The medal coined by the Hungarian State – after the powers of the Warsaw Pact had to return to their bases and to Russia, in particular, by March 31, 1991 – was very significant: on the front side the return of the Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers, portrayed with the irony of comics, while on the back side of the coin the bottom of a Russian-Soviet general on which the shape of a big kick stands out.
That was the situation at the end of a political, military and economic system that encompassed the para-Soviet area in a very dangerous and economically unstable network.
While the Soviet technocratic wings theorized factor accounting, according to Leontief’s model – albeit with real prices – the ruling classes imposed an economic and military alliance based on the simple coordination of national economic plans.
It could not be long-lasting and, indeed, it did not last.
It is worth noting that China uses the Leontief’s public accounting model still today.
This was the first Eastern structural crisis, which started in the 1960s and later dragged on until the end of the Warsaw Pact and the USSR collapse.
It was not just a “planned” economy, it was a productive system for strategic and political purposes that could no longer be credibly maintained.
The fall in oil prices with the new North Sea production – that Margaret Thatcher did not fail to use politically – and the related drop in the Middle East oil barrel price were the two factors which blocked the residual desires of revenge of the USSR and its allies.
Conversely, the strategic swan song was the “Euromissile battle” in Europe.
It was a Milan-based leader of the Italian Communist Party (PCI), often travelling to Moscow, who directly informed Helmut Schmidt of the explicitly offensive line of the Soviet SS-20 deployment in the Warsaw Pact areas.
Those missiles were more powerful and precise than Pershing II ones, but expensive and very heavy.
It took the strategic genius of Bettino Craxi and of Admiral Fulvio Martini, an unforgettable friend, and later of Francesco Cossiga, to block a series of operations, which we would currently call Information Operations, designed to delegitimize and block the parallel deployment of NATO Cruise missiles.
What is happening today? Vladimir Putin says he must protect the “outer space” of the Russian Federation, otherwise it can implode.
The Russian President likes to repeat that the Russian Federation has only three bases outside its borders – but, indeed, they are approximately 30 – while the United States has a military network of about 800 bases.
The Russian polemic is partially true.
NATO has Eastern borders which are already targets, but Russia has semi-populated areas or regions in which treacherous populations live. If these regions are penetrated, the nerve centres of Russian defense can be reached.
Hence currently the Russian Federation considers it to be a new great power, after its Soviet phase, through a powerful, up-to-date and world-leading military apparatus, attentive to seal both the homeland and the areas of primary strategic interest for Russia. We saw it in Syria and we will soon see it in Libya and the rest of Africa.
While, during the Cold War, the Soviet Armed Forces had to cross the Gorizia Threshold from Hungary and the German Threshold from the Baltic to Thuringia up to Passau, so as to later spread to Western Europe, today the Russian Armed Forces must project the Russian power onto Eastern European areas and protect their Southern flank between Georgia and Ukraine, as well as make the areas bordering on China safe.
A global project that is much different from the old bilateral confrontation with the United States and its allies, as it happened until 1989.
We cannot even rule out that the “fall of the Berlin Wall” was precisely a phase of the strategic confrontation and not its end.
In fact, in New Lies for Old, a book written by an important KGB defector, namely Anatoly Golytsin, and published in the West in 1990, it is maintained that all the major “opening” operations of the Soviet regime were managed by the Party’s nomenclature, with a view to playing for time and involving Westerners in solving the USSR structural economic crisis.
A crisis which has been lasting since the beginning of Bolshevik power and made one of the most brilliant Russian dissident intellectuals, namely Andrei Amalrik, write another revealing book, Will the Soviet Union survive until 1984?
Currently the Russian Armed Forces are one of the mechanisms with which the Federation itself survives; they are not a prohibitive cost that blocks the “Socialist” economic development.
Let us now better analyze how the Russian Armed Forces are constituted and what their current rules of engagement are.
The risk matrices evaluated by the Kremlin are now well-known: Russia views the US policy of global spreading of democracy as a power projection in disguise, under the banner of altruism and noble feelings. This applies both to the “colour revolutions”, from the Balkans up to Georgia and Ukraine and to the “Arab Spring” in the former USSR Islamic republics.
Furthermore the Russian Federation fears jihadist Islam in North Caucasus and in the many Muslim regions across the nine time zones currently characterizing the country – not to mention the danger represented by Islamist radicalism in Afghanistan, which can easily spread also to the Russian territory.
It is worth recalling that Brzezinski decided that Central Asia should never fall under the Russian or Soviet hegemony and that the jihadist “small Satan” was needed to drive away the Soviet “great Satan” in Afghanistan – with the bad results which are before us to be seen.
However, in the framework of Global Strategy, alchemy rules – in which “like cures like” – do not apply.
With specific reference to China, the current Russian National Strategy theorizes that there are never enemies in the East. Nevertheless some groups in the Kremlin think that the danger of Russia as China’s junior economic partner needs to be avoided and they are not even sure that China can never collide – for its own security – in central Asian areas or on maritime borders with Japan and Taiwan.
