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Struggle on Gerasimov Doctrine: War on Information and Propaganda

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Military field manuals mean that the war emerges of two parts: conventional war strategies and unconventional warfare. Thus, most of the weaponized wars in the world emerged as one of the two war strategies. Conventional warfare continued to change in accordance with developing technologies; however, the basic presumption remained the same. With the technological developments, the infantry was replaced by armored infantry, cavalries were replaced by tank troops, cannons and howitzers evolved into more developed cannons/howitzers and rockets, yet the basic duties of those troops remained the same. Today, none of the armies give up their infantry, tank and cannons, just enhancing the capabilities of those troops with the developing technologies.

Even the states have concepts and doctrines about unconventional warfare, the unconventional warfare strategies depend on the creativeness of the decision-makers and the capabilities of application. The implementation and success of these methods depend on the participation of other elements of the state, especially intelligence organizations, in addition to the military personnel trained and equipped for the purpose is important. In every period of the history, irregular warfare has important effects on the results of the war. However, the decisive point has become the conventional warfare. In the Cold War period, the struggle between the Soviet Union and the Western states, who escaped from nuclear war, therefore hesitated to struggle face to face, emerged as “proxy wars” and irregular warfare elements of both sides have supported the third side fighting with each other.

In the post-Cold War period, the United States of America (US), who wanted to consolidate its political, economic, and technological hegemony militarily, carried out Gulf Operations in a way that brought the conventional operation to the fore. However, the moves that will support the enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1999 and 2004 and push the borders of Russia, which has strengthened under the leadership of Russian President Vladimir Putin and opposes the American hegemony, necessitated a new understanding of security. In other words, the irregular warfare gained importance, colorful revolutions, in the context of civil commotion, which cares about security essentials. That situation has revived the spirit of proxy wars of the Cold War in a modern way.

Colorful revolutions have caused significant changes on the security understanding of Russia, who focused on conventional warfare in the Post-Cold War period, and was unprepared for new and creative war strategies of the West. Although they do not accept it, the role of Western states in color revolutions and the fact that color revolutions occur in states that Russia sees as red lines, on the one hand, reveal the need to develop defense methods against the threats; on the other hand, it has led to the determination of new and creative struggle principles in the struggle with the Western states. In that context, Russia has foreseen changes in the new warfare in terms of Gerasimov Doctrine, claimed by Chief of Staff Valerie Gerasimov.[1]

Gerasimov has stressed that Arab Spring and color revolutions have taught a lesson, and the color revolutions has become a strategy of new warfare, and the states has started using more non-military strategies on reaching their aims. In the end, Moscow administration has put weight on conventional warfare strategies in the Russian-Georgian War in 2008, she has also applied the elements mentioned by Gerasimov. Gerosimov highlighted that Russian Army has been working on those issues as well, and the military structure of the country should be shaped in accordance with this. Thus, Moscow administration has used untraditional warfare in 2014 against the second color revolution in Ukraine and catch the West unawares.

Even it was not clarifying in the official documents or in the expression of the officials, Russian warfare strategies, which were identified as “Mixed War” or “Hybrid War” by NATO, has put weight on irregular warfare instead of conventional troops.

As it can be understood, Russia has begun to reconstruct with the West’s color revolutions, and NATO has begun to reconstruct with the Russia’s mixed warfare strategy.

Within the framework of this preparation, both sides envisaged to increase the level of readiness of conventional troops, as well as to increase the effectiveness of unconventional warfare elements. Of course, in this process, it is not as easy as Russia for NATO, which has a structure of 30 states, decides unanimously and includes states that have secret agendas against each other even though they are allies, to meet in a common policy that includes unconventional warfare methods.

In modern Russian warfare methods called mixed warfare by NATO, one of the most important tasks of conventional troops is to create political and military pressure. As a matter of fact, in the Russia-Ukraine Crisis in 2014, the Moscow administration piled its conventional troops on the Ukrainian border and supported the unconventional war operation in Ukraine by intimidating “I can invade at any moment.” It instrumentalized the presence of its military units on the border, especially neighboring states, with exercises in which scenarios based on occupation were applied.

