HCDC Report-Russia:Implications for UK Defence and Security

DS contributed written evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee inquiry into Russia-Implications for Uk defence and security. The full report can be read HERE

Below is the DS contribution:

Written evidence submitted by DefenceSynergia
1. Purpose of the inquiry and DefenceSynergia Methodology:
The House of Commons Defence Select Committee (HCDC) is conducting an inquiry into Russian defence policy and the implications of this for UK defence and security. This DefenceSynergia (DS) input is made to address the HCDC terms of reference with emphasis on the questions concerning Russia, the United Kingdom (UK) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Questions concerning Russian motivation and intent and UK/NATO intelligence and understanding of the issues involved fall largely outside the DS normal area of expertise – where this is so comment is marked ‘DS Observation’.

2. Capabilities:

HCDC – What are the key elements and objectives of Russia’s current military policy and strategy? What are the implications for the UK and for NATO of Russian military policy and strategy?

DS – It is vital to see the Russians’ current psyche in the context of a history where the people have never accepted democracy as we in the West have done. They are subservient to and admire a powerful and ruthless leader, giving him/her the right to order any number of atrocities in pursuit of maintaining the nation’s hegemony. The collapse of the Soviet Union dealt an unforgiven blow to that power they had believed in. The advent of Putin has resurrected that belief. Coupled to that is the brutish nature of so much of the population which has spawned the current ruling class whose moral standards the West seem to have great difficulty in recognising. Against that brief background, Russia’s current military actions are demonstrating a build up of Russian capability coupled with the resolve to use that and “asymmetric warfare” to destabilise areas that will challenge the West (the USA in particular), NATO and the EU.

HCDC – To what extent does the UK have adequate information about Russia’s military capabilities and intentions?

DS – Observation. Whilst her military capabilities must be pretty well known, recent judgements on her intentions seem naive at best. Any such judgement can only be made with knowledge of what the UK knows and in the context of the true nature of Russia’s intentions. As classified information this is not available to the public.

HCDC – Who is responsible for informing and implementing the UK’s national defence response to Russian activities?
DS – Observation. This can only be the responsibility of government as informed by the intelligence agencies and as advised by those with knowledge of the UK’s security and defence capabilities.
3. Multi-dimensional warfare:

HCDC – What are the main tools of Russian ‘multi-dimensional’– also known as ‘ambiguous’ and ‘hybrid’– warfare and what does the concept encompass? What are Russian capabilities in and effects of cyber and advanced technologies?

DS – Observation. Other than suggesting their canny skills in provocation and dissimulation, DS has little comment to offer. The intelligence agencies should have a full knowledge.

HCDC – To what extent does the UK have adequate information about and understanding of Russia’s multi-dimensional warfare concepts and capabilities; what is the UK’s capacity to respond?

DS – Observation. Judging by the low priority given, in SDSR 2015, to matching Russia’s known military developments, either there is a lack of information (unlikely) or a pusillanimous unwillingness to respond.

HCDC – Does the UK Government understand the conceptual differences between British and Russian military policy and strategy? What is the Russian perception of where UK weaknesses lie?

DS – The government does not appear to recognise the extent of Russian frustration over her “lost empire” and is naively complacent that Putin will not press his advances further. Putin sees this as the fundamental weakness which drives the UK’s balance of spending priorities.

HCDC – What is the role of media and communications in Russian military policy and strategy; what is the capacity of the UK to respond; and how can the UK better understand Russia’s use of the media in pursuit of its objectives?

DS – In addition to NATO strength and resolve, an intelligence led diplomatic dimension must be present to counter attempts by Russia to use ‘Hybrid’ warfare as a catalyst for military action. That Russians are past masters at media manipulation and state control of domestic Russian radio and television output is well known. To that end it is the primary responsibility of the threatened NATO states involved, along with UK/NATO diplomacy, to ensure that domestic policy is non discriminatory thereby denying any quasi-legitimate grounds for fomenting internal unrest amongst the “in-place” Russian minorities in the first place. Should a situation leading to ‘Hybrid’ warfare be fomented it is crucial that NATO (UK) is given warning through close diplomatic and intelligence ties and that the international media is kept regularly informed by trusted and well trained sources in order to counter Russian coercive propaganda. The use of services such as Internet Media, BBC World Service, Voice of America, possibly a NATO multi-media outlet, must be funded and used to carry the West’s message into Russian homes and the around the world more widely.

