Ukraine War Likely To Reduce Russian Security Commitments in Central Asia

Emomali Rahmon and Vladimir Putin.

Emomali Rahmon and Vladimir Putin.

“Emomali Rahmon and Vladimir Putin discussed issues of expanding cooperation in the field of security, including through military and military-technical cooperation, as well as in the field of defense construction, especially in terms of modernizing the armed forces of Tajikistan and strengthening the protection of the Tajik-Afghan border.”

The Russian government has repeatedly stated it is committed to security in Central Asia and often points to ongoing security assistance to governments in the region and the 201st Military Base in Tajikistan and the 999th Airbase in Kyrgyzstan as proof of its commitment.  The accompanying excerpted articles offer an update on Russian commitments in Central Asia amid its invasion of Ukraine.  The article from the independent news website Fergana Agency reports on President Putin’s visit to Tajikistan to meet with President Emomali Rahmon at the end of June.  The article mentions that the presidents discussed expanding security cooperation, modernizing Tajikistan’s armed forces, and strengthening the Tajik – Afghan border.  The article does not mention how much money Russia will spend or what equipment it will provide.  The article from the independent news website Kloop reports on Putin’s order to begin negotiating with the government of Kyrgyzstan over a joint air defense system.  The article notes that Tajikistan reached a similar agreement for a joint air defense system with Russia last year.  Tajikistan’s Ministry of Defense cited the need to counter the threat posed by terrorist groups potentially using unmanned aerial systems as one reason for the agreement.  Russian spending and security assistance in Central Asia reportedly decreased following the takeover of Crimea and the Donbas in 2014 due to sanctions but rebounded after a couple of years.  While it is unknown how much money and materiel Russia has so far expended in its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin will probably have little choice but to reduce its commitment to security in Central Asia at least temporarily.


“Путин и Рахмон обсудили модернизацию армии Таджикистана и охрану таджикско-афганской границы (Putin and Rahmon discussed the modernization of Tajikistan’s army and the security of the Tajik-Afghan border),” Fergana Agency (independent news website focusing on Central Asia), 29 June 2022.

The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, discussed the modernization of the armed forces of Tajikistan and the strengthening of the protection of its border with Afghanistan…

Putin arrived in Dushanbe on the evening of June 28 for a two-day visit.  Rahmon personally met him at the airport…

“During the talks, special attention was paid to the development of the situation in Afghanistan and the situation on the Tajik-Afghan border.  In this context, Emomali Rahmon and Vladimir Putin discussed issues of expanding cooperation in the field of security, including through military and military-technical cooperation, as well as in the field of defense construction, especially in terms of modernizing the armed forces of Tajikistan and strengthening the protection of the Tajik-Afghan border.”  – Rahmon’s press service said in a statement…

Munduzbek Kalykov, “Кыргызстан и Россия могут создать объединенную региональную систему ПВО — Путин поручил провести переговоры (Kyrgyzstan and Russia could create a regional air defense system – Putin authorized discussions to be held),” Kloop (independent Russian-language news website in Kyrgyzstan), 8 July 2022.

Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized negotiations with Kyrgyzstan on the creation of a unified regional air defense system. Putin signed this order on July 8.

“Instruct the Russian Ministry of Defense to hold negotiations with the Russian Foreign Ministry with the Kyrgyz side and, upon reaching an agreement, sign the said agreement on behalf of the Russian Federation, allowing changes that are not of a fundamental nature to be made to its draft, approved by the government of the Russian Federation,” the document says…

The same agreement on the creation of a joint regional air defense system with Russia last year was approved by the Parliament of Tajikistan.

Minister of Defense Sherali Mirzo, speaking in parliament, noted that the implementation of this agreement is in the interests of ensuring the security of the airspace of Tajikistan “given the growing regional threats and the emergence of new types of hostilities, such as the widespread use of unmanned aerial vehicles, including by terrorist and extremist groups.” …It was also reported that Russia is negotiating the creation of a joint air defense system with Kazakhstan and Armenia…

Image Information:

Image: Emomali Rahmon and Vladimir Putin
Attribution: CCA 4.0

PLA Army Efforts Integrate New Technology and Equipment Into Units

PLA Soldiers March in Parade.

PLA Soldiers March in Parade.

“Whether it is to strengthen the training of new equipment, new forces, and new fields, or to innovate and develop training methods such as “technology +” and “network +” and others; whether it is to solve the major and difficult problems in the construction of combat effectiveness, or to improve the scientific and technological literacy of officers and soldiers, it is difficult to rely on the strength of the troops alone. Only by opening the door, accepting wisdom, borrowing a ladder and go upstairs, only by giving full play to the external knowledge of military scientific and technological experts can we transform scientific and technological advantages and equipment advantages into talent advantages and winning advantages.”

