Is Russia Building-up for an Upcoming Military Confrontation With NATO?

3 years ago




The Spanish newspaper El Confidencial revealed a scenario for the initial Russian moves in the eastern regions of the European Union in case the military confrontation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was decided.

It added that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken publicly warned Russia on November 10, 2021, not to make a "fatal mistake" by escalating its war against Ukraine, with continuous news of Russian military buildups ready to fight in Eastern Europe.

The atmosphere between Russia and Ukraine has been tense since the crisis that erupted in 2014 when Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula and backed separatists fighting in mostly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

On November 18, 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Western countries of escalating the Ukraine conflict by holding military exercises in the Black Sea and sending bombers to fly close to the Russian border.


Unclear Vision

The Spanish newspaper pointed out that the Russian military deployment continues but monitoring these movements through open sources allows only a small part of the actual movements to be revealed.

In this way, it has become difficult to determine exactly what is happening, but it seems that Russia is leading several separate moves at the same time, some of which are related only to Ukraine, and others that may pose a threat to the European Union and NATO as a whole.

The newspaper explained that one of the main problems lies in the movements of the Russian 41st Combined Arms Army, which is based in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia.

Earlier it was stationed in the Russian Central Military District, but in March 2021, the army moved to the Western Military District in Russia, stretching from Finland to Ukraine.

It added that the army there participated in a large-scale military training that will last for four years, targeting the attack on the eastern flank of NATO.

The 41st Combined Arms Army was first deployed at the Pogonovo training ground in Russia's Voronezh region bordering Ukraine. Yet, in October 2021, most of its forces were stationed in the Smolensk region, near Belarus, not far from Ukraine.

The newspaper stressed that these moves prevent the Russian army from being tracked, but it indicated that the forces are participating in military exercises, despite the lack of information available about their exact nature.


Confrontation Scenario

The newspaper quoted a Ukrainian source in early November 2021. The source stressed that parts of these exercises are taking place in Belarus.

From a military point of view, this seems likely: if the 41st Combined Arms Army remains in the Smolensk region, which is almost certain, it will fill the gap between the 6th Combined Arms Army, in the north, based in Saint Petersburg, and the 20th Combined Arms Army, in the East Voronezh region.

Moreover, if Russia goes to war with NATO in the West, the task of the 41st Combined Arms Army will be to lead the advance from Belarus to the Suwalki gap, the border region between Poland and Lithuania that separates Belarus from Russia's eastern European enclave of Kaliningrad.

On the other hand, the 41st Combined Arms Army would probably advance along with the 11th Army Corps in Kaliningrad, in order to crush the Polish and Lithuanian defenses.

The 1st Guards Tank Army, stationed in Moscow, previously assigned to these tasks, would now be available as an operational reserve to support the advance of the 41st Combined Arms Army and advance the initial offensive towards the Oder River, on the Polish–German border.

It stated that if a large-scale war broke out in the Black Sea region instead of western Russia, the task of the 41st Combined Arms Army would be to pressure Ukraine from the north, mostly via Belarus.

Moscow will seek to isolate Kiev quickly from any reinforcements and will take up positions on the western bank of the Dnieper River, which runs through the capital and divides Ukraine in two.

The newspaper explained that the current exercises of the Combined Arms Army 41 need to be prepared to work in two operational directions, as its deployment plans and preparations are more complex than those of other armies.


Other Moves

In this context, the Spanish newspaper drew attention to the acceleration of the movements of another group of military reinforcements in early November 2021, specifically targeting Ukraine.

The number of soldiers increased in Crimea, and a number of the 1st Guards Tank Army was deployed in the Maslovka region, near the border with the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv in the northeast of the country. There appears to have been a greater concentration of military vehicles around the Rostov region in eastern Ukraine.

In any case, this latest move is likely to allow Russia to infiltrate Ukraine's Donbass region, an intention that is evident from the large number of military vehicles arriving at Rostov-on-Don airport.

Russia has also mobilized National Guard units, a paramilitary security force, and sent them to Rostov, where they will perform the tasks of controlling the occupied territories after the invasion of Ukraine, suppressing dissent, and installing administrations capable of controlling them.

This mobilization indicates that the Kremlin is at least considering the option of further incursions into Ukraine.

Compared to the situation in March and April 2021, when it deployed its forces near the border with Ukraine, Russia appears to be making much less effort to ensure that the current deployment is visible.

Overall, this may indicate a much more serious intent than a mere desire to appear as a threat to Europe.

On the other hand, the newspaper pointed out that the United States had previously taken deterrent steps, by sending warships to the Black Sea. Furthermore, it deployed in April 2021 combat aircraft in Poland. This plan succeeded in achieving Washington's goal.

Just two days later, Russia canceled its "exercises" near the border with Ukraine. In fact, this appears to be the only language Moscow understands.