Cultivating Joint Talent: PLA Education and Training Reforms (Kevin McCauley)(February 2023)

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Cultivating joint command talent and promoting realistic and complex joint training at
    the campaign and tactical levels is critical to the successful implementation of integrated
    joint operations, transformation efforts, and enhancing the People’s Liberation Army’s
    [PLA] overall combat capabilities. The PLA is implementing a “Triad” military education
    program to address problems with joint talent and training.

  • The implications for the PLA of successful implementation of joint talent cultivation and
    improving joint training are significant for reaching its goal of an advanced military. While
    the PLA’s transformation will likely be a lengthy process, the PLA can still present a lethal
    opponent with its precision long-range strike and information warfare capabilities.

  • The PLA’s modernization effort faces the complex task of integrating mechanized warfare,
    informationized warfare, and intelligent warfare systems and operational methods into the
    force concurrently. Reported difficulties educating officers and staff for informationized
    warfare raise questions about the PLA’s ability to integrate fully intelligent warfare
    technologies and operational methods into the force.

People’s Liberation Army: Army Campaign Doctrine in Transition (Kevin McCauley) (January 2023)

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The PLA develops generic offensive, defensive, and special conditions campaign models
    to support planning and training for operational scenarios it believes are relevant to
    potential conflicts. These generic campaigns provide planning factors, force organization,
    and operational methods for combat.

  • The choice of campaigns reveals that Taiwan and Indian conflict scenarios are the key
    scenarios for which the PLA is planning and training.

  • Some of the campaigns do not appear to represent operational situations the PLA is likely
    to face in the near to mid-term.

  • PLA doctrinal change is evolutionary, and in the past slow. The available PLA sources on
    Army doctrine appear to show incremental change to date due to developing technologies
    such as artificial intelligence or research on operational methods exhibited in recent foreign
    conflicts such as the United States military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The Islamic State’s “African Turn”: Why the African Continent Is Showing Outsized Importance for IS” (Jason Warner) (November 2022)

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The Islamic State Central is increasingly publicizing the achievements of its affiliated African
    provinces, leading to what the FMSO’s Foreign Perspectives Brief authors call “The Islamic
    State’s African Turn.”
  • The authors detail six potential benefits that IS Central might gain with such an “African
    Turn,” as well as what downsides might also accompany such a turn.
  • Overall, the authors assess that the Islamic State’s African Turn is likely more tied to
    temporary successes of African provinces than it is an attempt to change the Middle Eastern
    character of the group.

“Turkey as a Drone Superpower: A Case Study of a Mid-Size Power Driving the Operational Environment” by Karen Kaya (2022-09-08)

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

Synopsis: Turkey has emerged as a drone superpower on the world stage. In just the past few
years, Turkey has become one of a select group of countries in the world that can produce, use and export armed drones extensively, trailing only the United States, Israel, and China. In addition, it has innovated new ways to use its cost-effective Bayraktar TB-2 to achieve overmatch by emphasizing quantity over quality across an array of battlefields. Turkey’s innovative use of drone squadrons as a surrogate for an air force in a conventional battle has provided a strategy for middle-sized powers to emulate, resulting in several such powers—including Ukraine, Poland, Azerbaijan—buying these cost-effective systems from Turkey with a view to do so. Other mid-size countries with limited defense budgets are likely to replicate this approach, changing the nature of local conflicts and even the calculations of larger observing nations. This paper examines Turkey’s innovative use of the Bayraktar TB-2 drone, as a case study of how a mid-size power can drive geopolitical outcomes around the globe through drones.


“The Evolutionary Russian View of Peacekeeping as Part of Modern Warfare” by Matthew Stein (July 2022)

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

The 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War stood out as a significant chapter in the history of the conflict in the region. Not only did Azerbaijan take control over a large amount of territory, the Russian government deployed peacekeepers as part of the cease-fire agreement between the governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan. This marked the first time a peacekeeping force became involved in the conflict over the region and stood as another example of how Russia utilized a peacekeeping operation as a response to a conflict in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The CIS is made up of states of the former Soviet Union and is an area where the Russian government has special relationships and a sphere of influence. While the United States has arguably pulled back from peacekeeping operations in recent years and, as a result, the U.S. military has deemphasized them, Russia views peacekeeping operations as a key part of modern warfare. Like other military operations, Russians consider that peacekeeping operations can be utilized to achieve strategic objectives beyond conflict resolution. This article examines how Russia views peacekeeping operations as a part of warfare, including in its military doctrine and based on past conflicts in the CIS. It also examines how this applies to the most recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and in the peacekeeping operation as a response to civil unrest in Kazakhstan. Insights from this may also inform potential outcomes of the current war in Ukraine.


