October 18, 2018

Moscow Is Preparing for a War in the Caucasus

The nature and reasons for the changes in the scenarios of the military exercises in the South of Russia

October 1–8 this year, within the framework of the inspection of the Russian Armed Forces for 2018, in the Southern Military District (MD) of the RF Armed Forces was conducted a district level command-staff exercise. According to the Russian military command, the exercise of this level was the largest in the last 30 years and was held with the joint participation of all the units and commands from the structure of the Southern MD, and of other troops stationed on its territory. In total, about 7.5 thousand servicemen and more than 2.5 thousand pieces of military equipment were involved in it, including T-72B3 tanks, BTR-82AM armored personnel carriers, 20 aircrafts and over 60 helicopters, as well as warships and support vessels.

According to the new practice of conducting exercises in the RF Armed Forces, the exercise was of a two-sided nature. The command echelon, forces and military units of the 8th (HQ — in Novocherkassk, Rostov region) and the 58th (HQ — in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia) Combined Arms Armies, the Caspian Flotilla and the 4th Army of the Air Force and Air Defense (HQ — in Rostov-on-Don) were fighting against the conditional enemy, which was imitated by the troops of the 49th (HQ — in Stavropol) Combined Arms Army, naval aviation and the marines of the Black Sea Fleet, as well as special task units of the Southern MD.

Officially, the scenario of the exercise has not been disclosed. There were statements only about the Southern MD troops' mastering the defence of Russia's southern borders. At the same time, based on the context of the exercise, it is possible to draw a conclusion about its participants' working out a scenario of forceful suppression of unrests in the North Caucasus as well as prevention of external forces' interfering in them. At the same time, they practiced Russia's providing assistance to its allies in the South Caucasus, both bilaterally and within the framework of the CSTO. Evidence of this is the content of the main episodes of the exercise, which included:

  • concentration of a group of troops in the mountainous and foothill areas of the North Caucasus. To the training grounds and field aerodromes in the above-mentioned areas, were redeployed units and aviation from the 8th and 49th Armies, the 4th Army of the Air Force and Air Defense, as well as naval aviation and marines of the RF Black Sea Fleet. In the course of the previous exercises of the Southern MD, Russian troops were concentrated in absolutely different places — near the border with Ukraine, to where the units of the 49th and 58th Armies were deployed;
  • an army operation to block and destroy the enemy's illegal armed formations in the mountainous area. Practicing this became the main element of the exercise and was carried out on mountain training grounds in Chechnya, North Ossetia and Dagestan;
  • search and liquidation of enemy sabotage and reconnaissance groups in the foothills and plains of the North Caucasus. In particular, such groups' attacks from the territory of Chechnya, and the task of their search and liquidation was fulfilled at training grounds in the Stavropol Territory and in Dagestan;
  • covering Russia's borders with adjacent countries in the Caucasus, defensive and offensive operations, as well as repulsing the enemy's attack from the sea. The above-mentioned was practiced on two main directions, including: on the Georgian — at the training grounds in North Ossetia, and on the sea direction — in Dagestan. The units of ground forces (including motorized rifle, tank, artillery, MLRS and “Iskander-I”), aviation, as well as warships and coastal troops of the Caspian Flotilla were involved.

Besides, within the framework of the command-staff exercise of the Southern MD, were conducted joint military exercises of Russia and its allies, including with participation: of the 102nd Military Base of the Armed Forces of Russia and the Armed Forces of Armenia; 7th Military Base of the RF Armed Forces and the Armed Forces of Abkhazia; 4th Military Base of the RF Armed Forces and armed formations of South Ossetia.

In general, the nature of the tasks practiced during this year's exercise of the Southern MD fully corresponded to the first and second Chechen wars in 1994–1996 and in 1999–2000, and to the Moscow's armed aggression against Georgia in 2008. In this regard, the this year's command-staff exercise was significantly different from the exercises conducted in the Southern MD in the past years, which included mastering of scenarios of a regional conflict and full-scale wars between Russia and the USA and NATO, as well as the RF Armed Forces' offensive against Ukraine.

In turn, this shows qualitative changes in the situation in Russia, namely, the growing internal instability in the country, which leads to an increase in the threats of various kinds of unrest in its territory and is a catalyst for the aggravation of problems in the countries of Russian allies. Based on such changes, adjustments were made to the scenarios of the exercise of the Southern MD of the RF Armed Forces.

Lately, the loudest manifestation of this tendency was the spread of mass protests in Ingushetia against the exchange of territories with Chechnya, which began at the end of September 2018. At this, R. Kadyrov's threats to resolve the issue by force has created a real danger of an armed conflict between Ingushetia and Chechnya. No less sharp problems exist in other republics of the North Caucasus, in particular, in Kabardino-Balkaria, where in September 2018 there were inter-ethnic clashes between Kabardins and Balkarians.

Against this background, since the beginning of this year, continues the political crisis in Armenia, Moscow's main ally in the Caucasus. For example, after the “velvet” revolution in the country in April 2018 as a result of which the opposition leader N. Pashinyan became the head of the Armenian government, the opposition continue mass protests now with demands for early parliamentary elections. Despite the fact that the Armenian opposition does not oppose Russia, permanent instability in Armenia can have negative consequences for Russian interests in the region. Especially in the context of another intensification of the armed confrontation in Nagornyi Karabakh, which remains one of the most powerful sources of regional tension.

As the social and economic situation in the Russian Federation keeps worsening under the influence of Western sanctions and Putin's position are getting weaker as a result of the loss of the Russian population's confidence in him, all these trends will continue to deepen. In view of such perspectives, in addition to the changes to the scenarios of the military exercise in the Southern MD of the RF Armed Forces, measures are also being taken to build up its forces and means. Thus, at the end of this year, the 58th Combined Arms Army will start the formation of two new motorized rifle divisions based on the 19th and 136th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigades in North Ossetia and Dagestan.


Thus, Moscow's aggressive foreign policy to implement its neo-imperial plans creates ever-increasing problems for the Russian Federation. First of all, this concerns the escalation of the confrontation between Russia and the USA and NATO in the military sphere, as well as the growing conflict potential within the country. This situation makes the Kremlin simultaneously respond adequately to external and internal threats to Russia's security, and this disperses its efforts and requires excessive military spending.