A recent PLA Daily article, whose author is affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Army Research Institute in Beijing, chronicles methods for integrating new equipment and improving the technological knowledge of troops.  This is one example of many articles that the PLA produces to help with the learning curve related to employing new, more technologically advanced equipment. The article recounts a training program that the Ministry of Defense introduced during in 2022 to help integrate new equipment into units.  Developing a new system of training is reportedly part of the effort to accelerate combat effectiveness of newly modernized units. Overall, the training methods described in the article are foundational. For example, one recommendation is to improve the scientific and technological literacy of officers and troops by sending technology experts to support unit training, which enhances the researchers’ knowledge by better understanding unit requirements.  The article also notes that military research institutes should provide classes, assist in solving problems assimilating new equipment into units, and cultivate scientific talents within units.  The author believes that an expanded program, which integrates research institutions with units, could accelerate the PLA’s modernization effort and transformation.  However, the article laments the current limited scope of cooperation between military and scientific institutions, pointing to a lack of technological expertise in active duty units and a lack of coordination between military research institutions and units.  These issues are reportedly hindering the quality of research and assimilation of new technologies and equipment into the PLA, thereby slowing the development of combat effectiveness.


“把科技专家请进演训场 (Invite technology experts to the training ground),” PLA Daily (official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army), 27 July 2022.

… The army’s training ground is the main battlefield for scientific research and innovation. The battlefield asks questions of scientific research, and scientific research answers the battlefield. The front line of military training is in urgent need of a group of military science and technology experts who really know what to do. They regard the need to win as a scientific research requirement and the problem of preparing for war as a scientific research topic, and use their own ingenuity and scientific research innovation results to serve the preparation for military struggle. At the same time, only by aiming the “sight” of scientific research at the “bull’s eye” of actual combat can military science and technology experts move from the frontier of science and technology to the frontline of the battlefield, truly set up a clear orientation of scientific research as a battle, and improve the contribution rate of scientific research innovation to the growth of combat effectiveness.

If you cannot win on the battlefield, everything equals zero. Regardless of military training or military scientific research, we should insist on focusing on war preparations and combat, comparing them with war preparations, and testing them with war preparations and wars, so that the standards of combat effectiveness can truly be established. Inviting military science and technology experts to the front line of exercises and training is not only conducive to improving the combat effectiveness of the troops, improving the fit between research and warfare, but also helping to realize the self-value of scientific and technological experts. However, due to constraints such as ideas and concepts, the scope of cooperation between the army and military scientific research institutes is limited, and the mechanism is not perfect enough. How to let more military science and technology experts go to the front line of training needs further exploration.

Image Information:

Image: PLA Soldiers March in Parade
Attribution: CC BY 4.0

Russian Views on Finland and Sweden Joining NATO

NATO Secretary General meets with Ministers of Defense for Finland and Sweden, March 2022.

NATO Secretary General meets with Ministers of Defense for Finland and Sweden, March 2022.

Of course, this means the deterioration of our strategic position….” 

Russian reactions to the recent decision by Finland and Sweden to join NATO have ranged from mild concern to grave trepidation.  According to the excerpted article from the pro-Kremlin news outlet RIA Novosti, President Putin does not foresee any serious problems with this decision, provided that no “military infrastructure of the alliance is deployed in Finland and Sweden.”  If this were to occur, Putin stated that “Russia will be forced to respond in a similar way.”  Putin also asserted that there was no merit to “the thesis that Russia’s goal to push NATO forces away from its borders, preventing Ukraine from joining the alliance, led to the opposite, only from Sweden and Finland.”  Putin explained his rationale by claiming that “unlike Ukraine, Sweden and Finland do not persecute people who feel they are part of Russian culture.”

Other knowledgeable Russians have expressed greater concern over the further enlargement of NATO.  In an interview in the popular daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets, “Ruslan Pukhov, the Director of the Moscow Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), spoke about the military significance of NATO expansion in the northwest.”  According to Pukhov, this expansion “means the deterioration of our strategic position.”  He asserts that Russia will now “have to spend more on defense than before February this year [which will mean] that less money will be spent on infrastructure projects, healthcare, and education.”  Pukhov reviews Russia’s long history with these two countries, stating “both the Swedes and the Finns have already experienced the power of Russian weapons,” which resulted in “bad memories for them.”  He concludes that becoming members of NATO might tempt them to try to settle old scores, and that therefore Russia “can’t be weak.”


