Russian Chief of Staff, Defense Minister Cite Military Threats, Possibility of "Major Wars" and Continued Irregular Warfare
January 27, 2013 • 1:59PM

Gen. Col. Valeri Gerasimov, chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, bluntly characterized the strategic situation at an important military conference on Saturday. "No one rules out the possibility of major wars," said Gerasimov, "and there can be no question of being unprepared for them." He went on, "Nonetheless, foci of instability on the perimeter of our borders present the greatest danger to our country at present." Russian wire services widely reported Gerasimov's remarks, made at the annual year-in-review conference of the Academy of Military Sciences (AMS), an NGO that works closely with the Russian General Staff. Also attending the meeting were Minister of Defense Gen. Sergei Shoygu, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin, and Army Gen. (ret.) Makhmut Gareyev, the senior strategist who is founder and head of the AMS.

Gerasimov went on to discuss which military functions could be outsourced and which must unfailingly be performed by military personnel directly, a hot topic under current Russian budget-cutting pressures and the aftermath of the ouster of accountant Anatoli Serdyukov as defense minister in a huge corruption scandal late last year.

The Russian Chief of the General Staff also alluded to the proliferation of undeclared wars: "In the recent period, there is an observed tendency toward erasure of the boundaries between a state of peace and a state of war. Wars aren't declared any more, and the ones that have started do not proceed according to familiar models. At the same time, the new types of conflict are comparable with war in their consequences." As an example of such non-traditional warfare, Gerasimov cited the "color revolutions," aimed at countries in Eurasia and the Middle East. He said that they had demonstrated how "even a relatively prosperous nation may fall victim to foreign intervention and plunge into chaos." He described "the broad use of non-military measures and the activation of the protest potential of a country's population," as well as "the use of covert military measures," as part of this picture. He summarized, "The role of military science is to create a coherent theory of asymmetrical operations." If strategists answer the question of "what modern warfare is," he said, "then we can determine the perspective for building our Armed Forces." In this effort, he concluded, "We should not copy foreign experience and orient to the leading countries, but make our own, superseding efforts."

Gen. Shoygu, too, struck a warning note, in his second major speech in two days (yesterday he keynoted the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the Russian General Staff, instituted as a permanent body in 1763 at the close of the Seven-Years War). Shoygu said, "Methods relying on force continue to play an important role in resolving economic and political conflicts among countries. In several areas, military dangers to the Russian Federation are intensifying. There are 'hot spots' near our borders, and our nation must be prepared to respond to any challenges and threats; for this we need armed forces with the best possible organizational structure, an effective command system, modern weapons, and professional personnel."

Gen. Gareyev, who at the age of 89 is one of Russia's senior surviving World War II veterans and was a leading strategist in the 1980s under the late Chief of the General Staff Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, also spoke at the meeting of the AMS, which he founded in 1994. Gareyev addressed the challenge of training officers for the present period. "Only the high command, with its highly qualified specialists," he said, "is in a position to ensure that higher educational institutions have the most sophisticated teaching and material resources, curricula and academic literature." In statements made before the conference and reported by Itar-TASS and Interfax, Gareyev also highlighted the core strategic mission of the Armed Forces: "In particular, we shall discuss the priority development of our strategic nuclear forces and the space defense system, as the decisive factor in strategic deterrence of the main threats today. ..."

Gareyev is famous as an innovator in combined-arms tactics and for his emphasis on "weapons based on new physical principles." In 1990, he made waves with a book on the prospect of such "conventional" weapons rising to the same strategic level as nuclear weapons. Although the AMS is formally an NGO, the institution and Gareyev himself have had major input into all official revisions of Russian military doctrine in the post-Soviet period.