“DEFENSE REFORM AS AN INTEGRAL PART OF A SECURITY CONCEPTION FOR THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION: A SYSTEMIC AND DYNAMIC EVALUATION”
Si vis pacem, para bellum (“If you want peace, prepare for war”)
Cornelius Nepos, Roman historian
Vice-Admiral Stepan Makarov, hero of the defense of Port Arthur
The Main Theses and Summary of the Evaluation
Last year’s important personnel changes in the upper echelons of the Russia Defense Ministry once again underscored the need for a national security conception, including a military component, which would be developed as an integrated and systemic conception, satisfactory not only for current conditions, but over the next three to five decades.
During the last decade, our country’s leadership has made a genuine breakthrough in this area, as manifested in the presidential decree “National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation for the Period to 2020,” dated May 12, 2009. The pioneering nature of this document, however, resulted in both strengths and weaknesses.
The strong points are exemplified by the very way the problem was posed: national security was defined as an independent and coherent concept, which cannot be reduced to any of its aspects, such as military, political, economic, informational, structural, or institutional security.
Among the weaknesses, in our opinion, are an insufficient elaboration and interconnection of key, strategic national security problems, which considerably reduces the practical validity and predictive capability of the document.
Without seeking in any way to critically reframe or rewrite the document, we, a group of experts gathered under the auspices of the Izborsk Club, nonetheless believe it desirable and timely to begin work in that direction. Insofar as the global geostrategic situation in today’s world is evolving swiftly and often unexpectedly, an inappropriate assessment of challenges and threats to the Russian Federation’s national security could result in inappropriate actions with disastrous consequences.
The report below consists of three interconnected sections: “A Systemic and Dynamic Evaluation of Threats to the Russian Federation’s National Security”; “An Assessment of the Past Phase of Defense Reform and Shaping New Approaches to its Improvement”; “Coming Military Technologies and the Wars of the Future”. These should be seen as an invitation to a nationwide discussion, rather than as fixed guidelines.
The agenda of such a discussion, in our opinion, may be formulated as follows:
1. Today’s and tomorrow’s system of national security will depend primarily on the Russian leadership’s taking appropriate actions to evaluate external and internal threats, a systemic and well-considered approach to building up the military, and a balanced socioeconomic policy to prevent social disruptions and the degradation of the population.
2. The geopolitical notions of the 1990s, based on the idea that Russia no longer had “external adversaries” and proclaiming a strategy of evading direct challenges through unilateral foreign-policy concessions, which sooner or later would convince the Western powers of Russia’s peaceability and compel them to admit it to the club of “civilized nations” as an equal partner, have proved totally unsound.
We live in a fast-evolving, dynamic world, in the period of a downward wave of crisis in the global economy, which generates geostrategic tensions in various regions of the planet, including those on the perimeter of Russia’s borders. Over the last two decades, a wide range of countries bordering on the RF have openly voiced a variety of claims on our country, from economic ones to territorial. Many of those claims may give rise to crisis situations in the future and attempts to resolve them by force.
3. Today, as in the past, the principal external threats to Russia originate from the USA and its western allies. They are not interested in seeing Russia reestablished as a global “power center,” and therefore pursue policies that aim to weaken Russia, force it out to the fringe of the “civilized world community,” and consolidate its position as a raw materials producer and the dump for the world’s waste. In attempting to achieve decisive military-strategic supremacy over Russia, the USA and its allies are employing the conception of “soft power,” which involves a combination of various transformation, information, and deformation actions, aimed at a targeted country. One key political and diplomatic technique employed against Russia is the imposition of unbalanced agreements on the reduction of strategic nuclear missiles and tactical nuclear weapons. In light of this, special caution must be exercised regarding any western diplomatic proposals in that vein.
4. Russia’s defense capability should be ensured through its foreign policy. The posture the Russian leadership adopts in an escalating strategic confrontation between China and the USA will play a decisive role. That confrontation widens Russia’s range of options for strategic maneuver, allowing it to vary its relationships with each of the two global power centers, depending on specific geostrategic (including military-political) conditions, and, at the same time, it requires that Russia improve and strengthen its Strategic Nuclear Forces (SNF) as a principal factor for the protection of its national sovereignty.
5. Characteristic of twenty-first-century wars are a variety of modes and ways of triggering armed conflicts, as well as the infliction of maximum damage on the targeted country, well in advance of the outbreak of armed hostilities, by means of “disruptive measures,” a state-of-the-art modern warfare technique. This involves primarily remote-controlled and “noncontact” interference with the functioning of the target country’s government agencies, polarization of its political elites, and disruption of social stability by a combination of psychologically profiled propaganda, economic and special operations, etc.
