A new round of militarization of the North Caucasus

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A moratorium on observance of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty coincided in Russia with formation of two mountain mechanized infantry brigades of the Ground Forces in the south of the country. By December 1, the brigades received combat flags as official symbols and military reliquiae being an “embodiment of honor, valor, glory and combat traditions” and historic records of service. According to Andrei Bobrun, aide to the Commander of the North Caucasian Military District, “The Brigades were organized in accordance with the presidential decree of June 30 of 2006. Supply of the brigades with armament, military hardware and materiel was fully accomplished by now.” The brigades are based in Botlikh in Dagestan (252 kilometers to the southwest of Makhachkala) and Zelenzhukskaya in Karachay-Cherkessia (75 kilometers to the west of Cherkessk).

For the first time, President Vladimir Putin spoke about a need to organize mountain brigades in the North Caucasus in 2004 when he issued a relevant instruction to the Defense Ministry. During his trip to Dagestan in May of 2005, Putin pointed out that the mountain brigades were necessary for “coverage of the state border” and “it is necessary to man, arm and accommodate them.” Along with this, “accommodation of the mountain brigades should be connected with development of infrastructure and solving of economic problems of the region.”

In March of 2007, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov reported to the Commander-in-Chief that his ministry planned to man and accommodate the 33rd and 34th separate mechanized infantry brigades by December 1 of 2007. Serdyukov added, “Their overall strength will amount to 4,566 servicemen.”

Bobrun stressed, “The ceremony of handing combat flags over to the mountain brigades took place in the permanent bases with participation of Commander of the North Caucasian Military District, Army General Alexander Baranov and marked readiness of the brigades for provision of security of Russia in the North Caucasian region. Simultaneously, the brigades began preplanned combat training according to a special program in the framework of a new training year.”

Overall, according to Bobrun, 120 objects were put into operation in the permanent bases of the brigades in Zelenzhukskaya and Botlikh including ten hostels for contract soldiers and sergeants, 15 houses and two hostels for officers and warrant officers. A developed infrastructure was created including all vital objects from boiler houses and water intakes to cultural and leisure centers and swimming pools. Officers and warrant officers received fully furnished apartments. Contract soldiers and sergeants live in hotels with three people in one room. Two modern schools and two kindergartens were opened for children of servicemen on September 1.

Thus, the Defense Ministry observed the deadline indicated by the President. The group of forces in the North Caucasus was refilled with two new combat ready formations. At present, 70% of troops of the North Caucasian Military District are in the state of permanent readiness. The district has the biggest quantity of military units manned with professionals. Against the background of population of 22 million people the military district has the biggest quantity of formations manned with contract servicemen and their overall strength amounts to 45,700 people. Just compare: the Moscow Military District has population exceeding 40 million people but only 15,000 contract servicemen.

Incidentally, all military units in Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and Karachay-Cherkessia are fully professional. Mostly Slavic people recruited in the central regions of Russia serve there.

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