Information Warfare: The Russian Exception


March 26, 2015:   Russian media, using government data, recently understated the number of military bases that Russia operates outside its borders; apparently forgetting about the several bases Russia has in the Caucasus and elsewhere. This came about when the Russian president, at the high-profile annual press conference was asked about the possibility of a "new Cold War" and Russia's aggressive moves around its Western borders. The reply insisted that it was in fact the West who was being aggressive. This was emphasized by pointing out that there are a lot more American military bases abroad than Russian ones, and certainly a lot more American military personnel deployed close to Russia's borders than the other way around. But this response neglected to mention several other bases Russia has abroad:

-- In Armenia, Russia's 102nd Military Base in Gyumri hosts about 5,000 Russian soldiers, both land and air forces. In 2010 Armenia and Russia signed an agreement extending the base's lease until 2044. In recent years Russia has made moves to upgrade its presence at the base and it may host the Caucasus portion of the nascent Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) air forces.

-- In Abkhazia, Russia's 7th Military Base hosts at the Bombora Air Field in Gudauta about 3,500 soldiers and a small number of aircraft. Russia has reportedly spent $465 million since recognizing Abkhazia as an independent country in 2008 to upgrade its military facilities there. In 2011, Russia and Abkhazia signed an agreement permitting the base to stay until 2060.

-- In South Ossetia, the 4th Military Base hosts about 3,800 soldiers in Tskhinvali, Java, and Kanchaveti. There is also a military airport in Kurta. That base also has the right to stay until 2060.

-- In Transnistria, Russia keeps about 1,500 troops in the Moldovan breakaway republic, based in the de facto capitol Tiraspol as well as in the Bender Fortress.

And that doesn't include the naval base at Tartus, Syria (although that one is temporarily evacuated due to the Syrian Civil War) or the air base planned in Babruysk, Belarus for 2016. And in February 2016, Russia was planning to establish several new military bases abroad, including "Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Seychelles, Singapore and several other countries," though no details of those plans have emerged.

It might be beneficial for American and European leaders to think about an actual reengagement approach with Russia and look at the rationale for the actions of their adversary. As every nation state operates in within their own self-interests, Russia is no exception to this. The security concerns stated by Russia due to possible NATO expansion into the former Soviet Union are legitimate to Russia. But the U.S. and Europe don’t accept this as this is done at the invitation of Russian neighbors that fear a return of the traditional Russian aggression against its neighbors. If this is ultimately responsible for the creation of a new Cold War it is merely a recycling of what caused the first Cold War. Russia does not accept the fact that their aggression is never acceptable to anyone. – Ryan Schinault



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