Strategic thinking differs from our everyday inconsistency. Almost all authors who deal with this problem write about it. Take, for example, the well-known Latin saying "if you want peace, prepare for war." It implies that in order to achieve the ultimate goal, you need to move in some opposite direction. Which looks rather strange. But this is at first glance.
In fact, this phrase hides a lot of human experience and wisdom accumulated by more than one generation of politicians and generals of the Ancient World. This saying can be understood in two ways - either the state of the world can be maintained only by constantly maintaining its armed forces in combat readiness, or by continuously conducting hostilities with its opponents.
In the first case, by demonstrating our strength and military capabilities, we, as it were, restrain the enemy from attacking. And it works because he does not want to be the losing side in a military conflict. But taking advantage of a favorable situation or our temporary weakness, a potential enemy can suddenly attack and try to inflict significant damage, seize territories.
In this case, to achieve peace, you have to fight. Therefore, if nothing is done to strengthen your army, but only reap the laurels of past victories, then war becomes inevitable, and the likelihood of its unfavorable outcome increases many times over.
In other words, strategic stability cannot be maintained only by demonstrating one's peacefulness and negotiating to reduce international tension; one must sometimes show one's muscles!
Therefore, we can briefly say that strategic research is primarily aimed at finding an adequate balance of diplomatic and military efforts to achieve certain goals in the international arena. At the same time, these goals themselves should also be identified in the course of this kind of research. Otherwise, all our efforts to put into practice a certain long-term political line will be meaningless.
In the West, the term "strategic research" usually refers to a fairly broad area of intellectual activity, within which the possibilities of using political and power factors, technical innovations to increase the country's influence in the international arena, as well as to conduct successful military operations, are analyzed. In addition, this includes research of a methodological nature - the features of strategic thinking are studied, historical analysis of strategic behavior characteristic of different cultures and civilizations. The main goal is to find effective methods of long-term military planning, to determine the meaning and main provisions of the concept of national security, the formulation of the so-called grand strategy.
Most actively, these studies began to be carried out after the emergence of great powers in the second half of the XNUMXth century. weapons mass destruction (WMD), which radically changed the nature of war. At some point, the very expediency of conducting combat operations using high-yield WMD was called into question. The mutual mass destruction of enemy manpower, equipment, rear communications, as well as the possibility of delivering devastating strikes on cities that can be carried out in a short period of time, turned the victory of either side into a Pyrrhic one - possible losses did not justify the benefits received.
As a result, the very desire to win in such a war lost its meaning. The Caribbean crisis between the USA and the USSR in 1962, which was actually averted before the decision to launch intercontinental missiles, clearly demonstrated this thesis - the leaders of both countries were not ready to take on excessively high risks and responsibility for the consequences of a nuclear Armageddon. This has stimulated numerous studies to determine the various scenarios and nature of armed conflicts in the future.
As a result, today, in order to avoid the occurrence of a nuclear winter (there is such a scenario of the consequences of numerous megaton nuclear strikes), the military is working on options for using low-yield nuclear charges, which are planned to be installed on high-precision carriers for delivering local strikes against military facilities and critical infrastructure of the enemy.
In addition to closed studies of a purely military nature, there has traditionally been an active discussion of national security issues abroad among representatives of various fields of humanitarian disciplines in an open format accessible to the general public. Such openness made it possible to search for the most optimal solutions to military-strategic problems, taking into account the possibilities of the economy, demographic, scientific and production potentials. This also made it possible to influence politicians, who were forced to take into account the opinion of the electorate during the elections on various aspects of the state's defense activities and exert appropriate influence on the military, prompting them to either strengthen the army, or, conversely, oppose excessive military spending. Therefore, over the years, a kind of feedback has been formed that has optimized official defense policy. A culture of strategic research with the involvement of independent experts has developed.
For example, at the end of the XNUMXth century, the issue of financing the construction of a new military fleet. The problem at that time was to choose, first of all, an adequate doctrine of military operations at sea. There was an active discussion of the question of what size and quality characteristics should the US Navy become? Should we limit ourselves to planning for the protection of coastal waters, or should it be possible to carry out missions off the coast of other countries and continents?
In the early 1880s, the state of the American navy was deplorable. Of the 140 available ships, less than half were operational, of which only 17 were iron-hulled ships. The administration of President Garfield, who came to power in 1881, was fully aware of the perniciousness of the current situation - the impossibility of reliably protecting the coast of the country from external aggression with the available forces and means. As a result, an advisory group was created to justify a long-term fleet renewal program.