Gerasimov has highlighted the importance of information warfare, and its importance on decelerating the military potential of the enemy. On that issue, Russia, knowing the superiority of the Western states, is developing the capabilities on information operation and propaganda. For instance, it is clear in the Russian-Ukraine tension. However, the Western states, especially the US, has an absolute superiority on shaping public opinion.

Russia has frustrated NATO’s attempt of turning Black Sea into close waters, by annexing Crimea. Also, she turned the Eastern Ukraine into a “frozen conflict” zone and made Ukraine dependent on herself. She deployed military troops in the border of Ukraine, and by making military drills with loyal ally of herself Belarus, she pressured Ukraine in terms of military and politically. Besides, she threatened the states, which plan helping Ukraine militarily. She supported this move with economic methods, primarily using the natural gas weapon. During the occupation of Crimea, Moscow used irregular warfare elements and did not accept responsibility until the occupation was completed. With the passports it distributed to the people of Crimea, it tried to legitimize this occupation and annexation, which is against international law, within the framework of its policy of helping the Russian people abroad.

The crisis between Moscow and Kyiv continues. Kremlin administration is testing the strength and solidarity between the Western states and Ukraine. Time is running in Russia’s favor. As time goes by, the West’s solidarity weakens, and the cracks occur.

Lately, especially the US and the Britain is claiming that Russia will invade the East of Ukraine; even they give dates for the invasion. Moscow, on the other hand, identifying those comments as illogical. It is definite that those two states’ persuasiveness is dissolving, as the invasion was not realized.

Although they promised military, political, and economic aid, the USA and NATO, which did not undertake any other commitment other than economic sanctions against Russia in case of any occupation, are breaking the endurance and hopes of the Ukrainian people and state.

On the other hand, it is seen that the statements made by the West are provocative to Russia and in a sense, mean giving way to Russia. Because the Washington administration, on the one hand, states that Russia will invade Ukraine; on the one hand, it states that it will impose severe sanctions. However, the USA also says in advance that the American soldiers will not help Ukraine because it will cause the World War III. The said approach; she aims to lure Russia into the quagmire, to put Moscow in a difficult position in the eyes of the international public opinion, and to bridge the rift between the Western states through the Russian threat.

As mentioned above, Gerasimov has highlighted the importance of information warfare. Recently, NATO and the USA, which have been operating under the concept of strategic communication on information warfare (STRATCOM), are trying to keep the alliance’s unity alive by claiming that Russia will invade Ukraine. However, the process works against the USA and NATO. Parallel to the non-occupation, the USA is losing its credibility just like in Afghanistan.

Russia, which works in favor of time, is very unlikely to invade Ukraine. In fact, this war is the struggle of the West’s information warfare and Russia’s modern warfare methods, which are defined as mixed warfare. Russia’s continued political and military pressure through the above-mentioned activities, the weakening of the solidarity and unity of the alliance will result in the weakening of the will of the Ukrainian people, who cannot see the commitments they want from the West, and the weakening of their trust in the West. This situation will already lead Russia to achieve her goals. The Russian modern warfare method also aims at this. If the invasion does not occur, it can be predicted that the USA and NATO, which are superior in matters such as information warfare and perception operations, will say that their moves deterred Russia and that Moscow could not invade because of this.

[1] Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov presented the principles of the new doctrine in his statement titled “Major Style and Shape Change Trends in the Use of Military Force, Current Studies for the Perfection of Military Sciences” in 2013. For detailed information about the statement, see. “Ценность науки в предвидении”, Vpk-News, https://vpk-news.ru/articles/14632, (Date of Accession: 14.02.2022).

Doç. Dr. Şafak OĞUZ
Doç. Dr. Şafak OĞUZ
In 2019, Şafak OĞUZ received his Associate Professor title and retired in 2021 after 23 years of service in the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF). Having worked for the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during his service, OĞUZ works on Weapons of Mass Destruction, Terrorism, International Security, International Organizations and Peace and Conflict Studies. OĞUZ is currently a faculty member at Cappadocia University, Faculty of Economics, Administrative and Social Sciences, Department of International Relations. He is fluent in English and German.