vladimir Putin in the cabinet, inspected the Russian Black Sea Fleet based in the port of Sevastopol and also met Crimea’s Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, the reports said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held a working meeting with the former members of Ukrainian Armed Forces – base and institution commanders who expressed a wish to continue military service in the Russian Army. Everyone who has expressed such a wish will enjoy all the social rights granted by Russian legislation and will have an opportunity to do military service in any military district and naval fleet of the Russian Armed Forces, Shoigu said.

Russia to Start Mass Purchases of Ratnik Gear

3The Russian Army will soon start the mass purchases of the next generation soldier gear “Ratnik”. The gear comprises more than 40 components, including firearms, body armour, and optical, communication and navigation devices, as well as life support and power supply systems, and even knee and elbow pads. The gear will make Russian troops the fully-fledged soldiers of the future, capable of carrying out the personally given orders. It also boosts the effectiveness of the units operating in local conflict areas, for example, against terrorists.

1Although the “Ratnik” gear is made up of dozens of components and weighs a total of 20 kilos, one can take it off in a matter of seconds. Editor-in-Chief of the National Defence magazine, Igor Korotchenko, claims that the gear has been perfectly adapted to meet the Russian Army requirements.

“The Russian Army most battle-worthy units, those of contract soldiers, professionals, will be the first to use the gear. “Ratnik” relies heavily on the use of GLONASS satellite navigation system, on Russian-made transceivers, radio sets. All the gear parts, including firearms, night vision devices etc. are Russian-made”.

Испытания боевой экипировки военнослужащих Сухопутных войск ВС РФ50 Russian production facilities are engaged in producing the “Ratnik” gear, whose framework is a “breathing” synthetic overall that one can wear for two days without taking it off. The fabric of polymeric compounds protects the soldier against open fire and minor splinters, and makes them invisible to infrared cameras. The body armour has been patterned on the Soviet Army prototype, tested in Afghanistan in the 1980s. We have more on that from an officer who witnessed those events of more than 35 years ago.

5“Soviet bulletproof vests consisted of two fabric protective panels (30 layers of aramid fabrics) and 25 protective plates (13 front plates and 12 rear plates). Plates were made of titanium and had a thickness of 6.5 mm. Whenever approaching Kandahar or another dangerous place, truck drivers would normally roll down the windows and hang up the vest, so one half of it would be inside the truck cab, while the other one, outside. The vest was a reliable protection if the truck was fired at from afar, but sub-machinegun bullets easily pierced the vest if the vehicle was fired on from close quarters”.

4The new armour body is made of ceramic plates and Kevlar, rather than titan, so it can effectively resist even a sniper rifle bullet. The “Ratnik” modification for seamen also has the function of a life-jacket.

The expert council of the Military Industrial Commission will have the final say. The council is due to meet in May.

Russia to Focus on Robotic Weaponry

2The Russian army should focus on the acquisition of robotic weaponry and reduce its overall number of different types of military equipment in use.

4In December, addressing lawmakers from Russia’s lower house of parliament, Dmitry Rogozin listed robotic weaponry and automated combat management systems with highly secure and fast communication links as key items to be included in the new state arms procurement program for 2016 to 2025.

Rogozin said robotic technologies should be present in the development of all types of military hardware for use on the ground, in the air and under water.

5Rogozin, who oversees the defense and space industries, stressed the need to reduce the variety of similar types of weaponry manufactured in small batches because of the heavy burden on defense companies and significant production costs.

The development of modular universal combat platforms that could be used as a basis for a variety of military hardware should also be a priority, he said.

Russia is currently implementing an ambitious rearmament program through 2020, with a budget of some 20 trillion rubles ($640 billion).

The program will see the share of modern weaponry in Russia’s armed forces reach 30 percent by 2015 and 70 percent by 2020.

Moreover Russia is planning to deploy mobile security robots in 2014 to protect its strategic missile facilities, the Defense Ministry said Wednesday.

“In March, the Russian Strategic Missile Forces [RVSN] began testing mobile robotic systems being developed to protect key RVSN installations,” spokesman Maj. Dmitry Andreyev said.

3Andreyev said the security bots will be deployed at five ballistic missile launch sites around Russia as part of an upgrade to the existing automated security systems.

