At the end of October, the “Friendship-2018” joint Russian and Pakistani military exercises were held in Pakistan. More than 200 members of the special armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and a special reconnaissance unit of the motorized mountain brigade of the Southern Military District of Russia located in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic were involved in the exercises.
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There are several key points of the past exercises. The first is technical details. At the training complex, from a height of more than 20 m, the exercise participants jointly carried out a non-parachute landing with a method of descent to the ground using a special rope in full gear. The mastering of such skills will allow the special forces of the two countries to carry out a practical descent to the ground on a special rope while helicopters hover in the air at an altitude of more than 20 m.
“Mastering a non-parachute assault landing method allows landing a tactical assault force in places where the helicopter’s landing on the ground is limited, in particular, on the mountain slopes, as well as in the forest,” explained the commander of the Russian motorized brigade of the Southern Military District, Captain Egor Krainov.
After the landing, the servicemen worked out the procedure for organizing the defense of the landing area, fire ambushes and repelling the attack of conventional terrorists in the mountains.
To create an environment as close as possible to the combat, imitation tools were used, including explosion-packs, smoke bombs and blank cartridges. Also, the Russian and Pakistani military personnel completed the assault in order to simulate capturing a building and freeing prisoners.
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According to the scenario of the exercise, the “terrorists” seized a two-story building in the highlands. During the active phase of the operation, joint assault groups made their way to the building, captured by a conditional enemy, and penetrated the premises under the cover of a smoke screen. After that, the military carried out a sweep of the building, during which they used stun grenades.
The second is the diplomatic effect. Such events help to establish trust, especially if all stages are done openly and transparently, as well as understandable to all parties.
Third, the exercises also had a great media effect, at least in Russia. All the leading news agencies (both state owned and private) wrote about the various stages of the maneuvers. And the “Star” TV channel of the Russian Defense Ministry did reports from the scene. This is a very important nuance. After all, there are still prejudices in Russian society connected with the deployment of Soviet troops in Afghanistan in 1979-89 and the role of Pakistan in the Afghan conflict. Therefore, the report from the exercise site had a long-term and deep impact. It is superimposed on the overall perception and changes the discourse.
In the current geopolitical situation and in light of the irresponsible behavior of the United States (and their satellites) on the world stage, the implementation of joint Russian-Pakistani projects, including military cooperation, will help strengthen security in Eurasia in the interests of all participants.
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We can recall how such cooperation with China developed. From friendly exchanges of delegations and tactical exercises, Russia and China have moved on to strategic interaction, as evidenced by the recent “East-2018” maneuvers (the active phase was from 11 to 17 of September). These games are interesting to mention for a number of reasons.
These exercises became the largest in the history of contemporary Russia. If we make comparisons, then the last time maneuvers of a similar size took place was 37 years ago – the West-81 exercises, which took place in 1981 with the participation of the armed forces of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries (at that time the commander of games was marshal Nikolai Ogarkov). Instead of the Warsaw Pact, partners in the West, China and Mongolia now take part in the exercises. This is the second factor. At the same time, it should be noted that Chinese officers were admitted to the headquarters of the exercises, so they actually took part in the command and control process as well. At the Tsugol training ground, the motorized infantry of the armed forces of Mongolia and more than three thousand servicemen of the People’s Liberation Army of China were involved. On the Chinese side, aircraft and helicopters were also involved.
On the part of Russia, the maneuvers involved about 80 ships and support vessels, more than 36,000 tanks, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles and about 1000 UAVs. The logistics component of this should also be noted, since Russia also employed about 200 echelons of trains for the transportation of equipment and servicemen, and the distance between the extreme eastern and extreme western point of the exercise was more than four thousand kilometers. The maneuvers themselves were preceded by another sudden check of the combat readiness of the troops on the 20th of August.
The maneuvers “East-2018” were held for the first time on a bilateral basis. Two groups opposed each other, on the one hand, the troops of the Central Military District and the Northern Fleet, on the other hand, formations and units of the Eastern Military District and the Pacific Fleet.
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During the exercises, a new tactic of the operation of the landing units was applied. According to the legend of the exercises, the Marines had to storm the shore of the Klerk landfill, on which the conventional adversary was located. Under heavy fire Mi-8 helicopters landed on the shore. At strategic altitudes snipers and machine gunners were fixed. From the air they were covered by Su-25 frontline attack aircraft. Then came the breakthrough of the defense line of the “enemy,” after which the landing boats swam onto the shore: a strike group on infantry fighting vehicles. Then a squad joined the “battle,” reinforced with a flamethrower compartment. Also in the composition of each of its platoons were grenade launchers and machine guns.
For the first time, the entire operation “East-2018” including aviation, ships, and Marines was directed from the ship command post located at the Marshal Krylov measuring complex. From its side it is possible to communicate with any point on the planet, coordinating actions of troops. It should be noted that in the armed forces of Russia an automated command and control system is used, which has been repeatedly worked out on previous exercises. Also, for the first time, new invisible missiles were tested.
It should be noted that the exercises were fairly transparent – they were attended by numerous observers from different countries that personally could see what the Russian armed forces are now capable of. There were also no friendly fire incidents or other injuries of servicemen reported. Apparently, these maneuvers will be the beginning of a new tradition of conducting military games in Russia. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that major military exercises will be held every five years. According to him, the state armament program is designed for ten years, but maneuvers must be organized more often.
Let’s get back to Russian-Pakistani relations. We are now waiting for naval exercises in February at the port of Karachi, where Russia will take part. And then the two nations will need to move on to strategic interaction.
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The writer is Editor of Russian think tank Geopolitic.