Here is my rough translation of a speech that that chief of Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov gave in January 2013 and that Sam Jones of FT drew attention of his readers to. The speech, which was delivered more than a year before the operation in Crimea, would give you an idea what propositions the chief of the Russian General Staff would be guided by if instructed to plan such an operation. In fact, I would argue that some of the features of the Crimean operation and follow-up events had been previewed in this January 2013 speech.
I have also underlined the relevant parts that I think previewed that operation, but, of course, other parts of this speech are of interest too.
"The Value of Science in Anticipation. New Challenges Require to Rethink Forms and Methods of Warfare," Valery Gerasimov, Speech At The Academy of Military Sciences in January 2013, Published in Weekly "VPK-Kuryer" on February 27, 20131.
The 21st century is characterized by a trend, which erases differences between state of war and state of peace. Wars are not not declared. And, having begun, wars do not follow usual patterns.
Armed conflicts, including those associated with the so-called color revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East, demonstrate how in a matter of months or even days, a prosperous state may be turned into an arena of a fierce armed struggle, fall victim to a foreign intervention, and plunge into chaos, humanitarian catastrophe and civil war.
Lessons of the "Arab Spring"
Of course, it's easier just to claim that the events of the Arab Spring do not constitute a war, and, therefore, we, the military, have nothing to learn from them. But, maybe, on the contrary, such events actually constitute what would be a typical war of the 21st century?
The scale of death and destruction, catastrophic social, economic and political implications of such conflicts of a new type make their consequences comparable to a real full-fledged war.
And the very rules of war have changed significantly. Non-military methods of achieving political and strategic objectives have begun to play a greater role. In some cases these methods have by far exceeded military weapons in their effectiveness.
Whenever these methods of warfare are implemented, the emphasis is put on extensive use of political, economic, information, humanitarian and other non-military measures that exploit protest potential of the local population. This is complemented by the military measures of concealed nature, including implementation of measures of information warfare and actions of special forces. It is only at some later, follow-up stage that force is openly used, often under the guise of peacekeeping and crisis management, to achieve the ultimate success in the conflict.
This raises a number of legitimate questions: what constitutes a modern war, what armed forces should be prepared for, and what these forces should be armed with? Only by answering these questions we can determine the direction of development of our armed forces in the long term. This requires a clear understanding of what forms and methods of their application should be used.Non-standard techniques are now being implemented along with traditional methods. Mobile, multi-service groups of forces – that, thanks to new capabilities of command and support systems, operate in the same intelligence and information space – are playing an increasingly greater role. Military operations are becoming more dynamic, active and productive. Tactical and operational pauses, which the adversary could exploit, are vanishing. New information technologies have greatly reduced the spatial, temporal and information gaps between the forces and their commands.
Frontal collisions of large groups of troops (forces) at the strategic and operational level are gradually fading. Remote non-contact methods of attacking the adversary are becoming the main way to achieve the objectives in a battle or operation. The adversary's facilities are destroyed across its entire territory regardless of its depth. Distinctions between strategic, operational and tactical levels are blurred as are distinctions between offensive and defensive operations. High-precision weapons are used on an increasingly wide scale. News weaponry systems based on new physical principles, and robotic systems are being actively commissioned by armed forces.
Asymmetrical actions – that aim to neutralize the enemy's superiority in armed struggle – have become widely spread. These include employment of special forces and internal opposition to establish a permanent front across the entire territory of the adversarial state, as well as information warfare, forms and methods of which are constantly being improved.
The changes — that are underway – are reflected in military doctrines of leading countries and get tested out in military conflicts. During Operation "Desert Storm" in Iraq in 1991, the U.S. armed forces implemented concepts of "global reach – global power" and "air-ground operations." In 2003 military operations within framework of "Operation Iraqi Freedom" were conducted in accordance with the so-called Joint Vision 2020.
More recently concepts of Global Strike and Global BMD have been developed. They provide for destruction of the adversary's facilities and forces practically in almost every corner of the globe within a few hours. They are also supposed to guarantee that a retaliating adversary would not be able to cause unacceptable damage to the United States. The United States are also implementing a doctrine of globally integrated operations that calls for establishment of highly mobile multi-service groups of troops (forces) as soon as possible.
