SouthFront: Russian Military Advisers in Syria/ Breedlove: Russia, Instability Threaten U.S., European Security Interests/ Russia’s Bastion systems and Onyx missiles block Barents and Black seas
When asked about Russian operations in Syria, most people would immediately mention the Russian fighter-bombers, attack aircraft, combat helicopters, and cruise missile volleys. Few would mention the quiet work behind the scenes that was performed by a large group of highly dedicated professionals who helped transform the Syrian military that was on the brink of defeat, into a force that could once again begin liberating Syria’s territory. Without denying the importance of the air campaign, the air strikes alone would not have turned the tide of the war.
When the Russian military began its intervention in Syria, the situation at the front demanded a rapid provision of specialized military support in order to offset the jihadist numerical superiority by superior firepower. That was quickly provided by supplying the Syrian Arab Army with T-90 tanks and TOS-1A self-propelled thermobaric rocket launchers which are highly effective at reducing fortifications.
However, in order to allow the Syrian army to resume the offensive, both its equipment and personnel would have to be replenished and retrained. Unfortunately, the Syrian military was in a state of serious neglect when the rebellion broke out, and large-scale combat operations quickly revealed this sad state of affairs. Much of its equipment was sidelined for lack of maintenance, units were understrengthed and short of specialist personnel. At the time, the Syrian soldiers were poorly trained, even ones assigned to crew sophisticated weapon systems like tanks and self-propelled artillery weapons. Equipment maintenance systems were sufficient to cope with peacetime demands, but quickly broke down as soon as the Syrian military attempted large-scale operations. Syrian military’s large pool of equipment also created an attitude of neglect toward maintenance and evacuation of damaged machines.
To help, the Russian Ministry of Defense utilized the Syrian Express supply route to send a large number of T-72B tanks, BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, and rocket artillery weapons to Syria. Russian advisers then got to work training Syrian troops both on the use of the new vehicles and operating them as part of tactical combat teams. Even more equipment found its way into the Syrian units thanks to Russian specialists restoring Syria’s armored vehicle repair workshops, which quickly returned hundreds of broken-down or long-term storage armored vehicles to service. Syria’s air force returned to the skies thanks to Russian specialists and timely deliveries of spare parts.
The Russian advisers also established training courses for the specialist personnel without which no military can effectively conduct large-scale operations, such as logisticians, communications experts and, equally important, operational planners. This work is, of course, not without danger, given the terrorists’ ability to strike in almost any part of Syria. One Russian adviser was killed in Latakia province in unknown circumstances.
The Russian advisers also serve as de-facto diplomats, whose presence is necessary to ensure the capability of pro-government forces which include recently recruited tribal and regional militias and even former opposition forces working smoothly together. For example, it is difficult to imagine the Kurds and the Syrian military cooperating effectively without Russian intermediation.
For all these efforts, the situation in Syria still remains critical. Syrian forces’ problems have not been fully resolved, and ISIS and other jihadist forces are capable of launching local counter-attacks, as they recently did at Khanasser, because government forces are not large enough to properly defend the lengthy front lines against all the rebel factions. However, the trend is in a positive direction. The January fighting in Salma was a demonstration of the Russian efforts to train complete battalion task forces of the Syrian army to conduct offensive operations. It was the first operation carried out by one of the new Russian-trained battalions. Since the training program was launched in October, it would appear that the training cycle lasts 3 months before the unit is sent into the front lines, and more such units have been joining the fray recently and turning the tide of the war. The opposition’s newly discovered willingness to negotiate is entirely due to their belated recognition that the balance of forces has been shifting against them.
Would the world be safer if a certain NATO general had been strangled at birth? Inquiring minds want to know.
By Lisa FerdinandoDoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, February 25, 2016 — Russia and instability on Europe’s southern flank pose serious threats to U.S. and European security interests, the commander of U.S. forces in Europe said today.
The complex security situation in Europe “has only grown more serious and more complicated” in recent months, said Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, and commander of U.S. European Command.
Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee on security challenges in Europe, Breedlove outlined challenges ranging from a “resurgent, aggressive” Russia, mass migration of refugees, and the threat of terrorism from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Because of these challenges, the general said, tailored, supportable increases in capabilities are needed, as called for in the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2017 budget request.
“Eucom is standing firm to meet this array of challenges,” he told the panel, adding that European allies are willing, capable partners.
“The U.S. and NATO must take a 360-degree approach to security — addressing the full-spectrum of security challenges from any direction and [ensuring] we are using all elements of our nation’s power,” Breedlove’s written testimony said.
Russia Poses Threat
Russia has “chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat” to the United States and U.S. allies and partners in Europe, he told lawmakers.
Russia wants to “rewrite” the agreed rules of the international order, he said.
“To counter Russia, Eucom, working with allies and partners, is deterring Russia now and preparing to fight and win if necessary,” he said.
Russia is eager to exert unquestioned influence over its neighboring states to create a buffer zone, the general said, adding, “Russia is extending its course of influence yet further afield to try to reestablish a leading role on the world stage.”
Despite what he described as Russian pronouncements to the contrary, Russia has done little to counter ISIL in Syria, Breedlove said. Instead, Moscow has done a “great deal to bolster the Assad regime and its allies,” he remarked.
