Category Archives: Military Doctrine

“Dead Hand” Alive and Modernized?

From Friday’s news . . . .

“Russia could shift to preemptive nuclear strike doctrine — ex-chief of RVSN”

“Retaliatory nuclear strike command and control system ‘Perimeter’ has been modernized”

“Moscow. 9 November. INTERFAKS-AVN – Russia could renounce its retaliatory strike doctrine in favor of a preemptive nuclear attack on a potential aggressor, if the U.S. deploys missiles on the territory of European states, said General-Colonel Viktor Yesin, who led the Main Staff of the Missile Troops of Strategic Designation in 1994-1996.”

“‘If the Americans start deploying their missiles in Europe, we have no choice but to abandon a retaliatory strike doctrine and move to a preemptive strike doctrine,’ V. Yesin said in an interview published in the weekly ‘Zvezda.'”

“He also said the Soviet-created ‘command’ missile system ‘Perimeter’ capable of transmitting launch commands to intercontinental missiles after an enemy nuclear strike on Russia has been modernized.”

“‘The ‘Perimeter’ system is functioning, and it is even improved,’ said V. Yesin.”

“Answering the question if the ‘Perimeter’ system can guarantee a retaliatory strike in the case of an enemy preemptive attack, the general said: ‘When it is working, we will already have few means remaining – we can launch only the missiles which survive after the aggressor’s first strike.'”

“The expert also stated that ‘we still don’t have an effective response to American medium-range missiles in Europe.'”

“‘Perimeter’ (in English Dead Hand) is an automated command and control system for a massive nuclear retaliatory strike developed in the USSR. According to open information, the ‘Perimeter’ system was created as a component part of the Airborne Command Post (VKP) system under the codename ‘Link’ developed in the Soviet Union.”

“The airborne command and control post on the Il-86VKP aircraft, airborne radio relay on the Il-76RT, silo-based command missile (KR) ‘Perimeter’ and mobile KR ‘Gorn’¹ were part of ‘Link.'”

“In a crisis period three Il-86VKP would have had the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Minister of Defense and Chief of the General Staff on board.”

“‘The aircraft didn’t have passenger windows so those on-board wouldn’t be blinded by the flash of nuclear blasts. Computers and communications were located in the nose. Two electrical power generators were hung under the wings. They guaranteed long operation of all aircraft systems,’ it says in a book from the series ‘World of Russian Weapons’ published in 2016.”

“At the determined moment the Il-86VKP would launch an 8 km long antenna which not even impulses from nuclear explosions could affect. Using this antenna the aircraft would transmit commands to launch all the country’s intercontinental missiles even in the event that all underground KP [trans. command posts] were destroyed by the aggressor’s nuclear strike.”

“The radio relay aircraft Il-76RT would transmit commands to launch missiles in distant regions, including those deployed on submarines in the Northern and Pacific Fleets.”

“‘Perimeter’ and ‘Gorn’ missiles could have transmitted missile launch commands when the aggressor had already delivered a surprise first strike and destroyed communications systems. The KR, having launched into space, where no satellite or enemy nuclear explosions could reach them, would transmit radio signals from there. The missiles ‘awakened’ by them would take off and strike the aggressor.”

“The ‘Perimeter’ missiles were reliably protected on the ground by concrete silos. ‘Gorns’ deployed on missile transporters permanently on the move.”

“According to expert assessments, the ‘Link’ system, including space KR, was one of the most important factors deterring the U.S. from a nuclear attack on the USSR.”

An interesting piece bringing Perimeter back into the news. Yesin calls the system Dead Hand. But he doesn’t describe how the system is engaged, any atmospheric, seismic, and radiation sensors, or ground-based command, control, and communications link monitors that some claim allowed it to function autonomously. Others assert these elements, though considered, were never incorporated into Perimeter.

Russian military commentator Viktor Murakhovskiy has pointed out that, even if the U.S. quits the INF Treaty, Washington is a long way from deploying new intermediate- or shorter-range nuclear missiles in Europe. So Yesin’s recommendation for a change in Moscow’s declaratory nuclear doctrine is premature.

¹ Command missile Gorn [trans. bugle, trumpet, etc.] had GRAU index 15Zh53 and deployed with Soviet SS-20 IRBMs.

