VECTORS OF DEVELOPMENT OF RUSSIAN MILITARY STRATEGY IN CURRENT CONDITIONS
Mar. 14, 2019
Army General Valeriy Gerasimov, the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, spoke at the general assembly of the Academy of Military Sciences (Originally appeared at Red Star; Translated by J.Hawk exclusively for SouthFront)
Transformation of military threats
Traditionally, the annual Academy of Military Sciences conference is a platform for exchanging opinions among military specialists, concerning the most pressing problems of military science. The conference’s outcomes de-facto define future development of military science, therefore they are widely discussed in Russia and abroad.
This year we are discussing the question of military strategy development in contemporary conditions.
Military strategy as a science, or “the art of commanding armies”, was born in early 20th century and evolved on the basis of examination of wartime experience. Overall, strategy is a “system of knowledge and actions to avoid, prepare for, and conduct war”.
At present, we are seeing the expansion in the variety of kinds of war, and their content is undergoing significant change. There are more actors participating in armed struggle. In addition to sovereign states’ armed forces, various bandit formations, PMCs, and self-proclaimed “quasi-states” also participate.
We can expect active use of economic, political, diplomatic, and informational pressure, as well as demonstrations of military force in order to enhance the effectiveness of the non-military measures. Military force is used when non-military methods have not succeeded.
Moreover, Russia’s geopolitical rivals do not conceal their desire to achieve their political aims through not only local conflicts. They are preparing to wage war against “high-tech adversary” using high-precision weapons from the air, sea, and space, and active information warfare.
In these conditions, our Armed Forces ought to be ready to fight wars and armed conflicts of the new type using classical and asymmetric methods. Therefore the search for optimum strategies for waging wars with various adversaries acquires paramount importance for the development of theory and practice of military strategy.
We must review the form and content of military strategy, principles of preventing wars, preparing for wars, and conducting wars. We also ought to further develop various forms of using the Armed Forces, mainly in the realm of strategic deterrence, and continue to improve the organization of the state’s defenses.
Evolution of main strategic concepts
During its evolution, military strategy underwent several phases, from the “crushing strategy” and “attrition strategy” to “global war”, “nuclear deterrence” and “indirect operations”.
United States and its allies have embraced an aggressive approach to its foreign policy. They are planning offensive military operations such as “global strike”, “multi-domain battle”, use the techniques of “color revolutions” and “soft power.” Their goal is the elimination of the statehood of insubordinate states, undermining sovereignty, replacing legally elected state authorities. This happened in Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine. Currently similar operations can be observed in Venezuela.
Pentagon started to develop a qualitatively new strategy of military operations which has already been dubbed the “Trojan horse”.
It amounts to active use of the “protest potential of a potential fifth column” in the interests of destabilizing situation while simultaneously precision-guided munition (PGM) strikes are launched at key targets.
I would like to note that the Russian Federation is ready to counter any of these strategies. During the last few years, military science professionals and the General Staff developed conceptual approaches to neutralizing potential adversaries’ aggressive actions. The foundation of “our answer” is the “strategy of active defense” which, taking into consideration the defensive nature of Russia’s Military Doctrine, entails a range of measures to pre-emptively neutralize threats to state security.
Validation of the measures which are being developed ought to be the focus of our military science professionals. It’s one of the priority realms in ensuring state security. We ought to anticipate the adversary in the development of military strategy, be “a step ahead”.
Syria saw the first use of the newly developed and practice-validated method of using Armed Forces formations, namely humanitarian operation.
The Unity of Theory and Practice
Developing strategy as a science ought to cover two directions. They are the development of the system of knowledge about war, and improving the range of practical activities concerning war prevention, preparation, and conduct.
Military strategy research encompasses armed struggle, its strategic level. As new realms of warfare appear, the methods used in contemporary conflicts are more and more often shifting toward fusion of political, economic, informational, and other non-military measures, backed by military force.
Nevertheless, the main content of military strategy is the preparation for war and its conduct, first and foremost using the Armed Forces. Yes, we do acknowledge the other non-military measures which influence the course and outcome of war, and also create conditions for effective use of military force. But one needs to remember that struggles in other realms represent separate problems with their own “strategies”, methods of action, and corresponding resources. In order to achieve our common goal, we ought to coordinate among them, rather than direct them.
Strategy ought to concern itself with predicting the nature of future wars, develop new “strategies” to conduct them, prepare the state and Armed Forces for them. It means it’s necessary to renew the list of research objectives by supplementing them with new directions in scientific activity.
Without a doubt, this work ought to be headed by the Military Academy of the General Staff, jointly with the Academy of Military Sciences.
In order to effectively study these issues, we will need the involvement all the scientific entities of the MoD, the scientific capabilities of interested federal agencies, executive authorities. Practice has shown that difficult issues must be discussed at scientific/practical conferences, evaluated at round tables. Only then will they yield new contributions to the theory and practice of military strategy.
