Russia’s conservative weekly Voenno-Promyshlenny Kuryer has published an op-ed by chief of Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov modern warfare trends based on his March 5 speech at the Russian Academy of Military Sciences. See a raw, unedited translation I did below with key propositions underlined. Gerasimov’s instructions to Russian military scientists to explore how best to deploy forces to distance theaters are especially interesting. They indicate Russian military-political leadership is increasingly interested in extending the range of large-scale operations (recall Russia reportedly had to buy and convert Turkish commercial vessels to deploy forces to Syria). Gerasimov also claims hybrid warfare has U.S. origins and U.S./NATO employs such warfare for regime changes because hybrid warfare doesn’t fall under definition of aggression in international law. He also accuses Western states of using an entire range of non-military means against states, including mobilization of “protest potential of the population” and use of social networks to do so, Just like in his 2013 landmark speech to the same academy, in which he essentially previewed the operation, in Crimea, Gerasimov emphasizes blurring of the lines between war and peace in modern world.
Carl von Clausewitz compared the war to an expanded struggle, defining it as an act of violence aimed at forcing the enemy to fulfill one’s will. Outstanding Russian and Soviet theorists of the early 20th century Andrei Snesarev and Alexander Svechin made a significant contribution to the development of the science of war. The subject of their studies were main trends of conducting warfare, which is a consequence of not only political, but also of economic and social relations. Understanding war as a as a means of achieving political goals exclusively through armed struggle had become well established by the 1990s.
In the United States wars began to be classified as traditional and non-traditional wars. In the beginning of the XXI century American theorists also proposed to add hybrid wars to this classification. They define such wars as actions that occur in periods that can be described as neither war nor peace. Russian scientists and practitioners adopted a more balanced approach to the classification of modern armed conflicts. That classification factors in a greater number of attributes. At the same time, there is no definition of war in either international or Russian official documents. In the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation refer to was as a form of resolving inter-state or intra-state contradictions with the use of military force.
An active discussion on clarifying the concept of war continues. Some scientists and specialists adhere to the classical interpretation. Others propose to fundamentally revise the views on the content and essence of the term “war”, arguing that armed struggle is not an obligatory attribute of war. We can now encounter such terms, as information war, economic war, hybrid war, and many other variants.
The General Staff pays due attention to the discussion of this problem. We organized a discussion of the concept of “war” in modern conditions at the General Staff’s Military Academy in 2016. This issue was also considered at a meeting of a section in the Scientific Board of the Security Council. The discussions produced a general recommendation for analyzing patterns and characteristics of modern armed conflicts as well as for identifying trends in emergence and development of these conflicts.
Hybrid was has replaced contactless war
Conflicts of the late 20th – early 21st centuries differ from each other in the composition of the participants, the weapons used, the forms and methods of the actions taken by the troops. At the same time, they do not go beyond the general content of the war, though they do include components of various types of struggle, including direct armed struggle, political struggle, diplomatic struggle, information struggle and others. Now new features of struggle have appeared. Share of what one or another type of struggle contributes to the overall political success of the war is changing. Another new feature is the overwhelming superiority of one side in military power and economic power over the other.
Modern conflicts are characterized by a number of features. The experience of the NATO operation in Yugoslavia, which opened the era of so-called contactless or distance wars, has not been widely replicated. The reasons for that are objective. Geographic and economic factors constrain achievement of war goals. Costs of armaments and of war as a whole have begun to play an important role in the choice of methods of conducting military operations.
Increasing use of advanced robotic systems and unmanned aerial vehicles for various purposes and actions has become another essential feature of modern conflicts.
New forms of using diverse forces and means have emerged. For example, the operation in Libya saw a no-fly zone created simultaneously with imposition of a naval blockade and in conjunction with joint actions of private military companies from NATO member states and armed opposition groups.
Leading states’ concepts of use of armed forces refer to achievement of information superiority as an indispensable condition for conducting combat operations. Media and social networks are used to attain this condition. At the same time, forces and means of information-psychological and information-technical impact are being employed. The conflicts in the Middle East have for the first time extensively revealed mobilization opportunities that social networks create.
The conflict in Syria served as a vivid example of application of hybrid methods. That conflict saw traditional and non-traditional means of both military and non-military nature employed.
The first stage of the conflict saw Syria’s internal contradictions transformed into armed actions of the opposition. These actions then acquired an organized character with the support of foreign instructors. These actions also enjoyed active information support. Subsequently, terrorist groups — that were supplied and directed from abroad — joined the struggle against the Syrian government troops.
U.S. and NATO countries are actively practicing hybrid actions on the international scene. This is largely due to the fact that such actions do not fall under the definition of aggression. Western media has dubbed combination of such methods “hybrid war,” but it is premature to treat this as an established term.