“Путин: Россия ответит в случае размещения баз НАТО в Швеции и Финляндии (Putin: Russia will respond in case of deployment of NATO bases in Sweden and Finland),” RIA Novosti (pro-Kremlin news outlet) 30 June 2022. http://RIA/Ru/20220629/Putin-1799133978.html

In Russia’s relations with Sweden and Finland, there are no such problems as with Ukraine, if they want to join NATO, let them join, but if the military infrastructure of the alliance is deployed in Finland and Sweden, Russia will be forced to respond in a similar way, Russian President Vladimir Putin said…

…He also called false and ‘having nothing to do with reality’ the thesis that Russia ‘s goal to push NATO forces away from its borders, preventing Ukraine from joining the alliance, led to the opposite, only from Sweden and Finland.  “For us, the membership of Finland and Sweden in NATO is not at all the same as the membership of Ukraine, these are completely different things.  They understand this very well.  No.  This is a completely different thing,” the Russian leader emphasized.  He noted that, unlike Ukraine, Sweden and Finland do not persecute people who feel they are part of Russian culture.

Source: Olga Bozheva, “Вступление Финляндии и Швеции в НАТО принесло России серьезные риски (The accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO brought Russia serious risks),” Moskovskiy Komsomolets (popular, pro-Kremlin news organization), 5 July 2022.

The process of accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO was continued.  On July 4, negotiations between these countries and the Alliance were completed in Brussels.  On July 5, the Foreign Ministers of Sweden and Finland signed the accession protocol at NATO Headquarters.  Ruslan Pukhov, Director of the Moscow Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST), spoke about the military significance of NATO expansion in the northwest.

Now there are rather contradictory statements about the entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO.  A number of political scientists say that this does not pose a serious danger to us.  Someone thinks that we need to strengthen the borders, up to the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons there.  What do you think their entry into the alliance means for us?

Of course, this means the deterioration of our strategic position.  And not because these countries suddenly became anti-Russian overnight – even before that they loved us like a dog with a stick.  However, they were not at least formally integrated into NATO structures, and accordingly, they behaved cautiously and correctly towards us.

…In any case, such a move by Stockholm and Helsinki does not lead to anything good.  And the one who says that their entry into NATO means practically nothing to us, he, I think, is disingenuous.

…This will force us to invest more financially in the arms race.  We’ve already gotten into it.  And now it doesn’t matter at all whether we did it ourselves or were dragged into it.  The score is on the scoreboard.  We will have to spend more on defense than before February this year.  This means that less money will be spent on infrastructure projects, healthcare, and education. There are no illusions here.

…Both the Swedes and the Finns have already experienced the power of Russian weapons… bad memories for them.  They still remember very well how they got hit in the teeth from us.  And if you suddenly forgot, so we can remind you….  So we can’t be weak.

Image Information:

Image: NATO Secretary General meets with Ministers of Defense for Finland and Sweden, March 2022
Attribution: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Russia and China Look To Corner Bolivia’s Lithium Industry

“China controls 80 to 90 percent of global capacity.  This is an extremely dominant position for a country at a time when everyone is trying to expand.”

Bolivia has some of the largest deposits of lithium in the world, a mineral with civilian and military applications.  As reported by the UK-based news outlet BBC Spanish, Russia, which possesses deep experience in mining strategic minerals, is one of the major contenders to win a globally strategic contract to extract much of Bolivia’s lithium. China is another contender. According to U.S. Government international broadcaster Voz de America, China already controls 80 to 90 percent of global lithium mining capacity.  Voz de America reports that there is international concern that China will consolidate its position as the most important lithium mining power, given China’s past use of economic interdependence as a weapon.  Russian or Chinese dominance over the lithium industry risks producing another raw material dependence on authoritarian competitors.


“La carrera por los codiciados ‘minerales del future’ que pueden crear gigantescas fortunas e influir en la seguridad nacional de los países (The race for the coveted ‘minerals of the future’ that can create gigantic fortunes and influence the national security of countries),” BBC Spanish (Spanish-language version of the popular British news outlet), 21 April 2022.

Russia, one of the major exporters of gas and oil, demonstrated that due to the dependence of many countries on its exports, especially European ones, fuels are a weapon of war amid the harsh economic pressures that the U.S. and its allies have pursued in order to get the Kremlin to end the invasion of Ukraine… However, in the race for the metals that will play a crucial role in future economic development, Russia has its advantages: it is the world’s second largest exporter of cobalt, the second of platinum, and the third of nickel.

Source:  “Fuerte competencia por el litio de Latinoamérica para reducir dependencia de China (Strong competition for lithium from Latin America to reduce dependence on China),” Voz de America (U.S.-based, state-owned international broadcaster), 24 June 2022. 

The race for lithium has led manufacturers of electric vehicles to enter into contracts directly with mining companies to ensure the supply of lithium… China not only exploits lithium but also exercises a dominant position in the entire supply chain for the manufacture of electric car batteries.  Most of the battery manufacturing is in China.  China controls 80 to 90 percent of global capacity.  This is an extremely dominant position for a country at a time when everyone is trying to expand.

