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RAND Corporation Brings Back Cold War Era Assessment Of Russian Correlation of Forces and Means


RAND Corporation Brings Back Cold War Era Assessment Of Russian Correlation of Forces and Means

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In late April 2020, the infamous RAND Corporation released a report that used to be a stable of US and allies understanding of the Soviet Union during the Cold War Era.

It is named “Russian Assessments and Applications of the Correlation of Forces and Means.” [pdf]

Its authors are Clint Reach, Vikram Kilambi, Mark Cozad.

“The international environment and new security threats that emerged following the collapse of the Soviet Union shifted the United States’ focus away from the large-scale military problems prevalent during the Cold War to different concerns, such as terrorism, regional ethnic conflict, and nuclear proliferation. As U.S. security concerns evolved, in-depth analysis of COFM and other issues related to understanding military balance and competition between major powers received relatively little attention from military planners and analysts.”

And as the world moves toward a new type of Cold War, new ways of carrying out due diligence are required.

Since there is a 30-year gap in knowledge after the Soviet Union dissolved, the authors have attempted to track the entire correlations of forces and means (COFM) evolution of Russia.

The key findings of the report are 4:

  • Modern Russian COFM assessments with respect to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) likely are based on combat potential values derived through a methodology that uses qualimetric methods and expert elicitation and was developed by the Russian General Staff’s think tank.
  • From the Russian perspective, the critical force correlation is NATO’s capability to build up forces and execute conventional precision strikes against critical military and economic infrastructure from air and sea, and Russia’s capability to disrupt such an attack.
  • Russia’s military force structure remains a product of deep reforms implemented in 2008, which were predicated on the assumptions that large-scale war was unlikely and that modern wars between advanced militaries with nuclear weapons would be centered on the aerospace domain.
  • In peacetime, superiority in long-range conventional precision munitions (in addition to platforms and enabling infrastructure) can have deterrent value given “escalation dominance” and the ability to hold Russia’s outer layer of defenses at risk and protect its military-economic potential in the rear.
  • In wartime, according to some Russian analyses of a hypothetical NATO-Russia war, escalatory pressure can be created by expanding the conflict beyond the local theater of military operations as a result of disparity in long-range precision capability and capacity.

The study is by no means an independent one – it was funded by Russia Strategic Initiative, United States European Command, and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

Furthermore, it has limitations, it is specifically focused on how COFM in Russia works today, and only takes into account how it got here, but doesn’t look in-depth at why.

“This report is generally limited to answering the question of how the Russian military assesses and applies COFM today. Although we briefly digress into a discussion of other Russian measures of state and military power, the emphasis is on the Russian military term, sootnoshenie sil i sredstv, or correlation of forces and means. The report is organized into six primary chapters. Chapter Two addresses the important question of the definition of COFM. Given the range of usage of the term during the Cold War, we devote considerable attention to how the Soviet and Russian militaries have understood and defined COFM since World War II. Because the evaluation of COFM evolved beyond a straightforward count of personnel, weapons, and equipment into a seemingly more sophisticated calculation, the third and fourth chapters provide a technical overview of how the Soviets and Russians incorporated the concept of “combat potential” into COFM assessments. The fifth chapter identifies the Method most likely used in command staffs within the Russian military today, despite the many problems that Russian military researchers have identified with it. We also show that the General Staff is attempting to impose unification across the Russian Armed Forces in terms of how COFM is calculated.”

Russia, of course, faces similar challenges to NATO, with the fact that if a war to arise, both sides would focus on targeting the production facilities for weapons and equipment of the enemy.

General Makhmut Gareev the president of the Russian Academy of Missile and Artillery Sciences, Russia faces a similar challenge, but with far fewer resources:

“The buildup of the mobilization production of modern weapons and equipment in the conditions of war, especially large-scale war, which is fraught with the destruction of industrial enterprises and communications, will be impossible. A high-tech weapon is the product of extremely extensive cooperation of industrial enterprises, and any disruption of the production chain could fatally affect the ability to create a weapon in accordance with the specified tactical and technical characteristics. At the same time, the cycle of manufacturing high-tech weapons takes many weeks or months (we are not talking about airplanes and ships—there, the production time is even longer).”

The changing character of warfare and the complexity of modern weapons against a backdrop of the increasing capability of long-range precision strikes has shifted the focus from capabilities that were seen as most decisive in the past toward different ones. During the Cold War, the tank was seen by the Soviets as “ . . . our main trump card in a conventional war.”

Given modern range capabilities of conventional weapons and the proximity of a possible conflict to Russia, superiority in munitions, delivery platforms, and enablers is viewed by Russia as the main trump card in a conventional war today, given NATO’s potential to disrupt or destroy, at depth, a number of strategic assets or capabilities from the outset of a conflict. Massing ground troops and achieving high force ratios—particularly in tanks—at breakthrough sectors previously was assessed by the Soviet General Staff as a key to victory.

Currently, the correlation of NATO long-range strike assets to Russian strategic SAM systems and fighters has likely tilted the balance away from heavy armor and artillery in importance. A key element of NATO strategy to deter Russia will be to ensure that it retains this quantitative and qualitative advantage—and the ability to deploy additional assets to the European theater—in the face of Russian symmetric and asymmetric attempts to mitigate it.




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