It seems like you won’t surprise anyone with large-scale military exercises of the Russian army – they are held regularly. Moreover, every time it is very resonant – “Kavkaz-2020” and “West-2021” are still on everyone’s lips. This year will not be an exception, in the scenario of which the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation has prescribed tens of thousands of military exercises of various levels. Chief among them will be “Thunder” and “East”.
It is assumed that the command-staff exercises “Thunder” with the participation of all three components of the strategic nuclear forces (SNF) of the Russian Federation, which are also called the “nuclear triad”, which includes the Strategic Missile Forces, naval strategic forces and strategic aviation, will be held in early 2022. They have not yet been officially announced by the Ministry of Defense, they were previously held in December – at the end of the academic year for the Armed Forces, however, January is quite suitable for these time frames. The fact that these exercises will certainly take place, said the Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu at an expanded meeting of the collegium of the military department on December 21 last year. He didn’t announce the timeframe – the “nuclear triad” will shoot at the appointed time. Maybe even tomorrow.
It is likely that Russia may postpone Thunder for some time in connection with the adoption of a joint statement by the leaders of the five nuclear powers on preventing a nuclear war and preventing an arms race. It was signed by the permanent members of the UN Security Council – Russia, Great Britain, China, the United States and France. However, such an agreement does not in the least interfere with the conduct of exercises of any level, including the use of strategic nuclear forces, for Moscow.
It can be noted (with reference to the official website of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation) that in the Strategic Missile Forces in 2022 it is planned to conduct more than 200 exercises of various levels, with the maximum involvement of military units and divisions of strategic missile divisions. The most ambitious will be “missile games” with the participation of the Yasnensky and Novosibirsk formations, which will be held under the control of the Strategic Missile Forces command commission. It is likely that new mobile ground missile systems (PGRK) RS-24 Yars, as well as ballistic missiles Avangard and Sarmat, will also be involved in the exercises.
The Thunder exercise is a separate topic in the combat training of strategic nuclear forces. In the course of these nuclear maneuvers, the practical actions of calculating the launchers of the Strategic Missile Forces, the crews of the strategic missile carriers of the long-range aviation of the Aerospace Forces and the nuclear missile submarine of the Northern Fleet are being worked out. Many are baptized with such a “Thunder” – Russia is testing the full potential of its nuclear triad. The level of these exercises is also emphasized by the fact that they are led (for sure last year) by the President Vladimir Putin… In his hands is that notorious “nuclear suitcase”, by pressing a button in which you can destroy half the world. Actually, this is his prerogative, as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, who will decide whether the missile launches will be training or real.
Such “drills,” as the Ministry of Defense calls strategic missile launches, is not some kind of sudden demonstration of nuclear power. Some publications, primarily Western ones, called the past exercises “Thunder-2019” and “Thunder-2020” “a rehearsal of a general nuclear war.” Then, about 12 thousand servicemen, 213 launchers of the Strategic Missile Forces, up to 105 aircraft, up to 15 surface ships and 5 submarines, 310 units of military and special equipment were involved in the exercises.
There were 16 launches of ballistic and cruise missiles. In 2021, “Thunder” did not break out – it was postponed to the beginning of 2022. It must be assumed that the level of SNF exercises will be no less extensive, with the involvement of all components of the nuclear triad.
Another large-scale exercise planned in the Russian army this year is Vostok-2022, which is scheduled for September. They will involve units and formations of the Eastern Military District, ships and submarines of the Pacific Fleet, as well as a number of units of other Russian military districts and strategic aviation aircraft of the Aerospace Forces. The scale of the maneuvers promises to be no less impressive than the Vostok-2018 exercise, which became the most ambitious in Russia after 1981, when the Warsaw Pact countries were “jabbering” for training purposes in the USSR and Eastern Europe.
The current composition of the participants in the Vostok-2022 exercises, preparation for which began last year, has not been announced, it is known that units of the army combined-arms army will take part in them. There are four of them in the VVO: 5th in Ussuriisk, 29th in Chita, 35th in Belogorsk, Amur Region, 36th in Ulan-Ude. It is likely that the 68th Army Corps, parts of which are deployed in Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, will also be involved in the exercises. With a high degree of probability, airborne units will take part in the maneuvers – the 85th and 11th separate airborne assault brigades from Ussuriysk and Ulan-Ude, reconnaissance formations and units, units of the Coastal Forces, Naval Aviation of the Aerospace Forces and units and formations of district subordination. The participation of foreign contingents in the exercises “Vostok-2022” was announced on the eve of the New Year by the Chief of the General Staff of the RF Armed Forces, General of the Army Valery Gerasimov… It will definitely not do without Chinese soldiers.
