Russia Engages in Military Drills on Europe’s Doorstep

August 25, 2015

The Diplomat:

Russia and its military partners across Asia have been busy practicing. While the Russian Navy is engaging in exercises with China in the Sea of Japan (which The Diplomat’s Franz-Stefan Gady covered here), its air force has been exercising with units from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO)’s Rapid Reaction force (CRRF) is also engaging in exercises. While the CSTO exercises are an annual event, this year’s location has drawn increased attention…

…Meanwhile, the CIS are also engaging in exercises in Russia, called Combat Commonwealth 2015, according toSputnik. The first phases of joint air defense drills began on August 18. The Russian defense ministry said that about 20 air defense and missile defense units would be participating, including over 1000 troops, 200 units of equipment including S-400 “Triumf” and S-300 “Favorit” anti-aircraft missile systems, as well as MiG-29s, MiG-31s, a fleet of Sukhoi multirole fighters, and helicopters. The first phase is scheduled to end on September 11 at which point the units will be redeployed, also to Astrakhan.

TASS reported Friday that Russian air defense and Air Force units were expected to take part in “major exercises” in the country’s southern military district, which is centered in the north Caucasus, including both the Caspian flotilla and Black Sea fleet. Crimea, annexed by Russia in April 2014, is a de facto part of this district as well.

The district’s press service reported that “Preparations for large-scale Air Force and air defence war games, which will be held at the end of September and will involve missile launches, are nearing completion in the Southern Military District… The drill assignments will presuppose operations with the aid of Igla shoulder-carried missile launchers, Tunguska antiaircraft gun complexes, Shilka antiaircraft missile launchers, as well as S-300, Buk M1-2, Strela-10, Tor, and Osa.”

While the CIS is a loose association, it has maintained a council of defense ministers and established an air defense system in the mid-1990s. The CSTO began as an outgrowth from the CIS, and was established in 2002 as a military alliance. The CSTO’s rapid reaction force has been exercising near many of he region’s hotspots, inTajikistan in May simulating fending off a Taliban invasion and now near Europe. Central Asia’s troop presence at such exercises is small relative to Russia’s, but participating helps reinforce the region’s links to Russia.

In related news, Tengrinews reports that Kazakhstan’s ministry of defense says that Moscow gave Astana five missile defense systems for free.

“These S300PS air defence missile systems will be tested during live fire exercise and transferred to military bases of Kazakhstan’s Air Defence Forces to be in operation readiness covering the airspace of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” the Commander of Kazakhstan’s AA Troops Nurzhan Mukanov said.

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