Russian Military Capabilities (presentation video)


I mentioned that report before, here they summarise it as a presentation.
Sorry, but I don't know when this presentation was held, but no earlier than October 2015.



  1. Military capabilities for total war
    It is a nice overview. Apart from what is specific to Russia and updated for the year 2010s, much of the doctrinal aspect of ‘total war’ can be traced back to WWII, German-Soviet and German-Allies confrontations; which in turn served as the basis for modern warfare doctrine of ‘total war’ in all armies around the world.

    A conventional army based on ground forces is mainly a ‘continental Homeland defensive force’, that could be a threat only to their immediate neighbours. Russian army has limited force projection capabilities (strategic mobility); they are limited to national roads, railways system, navigation and air transport. As such they do not constitute an immediate threat to more remote countries since ground force movement is in general relatively slow, predictable enough due mainly to topographical and meteorological restrictions; delaying and ambush action from OPFOR.
    Russian airforce and navy are also for Homeland defence purposes only. It is not in Russian doctrine to fight 3 ‘overseas’ war at a time.

    An armed force like USA, UK with force projection capabilities, heavy navy force (‘For whosoever commands the sea commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself.’) with carrier group, long range bombers, drone command and control centres throughout the US/world (drone bases constitute legitimate military targets for OPFOR airstrikes, special ops…) are more ‘international expeditionary forces’ less ‘continental Homeland defensive force’ and more ‘globally interventionist’. It is in US doctrine to be capable to fight 3 ‘overseas’ war at a time.

    Central role given to nuclear weapons is also part of ‘dissuasion and deterrence policy’ since Russia cannot compete with airforce and navy outside national boundaries.
    US and UK, with all their Fleets and battle groups can intervene and deploy anywhere in the world, en masse, in a very short time (Falklands, Middle East, Asia…). Since Russia does not have such a projection force (Alfred von Schlieffen), it relies on nuclear dissuasion and deterrence.

  2. 06:15
    Combat capability of an armed force: is assessed by fighting both, along side and against that armed force and debriefing the fighters of both sides, studying the video materials, classified/secret/top secret materials (map, orders…) obtained through different channels...

    Command and control (C2)
    The 1988 NATO definition reads: Command and control is the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated [individual] over assigned [resources] in the accomplishment of a [common goal].

    1 week, 1 army, 1 direction = in Russia and around only.
    By comparison, such a force can be projected by the US anywhere in the world.
    The ‘continental Homeland defensive force’ of Europe can do more than Russia since they are more numerous (that is why Russia brandish the threat of nuclear weapons, when it feels threatened).

    The subject is Russia, but it should also encompass the ‘Russian integrated allied forces’ (armed forces of Belarus, Armenia*, militias of Transnistria, ‘Novorossiya’, Ossetia, Chechnya…) some former Soviet republics; and some foreign allies, Shanghai 5 (increased military cooperation, intelligence sharing, and counterterrorism), Mongolia, Iran…

    Armenia is the ‘South-Western Gate Keeper of the Russian Empire’*.

    Central Military District might look weak, but it is not, Russians have not forgotten the allied intervention in the Russian Civil War (1918), especially the campaigns in Siberia-Caucasus-Trans Caspian.

    Johan Norberg seems to forget that the Russian army had quite a few live exercises, wars (Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine, Syria…), more or less covert operations (observation, intelligence gathering…), Russians are interested in knowing how their weapons/hardware perform in real conflicts not exercises (e.g. anti tank missiles, guns and RPGs vs own T64, T72, T80, T90 and foreign Merkava, M1 Abrams, and vice versa). Sprut-SD was developed from results of soviet era anti tank gun ambushes against M1-Abrams in Iraq.

    Zapad 2013, Vostok 2014, Tsentr 2015 are huge exercises that coincide with the Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts.

    Conclusions (1/2) = Total war doctrine
    Defence/military/police/intelligence… plans are, by definition, secret with heavy propaganda, disinformation, counter information… operations.

    Strategic mobility = German field marshal and strategist Alfred von Schlieffen (1833-1913) already noticed in his time that the Russian Empire had force projection issues. It is still true today, because their doctrine does not have a global dimension like the US doctrine.

    * Armenia (and ‘Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’) is a Russian vassal State that has exponentially large, strong and sophisticated forces (heavy weaponry, air defence, arty, tanks and huge stockpiles of ammo) compared to their GDP. Armenia is a recipient of massive Russian military aid and it keeps the ‘South-Western Gate of the Russian Empire’, between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, facing NATO-Turkey, Iran and Iraq. It works as a permanent projection force outside the Russian Federation and ‘behind enemy lines’ (Georgia and Azerbaijan).

