UPDATE: Analysis: Crimea
intervention - The increasing sophistication of Russia's military resurgence
London and Bruce Jones, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
01 April 2014
the Crimean crisis Source: IHS
Late on 25
March, the last Ukrainian warship blockaded in its port on Crimea's west coast
surrendered to Russian forces, completing just over three weeks of operations
to wrest the strategic peninsula from Kiev's control.
soldiers march outside a Ukrainian military base in Perevalne, Crimea, on 20
March. (PA Photos)
whirlwind campaign seems to herald a new sophistication in how Russian
commanders conduct military operations. The most distinctive feature of the
Russian operation was its emphasis on economy of effort. Unlike previous
interventions in Afghanistan in the Soviet era, or Chechnya and Georgia more
recently, where Russian commanders relied on mass employment of tanks and
artillery, the Crimea intervention featured fewer than 10,000 assault troops
lined up against 16,000 Ukrainian military personnel.
The heaviest fighting
vehicle employed by the Russians against the Ukrainians was the wheeled BTR-80
armoured personnel carrier (APC).
troops had moved to blockade Ukrainian military personnel in their bases,
psychological warfare, internet/media propaganda, intimidation, and bribery
were their main weapons to undermine their opponents' will to resist, rather
than overwhelming firepower. Russian troops also displayed considerably
discipline and patience during this phase. In addition, they appeared well
equipped, boasting new personnel equipment, body armour, and light wheeled
approach was necessitated by Russian President Vladimir Putin's need for the
operation to be launched within a tight timeframe after the fall of the
pro-Moscow regime in Kiev on 27 February.
operation may have been planned for many months, there was insufficient time to
mobilise a larger force. Russian commanders had to make do with naval infantry
from the Black Sea Fleet already based in Crimea, backed up by a couple of
battalions of airborne troops and Spetsnaz commandos flown onto the peninsula.
Economy of force also fitted the campaign's political narrative: that this was
a mission to protect Crimea's Russian-speaking population rather than an
In just over
three weeks, the will of the Ukrainian forces in Crimea was broken and all 190
of their bases had surrendered with barely a shot being fired by their
defenders. However, even if some Ukrainian heavy armour was present in Crimea,
many of the Ukrainian forces were naval and administrative personnel rather
than combat troops. Organised military resistance was never a serious prospect.
Instead of achieving a simple military triumph on the battlefield, the Russian
armed forces facilitated a political and psychological victory.
In the wake
of his success, there has been intense speculation about President Putin's
future intentions. In his 18 March victory speech after the fall of Crimea, he
laid out his underlying worldview. Russia's loss of power and status at the end
of the Cold War in 1989 was a deliberate, generational humiliation at the hands
of the West - and a reason for hatred and apprehension.
Russian president, Ukraine's strategic importance to Russia is the key issue.
In Putin's view, Ukraine is the pivotal connector between East and West.
Control of Ukraine means control of the Black Sea and unobstructed access to
potentially sympathetic populations in central Europe and the Balkans - in
nations such as Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Serbia - and the exercise of time
honoured 'pan-slavism' with a view to greater integration. These strategic
perspectives appear to have been largely lost to Western leaders.
sufficiently important that in 2004, the last time a split from Russian control
seemed likely, Viktor Yushchenko, the pro-Western opposition and Orange
Revolution leader and later president, was nearly fatally poisoned and
permanently disfigured by the use of dioxin. In any case, the Kremlin sees a
'colour revolution', heralding liberal democracy amongst Slavonic people, as
threatening and utterly unacceptable.
significant effect of the Crimea campaign has been to further test NATO and EU
resolve. Russian leaders tend to think in larger pictures than their Western
counterparts. 'Atlanticists' are likely to consider individual nations or small
groups of countries, threats to them, and their specific importance, without
analysts evaluate - and have whole branches of study devoted to - the Black
Sea-Baltic region as a strategic territory and subject in itself. Russia has
generally controlled these areas between Russia proper and foreign countries,
referred to in a wider context as the 'near abroad'.
has shifted to Moldova - and its adjacent, unrecognised Russian-speaking
enclave of Transnistria or the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic (PMR) - as the
next test of Western resolve in the face of possible intervention by Putin. A
potential justification or pretext for a Russian incursion here is the small
self-declared republic's wish to become part of Russia and the disputed
presence of a battalion of 400 Russian peace-keeping troops.
On 25 March,
Russia announced the start of territorial defence exercises in Transnistria,
which Moldovan sources described to IHS Jane's on the same day as of
concern even if anticipated.
part of NATO and the EU, the Baltic States are the northern end of the Black
Sea-Baltic space and are vulnerable. The disapproving tone of some Russian
rhetoric suggests they exist under sufferance.
Russian Air Assault Division base at Pskov near the Latvian-Estonian border,
forces could - from a near standing start - cut off Estonia from the rest of
the EU in less than 40 minutes, according to a former Russian air assault
could be done along the 80 km Polish-Lithuanian border, which runs between
Belarus and the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad. In both cases, one or
all the Baltic States could be enclosed, controlled, and separated from the
rest of Europe. In the Baltic, eastern Ukraine, and Moldova-Transnistria
Russian military units are in place, available for further exploitation if
President Putin so desires.
article, first published on 27 March, has been updated with new images.
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