Principles of preventing, preparing for, and conducting war
As the nature of war, including its preparation and conduct, changes, some principles of strategy cease to operate, while others acquire new meaning. The principle of averting war consists of anticipating the future military, political, and strategic environment in order to detect military threats and dangers in a timely manner, in order to react to them in a timely manner. Principles of pior preparation for war are ensured by a high level of constant combat and mobilization readiness of the armed forces, and also the establishment and maintenance of strategic reserves and stores. The principle of conducting war on the basis of coordinated application of military and non-military measures, with the armed forces playing decisive role, has evolved. The principles of surprise, decisiveness, and continuity of strategic operations remain current. Rapid action allows us to pre-empth the adversary with our preventive measures, quickly discover his weak spots, and threaten to inflict inacceptable damage. This allows us to seize and maintain strategic initiative.
The work on clarifying and validating new principles ought to continue using consolidated efforts of the entire scientific community. We must form general and universal principles, as well as principles applicable to specific conditions. That’s what the main directions of the development of the theoretical aspects of military strategy look like. However, as the great Russian military commander Aleksandr Vasilyevich Suvorov said, “theory without practice is dead”, therefore one cannot imagine the practical aspect of military strategy without its scientific validation.
Forecast scenario system
The fundamental basis for the practical application of strategy is the system of studing forecasted scenarios of armed conflict initiation and conduct. A well-validated scenario forecast for future conflicts is the basis for developing the organization and doctrine of the Armed Forces. We currently have a theoretically developed and practically validated rational system for the use of Armed Forces, where strategic deterrence are an important component. Washington is currently pursuing further expansion of its military presence directly on Russia’s borders, destruction of the system of arms control treaties, leading to upsetting strategic stability. Thus in 2002 the US unilaterally exited the ABM Treaty. Their next step, after the demonstrative suspension of participation in the INF Treaty, may be the refusal to extend START-3. Pentagon lately made several declarations of its intent to use outer space for military purposes. This is why it is forming a new branch of service, Space Forces, which may lead to the militarization of outer space. Ultimately all of these efforts may cause a sharp deterioration of political and military environment, and emergence of military threats to which we will have to respond using symmetrical and asymmetrical measures.
Strategic deterrence measures
One of the current tasks facing the future military strategy is the theoretical foundation for, and improving, nuclear and non-nuclear deterrence measures. Any potential aggressor should be aware that any type of pressure on Russia and its allies is doomed to fail. Our answer will shortly follow. To make sure of that, we are adopting modern weapon systems, including some qualitatively new ones. WE have begun the production of new types of weapons, which are entering service. Avangard, Sarmat, the latest Peresvet and Kinzhal all showed high combat effectiveness. Poseidon and Burevestnik are successfully undergoing tests. Development of the Tsirkon hypersonic naval missile is progressing as planned. There is no doubt we are clear leaders in this field when compared to technologically advanced countries.
Thus, a decision was made to perform research and development of land-based short- and medium-range hypersonic missile systems. New types of weapons will allow Russia not to be drawn into an arms race. Sufficient numbers will be deployed to ensure deterrence within the planned military budget framework.
The policies of our Western partners force us to “respond to threats by creating a threat”, planning strikes on decisionmaking centers, as well as launchers capable of launching cruise missile strikes against Russia’s territory.
Military scientists ought to intensify their research on search for and implementation of new methods of using future weapons systems, and to research ways of countering military actions by the likely adversary in space and from space.
“The strategy of limited actions” outside of Russia’s borders
Syria experience plays in important role in the development of strategy. Its generalization and propagation allowed us to identify a new realm of practical application, namely tasks intended to protect and advance national interests outside of Russia’s territory within the “strategy of limited actions”.
This strategy is based on establishing a self-sufficient group of forces whose core is formed by one of the branches of armed services, possessed of high mobility and capable of making the greatest contribution to the mission at hand. In Syria, that role was played by units of the Aerospace Forces.
The effectiveness of this strategy depends on winning and holding on to the information superiority, rapid reactions by the command and support systems, and stealthy deployment of the necessary forces group.
New methods of using forces during the operation were validated. The role of military strategy consisted of planning and coordinating joint military and non-military operations by the Russian forces group and the armed formations of interested states, as well as paramilitary organizations of states participating in the conflict.
Post-conflict settlement received further development. Syria saw the development and practical validation of the new form of using Armed Forces, namely humanitarian mission. Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta required rapid planning and implementation of civilian population evacuation from the conflict zone, even as combat operations were continuing.
Results achieved in Syria allowed us to identify specific research questions concerning the use of the Armed Forces outside Russia’s territory in order to protect and advance national interests.
Using a group of forces under the “strategy of limited actions”
One of the directions of strategy development is related to the creation and development of a unified integrated reconnaissance/intelligence/command/strike system on the basis of modern information and telecommunications technologies.
This system is used to detect, designate, and selectively strike critically important targets in near-real time, using tactical and operational-level non-nuclear weapons systems. In the future, military science needs to develop and validate a system capable of inflicting a comprehensive strike on the enemy.
The next direction of research is related to the large-scale of military robotic systems, starting with UAVs, to contribute to a wide range of missions.
