Originally appeared in the official military-theoretical journal of the Russian Defense Ministry “Military Thought” (issue No. 12 of 2020); Translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront
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Deterrence of aggression is an integral element of the national policy of any state throughout the centuries-long system of interstate relations. As a result, the threat of war, whether overt or implied, became a diplomatic tool used by one state to deter another from taking undesirable military and political steps. At the same time, the policy of strategic deterrence as the most important component of the national policy of the state received official recognition only with the advent of nuclear weapons, which became the main tool of deterrence for many decades. Until recently, strategic deterrence was perceived as nuclear deterrence. At the same time, the role of non-nuclear deterrence in strategic deterrence increases as troops (forces) are equipped with strategic non-nuclear weapons systems capable of performing a number of strategic tasks in military conflicts of various scales and intensity. Based on this, strategic deterrence should consider two of its components: nuclear and non-nuclear.
At the present time and in the foreseeable future, Russia is forced to deter the world’s leading states from unleashing aggression against it and its allies by intimidation, which is based on a military threat that is openly declared and brought to the attention of a potential aggressor. In addition to deterrence, other states may be subject to deterrent actions related to restrictions and coercion. Actions of deterrence, restriction and coercion are carried out within the framework of the strategic deterrence mechanism.
Strategic deterrence is based on the combat capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation to inflict damage to any aggressor that is incommensurable with the military-political and economic goals of the war – the so-called “deterrent” damage. Its upper limit is “unacceptable” damage, i.e., damage that is absolutely unacceptable to the aggressor when the aggressor state ceases to function as a socio-political system.
In general, strategic deterrence measures are carried out continuously both in peacetime, including the period of immediate threat of aggression, and in wartime up to the stage of massive use of nuclear weapons.
Strategic deterrence is ensured when the following conditions are met:
- the presence of combat-ready strategic deterrence forces in the Russian Armed Forces, including nuclear and strategic forces with combat capabilities that ensure unacceptable damage to any aggressor including the coalition composition, in any development of the military-political and strategic situation;
- the determination and readiness of the military and political leadership of the Russian Federation to use these forces, if necessary, in accordance with Russian legislation.
The military policy pursued by the United States and its allies is aimed at reducing the combat capabilities of the Russian Armed Forces, including the creation of a global missile defence system (ABM) and “instant global strike” means. In these conditions, the creation of modern domestic highly effective systems of strategic (nuclear and non-nuclear) weapons with their equipping of troops (forces), as well as determining their role in ensuring strategic deterrence, are of paramount importance.
In his annual messages to the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation in 2018, President Vladimir Putin stated, and in 2019 he confirmed the armament of the Russian Armed Forces with new models of strategic weapons:
- Sarmat missile complex with a heavy intercontinental ballistic missile;
- Avangard missile system with a gliding cruise warhead;
- Peresvet combat laser complex (CLC);
- Kinzhal aviation missile system (AMS) with a hypersonic cruise missile;
- Burevestnik strategic complex;
- Poseidon unmanned underwater vehicle.
The adoption of these models for service will increase the flexibility and diversity of the functioning of the strategic deterrence mechanism, as well as expand the possibilities of using weapons of destruction in existing and future strategic actions of the Russian Armed Forces.
If the Sarmat and Avangard missile systems are assigned a role similar to the existing strategic missile systems, the role of directed energy weapons and hypersonic weapons is determined based on their unique characteristics and capabilities to affect various targets.
In current conditions, the most important tasks are to ensure the combat stability of domestic strategic nuclear forces and reduce the effectiveness of the US missile defence system to a level that allows the Russian Federation to cause unacceptable damage in response. Successful implementation of these tasks can largely be achieved through the introduction of advanced technologies and the proactive implementation of asymmetric countermeasures related to the integrated implementation of aerospace defence tasks, including anti-satellite warfare.
The Peresvet CLC can be used to perform a wide range of tasks, including to fight the enemy’s space-based optoelectronic reconnaissance by means of their functional destruction (suppression) by laser radiation. Currently and in the medium term, it will be used to cover the position areas of missile divisions with mobile missile systems.
The role of the strategic directed energy weapons in general and the Peresvet CLC in particular in the system of strategic deterrence is determined by:
- increasing the share of tasks to reduce the stability and efficiency of information and intelligence, combat and control systems of the enemy (primarily aerospace-based), which can be performed with the use of the CLC;
- the need for highly effective selective destruction (suppression) of objects (their elements) with minimisation of negative consequences for the population and the environment in the strike areas;
- the ability to use the CLC both independently and in conjunction with traditional weapons, while ensuring an increase in their combat effectiveness;
- the possibility of using one CLC as a universal means of defeating the enemy in military conflicts of any scale and intensity;
- the ability to selectively, accurately and timely hit targets (primarily the means of air and space attack) of the enemy;
- the ability to effectively perform the tasks of covering the defeat of the most important groups of troops (forces) and objects of state and military administration;
- the ability to hit targets at a considerable distance, contributing to the creation of a layered system of heterogeneous enemy destruction.
The Kinzhal AMS is a hypersonic weapons complex designed to perform strategic tasks in the pre-nuclear phase of a military conflict. The impact of the AMS on the enemy’s critical facilities, including those of the state and military administration system, military-economic and combat capabilities, as well as infrastructure, can decisively change the course of a military conflict and provide a significant increase in the effectiveness of the use of nuclear forces.
The possibility of multi-variant use of the Kinzhal AMS allows to influence the enemy state (both the military and political leadership and the population) in order to deter from unleashing military aggression or escalating military actions during a military conflict.
The role of the Kinzhal AMS in the strategic deterrence system is determined by:
- the increasing importance of the force factor in interstate relations, the intensification of competition between the world’s economic and military-political centres of power for expanding their spheres of influence, as well as the possibility of achieving the goals of political and armed confrontation by influencing (threatening to influence) various critical enemy objects using modern conventional (non-nuclear) weapons;
- improving the strategic deterrence mechanism and expanding the range of tasks assigned to the Kinzhal AMS;
- an increase in the spatial and temporal indicators of military operations, combined with the widespread use of “contactless” forms of use of troops (forces);
- increasing the combat capabilities of the Kinzhal AMS for selective damaging effects on the critical facilities, including the enemy’s air defence and missile defence systems in the conditions of its counteraction.
The use of this complex in military conflicts can suspend or prevent hostile actions of the enemy, limit the escalation of the conflict and allow to take military actions in conditions when the use of other types of weapons is unacceptable for political, ethical or other reasons.
The advantage of a hypersonic missile in comparison with subsonic low-altitude cruise missiles is its significantly lower vulnerability when overcoming air defence and missile defence systems due to high speeds and altitude. The high degree of vulnerability of subsonic low-altitude cruise missiles was confirmed by the results of US military operations in the war against Yugoslavia, when a significant part of American Tomahawk cruise missiles in this war were shot down by man-portable air defence systems.
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