Profile of a Joint Staff Officer in the PLA’s Northern Theater Command

PLA Theater Commands.

PLA Theater Commands.

“No war is conducted in full accordance with the operational plan, and no war is conducted in full non-compliance with the operational plan.’  In Zeng Xing’s view, every exercise is a rehearsal of actual combat, and the examination paper is in the future battlefield, and he is standing on the track preparing for the war and running towards the goal of winning the war.”

Since joint theater commands replaced the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Army-dominated military regions in 2015, the new structures have experienced problems with officers lacking joint experience.  To address this ongoing issue, the PLA emphasizes education and realism in training.  In an article from its official newspaper, the PLA Daily describes a “model” officer, shedding light on aspects of the theater commands and their associated staff officers.  The profiled officer is Zeng Xing, a division chief from the Joint Staff Department of the Northern Theater Command. Many PLA articles, such as this one, omit officer rank.  According to the article, Zeng has been in the Army for 19 years and an operational staff officer for 15 of those years. 

In 2019, President Xi Jinping recognized Zeng as a model officer.  The article indicates that Zeng, like many Theater Command officers holding joint positions, must learn joint operations skills on the job and through self-education, including talking to officers in other services and arms.  While on the staff of the Northern Command, Zeng studies informationized warfare theory, joint operations, joint command, and the pilot joint operations command system on his own.  He also studies foreign military operations and joint command regulations to improve his skills and knowledge.

The article particularly highlights a recent command post exercise, during which Zeng was responsible for assessing the battlefield situation and formulating the operational plan.  It noted that Zeng and his staff worked to collect, analyze, and process information, develop the operational plan, and decide on operational methods (operational art and tactics).  Following that Zeng and his staff used a simulation to preview the operational plan and combat actions to inform the commander’s decision-making in the wargame.  As the PLA views it, this model of staff officer education, including common, contemporary doctrine-based education, self-study, and exercise simulations, will bridge the joint experience gap in China’s theater commands.


“北部战区联合参谋部某处处长曾星:向着打胜仗目标全力奔跑 (Zeng Xing, Department Chief in the Joint Staff Department of the Northern Theater Command: Running towards the goal of winning the war),” PLA Daily (official newspaper of the People’s Liberation Army), 13 July, 2022.

The joint operations staff is a bridge connecting commanders and combat troops. In the face of complex battlefield situations, they must always keep a clear head and clear thinking. During a command post exercise, Zeng Xing was responsible for planning and formulating the operational plan. On the basis of fully understanding the determination and intention of the commander, he led his comrades in arms to work overtime, skillfully collect, analyze and process information, derive the battle plan and preview the battle methods through the simulation system, and provide reference for the commander’s decision-making.

Image Information:

Image: PLA Theater Commands
Attribution: CC BY-SA 4.0

Kremlin Easing Russian Citizenship for All Ukrainians

President Vladimir Putin …signed a decree giving the right to all residents of Ukraine to obtain Russian citizenship in a simplified manner….

Six months before Russia reinvaded Ukraine, President Putin published a long historical article where he asserted that “Russians and Ukrainians are one people, a single whole.” (See: “Studying Putin’s History of Ukraine,” OE Watch, Sept 2021.)  Attempts to prove this assertion using force have thus far met with considerable Ukrainian resistance.  However, the Kremlin is also employing its administrative and economic prowess to make it easier for Ukrainians to become Russian citizens.  As the first excerpt from the pro-business site Kommersant points out, the Kremlin has recently enacted legislation “giving the right to allresidents of Ukraine to obtain Russian citizenship in a simplified manner.”  The article goes on to stress that this new streamlined procedure does “not require them to renounce Ukrainian or other citizenship.”  The article concludes by quoting a high-level Kremlin official, who claims that “from 2016 to 2020, about 978,000 citizens of Ukraine received Russian citizenship.”

The second excerpt from the popular, pro-Kremlin site Versiya describes how Russian authorities have set up “bus passport tours” to transport those Ukrainians who want to obtain Russian citizenship.  The buses pick up Ukrainians in regions not taken by Russia and transport them to those occupied by Russian forces.  According to the author, Russian “passportization of the Black Sea region is gaining momentum [where, for instance], “the number of residents of Odessa who have received Russian passports goes into the thousands.”  Many pensioners participate in these tours, since once they gain Russian citizenship, they “will be able to apply for Russian pensions (before recalculation – 10,000 rubles [$185] a month.”  The article asserts that there are many other categories eligible to receive monthly payments: “war veterans and children, the disabled…fathers and single mothers…pregnant women,” and that the Russian benefits far exceed those provided by the Ukrainian government.  The article concludes by pointing out that because of the conflict in and around “the Mykolaiv and Zaporozhye regions…, up to 85 percent of local residents lost their jobs… [and] there is only one hope – for Russia.”


