25 years passed after the end of the Cold War, and the Pentagon is again concerned about the Russian military force.
Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond McMaster has a clean-shaven head and a warlike attitude, which only strengthens his reputation as the leading intellectual soldier of the American army, who often quotes the famous Prussian general and military theorist Karl von Clausewitz. Ten years ago, MacMaster led the Pentagon in a tense struggle to develop a new concept of war, taking into account threats from Islamic terrorists, as well as militants from Afghanistan, Iraq and other troubled places. Now he has a more specific task.
Object of research: Moscow
Politico was able to find out that after the overwhelming success of the supposedly secret Russian invasion of Ukraine, MacMaster quietly led an important expert group trying to understand how the US Army could adapt to this new Russian threat. In part, this has become a tacit acknowledgment of the failures of the American army - and the state as a whole.
“It is clear that while our ground forces fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, Russia studied the American opportunities and shortcomings and embarked on an ambitious and basically successful modernization program,” MacMaster said last week, speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee. “For example, in Ukraine, the combination of unmanned aerial vehicles, offensive cybers and the latest electronic warfare systems indicates a high level of technical equipment.”
In Ukraine, the rapidly mobilized rebel army, which Russia equipped with surprisingly effective tanks, artillery and anti-tank weapons, launched a swarm of unmanned aerial vehicles into the air and carried out a series of cyber attacks that disabled tactical communications systems and even GPS.
Discussions were held on the basis of what was found out during trips to Ukraine, and on the basis of other studies conducted by experts from the American government and European countries. They made it possible to draw a number of preliminary conclusions, as indicated in a document drawn up on the results of briefings held in recent weeks for the top leadership of the Pentagon and the military command of the allied countries.
American commanders and intelligence officials are alarmed that Moscow today may have advantages in a number of key areas. She has a new weapon, which are not protected from light armored vehicles, widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the main battle tanks of the Russian T-90 type, which during the last conflicts were considered an anachronism, proved that they still play a decisive role.
McMaster notes: "Russia has a large variety of guided and unguided missiles, as well as artillery systems, which are superior in terms of range and impact effect to the artillery systems of the US Army and their ammunition." According to the retired General Wesley Clark (Wesley Clark), who commanded NATO troops from 1997 to 2000 year and expressed concern about the Ukrainian conflict and its significance for the US Army, Russian tanks are so advanced that now they are "mostly invulnerable to anti-tank missiles."
The events in Ukraine presented another disturbing lesson. Russia is widely using political sabotage against the Ukrainian authorities, leading the so-called "hybrid war" in which it combines military power and covert operations to undermine the enemy state. After Ukraine, Russia carried out air-ground intervention in Syria, having achieved some success there, and demonstrates power in other ways. This week, two Russian military aircraft and a helicopter flew several times over a warship of the US Navy in the Baltic Sea, despite the warnings on the radio.
McMaster's answer was a study called "The Russian New Generation Warfare". Its participants from state bodies made several secret trips to the front line in Ukraine. These important but subtle efforts are aimed at revising the whole concept of the use of ground forces, and perhaps their organizational structure in case they have to deal with the Russians in Eastern Europe.
It is assumed that the study in the coming years will have far-reaching implications for the US Army, for the purchase of weapons and military equipment, as well as for the maintenance and methods of combat training of units. The first conclusions will be tested in large military exercises, which are planned to be held in June in Poland. Says the former chief of staff of the Army, General Gordon Sullivan (Gordon Sullivan): "All this is intended to show that we are in the game."
Among those who carefully analyzed the actions of the Russians in Ukraine was a professor at Georgetown University and a former officer of the Marine Corps, Phillip Karber, who from 2014 of the year 22 visited Ukraine. “Few in the West paid particular attention to the doctrinal turn of Russia towards the“ war of a new generation ”before it was manifested in Ukraine,” says Carber. Another surprise, he adds, is the inattention of the West, especially given the unexpected scope and duration of the conflict, as well as the unforeseen aggressiveness with which Russia initiated it.
Carber says he was stunned by the striking effect of the new Russian ammunition, including the mines being installed in the mine, which the United States no longer has. He counted at least 14 drones of various types used in this conflict. According to him, the Ukrainian unit, to which he was seconded, in one day recorded up to eight flights of drones. “How to deal with the enemy's UAV?” Asks Clark. - Is it possible to blind, disable or knock down these systems? The US Army has not experienced serious air attacks since 1943. ”
Brigadier General Peter L. Jones, who heads the infantry school of ground forces in Fort Benning, Georgia, directs the new army venture. But in general, this is the brainchild of McMaster, who, as head of the Center for the integration of forces and means of ground forces in Fort Yustis, Virginia, is responsible for the prospects for the development of the army to 2025 year and beyond.