Advertisements

Putin’s Arctic Chimera

Pronouncements on plans for stronger Russian military forces in the Arctic have been studiously ignored on these pages.

For two reasons . . . first, one can’t write about everything, and second (because of the first), one has to focus on a few significant topics.

The Russian military in the Arctic hasn’t been one of them.

Putin on Franz Josef Land in 2010 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

Putin on Franz Josef Land in 2010 (photo: Kremlin.ru)

President Vladimir Putin’s interest in the Arctic made news in 2007 when a mini-submarine planted a Russian flag on ocean floor under the North Pole.  The Kremlin wanted to stake a symbolic claim to the lion’s share of the Arctic’s potential underwater wealth.

The vast, frozen region may indeed have large percentages of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and oil deposits.

More than a few observers see Putin’s concern with the Arctic as an effort to extend Russia’s hydrocarbon export-based model of economic growth.

The friend-of-Putin state oligarchs running Gazprom and Rosneft would certainly like the Russian treasury (and military) to underwrite their efforts to get at Arctic resources and line their pockets with more cash.

But the capital investment and technology required would be staggering. Canadian expert Michael Byers has been widely quoted:

“We’re talking about the center of a large, inhospitable ocean that is in total darkness for three months each year, thousands of miles from any port.”

“The water in the North Pole is 12,000 feet deep and will always be covered by sea ice in the winter.  It’s not a place where anyone is going to be drilling for oil and gas.  So it’s not about economic stakes, it’s about domestic politics.”

It’s an easy place to show Russia’s leader defending national sovereignty and interests.  The news stories and press releases track with an established Kremlin narrative about hostile Western powers trying to grab Russia’s natural bounty.

All of which brings us back round to the military in the Arctic.

During  Serdyukov’s tenure, the Ministry of Defense first raised the prospect of basing two army brigades there.  In September, Kirov-class CGN Petr Velikiy and other ships sailed the Northern Sea Route into the eastern Arctic.  And late in the year, Putin himself was prominent in giving the order to build, or re-build, various Russian military bases in the Arctic.

But things have a way of taking ridiculous turns.

On 17 February, an unidentified source told ITAR-TASS that the MOD and Genshtab have proposed forming a new Arctic unified strategic command with the Northern Fleet as its basis.  The source claimed this Northern Fleet-Unified Strategic Command (SF-OSK or СФ-ОСК) would be a new de facto MD, even if it isn’t called one.

The Northern Fleet and major units and formations based in the north would be taken from the Western MD, and put into new groupings deployed in the Arctic, including on Novaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, and Franz Josef Land.  Ouch.

SK-OSK is supposed to be inter-departmental too, with FSB Border Guards added.  The whole thing would report to the MOD, Genshtab, and, at some point, the NTsUOG.

The proposal is reportedly with Putin now, and a decision is expected in the coming months.

To make matters more interesting, Western MD Commander, General-Colonel Anatoliy Sidorov was cool, perhaps even balky, when confronted by the possibility of an “Arctic OSK.”

He told media representatives last Friday that his troops need no additional knowledge, and his equipment no additional preparation, for service in Arctic conditions.  He would not comment on possibly losing a large part of his current command.  According to RIA Novosti, he said only, “When there are directives, we will fulfill them.”

ITAR-TASS last week also reported on a company-sized anti-terrorist exercise in the Northern Fleet.

Northern Fleet Anti-Terrorist Training (photo: Mil.ru)

Northern Fleet Anti-Terrorist Training (photo: Mil.ru)

But there’s no “Al Qaida in the Arctic” yet.  Only Greenpeace.

Russia’s Arctic is enormous, and it is likely to be increasingly important, but not necessarily as the next big theater of war.  Naturally, Moscow wants to prepare for contingencies, but it’s already prepared and positioned as well as the few other regional players.  The money, time, and attention might be better spent on more palpable threats.  But, as Byers pointed out, the Arctic seems to be good politics.

Russia 2030

Global Trends 2030:  Alternative Worlds

Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds

The NIC has released its latest Global Trends publication.  Hat tip to Newsru.com and Igor Korotchenko for taking note of it.  As usual, and rightly, the document focuses more on “megatrends,” and less on individual countries.  Nevertheless, here are excepts of its forecast for Russia.

