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Steppe Strike: How Russia and Mongolia Stopped Hybrid War


The main stage of the annual Russian-Mongolian exercises “Selenga” ended this week. This time, their script was as different from the usual as possible. First, the troops operated simultaneously in Mongolia and in Russia. And secondly, for the first time, the main topic of the maneuvers was hybrid warfare and the destabilization of the situation by foreign states. Earlier this year, Ulaanbaatar held joint exercises with the Bundeswehr, and was supposed to train with the Americans in the summer, but the maneuvers were canceled due to the coronavirus. Izvestia figured out what actions the troops were practicing during the Selenga exercises and why Mongolia became an important military partner for many countries.

Descended from the skies: the results of the experimental air exercises were summed up During the day, fighters and bombers fought over several regions of Russia

All types of combat

The maneuvers took place at Burduny training grounds in Buryatia and Doytym An in Mongolia. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, about 650 servicemen of the Eastern Military District and more than 100 pieces of equipment were involved in them. Mongolian troops fielded about 450 people and 100 pieces of equipment.

Until now, the annual joint exercises with Mongolia have followed one long-established scenario: the fight against terrorism. The troops acted against scattered and few irregular formations. However, this time the task for the military has become seriously complicated. Russian and Mongolian units trained to work in a hybrid war, sources told Izvestia in the military department.

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Military exercises Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation /

Caught a wave: naval “Super-Shells” performed live firing According to experts, the presence of such complexes on board will make small ships practically invulnerable to air strikes

According to legend, a certain foreign state transported numerous groups of militants to the territory of the participating countries. Having destabilized the situation, in the end it openly entered into conflict, crossing the border. As a result, the troops, during the maneuvers, had to destroy the “proxy formations” controlled by foreign headquarters, and then repel direct military aggression. This required the conduct of various types of combat: defense from groups of “militants” that unexpectedly attacked the troops, the search and neutralization of “bandit formations”, and, finally, combined arms combat – an offensive against regular formations according to the combat manual. In many ways, the scenario of the maneuvers repeated the program of the Kavkaz-2020 strategic exercises that took place in September.

Due to a wide range of tasks, heavy weapons were used at different stages – Tornado-G multiple launch rocket systems, Akatsia self-propelled artillery mounts. Su-25 attack aircraft and Mi-24, Mi-8AMTSh helicopters were also involved.

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Military exercises Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation /

Combat according to new rules: what the president saw at the Caucasus-2020 exercise For the first time, a modern element of the formation of troops – a “mobile echelon” was tested

During these maneuvers, Russian military personnel used modern reconnaissance equipment and drones. In addition, they practiced the tasks of combating enemy UAVs and demonstrated to their Mongolian colleagues the work of the newest interference station “Pole-21”, or rather, electronic suppression with its help of control channels for the unmanned aerial vehicles of the imaginary enemy. The participants also demonstrated by video communication the skills of overcoming a minefield and a ditch with the help of a tank bridgelayer and the evacuation of the wounded by a Mi-8AMTSh helicopter in a non-stop way.

Traditionally, the Selenga exercises were held alternately in Russia and Mongolia. However, this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, they were held in an unusual format. As the press service of the Eastern Military District reported earlier, the troops of each of the participating countries trained exclusively at their training grounds, without leaving the state. Management was conducted from the Burduny training ground, where an operational group of 12 officers arrived from Mongolia. Directly during the drawing of the episodes, the commanders conducted online surveillance using webcams located at different training points.

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Military exercises Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation /

“The maneuvers are obviously not directed against any particular country,” Vasily Kashin, a senior researcher at the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, told Izvestia. – It is unlikely that Mongolia would conduct exercises that could strain China. But in this country there is a territory with a predominantly Muslim population – the Bayan-Ulgiy region. There are no acute problems there, but when talking with the Mongols about their national security, they admit that their main fear is the outbreak of instability in Central Asia, which spills across their borders. They are preparing for this.

