The term “Gerasimov Doctrine”, apparently wholly made up Mark Galeotti who, to his credit, owned up to his mistake, has been used by the Western media to the point of obscuring the real work on developing national security doctrines for Russia’s 21st century needs. In this work, General Valeriy Gerasimov, Chief of General Staff of the Russian Federation Armed Forces, has played a major role. During a recent conference at the Academy of Military Sciences, where Gerasimov delivered the keynote speech, he outlined the national security priorities facing the Russian Federation. This included areas where further theoretical research is necessary to inform the future dimensions of armed forces development.
While Gerasimov’s address dedicated considerable attention to the problem of nuclear deterrence, it also made clear that, in terms of meeting challenges posed by the threat of rapid evolution and expansion of the United States’ strategic nuclear potential, Russia’s symmetrical and asymmetrical responses will ensure the viability of its nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future. The emphasis appears to be on diversification, and not only of launch platforms but also of delivery vehicles. The problem with the existing force of ICBMs, SLBMs, and bomber-launched ALCMs is that they represent a relatively well-known potential to counter. This means that should the US decide to invest heavily in anti-missile and anti-air defenses, it could defeat Russia’s nuclear deterrent in an all-out war. Moreover, the existence of widespread anti-air and anti-missile networks means that limited escalation using small numbers of offensive weapons might be stopped, forcing Russia to make an “all or nothing” choice—either no escalation at all, or an all-out nuclear strike. Gerasimov’s discussion of a genuinely strategic system such as the Avangard hypersonic glider, Burevestnik global-range cruise missile, and Poseidon underwater unmanned vehicle together with operational-level systems such as the Zircon hypersonic cruise missile and Kinzhal aeroballistic missile, indicates the desire to constitute Russia’s nuclear deterrent on the basis of an array of mutually complementary systems carried by an expanded range of carrier vehicles, including fighter aircraft such as the MiG-31 and attack submarines. Russia’s leadership would thus be able to hold at risk a wide range of leadership and value targets using both conventional and nuclear systems against which it would be extremely difficult to construct a defensive barrier that would be viable in the minds of US decision makers.
The final aspect of Gerasimov’s address that is worthy of attention is the recognition that Russia has less to fear from NATO’s conventional or even nuclear warfare than from unconventional “hybrid” attacks, including information and cyber-warfare, and even direct subversion using a domestic “fifth column”. It is here that Gerasimov made the most extensive request for theoretical research, acknowledging that dealing with such a threat would require close coordination of military, paramilitary, and purely civilian government agencies. What Gerasimov described is essentially the Venezuela scenario. The dispatch of a delegation of some 100 Russian military personnel appears to be intended to provide both a show of support and tangible assistance in the form of advice to the beleaguered Venezuelan government. However, in view of Gerasimov’s emphasis on theoretical research into dealing with unconventional threats, Venezuela also offers an opportunity to study US methods being used in this undeclared “hybrid” war. There the United States is, in effect, conducting an experiment in “non-kinetic” warfare using chiefly economic pressure, information operations, and cyberwarfare, in conjunction with what appears to be a rather weak “fifth column”. The apparent lack of use of even proxy armed forces may yet change should the current US strategy fail.
All in all, even though the Russian Federation was able to successfully weather the military and political challenges of the past several years, including the undoubted success in Syria that has considerably enhanced Russia’s prestige not only in the Middle East but all over the world, there was no evidence of complacency in Gerasimov’s address. Instead there was a sense of awareness that this is a crisis which will not be quickly resolved and which will require the ability to rapidly develop and deploy counters to whatever new methods of confrontation Western powers will adopt.
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*All posts on behalf of South Front are made by Gordon Duff