Under the “Changing Calculations of Key Players,” the NIC says:

Russia’s strategic calculations will depend to a great extent on whether Russian leaders decide to increase Russia’s integration into the international system and mitigate the threat of future armed conflict or whether they choose to continue Russia’s relative isolation and mistrust of others, exacerbating interstate tensions. Russia has serious concerns regarding the threat posed by a rapidly expanding China, particularly Beijing’s growing appetite for natural resources which could eventually encroach upon the Russian Far East and Siberia. Russian leaders believe that they need to be wary of the potential for the US and NATO to intervene in a conflict involving Russia and one of the former Soviet republics.”

The section on military trends has the following:

Nuclear Disfavor vs. Nuclear Renaissance. Nuclear ambitions in the US and Russia over the last 20 years have evolved in opposite directions. Reducing the role of nuclear weapons in US security strategy is a US objective, while Russia is pursuing new concepts and capabilities for expanding the role of nuclear weapons in its security strategy.”

The following appears in a textbox entitled “Russia:  Potential Global Futures.”

“Russia’s role in the world during the next two decades will be shaped by the rising challenges it faces at home as well as in the global environment. Russia’s economy is its Achilles’ heel. Its budget is heavily dependent on energy revenue; efforts to modernize the economy have made little progress; and its aging of the workforce will be a drag on economic growth.”

“Russia’s population is projected to decline from almost 143 million in 2010 to about 130 million in 2030. Although Russia’s fertility rate is similar to that of many European countries and aging populations are also a drag of European economies, life expectancy is about 15 years lower for Russians than for Europeans: since 2007 the size of the Russian workforce has been declining and it will continue to do so for the next two decades.”

“However, Russia’s greatest demographic challenge could well be integrating its rapidly growing ethnic Muslim population in the face of a shrinking ethnic Russian population. There are now about 20 million Muslims in Russia, comprising about 14 percent of the population. By 2030, that share is projected to grow to about 19 percent. Russia’s changing ethnic mix already appears to be a source of growing social tensions.”

“To enhance its economic outlook, Russia will need to improve the environment for foreign investment and create opportunities for Russian exports of manufactured goods. Russia’s entry into World Trade Organization (WTO ) should provide a boost to these efforts and help Moscow to diversify the economy: by one estimate Russia’s membership in the WTO could provide a substantial boost to the economy, adding 3 percent to GDP in the short term and 11 percent over the longer term.”

“Russia’s relations with the West and China are also likely to be a critical factor in determining whether Russia moves toward becoming a more stable, constructive global player during the next two decades. We see three possibilities:”

1. Russia could become more of a partner with others, most probably, in a marriage of convenience, not of values. Russia’s centuries-long ambivalence about its relationship with the West and outside is still at the heart of the struggle over Russia’s strategic direction.”

2. Russia might continue in a more or less ambivalent relationship with the other powers, but over the next 20 years this path would likely be a more troublesome one for international cooperation if Russia rebuilds its military strength and must contend with an increasingly powerful China.”

3. Russia could become a very troublesome country, trying to use its military advantage over its neighbors to intimidate and dominate. This outcome would be most likely if a Russian leader were facing rising public discontent over sagging living standards and darkening economic prospects and is looking to rally nationalist sentiments by becoming much more assertive in the Near Abroad.”

There’s not a lot new here.  But it can’t go without comment.

Are the Russians really not integrated into the “international system?”  Or do they obstruct because they don’t like the outcomes of the “system’s” operation?  Moscow will probably never (at least not for a long, long time) agree with Western views on mitigating a future armed conflict, especially in a former Soviet republic.  Russia always evinces more worry about the U.S. and NATO despite the claim of its “serious concerns” about a threat from China.

One can’t be sure what’s meant by “pursuing new concepts and capabilities” for nuclear warfighting.  The Russians are active developing their strategic nuclear forces for two reasons.  First, conventional force problems.  Second, U.S. ballistic missile defense.  Both require ensuring their deterrent is viable, now and somewhat down the road.