Recent conflicts have seen new methods of warfare emerge and these methods cannot be regarded as exclusively military. The recent operation in Libya, where a no-fly zone and naval blockade were established and private military companies were employed in close cooperation with armed formations of the opposition, is one example.
We must admit that, while we understand the essence of traditional military operations of regular armed forces, our knowledge of asymmetric forms and methods is superficial. In this regard, the role of military science, which should construct a comprehensive theory of such actions, is increasing. Work and research by the Academy of Military Sciences could be of help in this regard.
Objectives of Military Science
When eyeing the new forms and methods of warfare, we must not forget our own experience, such as use of Soviet guerrilla units during the Second World War on the Soviet territory and combatting irregular forces in Afghanistan and in the North Caucasus.
I want to emphasize that the Afghan war gave birth to specific forms and methods of warfare. They were based on the suddenness, fast deployment, skillful use of tactical airborne assaults and flanking units. All of that allowed to preempt the adversary and inflict significant damage on it.
Another factor behind substantive changes in modern methods of warfare is use of advanced robotic systems for military purposes and research in the field of artificial intelligence. In addition to drones — that are already flying today — the battlefield of tomorrow will be full of walking, crawling, jumping and flying robots. In the near future it will become possible to field entirely robotic units that would be cable of conducting independent military operations.
How should we fight under such conditions? What should be forms and methods of action against the robotic adversary? What do we need robots for and how should we use them? Our military thought should be reflecting on these issues already.
The most important set of issues – that require close attention – is associated with improvement of forms and methods of using groups of troops (forces). We need to rethink the substance of the strategic actions of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. There are already questions that need to be answered in this regard: Is there a need for such a number of strategic operations? What kind and how many of such operations will we require in future? Currently there are no answers to these questions.
There are also other problems that we encounter in our daily activities.
We are now at the final stage of forming the system of aerospace defense (ASD). In this context, there arises the issue of developing forms and methods of operations of the assets and means that are being assigned to ASD. This issue is already being researched by the General Staff, and the Academy of Military Sciences is invited to actively participate in this research.
Information warfare creates a wide range of asymmetric capabilities to reduce the combat potential of the adversary. In North Africa we have seen implementation of a technology designed to impact government agencies and public through information networks. We need to improve operations in the information space, including defense of our own facilities.
The operation to coerce Georgia to peace highlighted lack of common approaches to the use of units of the national Armed Forces outside the Russian Federation. The attack on the American consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi in September 2012, the soaring of maritime piracy, and the recent hostage crisis in Algeria all confirm the importance of building a system of armed defense of the interests of the state outside its territory.
Federal Law "On Defense" was amended in 2009 to allow rapid use of the Russian Armed Forces abroad. But forms and methods of such actions abroad remain to defined. Neither has been the issue of supporting such actions resolved at the inter-agency level. The issues – that need to be resolved – include introduction of simplified procedures for crossing the state border by the troops, use of airspace and territorial waters of foreign states, and order of interaction with the authorities, in which the armed forces are being used. Scientific organizations, concerned ministries and agencies should join forces to work to resolve these issues.
One of the forms of the use of units of the Armed Forces abroad is peacekeeping operations. In addition to traditional methods of using forces for peacekeeping, these could include such specific operations, as special, humanitarian, rescue, evacuation, sanitary and other types of operations. Such operations are yet to be categorized, and their character and substance are yet to be clearly defined.
Complex and multi-dimensional tasks of peacekeeping tasks – that regular troops may have to conduct – also require establishment of a fundamentally new system of training. After all, the tasks of peacekeeping forces are to separate the conflicting parties,to protect and save civilians, to help to reduce the hostilities potential and establish a peaceful life. All this requires a scientific study.
Control of the territory
Protection of the population, facilities and communications from actions of the adversary’s special forces is becoming particularly important in modern conflicts as use of such forces increases. Territorial defense should be established and maintained to tackle this threat. Until 2008, this mission had been assigned to the armed forces per se, as mobilization plans called for expansion of personnel strength of these forces to 4.5 million in case of a war. But conditions have changed since then. Now only a comprehensive employment of all of the state's power agencies can counter reconnaissance, sabotage and terrorist forces.