6. The phase of armed hostilities typically features fast-moving combat operations that aim to cause unacceptable damage to the target country’s systems of control and military infrastructure in as short a time as possible, and the conduct of combat operations throughout the theater of operations (battlefield) as well as “vertically” – in the air and in outer space. The armed forces of technologically advanced countries seek to conduct war by remote control, without coming into direct contact with the adversary. Therefore, their military programs give priority to the development of electronic intelligence and automated control systems, and high-precision weapons to exploit superiority in the acquisition, processing, and utilization of information.
7. In this light, it should be understood that at present, and especially over the next five to seven years, Russia will find itself in an extremely difficult and dangerous position. Russia has lost much of the late USSR’s geostrategic potential, including its military-industrial, scientific-technological, mobilization, and information-financial components, and is thus unable to counter today’s threats head-on. Therefore Russia’s political leadership is called upon to develop unconventional, asymmetrical approaches for fending off these threats at a significantly lower financial and economic cost. These principles should to be fundamental in elaborating the Russian Federation’s new national security doctrine, and in implementing military reforms within that framework, as well as in building organized political and information support for those efforts.
8. It must be admitted that the structure of military organization that was inherited from the USSR and remained unchanged until 2008, has in actual fact been destroyed under the chaotic and poorly conceived reforms of 2008-2012. The reforms have not helped to upgrade the Armed Forces, and by a number of criteria they have resulted in their degradation. Reinstating the previous organization is now impractical, because it would require budget spending far in excess of the country’s capabilities. At present, therefore, it is vitally important to assess the past reform period, define present-day military development priorities, and redefine the military doctrine, making it more specific and better grounded politically. Based on the redefined doctrine, a plan for further defense reform should be worked out and discussed in the community of military scientists and experts, and ultimately submitted to the Security Council for approval. The present report is one of the initial steps in that direction.
9. It has become apparent that specific steps should be taken today, as soon as possible, to minimize the factor of surprise in the political leadership’s decision-making. Institutionally, this could be done by a center for crisis early warning and military-political situation assessment, reporting directly to the RF Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief. Its mission would be to conduct continuous monitoring of national security threats and report to the top leadership on a regular basis regarding relevant developments in this area.
10. The time has come to create the following new organizations and branches of the RF Armed Forces:
— A Special Operations Command and Special Operations Forces (SOF), as a full-fledged offense force, which is still lacking within the Russian Armed Forces in fully developed form.
— Radio-Electronic Combat Forces (RECF), a necessity because the potential adversary’s increased and upgraded automated battlefield facilities, and expanded use of electronic communication and information-exchange systems, have made the development of radio-electronic combat forces a matter of heightened priority.
— An Agency for Information Networks Counteraction and Information Warfare Operations, as an organization to provide information support for actions of the armed forces, as well as to conduct propaganda, counterpropaganda and other active operations in the Internet and through the media.
11. It is necessary to reform the country’s mobilization machinery and build up the National Military Reserve. Armed forces without reserves cannot achieve victory in modern war.
12. Creation of new types of weapons, improvements in military equipment and armaments, and military R&D are intended to strengthen the Armed Forces. At the same time, they can create opportunities for advances toward innovative dual-purpose technologies, transitioning to the “sixth wave” or “sixth phase” of technology (in Kondratyev’s terms) on a global scale. These could become a development driver, capable of pulling the country’s industry and economy to a higher level. In this perspective, much will depend on the activities of the emerging Advanced Research Fund, which should coordinate the efforts of researchers and demands of the military.
Our assessment of available information indicates that, as of today, special attention in R&D should be given to the following areas:
— Remote-controlled automated devices simulating human physical, verbal or even intellectual activities (robots);
— Remote-operated unmanned aerial vehicles with various functions and purposes;
— Intelligence-gathering, communications and control systems, their hardware components, and corresponding algorithms and software;
— Means of combat based on new physical principles and effects (remote sounding of the Earth’s ionosphere, geophysical and climate weapons, etc.);
— Genetic engineering and biophysical technologies.
13. It should be anticipated that “disruptive measures” will continue to be the principal machinery for multi-faceted subversion against Russia, up to and including its territorial dismemberment. This undeclared warfare will aim to undermine political stability and influence the country’s financial and economic strategy, pushing it in a direction that will foment social unrest and other internal conflicts, akin to what developed in the USSR in the late 1980s. Similar subversive actions will target policies related to defense-sector development and military reform. To counter such threats, the political leadership of the country ought to elaborate and implement a meticulously verified policy for governing the country.
