On July 15, the Russian daily Vedomosti published an article by a Russian military expert, Ruslan Pukhov, about Russian military planning objectives. In his article, Pukhov explains that the concern exhibited by NATO members about the Baltic States’ security is misplaced, as Russia did not take any significant measure to bolster its military presence in the Kaliningrad region bordering on the Baltics. On the contrary, Russian forces were radically reduced in the area.
Pukhov stressed that Russia avoids being drawn into a direct military rivalry with the West, but concentrates its forces around its main and fundamental security issue: Ukraine. Pukhov wrote that Russia is creating three strong army groups on its border with Ukraine, which are capable, if necessary, of launching a quick strike in the direction of Kiev. Therefore, Pukhov explained, current Russian military planning is divorced from any ‘threat from NATO’ or ‘threat to NATO’, but is geared towards creating a powerful force on the Ukrainian border, “which will allow the Kremlin to expand the range of possible [military] force options to the Ukrainian situation.”
Below are excerpts from the Vedomosti article:
‘Russian Forces In The Kaliningrad Region Were Radically Reduced’
‘Russia Has Been Consistently Building Up An Impressive Military Presence All Along Its Ukrainian Border’
“Thus, Moscow demonstratively ignores the NATO hysteria around the Baltics, making it clear that it is not planning to threaten the Baltic and Scandinavian countries or Poland and is not seeking conflict here…While foreign mass-media and analysts are preoccupied with the ‘Suwalki gap’ [the only link between Poland and the Baltic states] in Lithuania, Russia has been consistently building up an impressive military presence all along its Ukrainian border.
“In the northern part of the border, the 1st Guards Tank Army was reconstituted in 2015, which includes (in addition to the “elite” 2nd ‘Taman’ Guards motorized rifle division and 4th ‘Kantemirov’ Guards tank division) the 6th Tank Brigade in Nizhny Novgorod and, most importantLY, the new 144th motorized rifle division, which was formed in 2016 in the Smolensk and Yelnya region.
‘Further to the south, the administration of the 20th combined arms army (which is being practically re-created) has been moved from Nizhny Novgorod to Voronezh. Its core is the re-activated (after its disbandment in 2009) 10th guards tank division with headquarters in Boguchar. The entire area of the Kursk, Belgorod and Voronezh regions is being actively saturated with troops, including two motor rifle brigades that were transferred here; in the future, another division may be formed here.
“Finally, in the Rostov region, which has been practically devoid of combined arms units since 1989, the creation of the 150th motor rifle division has been started in Novocherkassk. There are reports that another army may be formed here, under command of the Southern military district with further increase of its personnel.
“The meaning of all this activity is obvious – Russia is creating three strong army groupings on the border with Ukraine (where only three years ago there were no troops at all), capable, if necessary, of launching a quick strike in the direction of Kiev (it’s 270 km from the Russian border via Chernigov) in the north, and to create two powerful ‘pincers’ to envelope and surround the main Ukrainian army group in the south – in the Left Bank area, where it is already tied at the front line against the self-declared republics in the Donbass. Ukraine simply does not have (and cannot create in the near future, because of resource limitations) military forces capable of parrying the blow of these groups and countering a possible large-scale ‘deep’ operation of the Russian forces on the whole. In addition, Russia has considerable reserves in the Southern military district (two armies – the 49th and the 58th), as well as in the Central and Eastern military districts (according to available data, there are plans to create three more divisions there). There is also active re-equipment of the air force, air defense forces, and army aviation in areas ‘south of Moscow’.