Central District Short Blanket
The military equipment of the Central Military District is not enough to repel likely threats
About the author: Alexander Anatolyevich Khramchikhin - Deputy Director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis.
The Central Military District (headquartered in Yekaterinburg) is the largest in the country in terms of area of responsibility. It exceeds 7 million square km (more than Australia), stretching from the Volga to Lake Baikal.
The grouping of the ground forces of the district (including the Airborne Forces) includes one military base, one tank division, six motorized rifle (including one mountain), one airborne assault, two special forces, two missile, two artillery, one MLRS, three anti-aircraft missile, one engineering, one communications, one electronic warfare, three battle management, two MTO brigades, two RChBZ brigades plus two RChBZ and two engineering regiments.
The group is armed with 24 Iskander missile launchers, about 300 tanks (T-72 and possibly T-90), more than 700 BMP-2 and BMD-2M, more than 400 BTR-80/82A, up to 50 MTLB , at least 250 self-propelled guns, up to 150 towed guns and mortars, about 150 MLRS, up to 100 self-propelled anti-tank systems and anti-tank systems MT-12, two divisions of S-300V air defense systems and nine divisions of Buk air defense missile systems, more than 100 short-range air defense systems and Tunguska air defense systems ".
In addition, a significant amount of equipment is in storage, given the fact that there are three central tank reserve bases on the territory of the Central Military District. Each of them has thousands of armored vehicles, though not always in a combat-ready state.
As part of the aviation group of the 14th Air Army of the Central Military District, as well as the Long-Range Aviation and Military Transport Aviation Commands, there are seven air regiments, one air base, an army aviation brigade and a helicopter regiment in the Central Military District. It is armed with about 100 bombers, attack aircraft and reconnaissance aircraft, about 50 MiG-31B interceptors, up to 100 transport and passenger aircraft, 30 Mi-24P attack helicopters, at least 50 Mi-8 multi-purpose helicopters, 5 Mi-26 transport helicopters.
The ground air defense grouping includes seven anti-aircraft missile regiments. Although the Central Military District accounts for the vast coastline of the Arctic Ocean, it does not include the forces and means of the Navy and Arctic units.
Given the size of the district, the available amount of weapons and equipment is completely insufficient for its defense. The situation is aggravated by the fact that most of this technology is seriously outdated (the only exceptions are the BTR-82A, the Chrysanthemum-S ATGM, some ground-based air defense systems and, in part, the 2S19 ACS).
A mitigating factor is the size of the territory, which is almost uninhabited in the north. Enemy air attack weapons (except for American and Chinese ICBMs, MRBMs and SLBMs) simply will not reach many of the district's targets. It is because of the "central" location of the region that most of the ground component of the Russian strategic nuclear forces is deployed here: more than half of the strategic aviation, two of the three missile armies (9 out of 12 missile divisions) of the Strategic Missile Forces.
Despite the favorable geographical position, the Central Military District, especially its Ural-Siberian part, requires a radical quantitative and qualitative strengthening. And not due to the weakening of other districts, but due to the formation of new units and formations, receiving not old equipment from warehouses, but the latest from factories.
Unfortunately, so far the trends are rather opposite. The Central Military District is the last to receive new equipment, and its grouping is gradually "drifting" westward. From Siberia, connections are relocated to the Urals and the Volga region. First of all, due to the formations of the Central Military District, the ZVO grouping is formed on the border with Ukraine. Its creation is necessary, but the Central Military District must receive compensation.
Due to its geographical location, the Central Military District should be a reserve for the rest of the districts and the closest rear for the military military district. New equipment should come here not last, but first of all, in order to be tested in polygon conditions. For example, it would be quite natural to transfer the first serial "Armata" to the 90th Panzer Division in Chebarkul, especially since it is very close to the manufacturing plant. Alas, so far everything is quite the opposite.
There can be two potential wars in the Central Military District's area of responsibility. They talk about one for a long time and regularly, about the other they are deafeningly silent.
The Russian military campaign in Syria was launched primarily in order to stop the expansion of radical Islam as far as possible from the Russian borders. There is another geographic area where Moscow may have to fight a war with similar goals. In the short term, this is generally the most likely war for Russia.
It is already clear that the Afghan campaign of the United States and its allies has failed, the Afghan Armed Forces alone are not capable of defending the country. Apparently, the United States will surrender Afghanistan to the Taliban, considering them the lesser of evils in comparison with the "Islamic Caliphate" (banned in the Russian Federation - "NVO"). It is difficult to say whether the Taliban themselves will begin expansion to the north. The Taliban is a movement (banned in the Russian Federation - NVO), mainly Pashtun, they do not like to operate in ethnically alien areas. But Islamists from the countries of Central Asia are able to "take root" on the territory of Afghanistan. Having received combat training in Afghanistan, they will carry "knowledge and experience" home.
Despite the ideological similarity, the Taliban are at war with the Islamic Caliphate. For the latter, expansion is a way of being. Central Asia and Afghanistan for him are a single "vilayat Khorasan". The Taliban will most likely simply push the “caliphate” to the north, that is, the expansion of the latter into Central Asia will happen automatically. It will take place in the form of infiltration of small sabotage and terrorist groups designed to "wake up" the "sleeping cells" of like-minded people that exist in all Central Asian countries.