The views of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, which were set out publicly in The Influence of Sea Power on History, 1660-1783, were strongly influenced by the development of naval doctrine and, accordingly, the plans for construction, published in 1890. His thesis that "the defense of one's shores begins at the shores of the enemy" made an indelible impression on his contemporaries. Mahan's views on naval power still predetermine US naval policy, which is based on the strategy of forward military basing and the rapid projection of military power across the oceans using aircraft carrier strike groups (ACG).
As a result, the modern American Navy has about 300 ships of various types, both surface and underwater. Its total displacement exceeds the total displacement of the Russian and Chinese navies combined in four times. The United States, thanks to an adequate and effective maritime doctrine, whose key provisions were formulated 130 years ago, still remains the dominant maritime power in the world, whose primacy cannot yet be challenged by anyone.
This is a classic example of how a focused study of the history of wars and international relations can contribute to the creation of a successful long-term strategy aimed at increasing the influence of a country on the international stage. Actually, for this purpose, numerous organizations are being created today that carry out this kind of research in the West. They are allocated significant public funds to attract well-known and highly qualified experts.
In the USSR, as well as in post-Soviet Russia, the study of strategic issues has traditionally been the prerogative of the military, and the results obtained are rarely advertised. Today, as a rule, only certain propaganda clichés about the power of the country and a successful foreign policy are publicly distributed, which should instill confidence in the population in our strengths and in the ability of the authorities to successfully cope with crisis situations and win wars. The only area where civilian specialists are still involved is the discussion of international security issues. Therefore, international issues are more or less widely covered in the media, and expert research can almost always be found in the public domain.
The historically established Russian secretiveness in the field of strategic research and planning has repeatedly led to negative consequences. To do this, it is enough to look into the past.
Take, for example, the so-called "Eastern Question" - the division of the weakening Ottoman Empire. Despite significant efforts over almost two and a half centuries, it has not been finally resolved for Russia. The main reason for this was that the Russian autocrats were not consistent in the implementation of their long-term plans, but acted situationally, depending on the prevailing circumstances.
Starting with the Greek project of Catherine II, developed in the late 1770s, and ending with the loss in the Crimean War of 1853-1856. under Nicholas I, Russia's ability to influence the balance of power in Europe significantly degraded - the country found itself in political isolation. Although even during the signing of the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, Russia had real chances to agree with Napoleon on close allied relations. In exchange for this, France was ready to agree to a joint division of the Ottoman Empire, as a result of which Russia got a real opportunity to establish control over the Balkans and the Black Sea straits. At that time, the French emperor was preparing for a long confrontation with England, which required a significant concentration of efforts to achieve success in this difficult task. However, by agreeing to such an alliance, Alexander I would have sacrificed the principles of solidarity with the monarchical dynasties of Europe, for which he was not ready. At that time, Russian foreign policy lacked pragmatism.
Another area of government activity where strategic research is essential is military planning.
An important role in all wars that have ever taken place in the world is played by an understanding of how the enemy will act, whether he can be outplayed and ultimately defeated. To do this, it is important to imagine how the war will be waged, in what territories, in what weather conditions, with what weapons and how intensively. The nature of future hostilities, which is formed in the minds of the military, ultimately has a decisive impact on the success of the upcoming battles.
On the eve of the First World War, the Russian General Staff believed that the future war in Europe would last at most 3-6 months. Approximately the same assessments were adhered to in the countries of the Entente. It was assumed that the participants in the hostilities would have a shortage of financial resources, which the national banking systems would not be able to compensate. The accumulated stocks of weapons and ammunition will be used up. As a result, negotiations on a peaceful settlement will begin. At that time, the tsarist generals had no idea that in the course of hostilities the enemy would resort to the mobilization of industrial production and completely restructure it for the production of products for the army.
Based on these assumptions, the volumes of supplying the army with everything necessary were calculated, stocks of weapons and ammunition were formed according to normsestablished based on the results of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. At the same time, it was assumed that the weapons and ammunition accumulated in warehouses on the eve of 1914 would be enough until the end of the war. A significant expansion of the production of weapons, as well as gunpowder and explosives, was not envisaged. The result, as you know, was sad - in 1915, the Russian army experienced a significant shortage of shells for artillery, small arms and ammunition. To eliminate the deficit that had arisen, I had to turn to the allies.
It would seem that certain lessons should be drawn from this situation for the upcoming wars. However, after the perfidious German attack on the USSR and the rapid retreat of the Red Army in 1941, a significant amount of gunpowder production capacity remained in occupied Ukraine.
