Situational Brief: Russian Recent Deployments Opposite Ukraine and What It Could Mean For Christmas

Situational Brief: Russian Recent Deployments Opposite Ukraine and What It Could Mean For Christmas

Tensions in and around Ukraine and Russian occupied Crimea have increased since the 25th November 2018, Sea of Azov incident when Russia seized by force three Ukrainian naval vessels and shut down shipping traffic to Ukraine in the Sea of Azov. In recent days, US Special Representative to Ukraine Ambassador Kurt Volker warned that Russia had again built-up forces on the border. The Ukraine is used to being under pressure from Russian military power along its borders with Russia prepared for a conventional invasion of the neighboring country since its seizure of the Ukrainian Donbass region and Crimea in 2014. Sadly, recent Russian actions have led to further concern for the security of Ukraine and Europe over the next several weeks. According to several articles in the media and Jane's Defense Weekly, these new Russian military deployments include:

  • Russian has deployed an A-50 airborne early warning radar aircraft to Saki Air Base on the western coast of Crimea along with Su-30SM fighters and Su-24 strike aircraft already based at Saki. The deployment of an A-50 AEW aircraft to Crimea significantly extends Russian radar coverage over much of the Black Sea and southern Ukraine and Crimea.

  • The 3rd Squadron of the 39th Helicopter Aviation Regiment deployed to Crimea to practice Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) using 16 Ka-52 attacks helicopters.

  • At least, six Iluyshin Il-76 airlifters deployed to Dzhankoi, and a Tupolev Tu-154 transport landed at Dzhankoi in late November and early December along with another Il-76 landing at Gvardeyskoye Air Base in central Crimea. These airlifters likely forward deployed elements of Russia’s special forces including the 7th Guards Airborne Division while their BMD-2 air-portable infantry fighting vehicles crossed the Kerch Strait Bridge on transporters.

  • In November, an additional battalion of S-400 air-defense systems and 96K6 Pantsir S1 self-propelled gun/missile systems were deployed to Dzhankoi Air Base just 25 kilometers from the Ukrainian frontier. Russia now has five battalions of S-400s with 160 missiles and reloads, along with a further 32 from two batteries of S-300PS.

  • Additionally, a Bal coastal defense missile system armed with a subsonic turbofan-powered anti-ship missile with an effective range of 120 kilometers was also seen deploying to Crimea.

  • Russia has reportedly reinforced the Southern Military District’s (SMD’s) 150th Motorized Rifle Division with a new motorized rifle regiment. The 150th Motorized Division has an unusually high concentration of main battle tanks. Whereas a typical motorized rifle division consists of three motorized rifle regiments and one tank regiment, the 150th has two tank regiments and its two motorized rifle regiments have tank battalions. The division is also equipped with some of Russia’s most modern equipment, including T-72B3 tanks and BTR-82A armored personnel carriers.

  • There is an increasing build-up of older tanks on the Russian mainland close to Lugansk, Ukraine, with many T-64/T-62M taken out of storage and likely transferred to pro-Russian rebels of 1st (Donetsk) and 2nd (Lugansk) Army Corps in Donbass.

In summary, Russia currently, has hundreds of modern main battle tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and missile systems in three military districts along the eastern border with Ukraine, in addition to the new deployments, and these units and their personnel have been at a high level of readiness since 2014. Close to the Russian border with Ukraine, the Kremlin has some 500 tactical combat aircraft and up to 340 army aviation helicopters, that when coupled with early warning aircraft, and S-400/300 air defense systems, could effectively control the skies over Crimea, southern Ukraine and the Russian-occupied Donbass. The Bal anti-ship cruise missile system along with Russian naval and amphibious units can shut down the Sea of Azov with little or no warning. These new deployments are the steps that Russia might take as a prelude to further military action and a full -scale invasion of the south.

An emboldened Putin still basking in the Sea of Azov incident and the US and NATO’s meek reaction could further Russian pressure on the Donbass Region through their irregular militias there, instigate civil unrest over a split in the Russian Orthodox Church with Ukraine, carry out fake provocations, and push civil unrest in the vulnerable southern Ukrainian coastal region. Russia’s approach to ‘hybrid warfare,’ or the old Soviet concept of ‘active measures,’ coupled with ‘salami tactics,’ could further render more Ukrainian territory to Moscow’s rule and with limited risk to Putin’s dream of re-building the Soviet empire. Worst case scenario, and less likely, should the Kremlin decide on further action, Russian armored forces could seize Ukraine’s southern coast opposite Crimea and particularly the vital ports and strategic canal, while armored spearheads out of Voronezh from the 1st Guards Tank Army, Volgograd from the 8th Guards Tank Army could envelop Ukrainian forces opposite the Donbass. The effect would be to force a Ukrainian retreat to behind the Dnieper River, abandoning areas that Russia views as Russian territory. Given the West’s less than enthusiastic defense of Ukraine to date, Russia might expect that its actions will only receive limited US and NATO pushback as it approaches the Dnieper, placing vast swaths of Ukrainian territory under Russian control.

#Ukraine #Russia #NATO #US #Crimea #Donbass #Dnieper

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