Anti-aircraft position: the military combined air defense systems into a single contour At the Kavkaz-2020 exercise, air defense units of the Ground Forces, the Aerospace Forces and the Navy worked together

The expert also noted that the Mongolian army is involved in a number of UN activities, thanks to which it earns considerable money by local standards. Their military is interested in training related to scenarios of instability and hybrid war, because they carry peacekeeping missions in many unstable regions, Vasily Kashin explained.

Interesting region

In recent decades, Ulan Bator has been actively developing international military cooperation, and its troops are participating in maneuvers with a variety of countries. In particular, since 2003, regular joint exercises of Mongolia and the United States have been held, which since 2006 have been named Khaan Quest. Many Mongolian officers are trained in the States. Just recently, at the end of October, the joint exercises of the mountain units of the Mongolian army and the Bundeswehr ended – they were held for the second year in a row. German specialists taught the Mongolian mountaineering, mountain tactics and methods of evacuating the wounded.

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Military exercises Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation /

“Ulan Bator is pursuing a policy that is natural for all small countries,” military expert Vladislav Shurygin explained to Izvestia. “They are trying to have as many security partners as possible, as this strengthens their sovereignty. They have adhered to this line continuously since the end of the Cold War. Recently, the development of ties with the Americans has even weakened. They moved away from the “third neighbor” policy, which they had officially for many years, and began to pay more attention to relations with Russia and China.

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Military exercises Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation /

The characteristics of the territory of Mongolia are ideal for conducting military exercises. First, there is a low population density – about 3 million people live in the country. And at the same time in Mongolia you can find natural and climatic conditions for every taste: mountains, forests, deserts and steppes. The state even offers its services for the provision of landfills. Mongolia has such an agreement, for example, with Qatar, which trains its special operations forces on the territory of this country. Ulan Bator tried to provide similar services to other countries with small territories, for example, Singapore.

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Military exercises Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation /

But much more important is the geopolitical position of this state, because of which it attracts the attention of many players in world politics. Recently, there has been a growing interest in Mongolia on the part of the United States, which is associated with the deterioration of relations between Washington and Beijing, Vasily Kashin notes.

Fly-over maneuvers: American B-52s checked Caucasus-2020 US strategic bombers approached the Crimean coast during large-scale exercises of Russian troops in the south of the country

“Mongolia is a unique country in a way,” he explained. – This is the only really functioning democracy from the former socialist states of Asia. Therefore, the country has a rather favorable environment for various kinds of political activity. Many non-governmental organizations are based there. Mongolia has close ties with China, and the Americans are developing a relationship with it with an eye to that. As for the development of relations with Mongolia, Germany and Europe as a whole, the EU is pursuing a policy of enhancing its role in regional security in Asia. Still, it should be noted that in terms of the volume of military ties with Mongolia, no one can compete with Russia.

Close connection

In the post-Soviet years, Moscow nearly nullified its economic presence in Mongolia. For Russian corporations, the relatively small local businesses, which are quite large by local standards, are not particularly valuable assets. Political influence also declined. Unlike the older generations, the youth of Mongolia practically does not speak Russian. Today, the Ministry of Defense is practically the only department that maintains ties with Ulan Bator at the same level.

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Military exercises Photo: Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation /

General’s rehearsal: the United States has practiced strikes on Russian territory According to the military, the activity of NATO aviation near the borders of the Russian Federation has sharply increased

– We have a large-scale assistance to Mongolia in training military personnel, joint exercises and technical support. Moscow and Ulan Bator have strong military cooperation, and this is probably the only bright spot against the background of our activity there. Because all other structures are not doing enough, – says Vladislav Shurygin.

In the XX century Mongolia was one of the most friendly countries in the USSR. In 1936, the 57th Special Corps of the Red Army was deployed on its territory, which helped the Mongolian troops repel Japanese aggression. In 1939, Soviet and Mongolian troops defeated the Japanese group on the Khalkhin-Gol River. After the attack of the Third Reich on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Ulan Bator on the same day declared its unconditional support for Moscow and declared war on Germany. In August 1945, Mongolian troops as part of the Soviet group took part in the defeat of the Japanese army.


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