The Russian Way of War

29 Mar

Ever since the Korean War, the Western Ideal War has been short, simple and ideally very low in casualties. The footprint must be minimal, the objective must be achieved at once and withdrawal should soon follow. From this point of view, the Falklands was pretty much an ideal war, while Iraq, Afghanistan and Algeria were not. This view of the ideal war has slipped so much into our mindset that we assume all other nation-states share the same ideal. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. Indeed, it is a dangerous weakness to assume that other states will let us call the tune.

Russia is in the news these days, so it’s probably worth taking a look at what the Russians consider an ideal war. Like many other states, Russia has both chosen war and had war forced upon it. The former have several things in common.

-The Russians have always picked on someone smaller than themselves. On the face of it, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Georgia and Afghanistan should not have been able to pose much resistance to the Russians. Indeed, even Finland was eventually forced to submit to Russia, after a gallant defence that thrilled the world. This makes them look like bullies, to which they would probably sneer. What sort of idiot picks a fight with someone bigger than him?

-The Russians have not held back. There was no attempt to pussy-foot around when they rolled into the targeted country. They sought to destroy the enemy’s ability to resist as rapidly as possible, which resulted in countless casualties the West might have tried to avoid.

-The Russians will use commando strikes, local dissidents and unconventional weapons to wreck havoc in the enemy’s rear. Expect them to launch cyber-attacks, ‘terrorist’ attacks, etc to cause chaos. They will also try to time offenses so they take place when the target nation (or the rest of the world) is on holiday.

-The Russians try to win quickly. Short wars are excellent for Moscow; they look good, they make the current ruler look strong and they make everyone else take notice of Russia’s views. (It was a Russian who coined the phrase ‘a short victorious war.’ Long wars tend to be very bad for Russia. Discontent mounts, the public starts to protest and, in some cases, the state comes crashing down. It is unlikely that Russia would have become a communist state if the Tsar hadn’t fought a losing war with Germany.

-At the same time, the Russians have always used war to impose a satisfactory political solution. Finland lost territory the Russians wanted to shield Leningrad. Czechoslovakia returned firmly to communist rule, as dictated by Moscow. Georgia lost territory and grew less willing to confront the Russians. Even the early stages of Afghanistan were a great political success.

-The Russians will lie to everyone. Expect Moscow to try to come up with a suitable cause for war (in 1939, for example, they faked a shooting incident to justify their invasion of Finland.) Foreign media will be carefully guided so they present the Russian-approved viewpoint. There is no true independent reporting from inside Russia. Foreign media will be rewarded for toeing the Russian line and punished for not doing so.

-Above all, the Russians never lose sight of their political goals. They do not talk about ‘nation-building,’ at least not with any great seriousness. Instead, they consider the long-term security of Russia above all else. It may seem utterly indecent of the Russians to impose an unwelcome government on Eastern Europe after World War Two, but they needed it for their own security. Don’t expect the Russians to tamely put civilian lives ahead of their own interests. The Russians have never been cowed by the thought of enemy civilians being killed.

And we seem to be heading towards a major confrontation with the Russians over the Ukraine. Are our leaders actually taking the issue seriously?

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11 Responses to “The Russian Way of War”

  1. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 29, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    “Are our leaders actually taking the issue seriously?” Talk about a rhetorical question. [Sad Smile]

  2. Mike Strong March 29, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    Destruction of the enemy is a Russian principle of war but not an American (American – Mass, Maneuver, Objective, Offensive, Security, Simplicity, Surprise, Economy of Force, Unity of Command)

  3. G Cheal March 29, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    Given how warfare is an extension of politics, is it any wonder that we have such ways of conducting it. War is fought ultimately to defeat the enemy. Whether it is through destroying infrastructure or causing so much death it becomes impossible to fight. We do indeed need to take

  4. G Cheal March 29, 2014 at 9:04 pm #

    Note of how Russia will fight. We will lose as we are, like our politics, wishy washy.

  5. t March 29, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    Russia will continue to expand until our next presidential election…DEPENDING upon who’s elected. I fully expect them to take the rest of Ukraine.

    • chrishanger March 29, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

      To be honest, I’d be surprised if Putin took all of Ukraine.

      Putin seems to have learned a lot from history (which is more than can be said for any POTUS for the last few decades.) Russia expended a lot of resources keeping Eastern Europe under control. I think he’d prefer to have the Ukraine stay as a buffer between NATO and Russia, with the government under heavy influence but not outright control.

      Ideally, the Russians should have tried for this in 1945 – or even in 1991. But it was probably unworkable.

      Coming to think of it, an agreement that the Ukraine would remain as a buffer would probably be the best way to defuse this crisis. But I doubt Obama would put it on the table.

      Chris

      Date: Sat, 29 Mar 2014 21:35:03 +0000 To: christopher_g_nuttall@hotmail.com

      • R Godfrey June 23, 2014 at 3:56 pm #

        The problem would be getting the Ukrainians to accept being a buffer state, they have been one for a long time, and it looks like they are splitting into two camps, neither of whom want to be a buffer anymore, they disagree on who they wish to join, but not on that they should join a larger entity, whether the EU, the Russian version which I can’t remember the name of, or become a Russian region under the Moscow government. IF you hold to national self determination then the choice is theirs to take. IF you don’t then alot of the points you make in your essays at the end of your novels make no sense.

  6. Foolish Pride March 30, 2014 at 12:06 am #

    The US is the undisputed champion of picking on the weak.

  7. Pat Dailey March 30, 2014 at 3:41 am #

    Hmmm. Seems to be a story in thee.

    You are with out a doubt the most creative author I have every followed. I don’t read books, I read authors. You are my favorite. I’ll read anything you write. Just don’t write another never ending series like Empires Corp.

    I loved everyone of the books, but it begins to lack in creativity in favor of commercial success.

    I particularly love all the magic books. A nice change.

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