Exercises “Vostok-2022” definitely do not threaten Ukraine, which was actively panicking about the military maneuvers of the Russian and Belarusian armies “West-2021”. Kiev persistently expected that they would spill over to their territory and stirred up the whole of Europe, and at the same time the United States, with the assumptions about the imminent “invasion” of Moscow. This year, large-scale maneuvers of the RF Armed Forces, and even with the participation of PLA units, are more irritating to Japan, and at the same time the United States, which are noticeably losing their positions in the Pacific region. At the same time, the Ministry of Defense insistently emphasizes that all exercises of the Russian army, including Vostok-2022, will be exclusively of a peacekeeping and anti-terrorist orientation.
It is the participation of Chinese military personnel in Russian military exercises that causes a nervous tic in the United States. If the “Russian bear” unites with the “Chinese dragon”, then the “American eagle” will obviously not be in good luck, and in Washington, the possibility of a military alliance between Moscow and Beijing is alarming. “If you do not stop the rapprochement between China and Russia, then the American global leadership will have to go through difficult times, not excluding participation in a global military conflict,” the American media write.
In addition to military-technical cooperation between Russia and China, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the PLA (People’s Liberation Army of China) have long-standing ties and contacts at the level of joint exercises. The largest representation of Chinese military personnel was at the Vostok-2018 exercises. More than three thousand PLA servicemen, as well as 900 pieces of equipment, 30 planes and helicopters of the Chinese army, arrived in the Trans-Baikal Territory at the Tsugol training ground to participate in joint maneuvers. Earlier, in 2017, the Russian-Chinese naval exercises in the Baltic and Pacific Ocean “Sea Interaction” were held. And, as was then stated, the entire Chinese fleet, whose ships were in the Mediterranean, in the event of US aggression in Syria, will come under the command of the Russian Navy.
Joint Russian-Chinese exercises were also conducted at the end of December 2020 – a pair of Russian and four Chinese strategic missile carriers conducted joint patrols over the waters of the Japan and East China Seas. Their essence was quite clearly explained by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergei Lavrov. “If we talk about the military situation in the region, yes, we are engaged in joint work with the PRC, including in the form of military exercises. The Russian-Chinese exercises are far from something fundamentally new – they were held in the land version several times, in the SCO format, and in the bilateral format. Now the exercises were carried out by the aerospace forces. They are not directed against Japan, they are simply called upon to ensure the combat readiness of aviation, which ensures the security of the borders of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China, “the minister said at the time.
In addition to the large-scale exercises “Thunder” and “Vostok”, as well as numerous exercises of the company and battalion level, the Armed Forces will take part in 10 joint international exercises in 2022 with units of the national armies of foreign states. Outside Russia, six joint maneuvers will be held – Russian-Algerian, Russian-Sri Lankan, Russian-Laotian, Russian-Pakistani, joint exercises with units of the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces of the Central Asian region, exercises with the CSTO Peacekeeping Forces.
At the training grounds of the military districts of Russia, it is planned to conduct four bilateral exercises: the Russian-Indian interspecific exercises “Indra-2022”, the Russian-Mongolian “Selenga-2022”, the Russian-Egyptian “Arrow of Friendship-2022”, as well as the Russian-Vietnamese military exercise. During these maneuvers, the issues of joint planning of military operations, the procedure for interaction between representatives of the headquarters and units of the participating countries, as well as tactical actions to neutralize conditional illegal armed formations will be worked out.
The geography of the Russian military exercises planned for 2022 together with the armies of the partner countries, as well as the Vostok-2022 exercises themselves, shows the “vector of attack” of Russia. This, in addition to the Far East, also the Pacific, Central Asian and North African regions, where the “hand of Moscow” has not reached in recent years. Now the influence is noticeably expanding – the military maneuvers themselves in this process are not dominant, only cooperation in the military-technical sphere is being established. As opposed to the US dominance policy.