A scientifically valid conception of corrective actions in the realm of defense reform is needed today. In this area of work, it is important to guard against the kind of errors committed in the past, when the implementation of reform was left to the discretion of a narrow circle of officials, and made dependent on their competence, personal preferences or biases.
At present, Russia has a historic chance to implement a large-scale defense reform, and upgrade its Armed Forces, arming them with up-to-date equipment and weaponry. The creation of such Armed Forces, if combined with vigorous political leadership and a verified and balanced foreign policy, would become a weighty response to the challenges of the 21st century.
Systemic and Dynamic Evaluation of Threats to the Russian Federation’s National Security
What is the condition of the Russian Federation’s national security system at present? How is the reform of the armed forces related to it? What kind of potential challenges does the country face, and which strategic priorities should the country’s leadership choose in the 21st century, in the face of an international situation that is becoming more and more complicated by the month?
To answer these most essential questions properly, it is important first to comprehend where contemporary humankind is going and how it is getting there. The importance of such an understanding has been demonstrated not only by our own experts, but also in studies conducted by the Pentagon, the NATO system as a whole, and in the countries of the Asia-Pacific Region, such as Japan, China, and South Korea.
Russian political-military thought during the past two decades has been dominated by the “for export” versions of liberal and monetarist approaches. These have argued for the necessity of Russia’s rapid and close rapprochement with the USA/NATO, opining that a large-scale war with China, along with local armed conflicts, or even terrorism, were the major strategic military threats for Russia.
Authors writing within this framework have persistently falsified the true geostrategic and political-military situation in the world today, doctoring their picture of reality to fit their preconceptions. It is noteworthy that such documents as the Valdai Club report, or the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (CFDP) report, or the studies done by A. Arbatov and V. Dvorkin for the Carnegie Endowment, vigorously approved the pathway adopted for defense reform in Russia and almost completely endorsed its outcome.
It is obvious that a share of the responsibility for the failure of the reform rests with those authors: they did not wish to leave the confines of their misconceptions, ranking their personal or group interests above the country’s real security problems.
Without being alarmists, we nonetheless should note that the ultimate “centers of power” in the world today are transnational corporations (TNC), more so than nation-states. The latter, even such powerful ones as the USA, increasingly function as political and military operatives of transnational finance capital (aka the Finance International, nicknamed the “Finintern”). There is, therefore, an increasingly clear tendency for the “knots” of international conflicts to shift into the sphere of geostrategic and economic interests. Sovereign states and political-military blocs of allied nations no longer play the decisive role in world events, as they did for over two centuries, from the end of the 18th to the end of the 20th century.
Qualitatively new and intensifying forms of informational, ideological, technological, and economic pressure are being exerted on “traditional” sovereign states and societies, including the spread of ideologically motivated terrorism, illegal arms and drug trafficking, etc.
At the same time, due to the crisis-ridden process of transition from the fifth to the sixth technological phase, various ‘traditional’ types of conflict (resource-related, ideological and religious, interethnic, demographic, territorial) remain in force, or are exacerbated.
It follows that, at present, the strategic security of nation-states depends directly on how they interact with the world’s two principal power centers — the USA, including NATO under U.S. leadership, and China. Despite its status as the third most powerful country in the world by all parameters taken in combination, Russia Is no exception to this rule. The aforementioned “mainstream” political analysts would have us believe that the world today is free of antagonisms fraught with the danger of various types of military conflict, and that there are no direct military threats to Russia. But the events of the past decade, especially the last two years, clearly indicate a very different paradigm. The Russian Federation is a target of “soft” aggression, and is being subjected to growing pressure both along its existing borders and more generally, by way of encroachments on the RF-USA strategic military parity. This is evidenced in an expanding array of military conflicts near Russia’s borders and in countries which are Russia’s potential allies. Furthermore, the territory of the RF has been directly subjected to armed aggression originating from yet another emergent “power center,” the pan-Islamic Salafism project, sponsored by the oil monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. They are providing extensive organizational support and funding to Wahhabi extremist movements not only in Russia’s Muslim-populated regions, but also throughout Russia. It is an open secret that the Salafism project is being implemented largely at the instigation of the USA and, to an extent, the EU, who regard the billion-strong Islamic world as demographic potential to be used against China, India, and Russia, as well as some other developing countries.
Moreover, Washington is escalating its efforts to achieve overwhelming military-technological superiority over Russia, such that the RF would dismantle its strategic nuclear arsenal, thus losing its retaliatory nuclear-strike capability and, consequently, losing strategic parity with the USA. Washington is pursuing this goal both by developing advanced strategic rearmament programs, and through diplomatic efforts to impose upon Russia strategic and conventional arms reduction agreements that are advantageous to the USA.