Elena Rozhkova, Ksenia Veretennikova, “Гражданам Украины вышло упрощение (Citizens of Ukraine received a simplification),” Kommersant (pro-business site), 11 July 2022.

President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a decree giving the right to all residents of Ukraine to obtain Russian citizenship in a simplified manner…. The expert believes that the updated decree will be relevant given the dynamically changing situation with the transition of Ukrainian territories under the control of Russian troops, as well as for Ukrainian emigrants living in Russia.

According to the new amendments, the possibility of obtaining Russian citizenship in a simplified manner now applies to all residents of Ukraine, and not only to the population of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR) and regions of Ukraine controlled by the Russian armed forces. The document also notes that the presence of citizens in military service cannot serve as a basis for rejecting their applications for admission to Russian citizenship….

…The deputy [Mr. Zatulin] also clarified that residents of the DPR, LPR and Ukraine who receive Russian citizenship are not required to renounce their first citizenship and can have two passports…. 

…In June 2022, TASS, citing the press center of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, reported that since April 2019, on the basis of this decree, more than 800 thousand people have acquired Russian citizenship. A year ago, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation Dmitry Kozak… stated that not only residents of Donbass, but also residents of the “rest of Ukraine” apply for Russian citizenship. According to him, from 2016 to 2020, about 978 thousand citizens of Ukraine received Russian citizenship…

Source: Alexander Artishchenko, “Туры за паспортами (Tours for passports),” Versia (popular, pro-Kremlin site), 3 August 2022.

Passportization of the Black Sea region is gaining momentum – Russian citizenship is issued in Kherson, Skadovsk, Genichesk, Nova Kakhovka, Oleshki, Belozerka and Gola Prystan. Despite the fact that it is rather difficult to leave the settlements controlled by Ukraine, besides, they mostly let pensioners through and, less often, women, the number of residents of Odessa who have received Russian passports goes into the thousands….

…Bus passport tours are organized from Zaporozhye and Nikolaev to Kherson – the final destinations of the trip are usually not advertised, but these buses are still allowed through at checkpoints without any problems. As explained by the deputy head of the military-civilian administration of the Kherson region Ekaterina Gubareva, any citizen of Ukraine, regardless of place of residence, even from Lviv, can apply for a Russian passport. … Together with Russian citizenship, pensioners will be able to apply for Russian pensions (before recalculation – 10,000 rubles a month, but in the fall they promise to recalculate and increase pensions, and accrue “from above” what they don’t receive in the summer). Moreover, war veterans and children, the disabled and some categories of beneficiaries are entitled to an allowance of 5,000 rubles per month. The allowance can be issued in the same place as passports. Gubareva separately noted, that monthly social payments are due to fathers and single mothers – at the rate of 10,000 rubles for each child. And payments to a full family for the maintenance of a minor child will amount to 4,000 rubles. Also, pregnant women can apply for social assistance (10,000 rubles – a one-time payment for pregnancy, and another 20,000 – at the birth of a child).

Russia’s social support is especially important, since Kyiv has actually curtailed the payment of pensions and social benefits in the Mykolaiv and Zaporozhye regions. As of early August, up to 85 percent of local residents lost their jobs – able-bodied families do not have the full opportunity to support their elderly and children. In the Odessa region, 70 percent of the inhabitants have lost their jobs (although pensions are still paid there). So there was only one hope – for Russia.

DRC Conflicts Reveal Difficulties in Deploying Regional Forces

M23 rebels in the DRC.

M23 rebels in the DRC.

“But however noble President Kenyatta’s deployment proposal, not everyone in the DRC agrees with the regional leaders’ decision of a military solution to stabilise the restive eastern DRC provinces.”

Kenya’s influential President, Uhuru Kenyatta, recently proposed deploying the East African Standby Force (EASF) to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Regional leaders at the East African Community Heads of State Conclave even endorsed Kenyatta’s proposal, but still no troops have been sent to help combat M23 rebels as well as the multiple militias who have ramped up attacks on civilians.  As the excerpted article from the Africa-based media company The East African notes, there are several reasons for this delay.  Many politicians in the DRC, as well as a significant segment of the population, view a potential EASF deployment with distrust.  They are especially wary of having Rwandan troops in the DRC given the long history of hostility between the two nations.  Troops from Uganda and Burundi, as well as Rwanda, are also unwelcomed as they all have rebel groups in the country.  There is fear their divergent goals might further complicate an already complicated situation.  There is also concern that EASF will be comprised of countries that have formerly plundered DRC’s mineral riches.  Finally, there are traditional obstacles to deployment including logistics, communications, rules of engagement, budgets, and agreements on the status of forces.  As the article explains, no timeline exists regarding when these issues would be resolved.   Meanwhile, violence in eastern DRC is increasing, portending further destabilization and the potential interruption of the importation of critical minerals, including those for defense industries.  The recent military intervention in The Gambia by several West African countries under the auspices of ECOWAS gives some hope that East African countries can also come together and find that delicate balance whereby all parties can agree on the terms of a deployment.  Additionally, any solutions to the struggle of launching the EASF could be valuable in helping the African Union’s African Standby Force finally stand up.  Both forces have the potential to help provide the security and stability desperately needed in the DRC and elsewhere in Africa.


