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New Research Division Publication -
Theatre operations, high commands and large-scale exercises in Soviet and Russian military practice: insights and implications

  • 11 May. 2018
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  • Last updated: 02 Oct. 2018 09:40

Fellowship Monograph 12

Dear Reader,

Last summer and autumn, exercise Zapad 17 staged by Russia and Belarus attracted considerable international attention and generated particular concern because of its suspected design, scale and purpose, in relation to what Russia had announced. A deeper look into Zapad 17 and earlier, comparable exercises staged over the past 10 years reveals a Russian ambition to revive a capacity to undertake theatre operations on a large scale and at short notice, as part of a broader warfare concept. Key components of that capacity are the establishment of joint strategic commands and the regular conduct of theatre-level exercises in the Zapad-Vostok-Tsentr-Kavkaz series, as well as no-notice, snap inspections. The resurrection of a Russian interest in theatre operations, high commands and large-scale exercises points to the restoration, in very different international circumstances and domestic conditions from those of the Cold War, of Soviet military practices that date back to the late 1970s and early 1980s.

This Monograph by the Research Division examines, in a comparative, historical perspective, where and how Soviet and Russian military practices overlap and diverge; it also points to the enduring influence that a familiar Soviet military model continues to exert on a new generation of Russian military leaders, even though, with the passage of time and the impact of technological change, that influence is bound to fade away.
The author, Diego Ruiz Palmer, who has assessed changes in the European strategic environment for nearly four decades, argues that awareness of these Soviet military practices can help shed light on, and advance understanding of, current Russian operational preferences and preparations.

This Monograph is part of a sustained effort by the NATO Defense College to help raise awareness of Russia’s strategic perspectives and military capabilities, through various publications by a wide range of analysts.
We trust that you will find this paper to be valuable reading.

Thierry Tardy, PhD
Director Research Division

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