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What is his next move ?

Russia has made a concerted effort to obscure its movements this time, moving equipment at night, rotating units between training ranges, and blocking websites used for tracking trains. In short, Russia is setting the conditions where it could conduct a significant military escalation, including a large-scale ground invasion, on short notice and with little warning, giving its threats greater weight.

 Russia deployed a number of battalion tactical groups, multiple launch rocket systems, Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile systems, and other units from the Central Military District’s 41st Combined Arms Army based in Siberia to staging positions near the border with Ukraine. Those forces were complemented by units based closer to Ukraine from Russia’s Southern and Western Military Districts, and units from the Russian Airborne Forces. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced at the end of the spring buildup that the equipment from the 41st Combined Arms Army would remain near Ukraine until the Russian-Belarusian Zapad 2021 exercise in September, but most of the equipment didn’t take part in the exercise and wasn’t sent back to Siberia afterward. This indicated that the exercise was not the true purpose of their deployment.

Moscow is now giving concrete demands to NATO and the United States and specific examples of actions that would violate their red lines. These demands are tied to a short Russian-imposed deadline with the threat of a “military-technical and military” response if concessions are not granted, which are all hallmarks of compellence. Russia has deployed approximately 32 percent of its military’s battalion tactical groups near Ukraine, a figure the U.S. intelligence community reportedly believes could rise to 60 percent. Compared to the spring, Russia has sent even more equipment from the 41st Combined Arms Army, and a number of battalion tactical groups and equipment from the 1st Tank Army based in Moscow, near Ukraine’s borders.

Over the past week, videos have shown military equipment from Russia’s Eastern Military District moving westward on trains, including the Pacific Fleet’s 155th Naval Infantry Brigade, tank and motorized rifle units, Buk-M2 air defense systems, BM-27 Uragan multiple launch rocket systems, and more Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile systems. The Russian Ministry of Defense announced a snap combat readiness inspection of the district on January 14 to test the ability of units to complete missions after conducting long-distance movements. Russian and Belarusian officials also announced that their forces will take part in a joint exercise that will last until February 20 including the deployment of a Russian Su-35S fighter squadron, two S-400 air defense battalions, and a Pantsir-S air defense battalion to Belarus as well as ground equipment. Interestingly, some of the units that will deploy to Belarus will come from the Eastern Military District. Of course, this also means that Russia will have military units along Ukraine’s northern border, placing Kyiv and other locations at even greater risk. If the Eastern Military District and the Russian Airborne Forces both contribute 10-15 battalion tactical groups each, Russia will have close to the 100 battalion tactical groups that the U.S. intelligence community assessed would be deployed near Ukraine. In addition, several large landing ships from Russia’s Baltic Fleet have departed the Baltic Sea and are possibly headed towards the Black Sea. An enhanced Russian amphibious capability in the region could force Ukraine to send more units to defend its southern coastline, spreading its forces even thinner.

It is obvious if Putin strikes Ukraine, it will be a sudden coordinated lighting strikes, a combination of sophisticated advanced combined arms warfare. This of course would entail A.I., cyber, limited emp, hypersonic cruise missiles, drones, thermobaric weapons for shock and disorientation,  air born & air assault, and coastal amphibious landings.  

By far the most famous and controversial thermobaric weapon is Russia’s Aviation Thermobaric Bomb of Increased Power, also known as the Father of All Bombs (FOAB). the FOAB, which has a payload equivalent to forty-four tons of TNT and blast radius of roughly three hundred meters, would be the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in the world, with destructive potential close to that of a tactical nuke. The FOAB was tested in Syria for the time in 2017. One of the most prominent entries in Russia’s thermobaric roster is the TOS-1 multiple launch rocket system and its modernized TOS-1A/TOS-2 variants. With up to thirty missile tubes that can be salvo launched in around fifteen seconds, TOS-1 batteries can cause a staggering degree of destruction within a short time span. These weapons were first used in the latter years of the Soviet-Aghan War, though the full extent of their destructive potential was revealed during the Second Chechen War. Determined not to repeat the costly mistakes of the First Chechen War, Russian heavy artillery and rocket batteries, partly consisting of TOS-1 units and RPO-A Shmel rocket launchers with thermobaric warheads, leveled large swathes of the Chechen capital Grozny to pound the rebels into submission. Russia’s defense industry has developed thermobaric warheads for many of its rocket launchers and anti-tank guided missile systems, including the 9M123 Khrizantema, RPG-26, and 9M133 Kornet. These weapons have been employed in conflicts around the world, particularly over the course of Russia’s military intervention into the Syrian Civil War. One of Russia’s latest short-range ballistic missile systems, the Iskander-M, is compatible with thermobaric warheads. Several variants in the prolific KAB family of guided bombs come with thermobaric warheads, as does the S-8 rocket and several other types of Russian air-launched munitions.  

Donbass Factor: Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – collectively known as the Donbass – broke away from Ukrainian government control in 2014 and proclaimed themselves independent “people’s republics”, so far unrecognized. Since then, Ukraine says about 15,000 people have been killed in fighting.

Rebels backed by Moscow have been fighting Ukrainian troops in the conflict zone since 2014 and tensions have been growing in recent months, as Russia amasses troops on the border.

Pretext Putin Compares Donbas War Zone To Genocide

Russia’s parliament will hold consultations next week on an idea to appeal to President Vladimir Putin to recognize two pro-Russian breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent states, the chamber’s speaker said on Friday. 

Recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk “statehood” could provide Moscow with a pretext for overt military intervention in support of its allies, in the same way that it has stationed troops in breakaway regions of Georgia (see below). A Russian parliament member and former Donetsk political leader, Alexander Borodai, told Reuters that, in this scenario, the separatists would look to Russia to help them wrest control of parts of Donbass now controlled by Ukrainian forces. 

A Strategic & Tactical Russia Has Recognized Breakaway Statelets Before

Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway regions of Georgia, after fighting a short war with Georgia in 2008. Moscow has provided them with extensive budget support, extended Russian citizenship to their populations and stationed thousands of troops there.

  • Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on January 21 that Russia has sent 7,000 tons of fuel, several tank and self-propelled artillery units, and unspecified other ammunition and supplies to Donbas since the start of January 2022

Life on the front line in Ukraine’s Donbass region.

Institute for the Study of War, Russia Team Report 21 Jan 2022 Report Indicators And Thresholds For Russian Military Operations In Ukraine And/Or Belarus

The Russian Defense Ministry announced on Thursday it scheduled in January and February a series of global military exercises “in all areas of responsibility” for the Russian Navy.

The military drills will be held in the waters of the seas adjacent to the Russian territory, as well as in “operationally important areas of the World Ocean,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Separate exercises will be held in the waters of the Mediterranean, Northern, Okhotsk Seas, in the northeastern part of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Pacific Ocean,” it added.

Over 140 warships and support vessels, more than 60 aircraft, 1,000 units of military equipment, about 10,000 military personnel will be engaged in the exercises, it said.

  • New Russian Ambassador to Belarus Boris Gryzlov stated on January 18 that his top priority is to advance Russian-Belarusian integration in the Union State.
  • Belarusian President Lukashenko visited Belarusian troops in Brest on January 21, decried a claimed “western buildup against Belarus,” and stated Belarus and Russia are united “from Brest to Vladivostok
  • Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on January 21 that Russia has sent 7,000 tons of fuel, several tank and self-propelled artillery units, and unspecified other ammunition and supplies to Donbas since the start of January 2022.

U.S. Army First Lieutenant Anthony Analla Wrote In A 2020 Issue Of Armor,

RUSSIA HAS INTEGRATED UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEMS (UAS) WITH ELECTRONICWARFARE (EW) CAPABILITIES TO PROJECT JAMMING AND SPOOFING EFFECTS ON ITS ENEMIES’ LOCATIONS. These systems also fuel the targeting of indirect weapons, often toward elements with a large electronic signature.  Fire-support elements, as opposed to maneuver elements, take finishing actions in Russian offensive operations; this is a continuation of Soviet-style fighting

Russian mindset Since the late 1990s the Russian Federation has executed a series of military actions that reveal the character of the military forces the Kremlin has developed to actualize its political objectives and the mindset of its contemporary leaders. In June 1999, Russian forces successfully gained leverage in negotiations over the disposition of a newly created United Nations peacekeeping force by seizing the airport in Pristina, Kosovo, prior to the arrival of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces.6 This was the first of many actions that demonstrated rising boldness among Russian leaders and a belief that Western powers will not risk the use of military force against Russians

Russian President Vladimir Putin took his largest and boldest military actions to date by annexing Crimea and launching an offensive in the Donbass region of Ukraine in 2014. Russia has gained an advantage throughout the conflict through the effective use of deception to delay responses by the Ukrainians and the West.17 Concrete steps taken to conceal Russian involvement include the use of unmarked soldiers,18 military contractors19 and the dubious use of humanitarian aid.20 Despite these efforts to deny the extent of Russian involvement, unsubtle funerals for fallen Russian soldiers confirm the reality of the situation.21 In conjunction with Russian actions in Georgia, these actions confirm a strong preference in the Kremlin for the use of military and paramilitary forces that afford the Kremlin deniability on the international stage. Lessons-learned Members of the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, among others, have published studies based on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine that identified critical lessons for the U.S. military. Their findings indicate that the Russian military favors the use of snipers and boobytraps as a means of fixing larger forces and causing significant psychological strain on their enemies.22 Russia has integrated unmanned aerial systems (UAS) with electronicwarfare (EW) capabilities to project jamming and spoofing effects on its enemies’ locations. These systems also fuel the targeting of indirect weapons, often toward elements with a large electronic signature.23 Fire-support elements, as opposed to maneuver elements, take finishing actions in Russian offensive operations; this is a continuation of Soviet-style fighting.24 Despite many advances since the end of the Cold War, resource constraints cause several vulnerabilities in the Russian fighting force. Specifically, their lack of resources causes a deficit of highly trained professionals, especially in the sustainment occupational specialties.25 As a result, their force struggles to match top-tier maneuver and fires with top-tier sustainment, reducing the likelihood of success in expeditionary operations

Aggressive intelligence collection Lessons of Russian intervention in the recent past indicate that reducing the effectiveness of Russian strengths and exploiting Russian weaknesses requires aggressive intelligence collection. Training reconnaissance organizations includes at least three audiences – the primary collectors (Soldiers and junior noncommissioned officers), platoon and troop-level leadership and the staff. Effective training for all audiences requires the use of technology for specific threats and scenarios that force us to think like our adversaries. Ultimately, developing muscle memory in the tasks that cause the right information to flow quickly to the appropriate decision-makers is the goal. This goal includes two important indicators of success: risk decisions made at the appropriate level and mid-operation changes to the enemy’s course of action.

Reconnaissance and Security Operations Are Essential to Thwarting Russian Interests in Western Hemisphere by 1LT Anthony M. Analla