Clark calls McMaster's work the most dramatic rethinking of the role of the ground forces after the collapse of the Soviet Union. “The US Army has not worked on these issues for 25 years, since the Cold War ended,” he says.
The question is why the US government, and especially the ground forces, once again allowed them to divert attention for such a long time that they were caught off guard by major events, such as the strengthening of the potential of the Russian army. While Russian President Vladimir Putin carried out active military construction, US ground forces made plans to reduce the number of personnel on active military service from 490 000 to 450 000, that is, to 40 000 people. Now this plan is questioned. Recently, the House of Representatives proposed to stop this reduction. And last month, a delegation from Alaska persuaded the Pentagon to abandon the plan to disband the airborne brigade. One of the above arguments was the new hostility of Russia.
It also raises the question of whether General McMaster meets his official function. For most of his career, he caused controversy and scandal. In his book, Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam (written by Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the lies leading to the Vietnam War) he wrote He criticized the generals of the Vietnamese era for failing to honestly and frankly admit that it was impossible to win this war. But later, when this general developed a comprehensive strategy for the counterguerrilla war in Iraq and Afghanistan, his critics stated that McMaster and his like-minded people had misrepresented and exaggerated the merits of this strategy. The anti-guerrilla war involves not only fighting, but also a campaign to "win hearts and minds" in order to win over the local population to their side through restoration work, restoring order and achieving economic progress, which takes at least a decade.
But the Americans did not intend to remain in Afghanistan and Iraq for so long.
Now new realities lead MacMaster to the task on which he and his colleagues on counterguerrilla strategy had to focus at the very beginning: to orient the army to what it does best - to fight the traditional adversary. But the question is whether the US military will be able to work out a realistic approach to Russian aggression and at the same time not to drag the country into a third world war.
This is rather strange, but the model for the new development was a detailed army analysis of the war that was 43 a year ago, and which most of us had forgotten. McMaster shook off the dust from the old study of the 1973 war of the year that Israel conducted with the then Moscow appointees of Egypt and Syria.
In October, 1973, when America turned its agonizing odyssey into the jungles of Vietnam, another war broke out thousands of kilometers away, which radically changed the American ground forces.
The tank losses in the first six days of the Doomsday War, when Egypt and Syria struck a sudden blow at Israel, turned out to be more than the entire American tank fleet located in Europe to contain the Soviet Union. In the course of the last major tank battles of World War II, the armies of the warring parties acted on average at a distance of 700 meters from each other. During the Arab-Israeli war, this distance was 2700 meters and more. That is, the affected area has become much larger.
Subsequently, the Chief of Staff of the Ground Forces, General Creighton Abrams (Creighton Abrams) sent a couple of generals to the combat area to go through the battlefields, inspect the burned tanks, get damaged samples of the Russian technology and find out what lessons the American army should learn from that war.
“The Doomsday War produced a powerful psychological impact on the US Army,” recalls Karber, who participated in the Starry Baire expert group, named after its leaders. “She refuted decades-old assumptions and estimates.”
From that war, the army learned the following lesson, which was reflected in the report of the Starry-Bear group: “A new powerful anti-tank weapon, the rapid advance of battle formations along the battlefield, as well as the interaction between ground forces and aviation showed how much the world around our army changed while we fought in Vietnam. ” The words of General Don Starry about the events of forty years ago are quite applicable to what our ground forces are facing today - just Vietnam should be exchanged for Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union for Russia.
“The attention of the military once again focused on our country's obligations to NATO in Europe,” Starry wrote then. “We found that the Soviets were very active while we were engaged in Vietnam.” They revised the combat concepts at the tactical and operational level, strengthened the organizational structure and adopted the new generation equipment and weapons. ”
Turn on fast forward and transfer to 2016 year. 15 years of anti-guerrilla warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places have passed - it is even longer than the Vietnam War, and today we have to reconsider the “decades-old assumptions and assessments”. MacMaster and other high-ranking generals concluded that while the United States floundered in the Middle East, Moscow focused its efforts on modernizing the army so that it could successfully resist American tactics.
53-year-old McMaster became one of those who, over the past ten years, has been trying to reorient ground forces and divert them from traditional methods of warfare. But many consider him one of the main thinkers-strategists of the ground forces, and his supporters insist that McMaster can determine the best actions to take. “He analyzes, and he thinks about what can be done and what needs to be done,” says General Sullivan.