  3. Exercises are the minimum requirements a nation should impose on its military to maintain a minimal overall readiness. Exercises are not forbidden by international laws. Everyone can give it the reading they want, considering the context.
    Indeed exercises have often been a disguised way for war preparation and actual war (WWII Wehrmacht exercising blitzkrieg, JNA Sarajevo exercises in 1992 to establish a siege…)
    Some countries live under permanent readiness doctrine 24/7 year and decades long: Israel, North Korea, South Korea, Armenia, Azerbaijan…
    Other nations just get tired and bored by just being static or patrolling the streets (i.e. Operation Sentinelle in France mobilizes around 20.000 soldiers to secure the country against possible terrorist threats; some think that those soldiers should be better used on the battle front, fighting the root causes and the bases of terrorism, like in Mali and the rest of Africa).

    Exercise: theory vs reality (Fulda gap)

    Exercise with different ministries (including all the civilian resources) = total war doctrine exercise

    Exercises = opportunity to train and improve defence plan

    Question: Can we tell if Russia is about to go to (total) war?
    The Russians are wondering the same about Nato: all the sabre rattling around Russian borders, can we tell if Nato is about to go to war? And we enter the loop…

    Russian battalion tactical group (Eike Middeldorf: Handbuch der Taktik, 1957)
    Russians exercises Army size group but only send battalion size group to Ukraine: ‘… if you are denying that you are actually there fighting with your armed forces, you can get away with battalions but you can’t bring in the airforce and claim it is not you, so that is why you could not use the inter-services bit to the same extent…’

    Nuclear tabou
    The USA is the first user of nuclear weapons (Hiroshima and Nagasaki 1945). Russian and Iranian experts analysed some of the Saudi bombing sites:

    One might consider that Russian leaders will use their nuclear arsenal whether it be in the form of a suitcase, ship container, ICBM… for ‘existential defence’.

    There is an ‘art of mobilisation’ in military doctrine, European nations used to mobilise a lot in the 19th and 20th century, so that the mechanism will work like a Swiss watch, to be ready on time. But there are always some kind of ‘Clausewitz friction’ as it was the case in Ukraine.

    Nuclear tactical weapons (theory and practice)
    Politicians : ‘nuclear weapons come in when there is an existential threat’
    What is ‘existential threat’? (Example: Israel or North Korea feels there is an existential threat, it has the nuclear weapon, how/when/where/when will it use it?)

    1. A possible analysis

      Comments above offer a partial skeleton of the presentation but no real analysis and consequences beyond.

      1 week, 1 army, 1 direction = in Russia and around only.’
      (The opposite could be 1 week, several armies, several directions = USA around the world.)
      Maybe in today’s modern conflicts (with nuclear threat) we have reached a balance of power that does not need more than that. Moldova-Transnistria, Georgia, Ukraine, Crimea… showed us that a conflict flares up so fast and end up so quickly, by a ‘winning side snatching’ territories from the other side, that the rest of the world is put in front of a ‘fait accompli’ and can only react by (temporary) economical sanctions (since they cannot last indefinitely). Is there any candidate to declare war on Russia for Crimea and Donbass?

      Nuclear tabou: ‘nuclear weapons come in when there is an existential threat’
      What if WWII Germany and Japan had the nuclear/atomic bomb just 1 day before the allies?
      What if nuclear weapons are already dispersed around the world, away from their ‘birth countries’ and waiting to be used to threat and black mail?
      The laughter seems quite uncomfortable, hysterical almost bordering with madness, and contrasts with the overall seriousness of the presentation (how can unconscious and psychological behaviour betray one’s mind?).

      The Odessa question
      Johan NORBERG, as a Russian speaking Swedish military officer and analyst of Russian military capabilities, is missing a lot of important points (as one comment above already mentioned, M. NORBERG failed to speak about Armenia and Russian forces in Armenia, and to display them on the map).
      Odessa is not 300-400km from Russia (Crimea), but 100km from Tiraspol and only 60km from Transnistria border. Former Soviet 14th Guards Army reorganized into the Operational Group of Russian Forces in Moldova which came under the ‘direct’ command of the Moscow Military District (Hint! Hint! Hint!); and is charged with guarding the weapons stockpile at Cobasna. These are import information that are missing in the presentation and maps.

    2. Russian Kaliningrad Oblast (pre-1945 Konigsberg, Germany)

      The presentation and the map omit to emphasis (together with Armenia. Transnistria) the potential role of the Kaliningrad Defensive Area, that belongs to the Western Military District (Saint-Petersburg). In an eventual Nato/European-Russian confrontation, it would mobilise the whole Polish military to fix Russian forces in Kaliningrad.
      In that case the ‘1 week, 1 army, 1 direction’, does not work, because there would be at least 2 or 3 Russian thrusts from Kaliningrad (main thrust toward Polish forces, others diversions toward Lithuania… to join with friendly Russian forces). Only a consequent multiarms rapid reaction force from Germany could be capable of sustaining the Polish effort: block and outmanoeuvre any further Russian advance quickly and efficiently enough. Many scenarios are imaginable.

