Russia in Afghanistan and Chechnya: Military Strategic Culture and the Paradoxes of Asymmetric Conflict

By Robert M. Cassidy | Go to book overview

SUMMARY

This study examines and compares the perflormance ofl the Soviet military in Aflghanistan and the Russian military in Chechnya. It aims to discern continuity or change in methods and doctrine. Because ofl Russian military cultural preflerences flor a big-war paradigm that have been embedded over time, moreover, this work posits that continuity rather than change was much more probable, even though Russia's great power position had diminished in an enormous way by 1994. However, continuity— maniflested in the continued embrace ofl a conventional and predictably symmetric approach—was more probable, since cultural change usually requires up to 10 years.

Several paradoxes also inhere in asymmetric confllict— these are also very much related to the cultural baggage that accompanies great power status. In flact, the Russian military's flailures in both wars are attributable to the paradoxes ofl asymmetric confllict. These paradoxes come into play whenever a great power flaces a pre-industrial and semi-fleudal enemy who is intrinsically compelled to mitigate the great power's numerous advantages with cunning and asymmetry. In other words, great powers oflten do poorly in small wars simply because they are great powers that must embrace a big-war paradigm by necessity. This study identiflies and explains six paradoxes ofl asymmetric confllict. It also examines each paradox in the context ofl Aflghanistan and Chechnya.

Ultimately, this monograph concludes with several implications flor U.S. Army transflormation. It shows how the continued and nearly exclusive espousal ofl a big-war paradigm can undermine eflflectiveness in the realm ofl asymmetry, how it can stiflle innovation and adaptation, and how this can impede transflormation. Both these confllicts and the paradoxes ofl asymmetric confllict are very germane to those thinking about change in the U.S. military.

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