Yes, it’s the economy stupid (and demographics too).  It’s hard for anyone to say what will happen with Russia’s economy, but the latter’s pretty much destiny at this point.  Russia will need more than a better foreign investment climate and WTO to improve its long-term economic prospects.  If years of windfall hydrocarbon revenues don’t do it, perhaps open politics, impartial rule-of-law, and serious anti-corruption efforts might be the path to a modernized, diversified, and stronger economy.

Are Russia’s external relations with the West and China critical in its  behavior as a “global player?”  Or does that behavior stem more from the country’s internal evolution or lack thereof?

The three possibilities look pretty familiar — pretty good Russia, not as good Russia, and bad Russia.  We’ve had the first and second mostly, and a taste of the third occasionally, over the last 20 years.  And elements of one and two, or two and three, can occur at the same time.

Overall, the Russian discussion in Global Trends 2030 is disappointing.

After the Pact

Twenty years after the Warsaw Pact, VTsIOM asked Russians what they think, looking back, about the former Soviet glacis in Eastern Europe.

The poll was done 18-19 June with 1,600 respondents in 138 populated areas of 46 RF subjects, and a margin of error not exceeding 3.4%.

First and foremost, two-thirds (66%) of those surveyed didn’t know or remember why the Warsaw Pact existed.

Asked which time period was most secure, calm, and stable internationally, 55% said the 1960s-1980s, 4% said the 1990s, the Yeltsin era, and only 28% said the present day.  Four years ago, the numbers were 47%, 5%, and 34% respectively.

According to VTsIOM, those groups most likely to think the Soviet era most secure are Communists, pensioners, the poorly-educated, and non-Internet users.  Those most likely to see today as more stable are United Russia members, young people, the well-educated, and Internet users.

Eighty-nine percent of respondents look back on the Pact as a defensive, peaceloving, and stabilizing force.  Only 6% say it was militaristic, or held Eastern European countries in an unfree condition.

Eighty percent think Russia lost more than it won when the Pact dissolved twenty years ago.  Ten years ago, 78 percent thought Russia lost more.

Finally, those surveyed were asked if Russia needs, or doesn’t need, to create an international military-political bloc like the Warsaw Pact or NATO.  Overall, 51% of respondents said it’s needed, 23% said it’s not, and 26% found it difficult to answer.  This question was broken out some along the political spectrum without many significant variations.

VTsIOM missed the chance to ask if respondents know Russia already has an international military-political alliance.  Their answers to a question about the Collective Security Treaty Organization would be fascinating, to be sure.

The answers to the questions that were asked are a little surprising and disturbing.  Some of them can be attributed simply to feckless nostalgia or the persistence of Cold War propaganda.  Some are due to a tendency to equate (or confuse) domestic or internal well-being with the country’s external security situation.  Finally, some may come from genuinely perceived threats and insecurities Russians feel today.

The Foggy Goal of the GPV (Part I)

In its February issue, Sovershenno sekretno’s Vladimir Spasibo examines the State Program of Armaments, 2011-2020, and tries to say if Russia can afford it.  Or more importantly, whether the new GPV makes sense given that Russia is unlikely to go to war with NATO, the U.S. or China.  Spasibo also casts a critical eye at whether the OPK is up to the task of fulfilling the GPV.  This author doesn’t vouch for Mr. Spasibo’s numbers and math; they are relayed as in the original.  But his arguments are interesting and useful.

Spasibo says, after 2013, the GPV’s 22 trillion rubles [19 trillion for the Armed Forces] will amount to almost 4 trillion annually for the military, or 8 percent of Russia’s GDP as compared with 5 percent in the U.S. and 2-3 percent in other NATO countries.  Buried a little down in the text, he cites Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov on the 1.2 trillion ruble State Defense Order for 2010, and Prime Minister Putin’s assertion that this amount will triple in 2013.

And the military actually wanted more — 36 trillion, which Spasibo claims would be 15 percent of GDP, an amount equal to the Soviet defense burden before the USSR’s collapse.  He asks if this isn’t too much for a country just emerged from an economic crisis.  And what threat is this colossal military budget directed against?

He turns to Defense Minister Serdyukov’s explanation to Der Spiegel:  terrorism, proliferation, and NATO expansion.

Spasibo suggests the thrifty French defense reform which, for less than Russia’s 22 trillion rubles, “Created a small, balanced grouping with modern equipment.  Capable of instant reaction and an adequate response to any threat to France’s interests.”  He continues:

“The approach of the current Russian military, more precisely civil-military, leadership toward reform of the Armed Forces is somewhat similar.  The preconditions, it’s true, are different, and the goals are foggier.”