Members of the "sleeping cells" can be representatives of a wide variety of segments of the population, including businessmen, officials and security agencies. As a result, it is completely unclear where the "front line" will be. It is clear that the radicals will not observe the state borders. On the contrary, they will deliberately break them, creating in practice "wilayat Khorasan".
Russia will not be able to stay on the sidelines not even because of its obligations under the CSTO, but because of the same considerations for which it launched the Syrian campaign. It is better to lose 200 servicemen in the south of Central Asia than 20 thousand military and civilians in the Volga region, the Urals and Siberia, if radicals break through there. The main problem will be on whose side will be a tangible part of the civilian population and security forces of the Central Asian countries. For one part of the region's population, the Russian military will be the defenders, for another part - the occupiers.
On the part of the RF Armed Forces at the initial stage of the conflict, the Airborne Forces and front-line strike aviation will certainly be involved. It is impossible to answer now whether their potential will be enough to solve the problem or significantly reduce its severity. This answer depends primarily on the reaction of the local population, which will be different in different countries of Central Asia.
If it becomes necessary to transfer tank and infantry units and formations to Central Asia, this will mean the development of the conflict according to the most unfavorable scenario, reminiscent of “our” Afghan war (“Afghan Lesson for Russia”, “NVO”, 06.04.18). If the Russian troops begin to incur significant losses in people and equipment, the analogy will become quite obvious and completely unpleasant.
At the same time, Russia cannot simply admit defeat and leave. If only because in a few years at most we will have to wage the same war on our own territory. Therefore, there may be a variant of retreat from the southern countries of Central Asia, which do not have borders with us, with the simultaneous deployment of a military grouping on the southern border of Kazakhstan, which will have to be defended as our own.
However, this "obvious" war seems like "flowers" in comparison with the one about which it is customary to keep silent.
The Chinese are moving to Central Asia very actively ("Beijing goes on the offensive", "NVO", 11/16/18). The invasion is being conducted in economic and demographic ways. Military expansion is likely to be overkill. Or it will look peaceful too: in Tajikistan, military facilities of the PLA, apparently, already exist now - with the consent of official Dushanbe.
But no options can be ruled out. At least Kazakhstan may be ready to resist. Or Beijing, for some internal reason, wants to speed up the process. And then the likelihood of an openly military scenario will arise.
In the event of an invasion of Central Asia by Chinese troops, Moscow will find itself in a difficult situation. All countries of the region bordering on the PRC are members of the CSTO, that is, Russia is legally obliged to protect them in the event of external aggression. In addition, the seizure of Central Asia by China and the PLA's access to the Russian-Kazakh border from Astrakhan to Barnaul will become a complete geopolitical disaster for Russia. On the other hand, you don't want to fight China at all, especially if it did not attack you.
Nevertheless, refusing to defend at least Kazakhstan will become a delayed geopolitical suicide for Russia, and a very short delay. If Moscow has at least the instinct for self-preservation, it will have to fight. To try to avoid an escalation of the conflict, it will be possible to officially declare that the RF Armed Forces will conduct hostilities only in the territories of the Central Asian countries and will not be the first to strike at the territory of the PRC.
It is quite obvious that the PLA grouping only of the Western Command and the Xinjiang Military District is much stronger than the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan and the Central Military District and the Airborne Forces of Russia combined (the Kyrgyz and Tajik armies can be neglected). On the side of the latter - only the terrain. Terrain conditions allow organizing a sufficiently strong defense and inflicting tangible losses on the aggressor. And if the Kazakh army is only able to detain the enemy on its eastern border, then with Russian help it is possible to grasp the mountain passes on this border seriously. Further, the main role will be played by logistics, the ability of the parties to build up forces in the theater of operations through the transfer of reinforcements. For both Russia and China, this problem will be difficult due to the large distances.
Even if Moscow and Beijing initially agree to fight only in Central Asia, without touching the territories of the PRC and the Russian Federation, Russia will not be able to transfer military-military units to Kazakhstan. This is inconvenient in terms of transport and unacceptable from a safety point of view. If Moscow removes its troops from the Far East, Beijing will immediately "forget" about the original agreement, and this will be a disaster for us. Therefore, the grouping in Kazakhstan can be strengthened by the troops of the Western Military District and, to a lesser extent, the Southern Military District.
There is no need to be afraid of being stabbed in the back by NATO. Not because NATO members are noble, and even more so not because they will be on our side, but because they are weak and cowardly. But it is better not to touch the grouping on the border with Ukraine until the last opportunity.
The human resources of China are endless, but the number of military equipment is finite. Therefore, it is very difficult to contain the PLA offensive in the border regions of Kazakhstan, but it is possible. If this succeeds, Beijing will have to admit defeat. And if the PLA breaks into the operational space of the Kazakh steppes, Moscow will have to admit defeat, since it will have nothing more to cling to on the territory of Kazakhstan (except for the borders of the Irtysh rivers in the northeast and the Ural in the northwest). The first option will be painful for Beijing, but not disastrous. The second option will be a disaster for Moscow.
However, the losing side may not want to admit defeat. And it will escalate by striking enemy territory. This almost automatically means a full-scale war, at the end of which an exchange of nuclear strikes is seen.
Of course, neither Moscow nor Beijing needs this. But most wars in history have not been needed by either side. Nevertheless, they began. And then they ended very sadly. At least for one of the parties, and more often for all.