The specific trends that point to a ratcheting-up of the threat of various types of wars, up to and including “global war,” are, in our view, the following.
First, the past ten to twelve years have seen the growth of defense spending, in terms of both quality and quantity. Thus, in 2000, the overall world volume of such expenditures was $597 billion (the world arms market was $36.9 billion); in 2006, these amounts were $1.2 trillion and $40.3 billion, respectively; and in 2012, the totals were $1.8 trillion and $69.8 billion.
Second, we are witnessing the intensification of unadvertised yet relentless competition between rival global strategic-military projects, most notably the American and Chinese ones.
Thirdly, the role and influence of the military intelligence elites are increasing in leading countries. The concept of ‘intelligence’, in this case, needs to be interpreted broadly, as a type of so-called “smart weapon.”
The current escalation of the number and intensity of conflicts in the world results directly from the ongoing systemic world economic crisis, which is centered in the USA. It is evident that, as its geostrategic potential diminishes, Washington is attempting to compensate for these losses by enhanced political activity, using its military-technological and information-financial supremacy to maintain its leading global position. Over the last decade, Washington has been the instigator of most of the local wars on the planet, and a direct participant in many of them. It should be added that the USA conducts both direct interventions (Afghanistan, Iraq) and covert operations under the so-called “strategy of indirect action” (Libya, Syria, Egypt), employing qualitatively new military capabilities in the form of the new Special Operations Forces (SOF), as well as private military companies (PMC). In terms of combat capabilities, PMC in fact are “shadow armies,” which are employed extensively against countries and governments that are insufficiently obedient to the USA.
As world history shows, however, global changeovers in technological modes of production have always been accompanied by changeovers in global geostrategic leaders. Therefore, all the USA’s efforts to maintain its global leadership by military-political means, without changing the existing socioeconomic model of development, have no chance of succeeding.
The systemic crisis of the U.S.-centered world is not a matter of the future, but is today’s reality. The next 10 to 15 years will see the emergence of alternative global projects, with fundamentally new ideologies and leaders. This fact also points up the growing probability of a “major war” between the world’s main power centers, first and foremost the USA and China.
Finding itself, as indicated above, between the world’s two main power centers, Russia, for the foreseeable future, should maintain its independent position as much as possible (even though, in the setting of an escalating potential for conflict between the USA and China this will be extremely difficult, insofar as Russia, with its gigantic geostrategic potential, will not be allowed simply to “stand aside” from this conflict).
Washington’s likely line in its Russia policy in the near future will be to involve Russia in a “NEW RESET” scheme, using the NATO alliance in order to (a) prevent Russia’s rapprochement with China, and (b) weaken Russia’s military potential as much as possible. This weakening will be accomplished through a series of disarmament agreements, reducing Russia’s strategic nuclear missile potential, as well as tactical nuclear weapons, to a minimum; the latter are especially important in the event of regional and local conflicts, including in Central Asia and the Caucasus region.
With the election of a new President in 2016, however, Washington’s “soft” Russian policy could be reassessed. At that point, Russia, weakened by previous disarmament treaties, will be unable rapidly to rebuild its strategic potential to parity.
Consequently, Russia’s political leaders ought to be especially cautious in their approach to any further U.S. proposals on strategic nuclear force reduction, especially if China and other nuclear-armed NATO countries (Britain, France) are not parties to the process. At the same time, as much attention as possible must be given to monitoring the world’s global political and economic dynamic for the period until 2025.
Another factor of geostrategic significance is the addiction of the Russian economy to the raw-materials model, which will inevitably limit the country’s real sovereignty and its degrees of freedom in foreign policy, compelling it to “choose” between the USA and China. Pointing out again that the ‘either/or’ option is not the best one for Russia, as distinct from a posture of “armed neutrality,” we nonetheless must take into account that alliances with one or the other of these two major powers are not equivalent for either Russia, or its two counterparties.
In the context of China-U.S. confrontation, an alliance with Russia is of strategic value for China as a counterweight to offset U.S. military-technological superiority, whereas for the USA an alliance with Russia is no more than a technical arrangement, lacking any decisive importance in its confrontation with China. Under certain conditions, Washington would be prepared to sacrifice Russia, after first weakening it as much as possible, for the sake of temporarily mitigating its fundamental conflicts with China. This scenario, made public first by Zbigniew Brzezinski in the early 1990s, appears to be highly unlikely today for the reason that U.S.-Chinese collisions are basically global financial-economic ones and lie primarily in the southern direction, yet it should not be ignored altogether. Thus, from the viewpoint of Russia’s national security and military development policies, closer relations with China should be given preference over similar relations with the USA.