When MacMaster developed groundbreaking tactics against the Iraqi rebels after the invasion of 2003, an important post for him under General David Petraeus, in which he was rewriting the ground combat regulations on counter-guerrilla actions, became his reward. It was not an easy task. The American army has not been engaged in counterinsurgency operations since the Vietnam War, and this is several decades. Commanding a brigade in 2005 in the western Iraqi province of Anbar with the rank of colonel, MacMaster took part in the development of a strategy called “clean, fix, increase efforts”. According to its provisions, American troops, with the support of aviation, seize a populated area, consolidate there and create security forces from among the population, staying there until these forces are ready to provide security for the period of the formation of local authorities.
To turn the ground forces into an organization engaged in combat training and purchasing the necessary equipment to combat the gangs of terrorists and partisans hiding in populated areas, while abandoning large tank formations such as the Iraqi Republican Guard, which was defeated during the Gulf War in 1991, turned out to be extremely difficult.
Society was less and less supportive of that conflict, and the congress was unhappy that there was no end to this war.
But the events in Ukraine have changed a lot. McMaster and the working group created by him believe that their work can have a huge impact on the purchases of ground forces, on combat training methods and on the organizational structure for many years to come - just like the Doomsday War.
The army has long been trying to learn the lessons of those wars in which it did not participate, and to enrich its arsenal with these lessons.
Ten years before the start of the bloody US Civil War, George McClellan, who later became the commander of the Union army, was the official observer of the European armies that participated in the Crimean War, which Russia lost to the alliance in France, Britain, the Ottoman Empire and Sardinia. Many consider this conflict to be the first modern war in which mass-produced rifles, explosive shells, mines and armored amphibious assault craft were first used. John Pershing, who commanded allied forces during World War I, was previously an observer at the Russo-Japanese War.
However, today's thoughts of McMaster and his colleagues about the consequences of the Ukrainian war for the USA strangely remind the events of the beginning of 70's. It was a time when the American army waged war with the partisans in Vietnam, and the Russian armed forces strengthened and improved, creating a new threat to the NATO military alliance.
An analysis of the 1973 war of the year “serves as a useful model for investigating the conflict in Ukraine,” said Colonel Kelly Ivanoff (Kelly Ivanoff), who served in the field artillery and now works as chief assistant to MacMaster. He notes that a detailed study of the 1973 war of the year "greatly influenced the development of the American ground forces in the subsequent 15 years."
The study “The Russian war of a new generation” is intended to “study the Ukrainian theater of military operations in the interests of the prospective development of ground forces, with an emphasis on how the Russian army and its henchmen use disruptive technologies,” Ivanoff added.
This research, which is just beginning, focuses on 20 specific issues of warfare. Among other things, it is the provision of communications on the battlefield in the conditions of cyber attacks, the improvement of tactical reconnaissance, the development of new battle formations and tactics of actions, as well as the study of new air defense systems, models of weapons and methods of using helicopters.
The parallels with the Arab-Israeli war end where Russia begins to use other, non-military means - first during the armed annexation of the Ukrainian Crimean peninsula in 2014, and then during the ongoing indirect war in eastern Ukraine.
“They looked at what we did at the beginning of 90's and what we wanted to do, and then went further than that,” says Sullivan, who served as chief of staff of the ground forces from 1991 to 1995 year, and now heads the non-governmental the military interests organization, the Association of the US Army. - They began to create special operational groups with the participation of diplomats who undermined the Ukrainian state from the inside. This is a hybrid tactic. ”
According to him, the army is now trying to apply what "we have learned about their practice of using small green men - people who overthrow the government."
It cannot be said that the Russian army and its puppets are powerful and invincible. The Ukrainian army managed to repel a large-scale Russian invasion. And those documents that are distributed among the command of the ground forces and foreign allies indicate that the Russian army in the period from 1985 to 2015 year significantly reduced in number. Many consider as its main drawback conscripts who are poorly prepared and poorly motivated.
General Starry, who led the working group on the assessment of the Arab-Israeli war, came to the conclusion that the outcome of the war is determined by the quality of the soldiers, not their number. “It’s quite obvious,” he wrote later, “that winning the battle provides the courage of the Soldier, the character of the commander and the combat experience of well-trained units and subunits.”
However, the generals believe that Moscow’s efforts to modernize its nuclear forces, coupled with the events in eastern Ukraine and the recent Russian military foray into Syria, can lead to serious and lasting changes in the US ground forces.