Who, asks Spasibo, are Russia’s enemies, and against whom is it supposed to fight?  The Military Doctrine and other pronouncements make it sound like the answer is the U.S. and NATO, as well as nonstate irregular armed forces inside and outside Russian Federation borders . . . leaving Moscow to prepare both VKO against a high-tech enemy with highly accurate long-range weapons, and low-tech enemies conducting guerrilla warfare and sabotage-terrorist actions.

Spasibo then turns to thinking about which services and defense enterprises will get GPV money:

  • According to its commander, the RVSN will replace 80 percent of its ICBM inventory (roughly 300 missiles) by the end of 2016 for a price that Spasibo puts at 1.9 trillion rubles.
  • Spasibo thinks VKO and PRO might cost 3 trillion by 2020.
  • The Air Forces are looking to renew 70 percent of their aircraft, 1,500 aircraft in all including 350 new combat aircraft for 3.8 trillion.
  • Spasibo believes the Ground Troops will get 7.6 trillion to replace combat vehicles including 60 percent of their tanks and BMPs, and 40 percent of their BTRs, that are over 10 years old.
  • And the Navy, as reported elsewhere, will get 4.7 trillion.

That all adds to 21 trillion rubles.

Makarov Interview

Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer published an interview with the Chief of the General Staff, Army General Nikolay Makarov last Tuesday.  It’s not exactly a hard-ball interview.  But it’s fairly consistent with his other statements.  Among the priorities, preserving mobilization appears again.  Inter-service C2 in the new OSKs is a big theme.  He can’t explain why the Air Forces aren’t getting more new aircraft, and PVO sounds like it’s destined for joining VKO under the Space Troops. 

VPK asked about the possibility of changes in Russia’s military doctrine following the NATO-Russia summit and more talk of a strategic partnership.  Makarov said the approach of NATO infrastructure to Russia’s borders and the alliance’s continued “open door” policy vis-a-vis Ukraine and Georgia are still factors in Russia’s military doctrine.  Therefore, there’s no need to adjust it.

Makarov expounded on the concept of force and force structure development [строительство] to 2020 adopted by President Medvedev last April 19.  Its main measures include:

  • Establishment of the air-space (aerospace) defense (VKO) system;
  • Formation of the optimal composition of inter-service troop (force) groupings on strategic axes;
  • Supporting mobilization of military formations and troop groupings;
  • Establishing modern command and control systems;
  • Deploying military towns of a new troop basing system;
  • Reequipping formations and units with new and future types of armaments and military equipment;
  • Resolving social protection issues of servicemen.

Asked about military science and operational training, Makarov said the main task of the military-scientific complex is to “support the training and employment of the Armed Forces in their new profile, especially inter-service training of the military command and control organs” of the new MDs / OSKs. 

Makarov admitted that Russia lags behind developed countries in reconnaissance and command and control, and is still using communications systems developed in the 1990s.  He continued:

“Another problem is the fact that every service and troop branch of the Armed Forces developed its own means of automation and communications without looking at the others.  The command and control systems of the Ground Troops, Navy, and Air Forces didn’t interface with each other, that lowered the possibilities for controlling troop groupings on the operational-strategic and operational level.”

He says the General Staff has given the OPK requirements for high-tech digital reconnaissance and communications systems.  Industry is already developing a fundamentally new, sixth generation radio system with digital signal processing to implement a net organization in radio communications.  He says it’s being built as a unitary, integrated net at all levels, from the General Staff to the individual soldier on the battlefield.  Command and control systems will get 300 billion rubles under GPV-2020, according to Makarov.

Sounding very much the net-centric warfare disciple, Makarov says the main task is to form a unitary information space uniting reconnaissance, navigation, command and control, and new generation weapons.

Makarov doesn’t have a good answer when asked why the Air Forces don’t have a single fully reequipped unit despite increased defense expenditures.  He maintains they are getting new aircraft and their units are now all permanently combat ready and fully equipped and manned.

