Co-ordinated test of strength
The Presidents of Belarus and Russia observe final stage of Zapad-2013 joint exercise
By Vasily Kharitonov
The Belarusian-Russian strategic joint army exercise Zapad-2013 (West-2013) took place from September 20th-26th on both Russian and Belarusian territory. This defensive exercise is designed to confirm Belarus’ policy aimed at building up regional security, and its adherence to its allied commitments with Russia.
The concept of the exercise envisaged a crisis situation and an unfolding conflict. The warring sides were located within real borders of Belarus and three adjacent regions of the Russian Federation.
The exercise consisted of two phases. The first focused on modernising approaches to using troops based on the experience of the armed conflicts of recent years, combat training measures, troop deployment and other methods that have been worked out by the Belarusian and Russian armies.
The practical part of the army exercise was held at six firing grounds in Belarus and Russia’s Kaliningrad Region. The tactical episodes were built around units of the Belarusian and Russian armies, which belong to the regional group of forces. During the war-games they worked together to safeguard and defend military sites, eliminate the enemy’s diversionary and recon units, as well as terrorist units, while also dealing with consequences that arose from man-made emergencies.
The exercises involved not only Belarusian and Russian military but also army units from Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan within the framework of the Interaction-2013 exercise of the Collective Rapid Response Forces of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.
The exercises on Belarusian soil involved around 12,900 military personnel: a little over 10,000 Belarusian military, about 2,500 Russian military and around 300 people from other CSTO member states). The joint exercise also deployed 350 armoured vehicles, including about 70 tanks, over 50 artillery units and MLRS and over 50 aircraft and helicopters. In the Russian based events, the Belarusian army was represented by about 200 soldiers from the 103rd Guards Separate Mobile Brigade. The firing range was also attended by foreign observers and military attaches who highly praised the joint exercise.
Upon arriving at the firing range in Gozhsky, which is located 15km from Grodno, the Belarusian Head of State went to an auxiliary command post of the regional group of forces. The President was informed about the schemes that had been developed and the strategic options the Belarusian and Russian military units could take to against an aggressor to the Union State of Belarus and Russia.
At the auxiliary command post of the 20th army of the Western Military District of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, the Belarusian President was made familiar with the general procedure for using the army as part of the regional group of forces during a rising threat of aggression. Alexander Lukashenko was also informed about the role of the Russian military in the regional group of forces, working in association with units of the Belarusian Armed Forces, border service agencies, and territorial troops during the special operation.
Then the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, arrived at the firing range, and the heads of the two states went to an observation post to watch how the combat operations transpired.
The firing range was used to practise interaction between the motorised infantry and mobile units of the Belarusian and Russian armed forces. These included territorial troops, internal troops of the Interior Ministry, the Emergency Ministry of Belarus, and units of attack planes and combat helicopters, as they carried out missions involving the protection of the state border, the search for, and elimination of, recon and diversion groups and illegally armed terrorist units.
After the exercise at the Gozhsky firing range, the Presidents went to Kaliningrad where the Khmelevka firing range hosted the final phase of the Zapad-2013 exercise.
The Heads of State observed an episode of the special joint operation carried out by the Baltic Fleet, the 1st Command of the Air Force and Air Defence of the Russian army and the 350th Independent Mobile Battalion of the 103rd Guards Separate Mobile Brigade for Special Operations of the Belarusian Armed Forces.
Belarusian and Russian army units carried out missions aiming to eliminate terrorist units, who had captured part of the shore that held small ‘populated communities’.
These makeshift communities had been built in Kaliningrad specifically for this exercise. Dozens of models of residential houses, schools and shopping centres had been erected, and the streets had been fitted with models of cars and armoured vehicles.
In accordance with the exercise’s concept, Belarusian special operations units worked together with the Russian army to storm the shore from a Mordovia hovercraft, where they entered the battle against the terrorists and destroyed them.
This is the first time the regional group has practiced the multi-service interaction of troops of the Russian and Belarusian armed forces, as well as units of the Russian Navy.
The State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus, Leonid Maltsev noted that the exercise was arranged for the sake of improving control systems and ways to deploy the armed forces. He underlined that the military exercises and the armed forces were not designed to wage wars, but to prevent them.