Zapad 2021

2021 joint military exercise by Russia and Belarus

Zapad 2021

Zapad 2021 (Russian: Запад-2021) was a joint strategic exercise between the armed forces of the Russian Federation and Belarus, which took place from 10 to 15 September 2021. According to the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, about 200,000 military personnel, up to 760 pieces of equipment, and 15 ships took part in the exercises.[1] According to American General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, observations of Zapad 2021 helped the American intelligence community predict that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was imminent. This was because the exercise was much greater in scale, scope, composition, and duration than previous exercises. Following the exercise, Milley held a briefing with American President Joe Biden about the severity of the Russian threat towards Ukraine.[2] Milley held a meeting with Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, in Finland, on 22 September 2021, to de-escalate tensions in Europe.[3][4]

General information

Strategic exercises between Belarus and Russia are held every two years, by an agreement made between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in 2009.[5] In 2021, they were combined with maneuvers of the Collective Rapid Reaction Forces of the CSTO member states.

According to First Deputy Minister of Defense of the Republic of Belarus, Major General Viktor Gulevich, "Zapad-2021 is purely defensive, and its holding does not pose any threat, either to the European community as a whole or to neighboring countries in particular. Zapad-2021 is planned and is the final stage in the system of joint training of the armed forces of Belarus and Russia this year. First, it aims to increase the training of troops from the regional grouping designed to ensure security in the Eastern European region."[6]

On 1 September, the stage planned by the General Staff to strengthen the country's defense capability was completed: a 38-thousand combat army reserve was created in the Southern Military District.

Location of the exercise

Exercises were performed in Belarusian territory at the 230th combined arms training ground "Obuz-Lesnovsky", the 174th training ground of the Air Force and Air Defense forces "Domanovsky", the 210th aviation training ground "Ruzhansky" and the Brest training ground (Brest),[7] as well as 9 Russian training grounds (Kirillovsky, Strugi Krasnye, Mulino, Pogonovo, Khmelevka, Pravdinsky, Dobrovolsky, Dorogobuzh, Volsky).[8]

Number of forces and equipment

Up to 760 armored vehicles, including about 290 tanks, 240 artillery, and MLRS units, and more than 80 aircraft and helicopters, were involved in the exercises.[9]

For the first time, a fully robotic group of combined arms units was involved in the exercises in combat formations: robots "Uran-9", "Nerekhta", and others. They were supported by a laser system designed to blind the sights of tanks, artillery systems, and sniper rifles.[10]

400 Belarusian servicemen and more than 30 military equipment went to Russia. The Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Belarus declared that all troops and equipment would return to their permanent locations after the exercises.[11]

Progress of the exercises

Russian paratroopers before boarding transport aircraft. Military exercises West-2021
Landing at the Mulino training ground. Exercise West 2021

The exercises began on 10 September, involving 200,000 military personnel, 760 units of military equipment (over 80 aircraft and helicopters, more than 290 tanks, 240 guns, multiple rocket launchers, and mortars), and 15 ships. They simultaneously started at 14 military ranges: Kirilovsky, Strugi Krasnye, Mulino, Pogonovo, Khmelevka, Pravdinsky, Dobrovolsky, Dorogobuzh, and Volsky, located on the territory of the Russian Federation, in the Baltic Sea, as well as at five ranges in the Republic of Belarus — Obuz-Lesnovsky, Brest, Chepelevo, Domanovsky, and Ruzhansky. The opening of the exercises took place in Mulino near Nizhny Novgorod.

The tactical concept of the Zapad-2021 exercises was standard: repelling the enemy's attack, drawing the enemy in, encircling, destroying, and going on the offensive.

The defending units were supported by 12 divisions (140 guns) of modernized self-propelled howitzers "Msta-S" (providing the so-called "Fire Shaft").

At the training grounds in the Kaliningrad Oblast, the military practiced actions to eliminate conditional illegal armed formations in urban conditions, as well as strikes against stationary and mobile targets. There, for the first time, the Platform-M ground-based robotic complexes were used - robots armed with grenade launchers and a Kalashnikov assault rifle were successfully used by motorized infantry and paratroopers who controlled the process remotely.[citation needed]

T-72B3 tanks with additional dynamic protection, anti-mine trawls, and the Terminator BMPT were massively involved in the offensive of the ground grouping of forces. A platoon of the latest B-19 infantry fighting vehicles with the Epoch combat module was put into battle. Also, the heavy flamethrower systems TOS-1A "Solntsepek", worked together for the first time with the latest remote mining complexes "Agriculture".

For the first time, engineering, surveillance, and strike robots were massively involved in the combat training of troops, along with tanks and other /ground and aviation equipment, the most notable of which were the machines of the Uran family (they fought directly in the battle formations of the defending units, and also covered the grouping of forces during the change of positions by motorized rifle units) and Nerekhta (for reconnaissance and fire support units).[12][13]

For the first time, reconnaissance and strike UAVs for operational purposes were massively used, which covered the maneuvering actions of the defending units. They operated in conjunction with the Sagittarius intelligence and communications complex.

At the same time, several groups of army aviation were involved: from the air, the grouping of troops and forces was covered by Su-35S, Su-30SM, MiG-31BM, and Su-34 fighters. Helicopters, including Mi-8 of various modifications, reconnaissance and strike Mi-28 "Night Hunter", attack Ka-52 "Alligator," and Mi-35s worked at the forefront of the counteroffensive, carrying out the landing of tactical troops and the transfer of equipment and weapons on an external suspension. Four links of Su-34S fighter bombers destroyed essential objects in the depth of the enemy's defenses.

The official "closing" ceremony was held on 15 September at the Nizhny Novgorod training ground Mulino.[14]


  1. ^ "Главное управление международного военного сотрудничества Минобороны РФ провело брифинг о подготовке совместного стратегического учения «Запад-2021»: Министерство обороны Российской Федерации" [The Main Directorate of International Military Cooperation of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation held a briefing on the preparation of the joint strategic exercise "Zapad 2021": Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation]. Retrieved 20 August 2021.
  2. ^ "'Something Was Badly Wrong': When Washington Realized Russia Was Invading Ukraine". POLITICO. Retrieved 8 May 2023.
  3. ^ "Milley: US should explore more military talks with Russia". The Independent. 24 September 2021. Retrieved 9 May 2023.
  4. ^ Kaufman, Oren Liebermann,Ellie (22 September 2021). "Top US general meets with his Russian counterpart in Finland | CNN Politics". CNN. Retrieved 9 May 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "Заключительный этап оперативно-стратегических учений «Запад-2009»".
  6. ^ Military News (in Russian)[dead link]
  7. ^ "Минобороны Белоруссии рассказало о целях и плане учений "Запад-2021"". 5 August 2021.
  8. ^ "На учениях "Запад-2021" будут "отбивать нападение" на Россию и Беларусь".
  9. ^ "«Запад-2021»: психиатрам пора готовиться к истерике НАТО из-за учений России и Беларуси".
  10. ^ "Пентагон будет бороться с русским "Авангардом" новым оружием". 14 September 2021.
  11. ^ Главное управление международного военного сотрудничества Минобороны РФ провело брифинг о подготовке совместного стратегического учения «Запад-2021» 20 August 2021. (in Russian)
  12. ^ "Бездушная армия Сергея Шойгу".
  13. ^ "Шаг вперед: в США оценили применение роботов на учениях "Запад-2021"".
  14. ^ "Учения "Запад-2021" завершились". 15 September 2021.
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