      We are missing the cognitive powers that would enable us to read Nato/European and Russian minds. But it seems very unlikely to experience a Russian invasion of the Baltics. We might be mistaken, but Putin is rich enough and does not seem to be greedy about (non strategic) land as such. Russia is already the most spacious country on earth and Putin is ‘giving free land’ in Siberia, and nobody want it. Adding a few square kilometres from the Baltics is simply not adding any net gain compared to the total costs and consequences of such a conflict (i.e. international isolation). Hitler tried to extend German Lebensraum by annexing the Sudetenland, as a result Germany lost 20-30% of its territory (between 1938-1945) and the many other misfortunes Europe has experienced because of such expansionist moves. Napoleon and Hitler mistakes (greed for power, imperialism and consequent failures) are not unknown to Russian leadership.

      IF it seems so vital to the Russians to have a land Corridor with Kaliningrad, they could better succeed with a ‘soft policy’ peacefully negotiated Lease or Buy Treaty with Lithuania (a peacefully negotiated Treaty with Poland about a corridor connecting Germany to the Free City of Danzig and Konigsberg, was Hitler’s first peaceful option), Baltic States or a joint venture with EU for the construction of highways + railway connections + bridges with minimal disruption of the ecosystem. IF such a question about such corridor really exists in the Baltics, examples of peaceful agreements also exist. The Israelis are regularly buying real estate properties from the Palestinians willing to sale. Together with the money, Israelis offer, to those who accept the deal, an American passport (it even resembles a tripartite agreement!). Please, don’t read what I have not written, contexts are different, but the root idea of the problem solving attitude might be similar, and that is the only similarity between those two examples. Of course, in the context of the Baltics, it is not question of peacefully moving populations, but joint ventures in the construction of infrastructures.

    3. There's but one brigade in Kaliningrad Oblast, and the Russians are leaving Transnistria. The whole mobilised Polish army would likely crush Russian forces in Kaliningrad Oblast if focused on such a mission for a few days.

      The Poles wouldn't have many troops to spare to help Lithuania, but they could counter the brigade in Kaliningrad and the entire army of Belarus.

      If I was a Russian army planner for a conventional surprise invasion of Estonia or all Baltic countries, I would plan to declare Kaliningrad Oblast and Belarus neutral to limit the conflict and to narrow down the geographic bottleneck.
      On the other end of the spectrum airborne forces could be flooded into Kaliningrad for a hardly limited invasion plan that involves Warsaw as a bargaining chip.

  4. USA illegal wars around the world inspire and stimulate Russian defence (arms race)

    CIA drone attack/killing operations worldwide, under the cover of fighting, hunting and killing terrorists (i.e. Yemen, African continent…), without formal criminal courts of justice condemning individuals for terrorism and without UN mandate resolutions authorising such illegal interventions, are nothing less than war declarations on sovereign nations that are bombed without the formal act of declaration of war on those countries.

    Russia in the Axis of Evil?
    Today George Bush’s dream of the destruction the Axis of Evil has been partly completed (military destruction of Iraq, Libya and Syria, diplomatic solution for Cuba) and DAESH is the product of that policy. Is the world safer today than yesterday?
    By naming Belarus in the Axis of Evil, did Bush administration thought of Russia instead?
    Because Belarus itself is not a real threat to anybody. It is a Vassal State (like Armenia) of Russia.
    What plans are going to be imagined for Iran, North Korea and Russia (Belarus)? Wilson Center had studied the military power of all countries. Result: none of the Axis of Evil are Evil and a bigger threat to world peace and security than US-led alliances themselves. There is just a mistrust of US-led western foreign policy (i.e. Iran mistrust when the west supported Saddam Hussein’s aggression of Iran in the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq mistrust because it was finally abandoned and destroyed by the west, the division of ‘one genetic Korea’ into two enemy states, as it was the case with one Germany during the cold war…). From their perspective we understand that the US-led alliances could really be viewed as an Axis of Evil.

    Other schools of thoughts than pro-US, Russia, China… exist. After the Brexit we saw a paradoxical revival of Europeanism.

    A partial conclusion
    Possible future confrontation could be more localized of more or less intensity, but hardly escalate into total war or full nuclear war, because of the power balance, the threat and blackmail of the use of nuclear weapons. Though it is not excluded that tactical nuclear (neutron) bombs of equal yield as GBU-43/B or ATBIP might be used in specific and uninhabited areas?
    Reagan’s ‘Star Wars project’ and its successor ‘Ballistic Missile Defence’ are useless in front of suitcases, covert civilian-looking nuclear bombs, ICBM… nuclear weapons that might very well be in place and waiting to be used to black mail through the secrecy of bilateral diplomatic channels and contacts.
    If a nation’s doctrine is ‘nuclear weapons come in when there is an existential threat’; don’t you think they already worked out all the possible and imaginable ways, so that, even in the worst case scenario of a total destruction of all their nuclear arsenal and capabilities being destroyed in a ‘first decisive decapitation strike’, they will still have at their disposal the means retaliate and annihilate their OPFOR?