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Russian Military Principles & Foundations

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When considering Russian military principles, it is important to examine the cultural and operational foundations of what we call the “historical Soviet threat model.” To the Soviets, war was a manifestation of the class struggle. It was an expression of the conflict between the “progressive forces of socialism” and the “reactionary forces of imperialistic capitalism,” which they felt would be ultimately resolved in favor of socialism. The Soviet concept of war represented a continuation of politics. While in Western perceptions, war occurs when politics fail to resolve conflicts nonviolently.

Russian military principles, from 'OPFOR SMARTbook 3 – Red Team Army', by TheLightningPress.com

OPFOR SMARTbook 3 – Red Team Army

Soviet perspectives on and prescriptions for armed conflict required that tactical success led to operational success. Similarly, operational gains led to strategic success:

• Extreme exertion of force at the very beginning of a war.
• Simultaneity of actions.
• Economy of forces.
• Concentration.
• Chief objective – the enemy’s army.
• Surprise.
• Unity of action.
• Preparation.
• Energetic pursuit.
• Security.
• Initiative and dominance over the enemy’s will.
• Strength where the enemy is weak.

The most significant points of this list are:

• He who gets to the initial battle with the “most” wins.
• The enemy must be confronted with more than one situation to deal with.
• One should not be diverted by geographical objectives, but should concentrate on the destruction of the enemy’s military forces.
• Detailed, exacting preparation must precede an attack.
• Design actions to preempt the opponent and keep him reacting to situations that you control.
• Concentrate on the enemy’s weak points rather than his strengths.

Russian Military Principles of the 1970s

Contemporary Soviet military theorists hold that nuclear weaponry and other means of modem warfare have modified the basic principles. By the early 1970’s, the following principles dominated Soviet operational art and tactics:

• Mobility and high rates of combat operations.
• Concentration of main efforts and creation of superiority in forces and means over the enemy at the decisive place and at the decisive time.
• Surprise and security.
• Combat activeness.
• Preservation of the combat effectiveness of friendly forces.
• Conformity of the goal to the actual situation.
• Coordination.

Modern Operational and Tactical Principles

A melding of contemporary writings and those of the recent past, plus the influence of significant classical Russian principles, results in the following specific Soviet principles of operational art and tactics:

• The offensive is the basic form of combat action. Only by a resolute offense conducted at a high tempo and to great depth is total destruction of the enemy achieved.
• Combat maneuver units must be mobile and capable of rapid movement.
• Fire support, command and control, and logistics must be as mobile as maneuver units.
• Conduct thorough and continuous reconnaissance. Find the enemy’s weak points.
• Perform a thorough estimate of the situation and make timely, analytical decisions. Be realistic. Consider the mission, enemy, your own combat power, terrain. weather and light conditions, and time.
• Prepare and plan extensively and in detail.
• The planning and conduct of an operation must involve the full coordination and cooperation of all commanders involved.
• There must be unity of command, a single commander for any operation.
• Fully orchestrate all available combat means in a coordinated, cooperative, combined arms effort.
• Deceive the enemy. Attack from an unexpected direction at an unexpected time. Use terrain and weather to your advantage.
• Strike early with great force. Constantly strive to preempt and dominate the enemy.
• Attack the enemy violently and simultaneously throughout his depth. Carry the battle to the enemy rear with swift penetrations by maneuver units, fires, aviation, airborne and heliborne assaults and by unconventional warfare means.
• Be bold and decisive. Seize and hold the initiative.
• Prosecute an operation relentlessly, without pause, under all conditions of visibility or NBC contamination.
• Keep the enemy under constant pressure and off balance. Do not allow him to react effectively.
• Fully exploit the effects of nuclear or chemical strikes with deep attacks by all available forces.
• Whenever possible achieve mass by concentrated, massed nuclear or nonnuclear fires rather than by massing maneuver forces.
• If maneuver forces must be massed, do so rapidly. Disperse them as soon as possible after the task has been achieved.
• Maneuver first with firepower. Firepower is maneuver.
• Maneuver forces should attack the weakest points in enemy defenses. If necessary, create weak points or holes with nuclear or nonnuclear fires. Bypass enemy strongpoints to strike deeply into his rear.
• Avoid frontal attacks. Whenever possible strike the enemy in the flanks or rear.
• Maintain security of your own flanks and rear.
• Maintain sufficient follow-on force to assure achievement of the mission and to deal with contingencies.
• Maintain uninterrupted combat support.
• Maintain effective, continuous command, control, and communications. Loss of communications leads to loss of control and defeat. Maintain redundant communications at higher levels. Rely on audio and visual signals and well-rehearsed battle drills at lower levels.

Historical Soviet Threat Doctrine

The Soviet threat and Russian military principles were described in great detail in the ’80s with the FM 100-2 series. Read our accompanying blog article, “FM 100-2 Series: Opposing Forces (OPFOR) Doctrine and the Historical ‘Soviet Threat’ Model” for further discussion.


OPFOR SMARTbook 3 – Red Team ArmyThis article is an extract from “OPFOR SMARTbook 3: Red Team Army (Forces, Operations & Tactics)” by The Lightning Press. Download a free PDF sample and learn more at: OPFOR SMARTbook 3: Red Team Army (Forces, Operations & Tactics).

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