2021-04-02 Russian Robotics: A Look At Definitions, Principles, Uses, And Other Trends (Timothy Thomas)

2021-04-02 Russian Robotics: A Look At Definitions, Principles, Uses, And Other Trends (Timothy Thomas)

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The following summary first offers several ways that Russian theorists have defined a robot, starting in 1991. Second, the analysis compares Russian and U.S. approaches to employing robotics (from a Russian perspective) as well as tasks and principles of their use. Third, some of the uses of robotics in Russia are detailed, focusing on descriptions in military periodicals—in urban environments, in conjunction with engineer support, in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) use, with artillery, and their use in Syria. Fourth, legal and organizational issues of contention are examined that affect robotic use worldwide and regarding Russia. Fifth, the numerous problem areas are covered that Russia has encountered in its development of robotic capabilities, followed by a few conclusions. There are two appendixes. Appendix One lists some robotic employment principles and Appendix Two offers some photos of robots under development in Russia along with their operating parameters (and several not shown in the photographs).

“Russian Electronic, Information, Navigation, And Reconnaissance-Strike And -Fire Operations: Definitions And Use” by Timothy Thomas (2021-03-18)

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Russia has been investigating a host of strike and fire concepts for at least a few decades, with one of the first reconnaissance-strike discussions documented in 1984. The quotation above indicates that reconnaissance-strike is not the only strike means under consideration in Russia, and that the number has increased over the years. In terms of terminology and context, Russia’s strike and fire forms are different from those of other nations. The forms under discussion in Russia are radio-electronic-strikes (REU) and radio-electronic-fire strikes (REOU), information-strike and – fire operations (IUO for strike operations, no abbreviation offered for -fire operations), remotely controlled cyber operations (RCW, which appear to be part of information-strikes), navigation strikes, and reconnaissance-strike1 F2 and -fire complexes (RUK and ROK, respectively).

“The Chekinov-Bogdanov Commentaries Of 2010-2017: What Did They Teach Us About Russia’s New Way Of War?” by Timothy Thomas (2021-03-18)

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From 2010 to 2017 Russian Colonel (reserves) S. G. Chekinov and Lieutenant-General (retired) S. A. Bogdanov wrote 13 interesting articles in the journal Military Thought (nine of them are summarized below) that had a major impact on how Western analysts understood Russian military affairs and way of war. Though the authors have not written publicly since 2017, their impact continues to be felt as the West grapples with how to confront Russian activities across all domains. Asymmetric and indirect actions, the initial period of war, deterrence, military art, forecasting, strategy, new generation warfare, and other topics were discussed, ending with an article in 2017 discussing war in the 21st century. Numerous aspects of these themes remain under discussion in Russia.

“Compendium of Central Asian Military and Security Activity v8” by Matthew Stein (2021-01-20)

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Since Central Asian states gained independence in 1991, new regional military and security alliances have been created (some of which are Russian-led), new military partnerships with non-NATO countries have been established, a number of joint military exercises have been conducted, dozens of high-profile incidents of violence and civil unrest have taken place, and military installations have been used by foreign militaries. While this activity gained attention, it has not been collectively compiled. A compilation of this activity can serve as a guide for current and future military and security involvement in Central Asia.

The first section of the compendium is organized alphabetically and includes entries on Central Asian military facilities and installations (bases, air fields, etc.), and military and security organizations past and present. The second section is also organized alphabetically and includes joint exercises of regional militaries and security forces (Note: the exercises are organized alphabetically by the title of exercise and then chronologically if the exercise was part of a series or conducted annually; the names of some exercises are transliterated from Russian, ex. Tsentr, Grom, Poisk, etc., and these are also listed alphabetically with names of the exercises in English; the untitled joint exercises are listed last and are organized chronologically). The third section is a list of Central Asian military and security structures and other (non-joint exercises) security cooperation activity organized by country. The fourth section is a list of major incidents of violence and civil unrest in Central Asia organized by country and then chronologically.

“A Survey of Russia Security Topics for 2020 and Just Beyond” by BG (Ret.) Peter B. Zwack (2020-10-15)

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Although US security concerns have recently focused to a large degree on China, it is Russia that is the unpredictable wildcard. The country has stumbled in more ways than one during the past several months. In March 2020, it overplayed its hand in a game of oil supply-price brinksmanship with Saudi Arabia. The ruble is under inflation pressure. And the Kremlin’s initial fumbling of the coronavirus outbreak only added to its impact. In late May, Russian state press reported that Moscow could face a 7.5 percent drop in GDP following the pandemic.1 One of the most telling signs of pressure on the Kremlin was the decision—no doubt a reluctant one—to postpone the grand 75th anniversary events linked to VE-Day on 9 May and reschedule a more modest celebration for 24 June. During this tumultuous period, a Levada poll saw a slide in President Vladimir Putin’s popularity to 59 percent, a six-year low.