“Cultivating Joint Talent: PLA Education and Training Reforms” by Kevin McCauley (2021-10-12)

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

This paper examines the PLA’s reforms targeting the development of joint commanders and staff, and efforts to improve joint training. Qualified joint officers and a well-trained joint force are fundamental requirements to propel the PLA into the echelons of the world’s advanced militaries. The PLA’s military education reform effort is to improve the quality of personnel in general, but an important emphasis of the current military educational reforms is focused on joint commanders and staff. The PLA intends to instill a general level of joint knowledge throughout the entire military as it pushes joint operations capabilities down to the tactical level. While the detailed outline of these reforms is known, the full extent and quality of implemented reforms is difficult to gauge.


“Russia On The Nature Of Future Conflict: Is This An Opening Discussion Of Russia’s New Military Doctrine?” by Timothy Thomas and Harold Orenstein (May 2021)

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

The 1983 Military Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Soviet Union stated that military doctrine “contains two closely interlinked and interdependent aspects—a socio-political aspect and a military-technical aspect.”1 The socio-political aspect contains the greatest stability while the military-technical aspect encompasses matters directly pertaining to military organizational development and technical equipment. It helps determine the forms and methods for conducting operations.2

Likewise, the dictionary states that the character/nature of war is composed of socio- political and military-technical components (the 2007 Military Encyclopedic Dictionary, Moscow: Eksmo, did not define the term). The socio-political aspect includes economic and socio-political causes, conflicts which led to war’s occurrence, class thrusts and political aims of belligerents, and the degree to which these aims are in conformity with social progress. This character of the socio- political component may change during a war’s course. The military-technical component of war’s character includes conventional and nuclear military hardware, the forms and methods of the conduct of military operations, and the scope, scale, and duration of war.3 While dated, the definitions offer most of the basic elements of these concepts today. Even though the article that follows is about the nature of future conflict, it should be kept in mind that the analysis is also about how Russian military authors may be sizing up their next version of military doctrine.


“The Russian Army and Maneuver Defense” by Les Grau and Charles Bartles (May 2021)

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

In the practice and application of historical analysis, the Russian General Staff closely examines details of past conflicts – noting what they learned and even unlearned – to keep their military science and training forward-looking. Maneuver defense is one of those lessons. Russia’s strategic defense Russia and the Soviet Union fought successful major wars using strategic defense and withdrawal. Russia defeated Napoleon by initially conducting a strategic defense and multiple withdrawals, followed by decisive counterstrokes.1 Up to his invasion of Russia, Napoleon’s strategy proved superior to that of his enemies and his operations were primarily offensive. Napoleon was often successful in surrounding an enemy army or defeating it in one decisive battle and then occupying its capital city and taking charge of the country.2 Russia defeated Napoleon’s invasion by losing battles, yet maintaining and rebuilding its army throughout successive retreats. As the army retreated, the Russians set fire to their own crops and villages, leaving scorched earth behind. Napoleon seized Moscow, yet Russia still refused to surrender and soon flames consumed Moscow. Napoleon had reached his culminating point, and his supply lines stretched to breaking. Russia was fighting a strategy of “war of attrition,” whereas Napoleon was fighting a strategy of “destruction.”


“Russian Planning Visions for Large-Scale Warfare: “Planetary, Theater, and Territorial” Considerations” By Timothy Thomas (May 2021)

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

Due primarily to geographic and threat variances, Russia’s military conducts geostrategic
planning differently from the United States. Russia is faced with a set of threats, real and
imagined, from several vectors across a huge expanse of territory with a rather small population, factors which the U.S. does not confront. This directly impacts the style of planning for the Russian military, as US and NATO planning models do not directly apply. Those seeking to understand Russia ignore these differences at their own peril.

This paper examines numerous aspects of Russia’s planning concepts that indicate how the
nation’s Defense Ministry has chosen to confront perceived Western and other territorial
challenges. U.S. planning is contrasted against Russian planning in some areas. For Russia,
primary planning concepts and organizations include the following:
* Theater of war (TV)
* Theater of military operations (TVD)
* Theater strategic operation
* Military districts
* Strategic region
* Strategic direction/axis
* Operational design
* Territorial defense forces.

After analyzing the Russian model, the conclusion reached is that Russia’s geostrategic planning for the initial period of war is underway and, if conflict erupts, the nation will be better prepared to gain the initiative than it has been in the past. Historically Russia has been caught unprepared for future conflicts, and President Vladimir Putin and Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov want to bypass that potential fate.


“Russia’s Conduct of War: How and with What Assets” by Timothy Thomas (2021-04-13)

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In 2019, during a presentation at the Russian Academy of Military Science, General Staff Chief Valery Gerasimov summarized his presentation on strategy with the following statement:

The main thing for military science today is the cutting-edge, continuous, goal-oriented research to determine the possible nature of military conflicts, develop a system of forms and methods of operation of both a military and nonmilitary nature, and determine trends for the development of weapons and military equipment systems.