HCDC – What more can the UK do to use mass media and social media to engage with the Russian public directly, rather than just via the Russian leadership?
DS – See above.
4. Russia, the UK and NATO:

HCDC – What is the a) extent and b) motivation of current Russian military activities? What are the implications of these for the UK and NATO?

DS – Mr Medvedev, the Russian Prime Minister, is quoted by the BBC (13 February 2016) as saying “the strains between Russia and the West have pushed the world into a new Cold War”. He claims that Russia is constantly being vilified. However, Russian military action in Chechnya and Syria have demonstrated the indiscriminate resolve of Russian military action and Georgia and Ukraine (especially Crimea) illustrate Russian total disregard for international law and established borders when Russian national interests are invoked. Russian motivation therefore, must be measured by deeds as well as rhetoric. The implication for UK and NATO is that Russia, under its current leadership, uses international rules when it suits but simply manipulates or ignores them when it does not.

HCDC – What are the implications for Article V of the NATO Charter of recent Russian military and multi-dimensional warfare activities, and what more can the UK do to clarify the definition of an attack on a NATO member state under Article V?

DS – The implications for Article V of the NATO Charter by Russian military warfare activities are that if Mr Putin is to be deterred from further military adventure he must be sure that NATO is unified, willing and capable of inflicting unacceptable loss or defeat on his forces. This may not be so clear cut in a ‘hybrid’ warfare scenario where, for example, indigenous Russian speaking people domiciled in the Baltic States are used as a catalyst for a sham humanitarian intervention. The issue surrounding activation of a NATO Article V response is finely balanced, call it too soon, before Russian forces can be unequivocally demonstrated to have invaded NATO sovereign territory, and world opinion may support a Russian alleged humanitarian intervention to protect indigenous Russian speakers from aggressive NATO forces. This is why a combined NATO diplomatic, intelligence, military and media response is essential. Establish early what is happening, nip it in the bud with local action to defuse the causes or prove conclusively that a territorial incursion is likely or ongoing and confront it with overwhelming force as rapidly as possible using an Article V intervention under United Nations (UN) rules governing the ‘Right to Self Defence’ or, if necessary, the ‘Right to Protect’. In the latter case highlighting the likely Russian rationale for intervention before they do as it is always harder to justify an uninvited and forced intervention than an invitation from an established UN sovereign government.

HCDC- What is the UK’s appetite and ability to respond effectively, with NATO allies, to current and possible future Russian activities in (a) Ukraine, (b) the Baltics, (c) the High North, (d) Central Asia and (e) the Middle East?

DS – The United Kingdom (UK) National Security Strategy (NSS) and Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) – 2010 & 2015 – lacked coherence most significantly in those areas where capability would be crucial to match Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) stated ambition for Future Force 2020 to counter emerging threats from a revanchist Russia. The UK commitment to a NATO Article V operation will be problematic for UK forces when they continue to be ‘Home Based’ at the same time that the logistic enablers, skills, training exercises, readiness, sustainment and complexity to mount expeditious deployment of ‘Mass Manoeuvre’ forces along contested lines of communication (LOC) is being largely underplayed or, worse still, neglected as a serious issue. DS refers to these neglected elements collectively as the 4 R’s – Resilience, Readiness, Responsiveness and Regeneration and has constantly emphasised to the HCDC the weakness in NSS/SDSR by failing to address the 4R’s for UK armed forces in a cohesive and meaningful way. We have argued that Force Readiness – the time within which a unit or formation can be made ready to perform unit-type tasks and Force Sustainability, the ability of a force to maintain the necessary level of combat power for the duration required to achieve its objective, are being sidelined by HMG for financial reasons. Failure to achieve this balance weakens UK’s ability to provide adequate Forces and to rapidly concentrate in response to a threat to a NATO ally, especially against Russian in-place forces that are able to commit force at a time and place of their own choosing and to contest the entry of NATO reinforcements. Therefore, the UK’s ability to resist a Russian incursion anywhere along NATO’s North Eastern border is being determined not so much by appetite, one way or another, but by HMG declaring only as much threat as it is prepared to pay for. It is worthy of note, in this context, that the military lines of communication for a very rapid invasion have been in place, structurally, since Soviet times.

