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How the Russian Military Plans to Keep Its Edge

Armata T-14
Main battle tank T-14 object 148 on heavy unified tracked platform Armata

To the casual observer, it might appear as if Moscow is preparing for war, as the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defense announced it will not be scaling back combat training of the Russian military in 2021, and instead will maintain a level of intensity for combat training in the New Year. Last week Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu said that more than 4,800 drills are now planned for next year, and special attention will be paid to training military command centers.

Additionally, next year’s exercises will be focused on improving the methods of damage by firepower, multiservice force inter-operability, and on raising the tactical maneuverability and mobility of military units and formations. The Russian military also seeks to develop new methods of troop operations to take into account the experience gained in local wars and armed conflicts.

The new training year began on December 1.

“In 2021, we will keep the intensity of combat training,” Shoigu said during a ministry conference call, Tass reported.

About 1,200 camp training events and methodological classes have already been held to prepare for the new training year for the Russian Armed Forces, and more than 1,700 instructors have been prepared.

“Over 4,800 drills and practical measures are planned,” the defense minister added. “A total of 2,500 training facilities have been prepared and maintenance has been provided to about 30,000 items of equipment at training grounds. The armament, military and special hardware have been switched to the winter mode of operation and required supplies have been created.”

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Russia’s military took part in a series of military exercises – and over the summer it included naval drills in the Baltic, Barents and Black Seas.

However, this year’s Army 2020 International Military-Technical Forum was significantly scaled back due to the novel coronavirus, as was the International Army Games 2020, which ran from August 23 to September 5. Events were initially planned to be held in eleven countries, but organizers were forced to limit the scope this year. The games, which are organized by the Ministry of Defense of Russia, were first staged in August 2015 and involved close to thirty countries. While not exactly like traditional ‘war games,’ it includes dozens of competitions that are held over two weeks and involves events between dispatch units, engineering units, anti-aircraft, artillery and notably the tank biathlon—which has become the de facto equivalent to running a marathon at the Olympic Games.

The largest exercise of the year, the KAVKAZ-2000 War Games, still involved some 80,000 soldiers – while strict coronavirus pandemic requirements were observed throughout the training exercises. KAVKAZ (Russian for “Caucasus”) 2020 was the last in a cycle of four rotating regional exercises, preceded by ZAPAD 2017, VOSTOK 2018, and TSENTR 2019. These exercises are a means of gauging battle-readiness in each of Russia’s four military districts: Western, Eastern, Central, and Southern, respectively. By all accounts, next year will see even larger and grander ZAPAD 2021 War Games – but a lot of other drills to ensure Russia’s military remains vigilant.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

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