In addition, the stocks of TNT accumulated in the prewar years turned out to be critically small. This was due to the fact that in the 30s, in order to increase the volume of iron smelting, a centralized decision was made to increase the productivity of coke oven batteries at all metallurgical plants in the country by increasing the operating temperature. As a result, the yield of benzene and toluene, the basic raw material for the production of TNT, which was released from gases when coking coal was heated, dropped significantly. Therefore, gunpowder (later components for its production), and TNT, the USSR was forced to import under Lend-Lease throughout the war. These were the main nomenclature positions of the allies' supplies, and not military equipment, uniforms or food, as for some reason it is commonly believed.
The volume of gunpowder production in the USSR exceeded the similar production in Germany only in 1945, and the share of imported TNT used in the production of fragmentation shells during the entire war amounted to 40%. At the same time, the number of shots fired by such shells fired by the artillery of the Red Army for the entire period of 1941–1945 was almost two times less than the number of similar shots fired by the artillery of the Wehrmacht on the Eastern Front.
After that, you involuntarily ask yourself the question - how are things going with the planning of military operations today? How adequately does our military understand how field battles will proceed in the future? Are we ready for them? Or will something again be sorely lacking?
It is impossible to predict the need for various types of weapons or ammunition if there is no idea how a potential enemy is going to fight in a future war, with what forces. What will be the emphasis - on powerful fire strikes that destroy the defense, or on the use of long-range precision weapons that can destroy the logistics of supplying warring army formations and thereby deprive them of their combat capability.
Soldier of the future
The above examples clearly demonstrate the importance of research aimed at assessing the likely scenarios for wars in the near future, which are already around the corner. Of course, the hope remains that in the event of miscalculations in strategic planning, it will be possible to use nuclear weapons. But this "last argument" will actually give rise to a whole chain of new problems, which may turn out to be an order of magnitude more complex. The risk of mutual massive nuclear strikes with unpredictable consequences will increase.
The United States is constantly studying possible options for conducting combat operations in the conditions of overcoming the so-called zones of blocking access and maneuver (A2 / AD). Much is kept secret, but sometimes the results of the studied scenarios are announced publicly.
So, speaking at one of the events hosted by the US Army Association (AUSA) back in 2016, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, General Milli described combat operations of the ground forces in the upcoming wars as follows.
On the battlefield of the future, if you stay in one place for more than two or three hours, you are highly likely to be destroyed. During the battle, you will have to constantly move or be in a well-protected shelter, which places increased demands on human endurance.
As units fight away from friendly forces, encirclement will become the norm. There will be no clear front lines, no secure supply routes, no large bases with canteens, air conditioners and showers. Since enemy drones and sensors will constantly hunt you down, there will be no time for even four hours of uninterrupted sleep.
The ground forces will have to infiltrate the restricted areas (A2/AD) to assist the air and naval forces. This is the exact opposite of what has been done for the last 70 years, when the air and naval forces have been breaking into defenses to carry out the offensive.
Soldiers will fight with everything - rifles, Tanks, electronic interference, computer viruses, long-range missiles that hit targets on the ground, in the air or even at sea. To avoid becoming a target for precision weapons, soldiers, as well as marines or even ships, must be divided into small squads and constantly move around. Temporary static bases for the deployment of personnel and equipment will be easy prey for the enemy, and convoys with ammunition, spare parts and products will be so endangered that they must be completely robotic. Therefore, units will mostly work on their own, purifying their own drinking water and 3D printing spare parts for broken gear.
If we assume that the typical battle scenario described above is implemented at least partially in practice, then it becomes obvious that the soldier becomes the key subject of the battles of the future. He will basically be forced to act in response to circumstances, and not to the orders of commanders located elsewhere. The situation can develop so rapidly that its assessment by the command staff will be critically late. Therefore, in future battles, infantry will have to be saved, and not used as consumables for bloody attacks on the enemy, as was the case in the First and Second World Wars.
Significant time and money will soon have to be spent on training ordinary military personnel. Otherwise, their poor training may become the main reason for failures in the course of military operations.
The soldier of the future is not “a simple mechanism, provided for by the article” (Paul I), the main duty of which is to accurately carry out the orders of the commander. It will be distinguished primarily by reasonable independence and high professional training. He will be physically trained, almost like a commando, and intellectually developed enough to skillfully use the most diverse modern military and computer equipment.
Here we have given only some examples where, using strategic analysis, it was possible to achieve success in the military-political field, or vice versa, when such analysis was neglected, the final goals were either not achieved, or were achieved with great difficulty and costs.
An important area of strategic research is also the creation of a grand strategy, which should be the basis of foreign policy, military construction and economic development. We will discuss this issue in future articles.
To be continued ...