Russian Military Thought: Concepts and Elements

By Timothy Thomas

This paper helps analysts learn the factors that a Russian military staff officer or leader uses to analyze situations and develop new concepts.

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The analysis that follows demonstrates that the Russian thought process includes a mixture of traditional thought along with a complex mixture of vision, deception, deterrence, outright power, innovative thought, preparation, and the development of alternate realities. Traditional thought involves following technological trends, forecasting the shape of future conflict, developing strategies along the proper axes to confront the trends and forecasts, applying forms (organizations) and methods (weaponry and military art) to various branches of service, and developing the proper correlation of forces and operational design needed to confront a potential adversary.

Russian thought also utilizes a complex mixture of several concepts. Vision and foresight heavily influence Russia’s focus on ensuring superiority in the initial period of war. Deception includes reflexive control operations and deterrence measures accomplished through legal, information, demonstration, or other means to contain or scare opponents. Power is found in Russia’s military-industrial complex, which produces nuclear and nonstrategic nuclear forces, weapons based on new physical principles, and the capabilities to strike deep into the heart of another nation with cyber capabilities. Innovation is most apparent in new applications of military art and the disorganization of an opponent’s information and C2 capabilities.

Preparation is influenced by the Soviet past and Russian presence, from methods passed down through the years such as the importance of the initial period of war to today’s lessons learned from observing foreign armies in action or from their own experiences. Alternate realities and the rewriting of history provide certain rationales for specific situations.