Russian involvement in Syria has “wildly exacerbated the problem,” changing the dynamic in the air and on the ground, he said.
“Russia and the Assad regime are deliberately weaponizing migration from Syria in an attempt to overwhelm European structures and break European resolve,” he said.
Terrorism, Humanitarian Challenge
ISIL is “spreading like a cancer” and has expanded its operations throughout the Eucom area of responsibility, Breedlove said. It is threatening European nations and the U.S. with terrorist attacks, he added.
The terrorist group’s “brutality is driving millions to flee from Syria and Iraq, creating an almost unprecedented humanitarian challenge,” he added.
More than 1 million refugees or economic migrants arrived in Europe last year, fleeing Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of Africa, according to Breedlove’s written testimony. There is concern that terrorists might look to recruit from within the population of refugees, he said.
Terrorists have attacked Europeans and European interests in North Africa, and ISIL might pose a greater threat to Europe if terrorists achieve a safe haven in Libya or elsewhere in North Africa, Breedlove told the committee.
European Reassurance Initiative
The general highlighted the importance of continued congressional support for the European Reassurance Initiative, which he said counters Russian aggression and other threats.
“This year’s budget request reflects our solemn commitment to the security of our allies and partners and to protecting our homeland forward,” he said.
The request seeks to quadruple funding for the initiative to $3.4 billion, Breedlove noted.
The funding for the European Reassurance Initiative, he said, would provide more rotational forces, increase training with allies and partners, increase key position war-fighting equipment in theater, increase the capacities of allies and partners, and improve the requisite supporting infrastructure.
“Together the tools [the initiative] would provide would send a clear and visible message to all audiences of our strong will and resolve,” Breedlove said. “Our further efforts to assure, deter and defend, supported by [the European Reassurance Initiative, would complement those of the entire whole-of-government team.”
The Northern Fleet of the Russian Federation has deployed two batteries of state-of-the-art K-300P “Bastion” coastal missile systems with supersonic cruise missiles P-800 “Onyx” on the Kola Peninsula. The appearance of these weapons ensures the protection of 1,500 kilometers of the Russian coast from possible landing attacks and creates a 300-kilometer “dead zone” for NATO ships in the Barents Sea.
“Bastion” (NATO reporting name SS-C-05 Stooge) is one of the latest know-hows of the Russian army. The weapon was unveiled to the public for the first time in a documentary by Andrei Kondrashov “Crimea. The Way Home.”
Commenting on the appearance of the complex in the documentary, Russian President Vladimir Putin proudly stated: “No one else has this weapon.”
According to him, it was “Bastion” that stopped both the United States and NATO from deploying their warships in the Black Sea.
In addition, the appearance of the Russian system in the Syrian army also prevented a possible intervention of US and NATO navies in the civil war in Syria.
The Pentagon and the EU did not risk to send their ships to the Syrian coast because of the danger of being attacked by the weapon that can overcome all modern air defense systems, the Izvestia newspaper wrote.
One battery of “Bastion” complex consists of 12 launchers on the basis of the Belarus-made tractor MZKT-7930, the body of which houses two transport-launch containers with supersonic anti-ship “Onyx” cruise missiles. Each missile carries a 290-kilogram warhead. The warhead was developed by engineers of the nuclear center in Sarov.
Although this is an just an ordinary bomb, only two or three P-800 “Onyx” missiles will be enough to sink a frigate class ship . Five “Onyx” missiles can sink an aircraft carrier. The complex is out of reach for deck aircraft as it is deployed at considerable distances from the coastline. It takes only five minutes to deploy the system. When deployed, the complex is ready for use immediately and remains fully operational for up to five days, depending on fuel stocks.
A P-800 missile develops the speed that makes it practically invisible for modern radars. In addition, the missile performs intensive maneuvers as it approaches the target. It can thus be noticeable at the time when doing something to intercept the missile is already impossible. To crown it all, this supersonic missile flies just a few meters above the water surface as it approaches the target. The missiles maneuver actively changing the direction of the flight to confuse enemy radar stations. Most importantly, the missiles work together.
Spokespeople for the Engineering Corporation in Reutov, where the missiles were created, said that P-800 missiles were endowed with artificial intelligence akin to human intelligence. The missiles classify and distribute targets themselves; they choose the tactics and the plan for the attack to destroy the target.
Vice President of the Russian Academy of Geopolitical Problems Vladimir Anokhin told Pravda.Ru that Russia has been using Bastion systems in the Black Sea for a long time already. Captains of US Navy warships, when they enter the Black Sea, know that they find themselves in the zone of the Russian anti-ship systems. “Figuratively speaking, they see a sight mark on their foreheads. The fact that Russia has strengthened the defense group in the Barents Sea comes absolutely local against the background of NATO’s actions in recent years,” the expert said.
Vladimir Anokhin believes that Russia should take similar measures in the Far East. According to our expert, it would make Japanese, South Korean and, possibly, American politicians, nervous.
“There is no arms race, – said Anokhin. – There is an adequate response to what is happening in the world.” Pravda.Ru
Read article on the Russian version of Pravda.Ru