Joint Security Hub for EaP

The New Geopolitics Research Network Director Mykhailo Samus spoke at the hearing in Subcommittee on Security and Defence of  the European Parliament on the topic “Security in the Eastern Partnership area: the impact of Russian military doctrine, force posture and capability development” and proposed to create Joint Security Hub for EaP in Ukraine.

Main points of the speech:

First of all – military threat for Ukraine creating by Russia is now real and is even higher than in 2014-2015.

It`s real preparation for different types of operations including full scale offensive operation against Ukraine on several directions.

To be clear, Russia was building military forces and military infrastructure around Ukraine since 2014 after occupation Crimea and part of Donbas. In 2017-2018 Russia has completed to develop 3 new Armies (1st tank army, 20th army, 8th  army – which is conducting command and control, personnel and weapons supplying and comprehensive logistics for occupation forces in Donbas) and strong combined occupation forces group in occupied Crimea.

What is important all of these forces were provided with modern air and land components, electronic warfare systems, missiles systems and C2 together with new logistics and maintenance of the forces. Together they have approximately 300 missiles (100 Iskander around Ukrainian border and 200 cruise missiles at the Black Sea Fleet platforms in occupied Crimea).

Additionally, we can speak about Regional Group of Troops of Union of Russia and Belarus, acts with unified plan and unified command. In fact Belarus Armed Forces will be the 1st echelon of joint group of force together with Russian Western military district in case of military operation.

That was totally confirmed during last strategic exercise Zapad-2021, when Russia started to deploy own forces on Belarus territory. Russia announced that the Air forces of Russia and Belarus will begin joint air-defense missions on the Belarus territory. In addition, Belarus and Russia have agreed to establish three shared combat-training centers within the framework of the bilateral Strategic Partnership Program for 2021–2025. One of these facilities, a joint combat training center of the Air Force and Air-Defense Forces, will be located on the territory of Belarus, in Grodno region. Besides, it was officially announced that Russia and Belarus will deploy joint SIGINT and ELINT posts on Belarus border with Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine.

What is important, during Zapad 2021 Russian and Belarus troops tried to conduct different types of network centric operations by itself and act against enemies which use network centric warfare approach.

Russian Forces in Transnistrian region of Republic of Moldova could play own role in the offensive operations against Ukraine, especially in support of Russian marines landing operations by Russian Forces on the Ukrainian Black Sea coast. As well as Russian special forces and secret services operations in South regions of Ukraine.

Now, couple details on the analysis of the current Russian military activities shows an increasing threat of Russia’s use of military force.

Russia deployed approximately 110 thousand troops close to Ukrainian border now. All of these forces have clear offensive and not defensive formation. And they are ready to conduct offensive operations on 6-7 directions simultaneously including occupied Crimea.

After analysis of huge Russian exercises in April-May, strategic exercise Zapad 2021 in September and last Russian exercises in occupied Crimea in October, I can conclude that the most probable scenario for Russia now is to find the proper time and conditions inside of Ukraine (political and economic destabilization kind of 2014) and conduct very fast and intensive operation from occupied Crimea with the main goal to occupy new territories in the Southern Ukraine to close exit to the see, create land corridor from Russia to occupied Crimea and seize infrastructure for water supplying to occupied Crimea. This fast operation most probably will be conducted by new types of airborne units and marine corps units.

During massive military exercises next to Ukrainian borders in April-May of this year we`ve found that Russia sent to occupied Crimea several airborne units and some of them didn`t return to Russian territory.

Russia deployed in Crimea 2000 airborne troops of 7 airborne assault division from Novorosiysk, several units of the 76 airborne assault division from Pskov.

But the most important that during this exercise Russia has sent to Crimea for permanent deployment all of units of 56 airborne assault brigade from Volgograd oblast to Feodosiya. We have information that this brigade is now in the process of transformation to airborne assault regiment of new type – so called light airmobile units equipped with light armor vehicles and helicopters as a main instrument for airborne operations. These new types light airborne units should conduct very fast operations for vertical envelopment of the theater, based on the network centric warfare principles.