HCDC – To what extent should the UK and NATO consider an enhanced military presence in East European countries, such as Poland and/or the Baltic States?

DS – A 2015 RAND Corporation report for the United States (US) military [Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank] concluded that NATO was unable to rapidly reinforce the Baltic States with armoured forces in under 10 days – any armour assumed being United States Army not British Army. To meet a surprise Russian incursion only light forces would be available for rapid NATO reinforcement of local in-place forces, possibly including elements from 16 Air Assault Brigade (16AAB) and the Royal Air Force. However, these would be insufficient to prevent opposing Russian armoured infantry reaching all the Baltic capitals in just 3 days. In such circumstances the utility of British armour and heavy artillery as a deterrent, when based in UK, is zero and a UK option to forward base and/or pre-stock heavy weapons must surely be put in place. This pre-stocking concept is already shaping part of US forward planning doctrine and budgeting for defence of NATO’s Central and North Eastern region. In the Baltic area a NATO agreement with Russia not to permanently station non-Baltic forces (which is of little consequence in the Putin mind) restricts options and until this is addressed pre-stocking of weapons and platforms may be the only solution.

HCDC – What is the role of nuclear weapons in Russia’s current military policy and strategy, and what is the significance of Russia’s current rhetoric about nuclear weapons?

DS – A translation of Russian military doctrine written in 2010, Paragraph 16, states: “Nuclear weapons will remain an important factor in preventing the emergence of nuclear military conflicts and military conflicts involving conventional weapons. (Large scale war, regional war). In the event of military conflict with the use of conventional weapons (large scale war, regional war) which threatens the very existence of the state, the possession of nuclear weapons could lead to the escalation of military conflict in the nuclear military conflict.” However this translation is read it cannot be denied that Russian military exercises are known to regularly include training to use and fight with a combination of conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Scenarios have included the use of nuclear weapons against Danish warships and Stockholm (Sweden) the capital of a non-nuclear and non-NATO nation in the European Union (EU). It was Mr Putin who chose to up the nuclear rhetoric ante by publicly stating that Russia was a nuclear power not to be messed with. Indeed, it is Mr Putin who has actively authorised the placement of enhanced tactical nuclear forces in the Kalingrad enclave directly adjacent to the Baltic States despite there being not a scintilla of evidence that NATO threatens any territorial expansion or forced change to Russian independence or border integrity.

HCDC – What scope is there for military co-operation with Russia to counter Islamist extremism in the Middle East?
DS – One must start by saying that Russia has no benign reason to counter Islamist extremism in the Middle East. Her strategy is to regain a firm presence in the Eastern Mediterranean, weaken NATO in the area and deal with Turkey in some way. Military cooperation in the ME to achieve any sort of normalisation in Syria and Iraq would be the ‘lode stone’ achievement when one considers the number of nuanced or outright diverging positions each of the myriad protagonists takes. It is probably easier to turn lead into gold than decipher the complex mix of allegiances and causes being enacted in the ME today. Alchemy aside, it is not so much a case of scope for the UK, USA, France, Turkey, Saudi Coalition to cooperate with Russia to counter Islamist extremism but the willingness of Russia and Iran (not forgetting the Assad factor) to do so. For an effective alliance to succeed, indeed, simply to cooperate, there must be an agreed common aim – dare we say, STRATEGY. But no such common aim exists – even between the various warring ground elements and the major powers assisting them – let alone between Russia and the West. Perhaps a better question might be “what scope is there for stopping the ME becoming the catalyst for a ‘hot war’ between major powers never mind a new ‘cold war’ between Russia and the West?”
29 February 2016