New perception of a regular word
Out analysis points to a number of trends that indicate the transformation of armed conflicts in the beginning of the 21st century. Today, there is obviously a blurring of the line between the state of war and peace. A new perception of peacetime has emerged and become the reverse side of hybrid actions. Peacetime is now a state when no military or other open violent measures are applied against a state, but its national security and sovereignty still come under a threat and may be violated. The range of causes and pretexts for use of military force is increasingly expanded. This force is increasingly used to advance economic interests of states under the slogan of defending democracy or instilling democratic values in a particular country. The emphasis in the content of methods of struggle shifts towards broader application of political, economic, diplomatic, information and other non-military measures. Utilization of protest potential of the population accompanies application of these measures. Non-military forms and means of struggle have undergone an unprecedented technological development and acquired a dangerous, and sometimes violent character. Practical application of these means and forms can cause a collapse in the energy, banking, economic, information and other spheres of the life of a state. The results of cyber-attacks on the objects of Iran’s energy infrastructure in 2015 can serve as an example of such application.
Analysis of the main characteristics, features and trends in the development of modern conflicts demonstrates that they all have a common feature: use of military violence. In some cases, it becomes an almost classical armed struggle, as were the two US wars against Iraq and the NATO operation against Yugoslavia. In other conflicts, as, for example, in Syria, one party to the armed struggle conducted anti-terrorist operations while its adversary employed illegal irregular armed formations and terrorist structures. Thus, the main content of wars in the present time and in the foreseeable future will remain the same. The main attribute of these wars is armed struggle.
At the same time, the question of determining the nature of war remains open. It remains relevant and it needs to be studied constantly and carefully. It was for that reason that we included the Roundtable on “Modern Wars and Armed Conflicts: Characteristics and Features” was included into the scientific and entrepreneur program of international military technical forum “Army-2017” in August. Scientists of the Academy of Military Sciences should take an active part in this. It is necessary to continue work on interdepartmental standardization of military-political and military terms and definitions. The growth of the conflict potential in the world only underscores the relevance of a number of tasks that face in the sphere of national defense.
The main of these tasks remains the same – guaranteed repelling of a possible aggression against the Russian Federation and its allies from any direction. In peacetime it is necessary to ensure the neutralization of threats to the country’s security through implementing strategic deterrence measures that should be based on available forces and means. In this regard, the role and importance of forecasting military dangers and threats is increasing. The forecasts should factor in assessment of economic, information and other challenges.
The improvement of the capabilities of the Armed Forces is achieved through balanced development of all types and types of troops (forces), development of precision weapons and modern means of communication, reconnaissance, automated control and electronic warfare. At present, Strategic Missile Forces are being equipped with modern systems. The Navy is receiving new nuclear submarines with ballistic and cruise missiles, which have no analogues in the world. The strategic aviation’s fleet, our legendary Tu-160 and Tu-95MS, are being actively modernized. All this will allow us to increase the share of modern weapons in our strategic nuclear forces to 90 percent by the end of 2020.
The attack potential of the armed forces’ precision weapons will increase fourfold, which will ensure Russia’s security along the entire perimeter of the borders. By 2021, the share of modern weapons and military equipment in the Ground Forces will have reached at least 70 percent. The Air Force will receive a new generation of aircraft, which will increase the combat capabilities of aviation by 1.5 times. The Navy will be supplied with modern ships that will be equipped with high-precision long-range missiles. Robotic systems will play a significant role in enhancing combat capabilities. The large-scale, but justified employment of these systems for various purposes will increase the effectiveness of the troops’ actions, and will ensure a significant reduction in personnel losses.
The science of preempting
Today, the Armed Forces are gaining combat experience in Syria. They are given a unique opportunity to test and try new models of weapons and military equipment in new climatic conditions. It is necessary to continue to summarize experience of using means of armed struggle in the Syrian campaign and to infer lessons for refinement and modernization of these means.
We should keep in mind victory can never be achieved through material resources along. Spiritual resources of the people, their cohesion and their desire to resist aggression is necessary for attaining the victory. The military and political leadership of the Russian Federation is making serious efforts to restore the people’s confidence in the army. Today, the Armed Forces are entering a fundamentally new level of combat readiness and the society supports this development. To increase the armed forces’ clout even further, we need to develop a link between the army and society, and that requires improvements in training of servicemen and in patriotic education of the youth.
Solving urgent tasks of the defense of the country requires careful and advanced examination of these tasks. In this connection, it is worthwhile to emphasize what the Academy of Military Sciences’ priority tasks are. The first task is to study new forms of interstate struggle and development of effective ways to counter these forms. Another urgent task is development of scenarios and long-term forecasts for development of the military-political and strategic situation in the most important regions of the world. It is necessary to study characteristics of modern armed conflicts in a timely manner. These studies should serve as a basis for development of methods of military command and control as well as of actions of troops under various conditions. Problems of organizing and executing deployment of troops (forces) to remote theaters require a separate study. The general tasks of the military science remain relevant and require further elaboration.