The General Staff has started working on this issue. This work is based on the refinement of approaches to territorial defense as reflected in the current amendments to Federal Law "On Defense." Adoption of the amendments would allow to refine command and control system of territorial defense, and legally define roles that other troops, military formations and government agencies will play in it.
There is a need for science-based recommendations on use of inter-agency assets and means in territorial defense as well as on ways to combat terrorist and sabotage forces of the adversary in modern conditions. The military sciences could help to craft such recommendations.
Military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have highlighted the need to define the role and degree of involvement of the armed forces in post-conflict resolution, to develop a list of tasks, methods of use of forces, and to establish limits on use of military force. This should be done n in collaboration with academic institutions and other ministries and departments of the Russian Federation.
Another important challenge is development of scientific and methodological apparatus for supporting decision-making process that would take into account the inter-service character of groups of troops (forces). We need to conduct a study of integrated capabilities that would combine the potential of all the troops and forces that form such inter-service groups. The existing models of combat operations do not allow us to do this. We need new models.
Changes in the nature of military conflicts, and development of means of armed struggle along with development of forms and methods of using these means define new requirements for systems of comprehensive support. All this represents another area of scientific research that we should not ignore.
Orders cannot generate ideas
The state of our national military science today can not be compared with the flowering of military theory that our country experienced on the eve of World War II. Of course, there are both objective and subjective reasons for that, and the current state of military science can not be blamed on anyone in particular. As the adage goes: orders cannot generate ideas. I cannot agree more. But I also have to admit that there were neither doctors nor PhD candidates nor scientific schools nor directions in our country on the eve of that war. But there were extraordinary personalities who had bright ideas at that time. I would call them fanatics of science in the best sense of the word. Maybe today we just do not have enough of these people.
Red Army division commander Georgii Isserson was one of them. Isserson wrote and published a book, entitled “New Methods of Struggle,” which defined the views that had been dominated in our country prior to WWII. In that book this Soviet military theorist predicted: “The war is not declared at all. It is simply started by armed forces that had been deployed in advance. Mobilization and concentration are carried in concealed manner and incrementally long before the state of war begins rather than after it, which was was the case in 1914.” Tragic was the fate of this "prophet in his own country." The country ended paying a very bloody prices for not heeding these conclusions of this professor of the Academy of the General Staff.
From this we should conclude that dismissive attitude toward either new ideas or different approaches or toward different points of view should not be allowed in the military science. It would be all the more unacceptable for the practitioners to neglect science.
To conclude I would like to state that the adversary will also have vulnerabilities, and, therefore, there will be always an opportunity for adequate response, no matter how strong the adversary is, no matter how perfect his assets and means of warfare are, and no matter how perfect are his forms and methods of using these means and assets.
At the same time we should neither copy others' experience nor try to catch up with the leading countries. We should rather be proactive and lead ourselves. In that respect our military science should play a important role.
Outstanding Soviet military scientist Alexander Svechin wrote: "It is extremely difficult to predict… conditions of war. Rather than apply some kind of an established pattern we must craft a special line of strategic behavior for every war as every war is a special case and it requires establishment of its own particular logic.”
This approach is still relevant today. Indeed, every war is a special case that requires an understanding of its particular logic and of its uniqueness. Therefore, the nature of war, which Russia or our allies can get involved in, is very difficult to foresee. Nevertheless, it is necessary to solve this problem. Any scientific research in the field of military science would be worthless unless the resultant military theory does not include a function of prediction.
The General Staff counts on the help of the Academy of Military Sciences, which has gathered leading military scientists and respected experts in its ranks, in addressing the many challenges facing the military science of today.
I am convinced that the close ties between the Academy of Military Sciences and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation will continue to evolve and improve.
1A general meeting of the Academy of Military Sciences took place in late January 2013. It was attended by representatives of the government and the leadership of the Armed Forces. We would like to share with you the main points of the report by Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov on "Major Trends in Development of Forms and Methods of Use of the Armed Forces, and Urgent Tasks of the Military Science in Perfecting These Forms and Methods."