95,000 Russian Troops Practice “Containing” Central Asian Conflict

Putin strategy

Nearly 100,000 Russian soldiers have wrapped up the country’s biggest military exercise of the year, practicing to “contain” a conflict in Central Asia.

The scenario of the exercise, said Colonel-General Vladimir Rudnitskiy, the commander of Russia’s Central Military District, was the “containment of an international armed conflict in the Central Asian strategic direction.”

But for an exercise supposedly oriented toward Central Asia, it included very little participation by Russia’s Central Asian allies. The Russian Ministry of Defense, in its account of the exercise, repeatedly referred to the participants as “the armed forces of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization,” but the vast majority of the 95,000 soldiers who took part were Russian; the only other participant was Kazakhstan, which sent a handful of units. (The CSTO is a Russia-led military alliance also including Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.)

The exercise was called Center-2015, and the Center name has been in the past used for joint CSTO exercises; it’s not clear why no other Central Asian states were involved this time.

In one evocative touch, Russian President Vladimir Putin watched the final stage of the exercise from Orenburg. Orenburg is best known as the garrison town from which the Russian empire conquered Central Asia in the 19th century.

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