IF U.S. GOES TO WAR WITH RUSSIA, THESE COULD BE MOSCOW’S MOST POWERFUL WEAPONS
President Donald Trump may have promised a new era for relations between the U.S. and Russia, but the world’s two leading military powers have found themselves again deeply embroiled in a 21st-century cold war complete with a new, more advanced arms race.
The Soviet Union is no more, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has made revitalizing and revolutionizing his country’s massive military a priority of his leadership. Russia’s resurgence in international affairs has drawn extensive criticism from the West and, while a war between the U.S. and Russia remains highly unlikely, Putin’s recent victories in Syria showed his forces were potentially capable of outmaneuvering and outperforming a much more powerYou know and see better than anyone else that our armed forces have changed radically over the past two years, because our people have proved equal to the task, which is the most important thing, as well as because they have seen how our military equipment works, how command and logistics elements work, and how modern our Armed Forces have become,” Putin told personnel returning from Syria late last month.
“The entire world has seen this as well, but the most important thing is that our people have seen it. This is very important, because people must feel protected; they must feel that their security is reliably guaranteed,” he added.
Like the U.S., Russia possesses a nuclear triad composed of missiles stationed on land, air and sea, and Putin has set out to modernize all three legs of it. These updates include submarine-fired RSM-56 Bulava ballistic missiles and aerial variants of the 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missile to be launched by the recently released Tupolev Tu-160M2 strategic bomber, a new and highly improved version of the last bomber built by the Soviet Union.
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How to Win a ‘Fifth-Generation’ War
In recent years, military thinkers have been focused on “fourth-generation” warfare — that is, conflicts over ideas, waged by what author John Robb calls “ad-hoc warriors.” Compare that to industrialized “third-generation” war fought by traditional armies over land and resources. The U.S. and its allies are already good at 3GW. And five years into the Iraq war, we are beginning to get pretty good at 4GW, too, especially in encouraging everyday Iraqis to reject hardliners’ visions of the world.
But the next generation of war — the so-called “fifth-generation” — won’t feature armies or clear ideas. It will be what U.S. Army Major Shannon Beebe, the top intel officer for Africa, calls a “vortex of violence,” a free-for-all of surprise destruction motivated more by frustration than by any coherent plans for the future.
5GW is what happens when the world’s disaffected direct their desperation at the most obvious symbol of everything they lack, taking advantage of the tactics and battlefields pioneered by more highly organized fourth-gen warriors. The symbol is the United States, the world’s sole super-power. And the fifth-gen fighters’ weapon of choice is political “stalemate,” contends Marine Lt. Col. Stanton Coerr, in a new piece in Marine Corps Gazette.
“5GW fighters will win by … point[ing] out the impotence of secular military might. … These fighters win by not losing, while we lose by not winning.”
The battlefield will be something strange — cyberspace, or the Cleveland water supply, or Wall Street’s banking systems, or YouTube. The mission will be instilling fear, and it will succeed.
Islamic jihad espoused by Al Qaeda, Coerr writes. But that doesn’t mean that fifth-gen warriors necessarily are clearly ideological, with aspirations of setting up alternative political systems. They’re opportunists, intent only on destruction. But even seemingly pointless violence can have a perverse logic, for the sudden, irrational destruction undermines the idea that nations — and especially the most powerful nation, the U.S. — are viable in the modern world.
So how do you beat a fifth-gen enemy? By not fighting, first of all.
Beebe says ending the vortex of violence in Africa means alleviating
“the conditions of human beings that create these insecurities across state borders.” In other words, focus on economic development, humanitarian assistance and communication, with nary an M-16 or Abrams tank in sight