Some analysts have tried to compare the current situation with the run-up to World War II. We, however, see the period the world has entered since 2007 as more like the situation of the 1980s, than the 1930s. Our country, therefore, ought to prepare more for a severe Cold-War type of confrontation, than the threat of a major war like WWII and the Great Patriotic War.
Incredible as it may seem, the factors that led to our country’s geostrategic defeat in the 1980s have not been subjected to proper analysis: there is no appropriate simulation model, nor even a basic set of relevant concepts. In any event, such a systemic, multi-factor analysis would appear to be a top-priority item on the agenda of the RF Security Council. But it has not been placed there. Whether we like it or not, it must be stated that no lessons have been drawn from the geostrategic defeat of the Soviet Union. Therefore the Russian leadership will almost inevitably repeat many of the fatal mistakes of the perestroika period.
In the current global systemic crisis situation, it is crucially important to establish the concept of “victory” in the ongoing reflexive, systemic war. As conceived by the U.S. military intelligence elite, the object of “victory” in such a war is to be able to exploit all of the main resources of the potential enemy (Russia) for realizing one’s own long-range political and economic strategy. The ultimate objective of this strategy is to shape and implement a global model for the controlled reformatting of economic, social, and political structures for operating within the sixth wave of technological development.
In this perspective, a thermonuclear missile war, which is, in general, unacceptable from various standpoints, becomes possible only in the ultimate stage of a deliberately promoted “spiral of confrontation,” and only in the event that such a spiral goes out of control. Since a thermonuclear clash will result in the final defeat for all its participants, one of the main objectives in reflexive, systemic warfare is to achieve a strategic win at the earliest possible stages of the confrontation spiral.
The main milestones in the promotion of a spiral of confrontation within the RF, under today’s conditions, are:
— Stimulation of armed actions by local separatists in the RF, leading to utter chaos and the country’s dismemberment;
— Polarization of the country’s elite and society as the end-phase of an induced crisis in the system of values and reality-orientation;
— Demoralization of the country’s armed forces and military elite;
— Artificially induced, continuous, managed degradation of the socioeconomic situation in the country;
— Deliberate aggravation and fomentation of external crisis factors;
— Gradual encouragement of a socio-political crisis;
— Simultaneous intensification of various forms and models of psychological warfare;
— Incitement of mass panic, with demoralization of key government institutions;
— Vilification of political leaders who are unacceptable for the USA, with the promotion of “agents of influence” and the integration of the relevant techniques for exercising control from the inside;
— Destruction of the strategic adversary’s potential to form coalitions with foreign allies.
Therefore, when we refer to threats of “minor” or “major” wars, it needs to be understood that these will not be the traditional type of war, in which operations were aimed mainly to harm or wear down the enemy, primarily through the massive employment of combat weapons (rockets, aviation, tanks, etc.), and military victory was achieved by winning a battle or a campaign. In this case, rather, the systemic totality of complex transformational and informational processes and techniques for influencing the adversary’s centers of control will play the main role. Only in the final stage – and not always then – will there be high-intensity employment of “conventional” armed forces. This means that in the 21st century a war against Russia will necessarily go through a kind of Cold War phase, similar to the 1980s, but with far more dramatic consequences for the losing side.
Obviously, in the series of wars during the past two decades, where the U.S. armed forces, including special operations forces (SOF) were involved, new methods of warfare have been developed and new ways of waging war perfected. As a result, the USA today has the most advanced strategic military conception. Therefore, it is essential to try and analyze that conception and identify its basic elements.
The nature of the “wars of the future” has been demonstrated most explicitly in the armed conflicts in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. Tangible geostrategic objectives were achieved within a short time span, using limited groupings of forces and weapons systems, primarily air forces and special operations forces (SOF). This was achieved not only by employing state-of-the-art hi-tech weapons systems, but also by thoroughly working through the theoretical issues of modern warfare, both scientifically and in practice.
It was in these wars that the USA demonstrated the effectiveness of new types of weapons and methods of warfare. Disruptive measures are first and foremost among them. These include synchronized psychological, propaganda and cyberspace operations, combined with economic and political sanctions against the leaders of countries targeted by aggression, as well as their elite strata and general populations. The combined array of such operations aims to neutralize the targeted country’s entire population psychologically, “bottom to top,” disrupt its system of governance, and wreck the operations of its economy.
Based on the results of these conflicts, it has to be admitted that disruptive mea