Patrick Ilunga and Luke Anami, “Why the EAC regional force is yet to be deployed to DR Congo,” The East African (African-based media company), 27 June 2022.

“All the armies from the East African Community states are already present in the east of our country in one form or another.  The Rwandan army is associated with the M23 in North Kivu and supports the Red-Tabara [Burundian rebellion based in Congo].  The Ugandan army, which you invited, has been operating openly in North Kivu and Ituri since November 2021.  The Burundian army operates regularly in South Kivu, and the South Sudanese army in the province of Haut-Uele [northeast of DRC].  The Tanzanian and Kenyan armies are already present in North Kivu and Ituri as part of the UN intervention brigade,” the letter reads.

“At least three out of seven member states of the East African Community have been involved for more than two decades in the aggression and destabilisation of our country through direct interventions of their armies or by proxy, through armed groups.  Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi accuse each other of destabilisation.  They compete for influence, even control of part of our country for security as well as economic and geopolitical reasons, so much so that more than once they have had to confront each other on our territory, directly or through armed groups,” Lucha writes.President Tshisekedi has to make tough decisions.  His main political opponent Martin Fayulu accuses him of “subcontracting the security of the country to Rwanda and Uganda and unnecessarily creating a competition of East African countries over the Congo”” He has called on the president to reveal “his secret deal.”

Image Information:

Image: M23 rebels in the DRC
Source: Al Jazeera/Wikimedia,
Attribution: CC BY-SA 2.0

Russia’s Newest Nuclear Submarine Joins Northern Fleet

“The ‘Belgorod’ special purpose submarine, carrier of the so-called doomsday Poseidon drones, will be in experimental operation with the Northern Fleet before later to serve in the Pacific Fleet.”

According to the excerpted article from Norway-based The Barents Observer, Russia recently announced that its newest nuclear-capable research submarine, the Belgorod, will begin “experimental operation” with the Northern Fleet in Arctic waters.  Many of Russia’s research submarines begin their work with the Arctic portion of the Russian Navy’s specialized submarine and surface fleet designed for espionage, deep-sea rescue, and special operations.  However, according to the article, the Belgorod’s real mission is to carry up to six Poseidon autonomous nuclear-powered underwater attack drones.  The Belgorod is likely to join the Pacific Fleet as part of Russia’s nuclear triad when the Poseidon drone system is deployable.


Thomas Nilsen, “World’s longest nuclear submarine handed over to the ‘Russian Navy’,” The Barents Observer (independent Norwegian internet news service in Russian and English currently blocked in Russia), 8 July 2022.

An official press release posted by the Sevmash submarine yard on 8 July says the “Belgorod” (K-239) is a “research submarine”.  In fact, the vessel is built to carry one of the craziest weapons of mass destruction mankind ever has seen:  The Poseidon is an autonomous, nuclear-powered underwater drone that can deliver its nuclear payloads from deep under water after crossing distances like the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean.

Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, stated: “… this is a significant day for us” as … advanced achievements of science and the latest construction technologies were applied….  “The submarine “Belgorod” opens up new opportunities for Russia in conducting various studies, allows conducting diverse scientific expeditions and rescue operations in the most remote areas of the World Ocean.”  … The statement also adds that the submarine can conduct search and rescue operations in deep waters as it carries autonomous unmanned underwater vehicles. There is no mention of the Poseidon drone weapon armament.

With the U.S. developing an anti-ballistic missile defense system, Russia started to develop a deep-diving response capability.  The Poseidon is a 24-meter-long torpedo-shaped vehicle with an estimated range of 10,000 km and can travel at speeds of 100 knots down to a maximum depth of 1,000 meters.  Powered by a small nuclear reactor, it could be armed with a megaton nuclear warhead.

The submarine likely carries six Poseidon drones.  The submarine also serves as a mother vessel for a deep-diving midget nuclear-powered submarine, like the infamous Losharik, a mini-submarine that got the world’s attention in July 2019 when its batteries caught fire and all 14 officers on board died. 