As to defense spending, in 2016 Russia reached its peak since the USSR collapse.
Moreover, in 2015, defense spending reached 52 billion US dollars, equal to 4% of GDP.
A reasonable figure for a global and nuclear power.
The main project on which the Chiefs of Staff are currently focusing is the strategic armament program for rearmament from 2011 until 2020, for an estimated value of 19.4 trillion rubles (285 billion US dollars), with 31% of the Fund spent in the first 5 years (2011-2015) and 70% to be used from 2016 to 2020.
Furthermore, in 2017, defense spending, has fallen by 30% compared to the previous years so as to avoid the military budget blocking economic growth, which is still heavily dependent on the oil cycle, which – as is well-known – is now characterized by permanently low oil barrel prices.
Oil drilling and extraction in Saudi Arabia is not expensive – hence the country is not afraid of falling oil prices – but pumping oil and gas in Central Asia or even in Siberia has a very high cost.
Again at doctrinal level, the Russian official texts tell us that future wars will be characterized by a quick initial “destructive period” – an old legacy of Soviet doctrines – which will be decisive for the continuation of war operations.
Speed, accuracy and quantity of non-nuclear weapons are decisive just as in the case of nuclear weapons – and this, too, is a legacy of the USSR doctrinal tradition.
Hence Russia theorizes the right to a nuclear response when there is also a conventional attack endangering the very existence of the State.
Therefore preventive strikes and deep attacks are always possible, with or without nuclear weapons that, for Russia, can also be used to de-escalate the conflict.
Another tenet of the Russian national doctrine is “non-nuclear deterrence”.
The issue lies in calculating the minimum amount of operations to make the damage inflicted on an opponent obviously unacceptable for the enemy.
For Russia, “strategic deterrence” is currently the mix of military, diplomatic, economic, spiritual, cultural and technological operations capable of stabilizing and blocking the opponents’ actions and showing the dissuasive resolve of the Russian elites.
An overview that is very different from the current NATO doctrines, which are developed in a very sectoral way, by paying little attention to the cultural and political significance of the operations planned.
Moreover, with specific reference to the C4ISR network (Command, Control, Communication, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), Russia has a highly-centralized structure, directly into Vladimir Putin’s hands, but also particularly scattered over the Russian Federation’s huge expanses. This structure is obviously redundant, safe and reliable, designed for the worst-case scenario and for the maximum threat to the network security.
Compared to the Soviet tradition, the current Russian military doctrine is much less focused on ground forces and their deployment, while there is more room for the strategic forces of the Navy and the Air Force.
The Russian nuclear Triad is currently composed of three groups of intercontinental ballistic missile systems, based on the old, but always well-functioning SS-18 and SS-19 missiles.
Conversely the SS-25 is an ICBM system moving on roads or railways and an expansion and renewal of these networks, too, is foreseen in the future.
Two new submarine classes – at least ten units – have been included in planning, both nuclear-powered and equipped with intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The Russian Aerospace Force has many bombers which make up the Long Range Aviation Command, while new aircraft models are being introduced in this area of the nuclear triad.
Again at theoretical level, all the Triad forces are programmed to be used in three main scenarios: preventive strike, counter-strike before the enemy nuclear salvo and retaliation nuclear salvo.
It is worth noting that the new START agreement signed by Russia and the United States on April 8, 2010 provides for a maximum of 1,500 warheads for each platform and for both countries, as well as up to 800 ICBM and SLBM launchers and up to 700 operational strategic systems for both countries.
Currently, the latest Russian statistics on the START agreement tell us that 1,765 warheads on 523 missile, marine, land and aircraft carriers are available on the Russian Federation’s territory.
Together with the indirect, cyber and intelligence strategies, this is Russia’s effort to become a global power in a multipolar and post-American world.
Conversely, in Europe, the Armed Forces are experiencing their worst phase, with few men, few and obsolete means, a vast distance from their respective ruling classes and a doctrinal level that is often borrowed – with some simplifications – only from the one used by the US Armed Forces, which have different interests and strategies, as well as increasingly different goals from those of the European military systems.
The new Russian defense doctrines mark the end of the old neo-positivistic military tradition, such as that of the US field manuals describing the amount of bullets needed to shoot a specific target down.
The era of the cultural, technological, intelligence and political war has begun – the kind of conflict that was indicated by the Soviet intelligence defectors who, in the United States, were very surprised that no one studied Sun Tzu, the Thirty-Six Stratagems or the cultural and psychological aspects of what we now call – by using Russian terminology – the “hybrid war”.
Those who will reform our European nations – after this difficult and gloomy phase of economic, social and cultural demobilization – shall immediately pursue the material, spiritual and doctrinal rearmament of our Armed Forces.
GIANCARLO ELIA VALORI
Honorable de l’Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France