The enemies became puppets
Written by Vasily Mikrjoekov; Originally appeared at VPK, translated by Theo N. Kaufman exclusively for SouthFront
The start of the Air campaign in Syria by the Russian Aerospace Forces caught the U.S. and the E.U. by surprise. Nobody in the West foresaw this turn of events. The Syrian Operation was without a doubt a huge success for the Kremlin and an exhibit par excellence of its reflexive control.
This tactic stems from the ancient times (Ancient Greek: στρατ aγημα (id est Warfare Deception). “Great commanders achieve success, by detecting the secret plans of the enemy, thwarting its plans, sow discord in his army, constantly keep him in a position of vigilance, take away his opportunity to perform something beneficial or to receive reinforcement,” – according to Sun Tzu ( VI century BCE). “Those who know the art of deceiving the enemy can suddenly attack him, after keeping him in false jeopardy; sometimes it can wreck his army, pretending to be fleeing from him; sometimes feigned escape can lure him to an inhospitable terrain, where you can hit him”, – taught by Greek general and historian Xenophon.
“Moscow showed itself to be a major geopolitical player, which not only needs to be taken into account, but with which one can also negotiate.”
All previous victories, as history has shown, have been achieved by through the use of various methods of concealment and deception. New methods of warfare, the principles of military art have their origins in the successful application of the generals’ deceit.
The modern cunning strategy was formulated in the late 60s, by the author of the reflexive theory – Vladimir Lefebvre. He explains the decision-making process as the following: “Any deceptive movement, provocation and intrigue, disguise, drawings, creation of false objects are implementation of reflexive control.”
In Russia, one of the first military experts who worked on this theory were Colonel S. Leonenko and Major General M. Ionov. Thereafter, the idea was developed by the Captain of the 1st rank F. Chausova, Colonel S. Komov, Major General N. Turco, Major General Alexander Vladimirov, and others.
All of them were at the forefront of the deception of the enemy. For example, Vladimirov writes: “The main way to achieve the success of reflexive control is by carefully organizing and implementing provocation, deception, direct and indirect deception, providing the necessary hurdles and information agents in the system of decision making and execution within the enemies side to steer him in the needed direction”.
The Four Symbols
Reflexive control, claims Leonenko, exploits the moral, psychological and other factors, as well as the personal characteristics of the team. In the latter case, the deceit uses biographical data, habits and psychological characteristics.
A large number of factors affect the quality of reflexive control. The most important of them are the analytical capacity, general knowledge and experience, and knowledge of the opponent. The effectiveness depends on the ability to imitate his thoughts and predict his behavior.
Ionov says that information is needed on the status of the armed forces of the enemy, the nature of their operations and the ability to manage them, and at the same time stop or delay the oncoming impact. Objectives need to be assessed against the individual or group psychology, way of thinking and professionalism of the individual, and community.
The scientist puts forward a number of principles necessary to control an opponent. First, the team must clearly understand the possible reaction of the enemy on the constraints that he wishes to impose on him. Secondly, it is necessary to foresee that the enemy can detect activity and take their own counter-control measures. Thirdly, the increasing level of technological development of weapons, especially intelligence, makes it more likely that there’s exposure of the tactic aimed at misinforming the enemy.
There are various methods of reflexive control: camouflage, misinformation, provocation, blackmail, discrediting of officials etc.
General Major Ionov puts forward four basic ways to transfer information to the enemy, contributing to the organization of the control over it:
- pressure from the authorities, including the use of superior force, demonstrating it, psychological attacks, ultimatums, sanctions and the risk of threats (manifested by focusing attention on irrational behavior management or delegation of authority to an irresponsible person), military intelligence, provocative maneuvers, weapons testing, limiting enemy access or isolation from certain areas, increasing the combat readiness of the armed forces, the formation of coalitions, a formal declaration of war, supporting destabilizing of internal forces behind enemy lines;
- providing false information on the situation, including masking (displaying weakness in a strong place), the creation of false structures (showing strength in a weak place), leaving one position to strengthen another, concealing true interdependence of departments or telling lies, maintaining the secrecy of new weapons, changing methods of operation or deliberately losing important documents, provocation, subversion;
- impact on the decision-making logic of the opponent, including playing systematic games, which are disseminated through military papers, the publication of deliberately distorted doctrine, effecting on the key elements of the management biotope and key figures by sending false information about the situation, the neutralization of operational thinking on the enemies side;
- Dilute the time frame for decisions, by an unexpected outbreak of hostilities; change the circulation of information about the situation of that conflict to push the opponent to commit hasty steps.