The “Belgorod” has an elongated hull of what was originally meant to be an Oscar-II class multi-purpose submarine, a sister vessel to the ill-fated “Kursk” submarine that sank in the Barents Sea during a naval exercise in August 2000.   The hull of the submarine was laid down in 1992, but only twenty years later, in 2012, the Defense Ministry decided to use the hull to construct this giant special purpose vessel.  With a hull elongated by 29 meters to 184-meters, the one-of-a-kind vessel is longer than the world’s largest submarine, the Soviet-built Typhoon-class. 

The “Belgorod” launched in April 2019, the “Belgorod” started sea trials in the White Sea last summer.  The Russian Navy has not announced where the “Belgorod” will be based for the period it will be in experimental operation with the Northern Fleet.  It could be Severodvinsk where the Poseidon drone development will be conducted or at Olenya Bay on the Kola Peninsula where the other special-purpose submarines of GUGI, Russia’s Main Directorate for Deep Sea Research, are based.  Indications are that the long-term assignment of the Belgorod will be with the Pacific Fleet.

China Advancing Cooperation With Pakistan’s Navy in the Indian Ocean

“To counter India, it is important for Pakistan to improve its navy by acquiring advanced equipment from Beijing and enhancing its capabilities through these drills…”

The accompanying three excerpted articles highlight different perceptions of the growing China-Pakistan strategic partnership in the Indian Ocean.  In July, China and Pakistan held their second “Sea Guardians” joint naval exercise off the coast of Shanghai.  The exercise was meant in part to test Pakistan’s new Type 054A/P warship—the country’s most advanced Chinese-built frigate.  The Pakistani navy commissioned its first Type 054A/P, the PNS Tughril, in January and the second one, PNS Taimur, in June.  Pakistan has a contract to receive two more at an unspecified date.  According to popular Indian daily The Hindu, the “Sea Guardians” exercises are paving the way for closer security cooperation between China and Pakistan in the Indian Ocean.  Chinese and Pakistani experts point out the need to safeguard strategic sea lanes used to transport energy and goods.  They also comment on Pakistan’s need “to ensure seaward defense, maintain peace, stability and balance of power in the Indian Ocean region.”  The Hong Kong-based semi-independent South China Morning Post attributes China’s growing role in the Indian Ocean to growing U.S.-India joint maritime security cooperation.  China’s goal is to “counter U.S. efforts to advance its Indo-Pacific strategy, which emphasizes India’s continued rise and leadership in the region.”  Meanwhile, Paris-based, online media source Naval News sees the buildup of Pakistan’s naval capability more generally as an effort to counter India.  According to the article, the Pakistani navy is in the process of renewing its fleet.  In addition to the four Chinese frigates, they will be commissioning new corvettes from Turkey and a multi-purpose offshore patrol vessel from the Netherlands.  Pakistan is also modernizing its submarine fleet.  In 2016, Pakistan entered a $5 billion deal with China to acquire eight Chinese Yuan-class Type 041 diesel submarines by 2028.  According to the article, the goal is “to shift the force balance with its archrival India.”


Ananth Krishnan, “China, Pakistan Begin War Games Off Shanghai,” The Hindu (Indian daily newspaper), 10 July 2022.

China and Pakistan on Sunday began four-day naval exercises off the coast of Shanghai, involving Pakistan’s most advanced China-built frigate and paving the way for closer security cooperation between the two countries in the Indian Ocean.

Wei Dongxu, a Chinese military expert, told the paper the two countries “need to jointly demonstrate their capabilities in safeguarding strategic sea lanes that transport energy and goods.”

The first Type 054A, Tughril, was commissioned last year.  Pakistan’s envoy to China Moil Ul Haque then told Chinese media that the commissioning of the frigate “in the context of the overall security paradigm of the region” would “strengthen Pakistan Navy’s capabilities to respond to maritime challenges to ensure seaward defence, maintain peace, stability and balance of power in the Indian Ocean region.”

Source: Amber Wang, “China and Pakistan Launch Naval Drills Aimed at Countering US Indo-Pacific Strategy,” South China Morning Post (Hong Kong based semi-independent English language daily), 11 July 2022.

This is the second time China and Pakistan have held a “Sea Guardians” joint maritime exercise. The first was held in January 2020 in the northern Arabian Sea.

Lin Minwang, a professor of South Asian studies at Fudan University in Shanghai, said the exercise would help China to expand its engagement in the Indian Ocean and counter US efforts to advance its Indo-Pacific strategy, which emphasizes India’s “continued rise” and leadership in the region.

“The strengthening of maritime security between India and the United States has led to China’s greater engagement in the Indian Ocean.”

The Indian Ocean is a vital trading hub, and 80 per cent of China’s oil imports come through the Malacca Strait, the ocean’s busiest “choke point”.