Together with new light air borne units this operation could support marine corps units from Crimea. During April-May this year 2 large landing ships from Russian Baltic fleet, 2 large landing ships from Russian Northern fleet, and 8 small landing ships from the Caspian Flotilla arrived to Crimea and never get back to their origin places of service.

For now, these landing ships together with Black Sea fleet ships (7 (11) large landing ships and 5 (13) small landing ships) can conduct of landing operation with approx 5000 marines with up to 230 armor vehicles.

Additionally, Russia is ready to close exit of Ukraine to the sea and blockade Ukrainian commercial lines of maritime communications. Which is a huge threat for Ukrainian economy.

Forecast: most probably Russia won`t start new military actions against Ukraine before favorable conditions and time. The most important factor now is political and economical destabilization in Ukraine (kind of 2014) and inability of Ukrainian state and military leadership to provide effective command and control under intensive hybrid attacks by Russia.

Now couple of words on the Eastern Partnership area regarding the situation.

In my opinion, EaP cooperation with the EU in the security sphere today unfortunately is not systematic enough, focusing mainly on civilian security aspects, and is rather limited in the defence sector.

The main problem here is a different threat perception and motivations in security sphere not only between EU and EaP but between different countries inside of EU and inside of EaP. In EaP we have an absolutely clear division for two groups: Association Trio (Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine) with clear ambitions for integration to EU, and other countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus which don`t have strong intentions for cooperation with EU. It`s even difficult to say that Belarus is a partner of EU now.

Sure and obvious: EaP (let`s talk here about Association Trio, first of all) has to do a lot in internal reforms and fighting corruption.

Thus, cooperation with EU is one of the most effective instruments for providing reforms in EoP security sector.

But I think it`s not enough now in current situation and conditions.

EU strategic leadership and pro-active responsibility for development of the situation in the Eastern Partnership security space could be a new impulse not only for this project but for more stable region.

I`d like to say about potential positive example: EU is considering on the creating of the EU Military Advisory and Training Mission in Ukraine (EUATM).

That could be a real step ahead not only in security cooperation between EU and Ukraine but with all Eastern partnership countries. On the basis of this EU Training Mission it`s possible to create a special hub or framework for exchanging of the experience between EU countries and EaP members in the hybrid warfare, disinformation, national resilience, cyber security and other security issues.

So my recommendation how to boost EaP in security domain, which could also to be a positive factor for stable region.

Lets` start to make small but concrete and very practical steps with countries that are ready for it – obviously its Association Trio. New Joint Security Hub for EaP in Ukraine on the base of the future EU Military Advisory and Training Mission could become a security hub for this new impulse.

Sure, we need to attract other countries of EaP for more intensive cooperation in security field – but with an individual approach for Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Belarus.

Mykhailo Samus

NGRN Director

After 20 years in media as well as in security and defence analysis and consultancy, Mykhailo is an experienced researcher in the sphere of international relations, national resilience and new generation warfare. Served 12 years in the Ukrainian Armed Forces, he gained his Master’s Degree in International Journalism from the Institute of Journalism, Kyiv Shevchenko National University (2007). Having started his career as a journalist at Defense Express, he became the Editor-in-Chief of the Export Control Newsletter magazine, and then the Deputy Director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies.

He was the founder (2009) of the EU CACDS office in Prague (Czech Republic), and was responsible for the coordination of CACDS international activities, its regional sections, and projects with NATO and the EU. Mykhailo also was the member of the editorial border of the CACDS Analytical Bulletin Challenges and Risks.

Now Mykhailo is a chief and one the drivers of new international project – The New Geopolitics Research Network which is an independent and nonpartisan initiative to provide a think tank platform for researchers, academics, experts, journalists, intellectuals who aspire to shape a new facets of geopolitics.

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