“A Russian Military Framework for Understanding Influence in the Competition Period” by Tom Wilhelm (2020-10-05)

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To the U.S. Army, a competition period is described as actions over time that exploit the operational environment conditions in order to gain a position of advantage below the threshold of armed conflict. At the crux of competition is the ability to create a strategic and operational standoff to gain freedom of action in any domain. This is done through the integration of political and economic actions, unconventional and information warfare, and the actual or threatened employment of conventional forces. “Russia exploits the conditions of the operational environment to achieve its objectives by fracturing alliances, partnerships, and resolve, particularly through the effective use of information in undermining friendly will.” In various forms, this description of Russian influence is prolific throughout Western security analysis. The prevailing views often include the notion that much of Russian influence over events is planned and orchestrated. This is certainly true in many instances; however, identifying the wiring of Russian influence can be difficult as it can not only come from planned operations but also from standard geopolitical practice, spontaneous civic activities, and many other actions and events that contribute to achieving Russian objectives.


“People’s Liberation Army: Army Campaign Doctrine in Transition” by Kevin McCauley (2020-09-01)

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This monograph examines current People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Army campaign doctrine, with a discussion of PLA theorists’ vision of the evolutionary development of warfare to provide context for current doctrine as well as potential future direction. The PLA develops doctrinal joint and service campaign scenarios for possible offensive and defensive operations. PLA campaigns represent the operational level of war between strategic operations and tactical combat. The PLA’s current focus on specific campaigns provides insight into Beijing’s perception of potential conflict scenarios. The campaign scenarios provide commanders and staff data on command and control, coordination, combat actions, support, and other critical campaign elements for specific operational environments. The description of each campaign’s operational environment and combat actions provides valuable support to operational planning and a context for staff and unit training for their specific operational mission. The Army campaigns are executed as components of a joint campaign, or as a primarily independent Army campaign with support from other services.


“Virtual War: The Qatar-UAE Battle of Narratives” by Lucas Winter (2020-05-28)

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Over the past decade, strategic competition between Qatar and the UAE has evolved into low-level information warfare. What began as disagreements on foreign policy in the wake of the Arab Spring has escalated into a conflict to shape and control information flows in cyberspace. Although not always visible, Qatari-Emirati competition has become a persistent feature of the regional Operational Environment (OE). Their competition in the cyber-information sphere is part of a broader competition for influence involving Turkey, Qatar and their allies, on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and their allies, on the other.1 One of Qatar’s main contributions to the Turkish-led axis is the employment of Arabic-language media outlets to influence local and foreign perceptions of the OE. The adversarial Qatar-UAE relationship has more recently morphed into a nascent cyber conflict to control not only the narrative but also digital data and information. Hoping to become hubs of the new digital economy, both countries are investing in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies in ways that will enhance their capabilities to shaper perceptions of the OE.2 Their conflict will continue to be a dynamic factor shaping the regional OE, and its evolution highlights the changing character of information war.


“Russia’s “New” Military Theory: Updating Classical and Asymmetric Techniques” by Timothy Thomas (2020-04-01)

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A new understanding of warfare appears under development in Russia. Whether it is actually “new” is open for discussion, but ideas were advanced by Russia’s top leadership indicating that is the case. In June 2019 Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu stated that modern conflict requires new approaches and that developing a new theory of warfare is the main task of the Armed Forces. Shoygu offered that “conflicts of a new generation involve a combination of classical and asymmetrical methods of conducting armed combat, where hostilities are fleeting, and there is simply no time for correcting mistakes.”[1] He added that new reconnaissance assets, along with weapons based on hypersonic and laser energy technologies, are impacting the forms and methods of troop operations.


[1] No author or title provided, Interfax, 18 June 2019.


2020-03-26 Russian Influence in the Competition Period

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U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command explains that, in a state of continuous competition, Russia exploits the conditions of the Operational Environment to acheive its objectives without resorting to armed conflict by fracturing alliances, partnerships, and resolve (TP 525-3-1).

This framework helps identify Russian influence in the competition period. It is developed from the Russian military perspective to enhance situational awareness and critical thinking for professional military education. It can be used in conjunction with other material, but does not replace nor update similar products on this topic.