On aerospace defense, Makarov says PVO, PRO, SPRN, and KKP (space monitoring) will be concentrated in the hands of one commander, but:

“I’d like to note this won’t be a simple, mechanistic merger of different military entities under the leadership of a new strategic command.  Their deep integration and echelonment by mission, information exchange, and interception fire is envisaged.  We’ve already started fulfilling the initial measures on this issue.”

Obviously speaking much prior to last week’s news about reversing cuts in the officer ranks, Makarov addressed the moratorium on inducting new cadets.  He said 78.5 percent of 2010 VVUZ graduates became officers.  Others, he says, who wanted to stay in the service were temporarily placed in lower-ranking [i.e. sergeant] posts, but will participate in command training and form a cadre reserve for filling officer positions.

Lastly, Makarov talked about the new military pay system coming next year.  Military retirees have been especially concerned about its effect on pensions.  Makarov didn’t say much to assuage them.  He said there will be no difference in pensions depending on when servicemen retired, and a commission under Finance Ministry leadership is working on the issue.  That will probably reassure army pensioners.

Grinyayev and Fomin’s Conclusion

This is a downpayment on Russia’s Armed Forces:  Year 2010.  You can read about the authors here.  The report’s not great, but it has interesting information not printed elsewhere.

This picks up on Fomin’s earlier interview.  Next look for their chapter on the OPK.

The gist of the conclusion is this.  There’s been no rebirth of the armed forces, in fact, many negative trends are now irreversible.  There’s been no real rearmament despite higher budgets.  The military doesn’t know how to set clear goals, and is planning to fight abstract threats like terrorism, instead of real ones like the U.S.  Russia has money, but has invested it in currency reserves instead of its armed forces.

Here’s a translation of their conclusion:

Conclusion

There’s a myth that in the last ten years an incredible militarization of the country and rebirth of military power not quite to the level of the Soviet Union has occurred.  As the analysis conducted showed, this does not correspond to reality – in reality a degradation of the Russian VS [Armed Forces] has taken place.

Negative processes which began in the 1990s have reached their apogee today and are close to completion, because many negative tendencies in army development have taken on an irreversible character.  Numerous reforms are confirmation of this:  when everything is normal, reforms are not required.  With growing expenditures, real rearmament is not happening and new equipment is not entering the forces as a practical matter.  The defense-industrial complex is still relying on developments from Soviet times and no substantially new developments in post-Soviet times have been made that could even go into experimental, much less into production use.

The analysis showed that the degradation of the Russian VS is conditioned on two main causes.

  1. The absence of a distinct system of goal establishment for the functioning and development of the VS.  The affair has gone to the point that many military experts and analysts (not speaking of officials) are completely ashamed to clearly designate possible military enemies, and are trying to implement military organizational development under abstract sources of danger and threats.  Any ordinary person understands that today and in the near future, there are only three such enemies:  the U.S., NATO, and China.  International terrorism is not an independent force, but only an instrument in the hands of the mentioned groups of countries.  It should be clearly understood that ambiguity in goal establishment is just as ruinous for the condition and development of a system as a lack of resources.
  2. Nor is everything right when it comes to resources.  More precisely, it is obvious they are insufficient even to hold a steady position.  Miracles do not happen in program planning:  if the amount of allocated resources drops to such a critical level, no improvement in the command and control system or reforms can make up for this.

One does not need to speak of the country’s difficult financial problems.  The country has money.  In 2006 and 2007, $125-175 billion was transferred to the country’s hard currency reserves, respectively.  $175 billion is, at the year average rate of 25 rubles/$, approximately 4.36 trillion rubles, that is 5 times more than all MO [Ministry of Defense] expenditures in 2007.  This money was transferred into long-term, low-interest, and ‘highly reliable’ U.S. securities.  So they assert.  It is simpler to say an unreimbursed investment in the American economy.  For this money, it would have been possible to maintain another five armies like the current Russian one.  Even in the crisis of 2009, when we experienced a federal budget deficit, from the middle of March until the end of the year, nearly $60  billion was transferred into hard currency reserves, i.e. nearly 2 trillion is the volume of financing for another 1.5 such armies like Russia’s. 

But the financing of the Russian VS is not happening on the necessary scale.  As a result, the real possibilities of Russia are being cut by leaps and bounds.  This affects both military power and political influence abroad.