A series of military exercises, conducted by Russia in cooperation with some former Soviet republics, demonstrates this
Despite the crisis in Russia September was outstanding by its large-scale military exercises, organized in the Central Asia and Caucasus region. The first exercise, Tsentrazbat-98, was conducted on September 23-26 within the framework of the NATO Partnership for Peace program in the territories of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kirgizia. Military units of Uzbekistan, Russia, Kirgizia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, USA and Turkey participated in the exercise.
The exercise was started at Chirchik training ground, one of the largest in the Central Asia, near the strategic industrial objects (in Chirchik the largest chemical plant for production of saltpeter in the CIS is located, as well as a metallurgical plant. In addition, the uranium mines are located not very far in the mountains.). The program of the exercise was a peacekeeping one, but the exercise’s participants fulfilled their own specific tasks.
For example, for the USA and Turkey the training grounds in Uzbekistan became a kind of a test for the possibility of their troops to operate in the Central Asian theater of combat operations. Last year, during Tsentrazbat-97 exercises the American and Turkish troops were trained to move for big distance, land, seize an airdrome and so on. In September the peacekeepers were trained to convoy and deliver a humanitarian cargo, provide medical assistance and studied the communication means, used by the staffs in the peacekeeping operations.
It is also interesting that the mountain units represented the American party, which allows us to suppose perspective goals of the Pentagon, which wants to increase its influence on the CIS countries. The second group of the countries, which participated in the exercise, was represented by Azerbaijan, Kirgizia, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Uzbekistan. These countries are just forming their armed forces, and for them the exercises in Uzbekistan represented a possibility to organize combat training of their troops on somebody else’s account.
Russia stood apart of all participants. The units of the 201 st division, which participated in the exercise, are the combat units. They are manned with the officers, who have served of many years in the Central Asia, and during the exercises they rather did not learn, but taught the others.
Exercise of Russia and Armenia at the military training grounds of marshal Bagramyan (Western Armenia) had another character. This was already the third exercise. The agreement on organization of this exercise was achieved during the visit of Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeev to Armenia in July.
Units of the Russian military base, which are deployed in Armenia in accordance with the agreement between the governments of both countries, participated in the exercise. The theme of the exercise dealt with organization of the defense by a mechanized infantry unit and parrying of the “enemy’s offensive and counter-offensive for regaining of the lost territory”. During the exercise Armenian Defense Minister Vazgen Sarkisyan announced: “The Russian-Armenian military cooperation is successfully developing”. According to him, the tasks, set for the exercise participants, were successfully fulfilled. Sarkisyan also reported that representatives of Azerbaijan were invited for the exercise, but they did not come. Colonel general Mikhail Klishin, deputy chief of the Russian general Staff, who was present at the exercise, announced: “We have no secret plans, and our military cooperation is not targeted against any third country”.
Meanwhile, correspondents of ITAR-TASS in Baku reported that this exercise caused concern of Azerbaijani authorities, Vafa Gulizade, Azerbaijani state assistant for the foreign policy, told the journalists that “this concern is connected with the fact that the joint Russian-Armenian military exercise raises the combat capability of the Armenian armed forces, the country, with which Azerbaijan is actually at war, despite the truce, which lasted for more than four years”. According to him, Azerbaijan is concerned about the fact that “Russia, being a co-chairperson of the Minsk OSCE group for Nagorno Karabakh, became simultaneously a military ally of Armenia”. Gulizade considers conclusion of this alliance while the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict is not resolved yet, to be extremely undesirable.
In the future military exercises with the Russian participation are also expected in the Black Sea. On September 23 preparation for the naval multinational exercise Sea Breeze-98 was completed in Prakticheskaya Bay (Odessa). Representatives of the staff of the Ukrainian Western Sea Area reported that this bay was cleaned from the “cemetery of ships” by the opening of the naval exercise, which will be organized within the framework of Partnership for Peace program, in which the ships of the NATO, Ukraine, USA, Greece, Great Britain, Italy, Turkey, France, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania and Russia will participate. The US Department of Defense financed the cleaning, preparation of moorage and staff buildings, having assigned some $400,000.
For the first time the naval multinational exercise Sea breeze-98 are organized near Odessa, and not in the Crimea, like it was done within the last two years. According to the scenario, in some “coastal republic” an earthquake occurred, and its authorities requested the UN for assistance. The ships, helicopters, aircraft, submarines and a united peacekeeping marines battalion will participate in the exercise. Representatives of the Ukrainian western Area staff reported that Ukraine would receive a double benefit from the exercise, which would last until November 4: it will maintain combat readiness of its troops and cleaned the Bay in Odessa.
Thus, despite the current crisis Russia tries to actively participate in the international peacekeeping programs, demonstrating its wish not to lose its positions in the CIS countries.