Articles published in other fora!
Everything You Wanted to Know about Zapad 2017
The National Interest, 8 October 2017
During and after Zapad-2017, commentators speculated wildly on why Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko did not observe the exercises together. Lukashenko claimed at the end of the exercise that Zapad was so large and widely distributed that it made no sense for them to only go to one training range to observe it together.
There seems little reason to doubt Lukashenko’s statement. The exercise took place across eleven training ranges or poligons as they are known in Russian:eight in Belarus and three in Russia. From north to south, therefore, Zapad participants were spread across nearly 700km and from west to east about 600km. Furthermore, within the individual ranges, different tasks were being carried out by different groups. This is broken down in a graphic I created, which combines the publicly stated tasks at the individual poligons and observations of what took place at each one.
S-400, New Cruise Missiles, and More: How Russia's Military is Back in a Big Way
The National Interest, 29 September 2017
As the Russians are going home from Zapad-2017 (even as a Russian Spetsnaz regiment begins the next joint exercise in Belarus), we can take a look at some of the interesting trends demonstrated in the exercise. Of considerable interest are the military technologies used.
Russia has spent considerable resources rearming with precision and next-generation weapons, extolling how this high-tech investment bolsters the economy. While many systems have been adopted in the Russian Armed Forces in the past decade, four have acquired something of their own cults of personality in the Russian press: the Iskander surface-to-surface ballistic missile, the Kalibrcruise missile (especially the land-attack variant), the Bal coastal-defense missile, and the S-400 Triumf air-defense system. All of these systems except the Kalibr (which caused its own headlines elsewhere in the world during the exercise) took part in Zapad and can be assessed in a modicum of detail in the open-source world.
Everything We Learned From Russia's Massive Zapad Military Exercise
The National Interest, 23 September 2017
The conclusion of the large-scale Russian-Belarusian Zapad-2017 military exercise allows some initial reflections. Though the Zapad exercise series is a regular feature of the Russian strategic-operational exercise family, this is its first installment since the 2014 Ukraine crisis and the ensuing standoff between Russia and the West, explaining much of the interest in this year’s event.
Throughout the buildup to the exercise, the Russians and Belarusians have been insistent that it is purely defensive exercise; “Zapad” may literally translate to “West,” but the west in mind was the western portions of Russia and Belarus. Nevertheless, loud concerns were expressed at the start of the exercise that the Russians might use this exercise as an excuse to establish a permanent base in Belarus or else to practice opening a land corridor to the exclave Kaliningrad Oblast. In response to these concerns, NATO launched its own exercise in western Ukraine, the Ukrainians conducted a large command-staff exercise across the country, right-wing groups assembled forces to defend northwestern Ukraine, Sweden held its largest exercise in twenty-three years on the Baltic Sea directly across from Zapad, and the United States increased the size of the NATO Baltic Air Policing presence.