Herostrat from Reykjavik
General-major Turko believes that the reflexive control of information is a weapon that is more important in the achievement of military objectives than the traditional “fire power”. This view was formed largely on the basis of the fact that during the Cold War, the US Information weapon did much more to defeat the Soviet Union than any other in its arsenal, which was the reason for its collapse.
Reflexive control, in the case it’s successful against the enemy, allows you to impose your desires and make him do the wrong thing, which will not correspond to the correct solutions of the situation.
A classic example of the reflexive control by the US is the negotiations with the USSR on the Elimination of Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles (INF Treaty). It had a powerful psychological effect on the Soviet delegation and its leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
It has been set in motion by a variety of methods, from being misled about the possibility of the implementation of the US Strategic Defense Initiative, to suggestions to Gorbachev of his “unforgettable personal contribution to the history” as a peacemaker who has achieved the termination of the global Cold War. At the talks in Reykjavik, US President Ronald Reagan, not wanting to make SDI concessions, just walked out of the negotiations. As stated by one of the leading advisers to the secretary-general, “we provided everything, but we did not expect that Reagan would leave the negotiations.” As a result, Gorbachev, wishing to gain the approval of the West and eternalize himself in world history, signed an agreement, according to which the Soviet Union eliminated one and a half times more missiles, of smaller and medium-range, surpassing twice the American tactical capabilities. In addition, for the sake of “universal values”, was signed a contract for the destruction of the world’s best tactical complex “Oka”, which did not fall under the INF Treaty, but the this act was very much appreciated by the American side.
Similarly, President Boris Yeltsin stated to specialists in the preparation of the START-2 Treaty, to remove warheads from strategic missiles and to not target US facilities. And all was done for the sake of official’s honors and international recognition, being convinced by US “advisers” that in Russia’s national interests these weapons are not important, since its mission was to participate in the government of the world.
Currently, the most difficult and dangerous application of reflexive control is to use it to influence the processes of public decision-making with the help of carefully prepared information or misinformation. Modern technology greatly expands the opportunities for manipulation. Information sabotage, violation of communication lines, theft and copying of data, concealment and distortion – all this allows us to influence the decision making power. The dialectical interaction of reflexive control against the state and information security as a countermeasure on its part will inevitably have a significant geopolitical impact on all aspects of life.
An example of reflexive control was the Russian Air Force operations in Syria. Neither the US, nor the EU, foresaw the military intervention by Russia. Moreover, Westerners expected, on the basis of the development of events, of a quick fall of the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the coming to power of the opposition forces loyal to Washington and Brussels.
The Syrian operation was undoubtedly a success for the Kremlin. It demonstrated the power of the Russian Armed Forces, the value of domestic armament and its advantages over Western models, the ability of the Russian command to competently develop and implement plans for strikes against the enemy.
When the truce was agreed upon in Syria, the campaign was over, and that was a complete surprise for the Western countries. They expected that Russia “would get stuck” there. As stated by Barack Obama, Putin went into the quagmire of civil war in Syria and would continue to regret it. But President Putin did not repeat the US mistakes in Iraq, by stating that the task was finished, on 14 March, he ordered the withdrawal of the troops.
This does not mean that the fight against the “Islamic state” is finished. In Syria, remain two of our military bases and part of our aircraft.
It was just decided by the Russian government to withdraw Air force troops, which would allow to cut the ground under the feet of those politicians and analysts, who were preparing to accuse Russia of violating the ceasefire agreement and waiting to see how our video conferencing will increase the intensity of the attacks. This allowed them to shovel all the failures of the Western coalition on to Russia.
But Moscow showed itself to be a major geopolitical player, who not only needs to be taken into account, but with whom can also be negotiated. This radically changed the situation in the Middle East is in favor of Russia.
The theory of reflexive control will remain an important area of research for the nearest and distant future for both Russian and foreign analysts.
Vasily Mikrjoekov, Doctor of pedagogical sciences, active member of the Academy of Military Sciences of RF