Events taking place in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa are prompting all the Eurasian nations to focus on security and fighting terrorism. And the region that requires special attention is Central Asia. It is located in the heart of Eurasia, and if powerful military bases are established by terrorist organizations there, not a single country of this continent will be able to feel safe. Besides, fairly low standards of living, the proximity of Afghanistan (constantly embroiled in warfare and partially controlled by extremist groups), and many other factors contribute to the spread of extremist ideologies among Central Asia’s population
Leading Eurasian nations cooperate within various international organizations in their attempts to fully safe-guard Central Asia, by promoting its economic growth and strengthening combat readiness of its militaries, responsible for peace in the region. Among these organizations, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) plays a key role, and includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Within the framework of the CSTO, the militaries of the six nation-participants coordinate their actions to jointly counteract any acts of aggression and terrorist threats, and to handle natural disasters. In order to continuously increase combat readiness and cooperation levels between their militaries, the CSTO countries conduct joint training exercises on a regular basis. The biggest military drills of this nature in 2018 were Boyevoye Bratstvo-2018 (Combat Brotherhood-2018).
Combat Brotherhood-2018 is the active phase of CSTO’s strategic joint military drills, whose aim is to work through every aspect of responding to threats, posed by terrorist and extremist groups operating in Central Asia. The exercise was conducted in three phases. The first phase was the command and staff drill involving officials from the CSTO. It focused on analyzing key threats facing Central Asia, and on approaches to resolve possible conflicts by political and diplomatic means. The exercise was held at the Joint Staff in CSTO’s center for crisis management, in September 2018.
After completing the first stage of the military drills, the Chief of CSTO Joint Staff, Anatoly Sidorov, held a press conference in September 2018. He provided details about the exercise’s objectives and future stages at the briefing. He also stated that Central Asia’s main treat is the terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS, banned in Russia). It has substantial armed forces stationed in Afghanistan, and treats this nation as a convenient springboard for spreading its activities to other Central Asian countries.
The next two stages of the Combat Brotherhood drills, held between 1 October and 3 November of 2018 in the territories of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, focused on perfecting military approaches used to prevent and resolve armed conflicts, and to subsequent reinstate law and order. The second phase of Combat Brotherhood involved training exercises, such as Poisk-2018 (Search-2018, designed for military intelligence agencies of CSTO nations), Vozdushny Most-2018 (Air Bridge-2018, meant fort Collective Airborne Forces), Vzaimodeystvie-2018 (Cooperation-2018, a military exercise for Collective Rapid Reaction Force), and Rubezh-2018 (Border-2018, designed for Collective Rapid Reaction Force of the Central Asian region of CSTO). The third phase of Combat Brotherhood-2018, aimed at conducting peacemaking and peacekeeping operations after a conflict is successfully resolved, was the military exercise Enduring Brotherhood-2018 meant for CSTO’s peacekeeping forces.
The military drill Search-2018, designed for military intelligence and special forces operatives, began on 1 October at the Gvardeysky training ground, in Kazakhstan. More than 3,000 servicemen, equipped with 500 pieces of military machinery including reconnaissance aircraft and aerial drones, conducted a special operation to contain an armed conflict and obtain intelligence data for CSTO’s Collective Rapid Reaction Forces.
On the same day, the military exercise Air-Bridge-2018 began in the airport Koltsovo, in Yekaterinburg (the Russian Federation). All the other training exercises that are part of Combat Brotherhood (such as Search, Border, etc) had been conducted before, while the military drill for the joint aviation forces, Air-Bridge, was held for the first time in 2018. During the training, more than 3.5 thousand military personnel and 620 pieces of military equipment were transferred using CSTO’s military transport aircraft. A joint system for controlling a number of aircraft and air force squadrons, belonging to CSTO, was tested.
The training exercise Cooperation-2018, designed for CSTO’s joint operational response forces, was held from 10 to 13 October at the Edelweiss training ground in Kyrgyzstan. Servicemen from the six countries polished their skills of isolating and destroying illegal armed groups. The Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) and the Kazakhstan Air Defense Force initiated airstrikes against the opponents’ camp, and then an airborne assault forces contained the “enemy” before the main forces arrived and completely destroyed it.
From 22 to 27 October, the military exercise Border-2018, designed for Collective Rapid Deployment Forces, was held in the Harbmaidon training ground in Tajikistan, located only 15 km from the Tajik-Afghan border (an area causing the most concern for CSTO members). Military personnel perfected their operations against terrorists in difficult mountainous terrain.
And finally, from 30 October to 3 November of 2018, the training exercise Enduring Brotherhood-2018, meant for CSTO’s peacekeeping forces, took place marking the end of the military drills Combat Brotherhood-2018. This final exercise was held at a training center in the Sverdlovsk Region. The peacemaking forces trained by conducting peacekeeping operations in territories attacked by “enemy”.
More than 12,000 servicemen from all six CSTO countries and more than 2,000 pieces of military equipment (including 120 items of air force equipment) participated in the drill Enduring Brotherhood-2018 Experience gained by the Russian Army from taking part in military operations in Syria in recent years was of great interest to all the participants. CSTO’s Armed Forces displayed how highly trained and well equipped they were, and demonstrated their abilities to use the latest technology and approaches in combat. But most importantly, Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan showed their readiness to fight a common enemy, which is the key to maintaining regional security.
Dmitry Bokarev, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.