Another research direction concerns countering UAVs and PGMs. Here the decisive role was played by EW systems which enabled selective responses based on the nature of the attack, the target, and time criticality.
Here military science needs to work on the question of establishing a strategic anti-UAV system within Russian Armed Forces, and providing basis for future strategic EW systems and their systemic integration.
I want to underscore that digital technologies, robotization, UAVs, EW, all of that ought to be on the agenda of military science, including military strategy.
Collaboration among components of the state’s military organization
One of the characteristic features of contemporary armed conflicts is the destabilization of the state’s internal security using sabotage and terrorist actions. For that reason, developing and perfecting a territorial defense system, its structure, organization, ensuring readiness, is an important task for military science and strategy. Currently we are doing a lot concerning non-military and military measures carried out by government agencies and ministries in the interests of national defense. All the same it is necessary to continue work on coordinating actions by federal executive agencies, delineating their responsibilities, and control over the territorial defense mission during a period of war threat escalation and during crisis.
The situation also requires a comprehensive system for protecting key infrastructure from all kinds of threats during periods of direct threat of aggression, when the adversary will attempt to destabilize the situation and create a sense of chaos and loss of control.
This matter is new to military strategy theory and practice, and requires thorough research treatment. It will result in theoretical contributions, as well as a developed system for joint use of multi-agency assets to ensure comprehensive security.
Addressing information threats
Until recent times, military science concerned itself with the application of Armed Forces in traditional realms of combat operations, on land, air, and sea. An analysis of modern wars shows growth of information warfare. Future wars will also see conflict expand into that realm. Information technologies are de-facto becoming one of the most promising form of weapons. The information realm which lacks clearly defined national borders, allows for remote, stealthy operations aimed at not only critical informational infrastructure, but also the population, with direct impact on national security.
Therefore the matter of preparing for and conducting informational operations is a key task for military science.
Increasing the combat power of Russia’s Armed Forces
One of the priority future directions of military strategy is the research into increasing Russian Armed Forces’ fighting power. It depends on both quantitative and qualitative aspects of the Armed Forces, their manning and equipment levels, morale, training, combat readiness and battleworthiness.
We are currently implementing the program on contract soldier manning of the Armed Forces, which is progressing according to plan. By 2025, their number will reach 475,000 servicemembers. The draft requirements will be reduced. Armed Forces’ officer corps consists of trained, professional cadres. All military district troop commanders, combined arms formation commanders, air force and air defense commanders, have combat experience, as do 96% of commanders of smaller combined-arms units. All branches and types of forces are undergoing balanced development process, receiving timely upgrades with modern equipment. The nuclear triad, which plays a key role in preserving strategic parity, is noticeably stronger. 82% of nuclear weapons systems are modern.
Troop control and training establishments have become considerably more adept. Their abilities have undergone qualitative change.
Surprise combat readiness inspections confirmed the ability to rapidly transfer formations across large distances and reinforcing strategically important sectors.
Improving the means of ensuring ideological and moral resilience of the population, starting with the military personnel, is a traditionally important aspect of strategy. This is why the institution of military-political work has been revived in the Armed Forces.
Collaboration between MoD and the defense industry
An important direction of defense strategy and a task for military science is the search for new approaches to and development of ties between military strategy and economy. In order to prepare the country’s economy for addressing defense tasks, strategy ought to be able to state for which kinds of wars and in what direction should the economy ought to be shaped? How is one to ensure its survivability and resilience? How should economic facilities be placed to ensure their protection?
Aleksandr Svechin’s thesis that “economics will subordinate the nature of combat operations to itself”, expressed nearly 100 years ago, has become objective reality.
I should note that a lot has been done by the MoD and the defense industry. First of all, we’ve built an effective system for collaboration. Scientific research institutions participate in developing requirements for weapon systems on the basis of analysis of combat experience, and monitor implementation during the entire development process, from the first drafts to state testing.
Therefore military science and its forecasting of future wars define the nature of future weapons and equipment. Military scientists are conducting anticipatory research in order to define the forms and use of future weapons. The complexity of modern weapons is such that it is impossible to put them into production once fighting starts. It has to be produced in necessary numbers during peacetime. We need to do everything possible to ensure technical, technological, organizational superiority over any potential adversary.
This demand should become crucial when tasking defense industry with developing new weapons. It will allow defense enterprises to engage in long-term planning, and scientific institutions will have points of reference for their theoretical and applied research into military science.
The main tasks of military science and ways of achieving them
The most important task facing military science today is anticipatory, continuous, and focused research on the likely character of future conflicts, developing the entire system of military and non-military measures, defining future trends in weapons and equipment development. It is extremely important to quickly introduce the results of theoretical and applied research into troops’ daily activities. Addressing these tasks is first and foremost on the shoulders of the Armed Forces’ military science establishment. In recent years, this establishment achieved certain successes. For example, it prepared a system of basic data for military planning for the mid-term (2021-2025) as a result of research tasked by the General Staff. It is the basis for clarifying and developing defense planning documents for the new period.
Our military science always distinguished itself with its ability to see and uncover problems even as they were appearing, and the ability to quickly find ways to deal with them.