The official said the robots will carry out reconnaissance and patrol missions, detect and destroy stationary or moving targets and provide fire support for security personnel at the guarded facilities.

Mobile robotic platforms play an increasingly important role in military and security applications, helping personnel to meet challenges posed by the growing threat of terrorist attacks or “guerilla warfare.”

1Moreover the Russian Defense Ministry will start mass purchases of domestically designed “future soldier” gear in 2014.

The equipment can be used by regular infantry, rocket launcher operators, machine gunners, drivers and scouts.

“We have practically finished work on the Ratnik gear and will start purchases of series-produced equipment for our army next year,” Shoigu told reporters on Saturday.

The Ratnik gear has been successfully tested by the Russian military but is adoption into service has been delayed due to uncertainty with the choice of small arms component, which is likely to include the new Kalashnikov AK-12 assault rifle.

Russia Intensifies Field Exercise

3In accordance with the combat training plan, military units and detachments of the Russian army are building up the intensity of field exercise at ranges in Rostov, Belgorod, Kursk and Tambov Regions. The Defense Ministry’s press service said this on Thursday. The main goal of the exercise is to comprehensively check the units’ cohesiveness with further fulfillment of combat training mission on unfamiliar territory and untested ranges.

2The field ingresses are carried out in two stages. During the first stage, “commanders and contingent of infantry, artillery and tank detachments gained experience during route marches from permanent dispositions in a combined method: afoot, by train and by air transport to final march objectives with further deployment afield. They followed up issues of cooperation with representatives of Russian Railways (RZD) and of uploading equipment on flat wagons”.

4This stage of exercise also features a “set of practical trainings, when servicemen within their units have worked the standards of driving military and special equipment on unfamiliar territory, route reconnaissance, engineer reconnaissance, fortification of positions and special tactical training. In the planned activities, special focus is placed on stealth of movement and camouflage security in staging areas.”

At present, the units’ commanders “are training the methods of staging different types of combat, detachment control and control of fire when fulfilling the combat training missions, learning to act unconventionally, fooling the enemy and achieving unexpectedness. During the training, a complex, combat type tactical environment with imitation of actions of the imaginary enemy is created.”

1On the last stage of the combat training, the servicemen “at the ranges will master a set of practical exercises aimed at combat cohesiveness of units, with firearms training and battle firing, and the commanders will also check their ability to control artillery fire”.

5The field training will continue until late March.

“The units and divisions within the armed forces intensify field exercises in polygons from the regions of Rostov, Belgorod, Tambov and Kursk”, the ministry announced in a statement, adding that these maneuvers will continue until the end of March.

 Ministry did not specify, however, how many troops are deployed in the training. “The main purpose is to check the ability of troops to conduct combat exercises in unknown places and untested polygons,” according to the statement.

 2During maneuvers, the troops are to travel and ensure that they are able to move on unknown land without being sighted. They will conduct exercises of combat shooting.

 A series of videos and photos posted on the Internet shows movements of armored vehicles without being possible to determine exactly the place.

 1The ministry told the official Itar-Tass news agency that exercises of other units of the Parachute units, involving about 4,000 troops, 36 aircraft and about 500 military vehicles take place in Rostov region.

 On Wednesday, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov announced that Moscow has authorized Ukraine to conduct an observation flight in Russian airspace, to ensure that there is no security threat to the Ukrainian state, but without specifying when it will be carried.

 Russia has already made military maneuvers in the central and western districts between February 26 and March 6.

Russia to Create New Structure for Protection of Interests in the Arctic

3Until the end of the year the defense Ministry will create a new structure to protect the Northern borders of Russia. It will include the Northern fleet, the Arctic brigade and other units. To lead it will commander of the Northern fleet. Experts believe that if Russia would not increase military presence in the Arctic, there appears a foreign contingent, expel which in the future will be almost impossible. Up to the end of the year in Russia on the base of the Northern fleet will appear the new 4military structure – the Northern fleet – the Joint strategic command (SF-USC). His main task will be to protect the national interests of Russia in the Arctic. This strategic Alliance will have the status of a military district, although officially as such will not be called. «Thus, the number of military districts in Russia will not change, they will still be four, but they added a powerful new military structure – the Council of Federation of the RSC»the source explained. In turn, another source in the General staff told RIA Novosti that the Association except for the Northern fleet will include Arctic brigade, part of the air force, air defense, management bodies. Command new structure will commander of the Northern fleet.