To counter India, it is important for Pakistan to improve its navy by acquiring advanced equipment from Beijing and enhancing its capabilities through these drills, according to Lin.

Source: Tayfun Ozberk,“Pakistan Navy Commissions 2nd Type 054 A/P Frigate ‘PNS Taimur,’” Naval News (Paris based naval focused news outlet), 24 June 2022.

The Pakistan Navy is currently undertaking an important renewal of its fleet, with the procurement of several modern platforms: In addition to these frigates from China, Pakistan will also commission new corvettes from Turkey and OPV from the Netherlands.  It is also modernizing its submarine force.  In 2016, Pakistan agreed to pay China $5 billion for the acquisition of eight Chinese Yuan-class type-041 diesel submarines by 2028 in order to shift the force balance with its archrival India.

India Strengthens Security Cooperation With Vietnam

Defense Minister Shri Rajnath Singh

“The Indian military has the advantage of operating similar platforms to Vietnam’s.”

India has taken several measures to counter China in the past several years, particularly after violent clashes on the Indian – Chinese border in 2017 and 2020.  In addition to strengthening the capabilities of its armed forces along the border, the accompanying excerpted article from the Indian independent think-tank Observer Research Foundation reveals how India is trying to improve security cooperation with Vietnam.  Following the 2020 border skirmishes, Indian officials believe future conflict with China will not likely be limited to one domain.  The article reports on Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to Vietnam in early June, noting that he signed two security cooperation agreements.  One remains unpublished in the public domain, but the other agreement involved mutual logistics support and allows both to use the other’s military facilities for repairs and replenishment.  According to the article “this arrangement will mainly benefit the Indian Navy as it ramps up its profile in the Indo-Pacific.” Finally, the article addresses the impact of the war in Ukraine on Vietnam’s ability to procure weapons and equipment from Russia, noting that India has the potential to offer Vietnam various weapons and equipment.  India operates “similar platforms to Vietnam’s and…has leveraged this by assisting Hanoi in training and capacity building.”  Ultimately, India’s agreements with Vietnam mark another step to counter China and offer a potential market for the Indian defense industry.


Sameer Patil, “The importance of India’s defence partnership with Vietnam,” Observer Research Foundation (independent think tank in India), 28 June 2022.

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh recently paid a three-day visit (8-10 June 2022) to Hanoi to strengthen defence and security ties with Vietnam…  India has also activated a satellite imaging and tracking station in Hanoi, enabling it to track Chinese naval activities in the region…

During Minister Singh’s recent visit, India and Vietnam signed two key agreements:

The first agreement, ‘Joint Vision Statement on India-Vietnam Defence Partnership towards 2030’, casts a long-term perspective on the mutual ties.  While contents of the agreement are not available in the public domain, according to officials, it aims to “enhance the scope and scale of existing defence cooperation.”

The second agreement, an MoU, focused on mutual logistics support to enable the two countries to use each other’s military bases to repair and replenish supplies.  According to the official statement, this agreement is “the first such major agreement which Vietnam has signed with any country.”  This arrangement will mainly benefit the Indian Navy as it ramps up its profile in the Indo-Pacific.

Besides, the two countries also agreed to expedite the extension of a US$500-million Line of Credit (LoC) to Hanoi… As part of the US$ 500 million LoC, India has offered Vietnam Brahmos cruise missiles, Akash missile air defence system, Varunastra anti-submarine torpedoes, and coastal radars…

Notwithstanding the pro-China orientation of the current political leadership, a key driver of Vietnam’s military build-up is the security rivalry with China.  Beijing’s stepped-up aggression to press its territorial claims in the South China Sea dispute has been a significant irritant for Hanoi…

Vietnam has traditionally relied on Russia for its weapons.  However, given its renewed proximity with the US and the US sanctions against the Russian defence industry, Hanoi has sought to diversify its recent arms purchases…

Since the South China Sea clashes, Vietnam has boosted its defence spending, averaging US $4.8 billion between 2014 and 2018.  But, compared to the threat posed by China and its military requirements, this spending is inadequate.  Therefore, Hanoi is looking for more affordable defence suppliers with this moderate defence spending.

India can potentially be one such source.  The Indian military has the advantage of operating similar platforms to Vietnam’s.  It has leveraged this by assisting Hanoi in training and capacity building in Kilo-class submarine operations and Sukhoi-30 fighter jet training.

The unrelenting Chinese hostility in the region will ensure that India and Vietnam will continue on the path of cooperation…  However, to optimise the gains of their collaboration and contribute to regional stability, New Delhi and Hanoi will have to show tangible progress…

Image Information:

Image: Defense Minister Shri Rajnath Singh
Attribution: Government Open Data License – India (GODL)