Defence and Security

Putin’s Russian World

At the annual conference of Russian Federation ambassadors and permanent representatives on July 1 Putin delivered an address “on protecting Russia’s national interests and strengthening the foundations and principles of international relations.”

This year, prompted by events in Ukraine that are being deliberately engineered by Russia itself, Putin’s speech contained some unambiguous pointers to the future direction of Russian foreign policy and military strategy, which are now impelled by considerations of what the propaganda calls “national interest” and “rights to protective intrusion”. From the English translation posted on the official website:

In Ukraine, as you may have seen, at threat were our compatriots, Russian people and people of other nationalities, their language, history, culture and legal rights, guaranteed, by the way, by European conventions. When I speak of Russians and Russian-speaking citizens I am referring to those people who consider themselves part of the broad Russian community, they may not necessarily be ethnic Russians, but they consider themselves Russian people.

What did our partners expect from us as the developments in Ukraine unfolded? We clearly had no right to abandon the residents of Crimea and Sevastopol to the mercy of nationalist and radical militants; we could not allow our access to the Black Sea to be significantly limited; we could not allow NATO forces to eventually come to the land of Crimea and Sevastopol, the land of Russian military glory, and cardinally change the balance of forces in the Black Sea area. This would mean giving up practically everything that Russia had fought for since the times of Peter the Great, or maybe even earlier – historians should know.

I would like to make it clear to all: this country will continue to actively defend the rights of Russians, our compatriots abroad, using the entire range of available means – from political and economic to operations under international humanitarian law and the right of self-defence.

It should be noted that in the translation designed for foreign consumption the phrase “Russian world” (русский мир), with its quasi-imperial overtones, is rendered by the more innocuous term “Russian community”. As Vladimir Socor points out in a recent article for EDM, the “right of self-defence” “translates into Russia’s paramilitary intervention in Ukraine’s east. Moscow rejects all proposals to disarm its proxy forces there, or evacuate them back to Russia, or disavow them, at least verbally”. Socor continues:

This is the boldest application to date of Putin’s concept of compatriots’ “right to self-defence.” Moscow acts as if this is an inherent right in principle and an already acquired right in Ukraine’s east.

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The Futurists

Epcot07The science – or some would say the art – of futurology emerged as an academic or semi-academic discipline in the 1960s under the influence of writers like Herman Kahn, Dennis Gabor,Wendell Bell and Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the Dymaxion House and the Geodesic Dome. In the 1960s and 70s “futures studies” – based on the analysis of possible futures and their causation patterns – became fashionable both in the United States and in Europe. While the American branch of futurology tended to focus mostly on practical projects – Stewart Brand’s Buckminster Fuller-influenced counter-cultural Whole Earth Catalog being one of the most notable – in Europe there was a tendency to prefer theoretical speculations about the long-range future of humanity and the Earth. Although nowadays futurology is a term that – in a Western context, at least – mostly belongs to a bygone era, the term “futures studies” has survived, and still represents a considerable body of scientific, pseudoscientific, sociological and historical research associated with ecology and sustainable development.

In the Soviet Union futurology developed along rather different lines, and was mainly associated with government-controlled national economic, industrial and defence projects. Even today, more than twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the study of military futurology is alive and well in Russia, where it provides an underpinning and rationale for the current large-scale modernization and expansion of the country’s military and defence capabilities. A glance at the website of the Russian Armed Forces broadcasting company Zvezda reveals a wide range of documents and videos devoted to the subject of Russia’s place and role n the world, while journals like Voyennaya Mysl’ (Military Thought) and Voyenno-Promyshlennyi Kur’yer present many articles and links to material of a more detailed kind.

As Stephen Blank points out in a recent Eurasia Daily Monitor article, the central task of institutions like the Academy of Military Sciences is to predict and assess military and other threats to Russia, and to elaborate ways of reacting and responding to them:

For Russian writers and officials, not only will contemporary and future war be a war of high-tech precision-strike complexes, it will also encompass a broad range of information warfare or even attempts at creating major economic disasters through conventional, non-nuclear, high-tech, precision strikes. This involves war from earth (or in the case of submarines underwater) to space to the digital realm. Indeed, Russia plans to create cyber warfare units by 2017 (RIA Novosti, January 30). Similarly Russia’s long-range aircraft will start using foreign airfields in 2014 to perform their missions (Interfax-AVN Online, January 22). Furthermore, writers like Konstantin Sivkov, First Vice President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, call for imitating the United States’ move to a global strike capability using non-nuclear missiles. This capability is ostensibly for use against terrorists, but clearly also encompasses major theater war (Voyenno-Promyshlennyi Kuryer Online, January 22). Colonel Sergei G. Chekinov (Reserve) and Lieutenant-General Sergei A. Bogdanov (Ret.), prominent writers on information operations, even argue that “non-traditional forms of armed struggle will be used to cause earthquakes, typhoons and heavy rainfall” that can damage not just the economy, but aggravate the overall socio-psychological climate in any targeted country (Military Thought, October–December 2013).

The Snowden Disaster

Edward Lucas’s newly published ebook The Snowden Operation: Inside the West’s Greatest Intelligence Disaster is available from Amazon as a Kindle Single. It gives a clear and concise all-round survey of the Snowden affair, setting it in the historical context of international espionage. In particular, it analyses the particular characteristics of Snowden’s disclosures, which the author says

are heavily spun and damaging to American and allied interests in a way that goes far beyond the purported goals of promoting a debate about digital security.

Ukraine: Scenarios

ukreuropeOn his LiveJournal blog Ukraine/Russia specialist Andreas Umland asks:

What happens to Europe should its territorially largest country slide towards civil war and a violent break-up? What happens to the current trans-European security architecture, pan-European organizations and all-European law should the Ukrainian state fall apart? What will happen to the already strained political, yet surprisingly intense economic EU-Russia relations when Moscow accepts possible offers from East and South Ukrainian regions to become, like Transnistria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia, Russian protectorates (if not oblasts of the RF)? I hope that these scenarios are currently being discussed in Brussels, Washington, Berlin, Moscow… etc

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is giving signs that Moscow may not wait indefinitely for the answers:

Russia urges EU “not to interfere” in Ukraine.

NATO plans bigger exercises

Reuters reports that

NATO plans to sharply increase the size of its exercises in Europe in coming years to ensure allies keep working smoothly together despite winding down combat operations in Afghanistan, senior NATO commanders said on Thursday.

More than 40,000 soldiers may take part in war games planned for Spain and Portugal in 2015, according to U.S. Army Lieutenant-General Frederick Hodges, NATO’s land forces commander.

SKOLKAN

In a response to Zapad 2013, the Russian/Belarusian Baltic Sea military exercises in which land, sea and air forces took part in a simulated confrontation with NATO  forces, in November NATO will hold its Steadfast Jazz exercise, which is based on the so-called SKOLKAN scenario. This will likewise focus on the Baltic Sea region, and will feature the defence of a NATO member. An article on the NATO website gives some information:

The change in how NATO trains is one of the most significant organisational modifications for the Alliance in the last 25 years. In addition to revisiting the challenges associated with conducting operations in and from the sovereign territory of NATO Nations and how imperative it is to partner with host-nation governments and military forces, SKOLKAN also allows for the integration of emerging challenges such as cyber defence, ballistic missile defence and energy security into a complex training environment.