2As part of this process began restoration of at least seven airfields (until renovated airfield «Temp») and berthing facilities on the Franz Josef Land and the Novosibirsk Islands. In February of last year, President Vladimir Putin has approved the Strategy of development of the Arctic zone of Russia and the national security until 2020. The document establishes a plan 1of action aimed at implementing the country’s sovereignty and national interests in the Arctic. The strategy provides for the creation and development of the coast guard in the Arctic zone, creation of the integrated information and telecommunication infrastructure, development of the system of emergency preparedness, development of a unified national system for monitoring and pollution of the environment. First Vice-President of Academy of geopolitical problems, doctor of military Sciences Konstantin Sivkov notes that created by Russia’s military structure in the Arctic will be «particularly powerful»because of the composition of the forces and means of the Northern fleet «insufficient».

6Recall that in August 2012, it became known that Russia will create in the Arctic and the Northern sea route, a number of objects for home warships and border services. When this was reported on many issues with the return of aviation in the Arctic. In February 2011 defense Ministry has promised to form a special «Arctic brigade». The first of them to be placed on the Kola Peninsula, in the village of Pechenga. It was also announced that by 2015 in the North appear 10 new rescue centres: Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Naryan-Mar, Vorkuta, Nadym, Dudinka, Tiksi, Pevek, Provideniya Bay, and Anadyr. However, then it was not informed that centres can play and military role. Russia became the first country to create military bases in the Arctic.

Surprise Drill Results to be Examined

V.Putin's working visit to Leningrad RegionFirst military units of Central and Western Military Districts involved in surprise military exercises came back to permanent deployment bases from the area of drills, the press service of the Defense Ministry told Itar-Tass.

5“Some part of formations from the Central Military District of motor rifle brigades of the 2nd Army and vanguard units of a separate engineering brigade and a brigade of radiation, chemical and biological security from the Western Military District came back to their bases,” the press service said. “Aircraft involved in surprise drills returned to their permanent airfields, warships of the Baltic Fleet and formations of coast guard forces came to a naval base from the maritime range,” the press service added.

Defense Minister General Sergey Shoigu set March 7 as the final date for return of military staff to their bases.

2“Trains are bringing tank units back to their bases. Several military units are on marches, military transport aviation has brought military units at a far distance back to their bases. Warships of the Northern Fleet are sailing to their anchorage site,” the press service reported.

Surprise military exercises have been held since February 26. The order to bring military units back to their bases was given by Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin.

Flaws and problems found during surprise military exercises of troops must be examined as quickly as possible. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu gave the order to this effect to the chief of the Russian General Staff.

1“The chief of the General Staff must examine results of the surprise drills, flaws and problems found at the military exercises as quickly as possible. Upon results of check you must produce a report to me with concrete proposals to eliminate them,” he said at a telecom conference.

The defense minister noted that the latest surprise drills had improved noticeably as compared with previous drills. Shoigu ordered to bring back troops participating in the surprise drills to permanent bases before March 7. “I demand you must fulfil this task in an organized way, must not violate security requirements and must not put out of order weapons and military hardware,” the minister ordered, noting that only 18 pieces of military hardware turned for repair from around 3,000 pieces of military hardware involved in the surprise drills. “This is a good work for our formations to maintain technical order of weapons and military hardware,” Shoigu added.

4He recalled that around 150,000 servicemen, 90 warplanes, more than 120 helicopters, more than 880 tanks, around 1,200 pieces of military hardware and up to 80 warships and vessels were involved in the surprise exercises. Russia has fulfilled strictly provisions of the 2011 Vienna Document over numerical strength of the Ground Troops, Airborne Troops and marines involved in the military exercises.

Eight trains were used for delivery of military staff and military hardware, the minister said. A total of six multiservice firing ranges and five maritime firing grounds were used in the Barents Sea and the Baltic Sea. “Aviation was transferred to operational airfields with mid-air refuelling. A total of 47 warplanes and 43 helicopters were moved,” the defense minister noted.

Anti-terrorism measures had been taken at all military townships in the Western Military District, he added.