Russia and Kazakhstan are stepping up maritime security in the Caspian Sea as the two countries' naval forces conduct joint drills as part of ongoing counter-terrorism efforts.
"Special attention will be paid to the joint development of tasks by ship groups of the Russian Navy and the Navy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the protection and defense of objects of maritime economic activity, ensuring the safety of navigation and international maritime activities, as well as in the fight against terrorism in the Caspian Sea," the press service of Russia’s Southern Military District said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
The joint exercise will be held at Russian and Kazakh naval practice ranges from May 18-24.
The crews of the Russian Caspian Flotilla, the largest and most powerful naval unit in the Caspian Sea, arrived Tuesday at the Kazakh port of Aktau, and took part in the joint naval exercise.
The exercise involves six Russian warships, including the small missile ship (MRK) "Grad Sviyazhsk," the base minesweeper "Magomed Gadzhiev," the raid minesweeper "RT-234," "SB-738" rescue tugboat, the small hydrographic vessel "Anatoly Guzhvin" and the sea tugboat "MB-58" of the Caspian Flotilla of the Russian Navy.
A Su-34 supersonic bomber will also take part in the naval maneuvers to simulate an air target in the course of the joint drills. The big Russian jet is capable of carrying air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons on twelve hard points and has a maximum range of up to 2,500 miles away with a full 8.5-ton weapons load, or even further when benefiting from air-to-air refueling.
Meanwhile, the Kazakh navy ships involved in the drills include five warships and support ships. Full details on the vessels and drills have not been disclosed.
In the course of joint maneuvers, the seamen will conduct artillery firings against sea and air targets, practice anti-sabotage activities involving frogmen units, or underwater maneuvers. In addition, the seamen of both navies will exchange data on the results of monitoring the air and the naval situation in the region, the statement says.
Joint exercises are not the only form of training and capacity building carried out by Kazakhstan’s armed forces. Kazakhstan and Russia share membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which also includes Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. At the same time, the military cooperation between the two Caspian region's countries is on the rise due to more than 60 bilateral agreements that regulate defense and military-technical cooperation.
Meanwhile, the news of a full US withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan by September reinvigorated Russia’s military attention to the Central Asian region bordering Russia. Russia has an interest in helping safeguard the borders of its former Soviet allies in the region, as authorities in Moscow are concerned that terror threats emerging in Afghanistan can spread to Russia.