Academic journal article Military Review

Old Generation Warfare: The Evolution-Not Revolution-Of the Russian Way of Warfare

Academic journal article Military Review

Old Generation Warfare: The Evolution-Not Revolution-Of the Russian Way of Warfare

Article excerpt

The post-Cold War honeymoon with Russia is over. Russia's seizure of the Crimea and the subsequent conflict to annex the Donbas imperils the legitimacy of the NATO alliance. U.S. allies on NATO's eastern flank foresee the same aggression occurring in their countries and, having endured Moscow's suzerainty for over a half century, these nations prefer freedom to vassalage. Consequently, U.S. military professionals must reacquaint themselves with the Russian way of warfare. The U.S. Army Operating Concept defines Russia as a "competing power" and a "harbinger of future conflict." 1 Moreover, the National Security Strategy speaks of the United States leading the effort toward "countering Russian aggression."2

Russian Way of War

One element of Russian resurgence that captivates Western defense circles is the emergence of new generation warfare (NGW). However, there is evidence to suggest that Russian actions are not new at all, but altogether consistent based on historical precedents. Russia has adapted its traditional methods-not created entirely new ones-based on political, economic, informational, and technological changes in the operational environment.3 Analyzing the ends, ways, and means of NGW shows historical consistencies with Russian approaches to warfare combined with adaptations based on the current operational environment.

Strategic Ends

In April 2014, Janis Berzins wrote a well-received paper for Latvia's National Defense Academy in which he defined Russian NGW. In his paper, Berzins argues that one aspect of Russia's military strategy is "doctrinal unilateralism, or the idea that successful use of force results in legitimacy."4 Russian desires for security are manifested by the expansion of their borders into areas where they perceive threats or instability. A few prominent Russian experts note that the Russian mindset is "the best defense is a good offense." George Kennan, deputy chief of mission to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1947 and author of "Sources of Soviet Conduct," notes that Russian feelings of insecurity and inferiority are to blame for their expansionist tendencies.5 Elsewhere, Timothy Thomas, a former U.S. Army foreign area officer to the Soviet Union and senior analyst at the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth writes how, after years of depression, Russia is eager to reassert itself in the world of geopolitics.6

Russian strategic ends appear to include achieving security by dominating the international order. Russian expansionist policy in the "Russian Military Concept: 2010" states that deterring and preventing conflict lies in Russia's ability "to expand the circle of partner states and develop cooperation with them," and that physically incorporating neighboring territory into the Russian Federation itself (e.g., Chechnya) or as vassal states (e.g., South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and the Donbas) is the best route for security.7 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, incredulous of Russia's 2014 intervention in the Ukraine, remarked, "You just don't in the twenty-first century behave in nineteenth- century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext."8 Unfortunately, Russia's behavior from the ninth century to the present continues to be fairly consistent and predictable despite the well-meaning objections of Kerry and like-minded individuals.

Strategic Consistencies

Continuous expansion is consistent with the history of the Russian nation. In 862 A.D., Novgorod, the progenitor of the Russian Federation, was about the size of Texas. After almost 1,200 years, Russia is now twenty- four times the size of Novgorod's original borders.

Catastrophic invasions drove Russian leadership to obsess over the need to establish strategic depth. These invasions include the thirteenth-century Mongolian conquest, the sixteenth-century Swedish invasion, the nineteenth-century Napoleonic invasion, and the twentieth-century Nazi invasion. …

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