Among the military-theoretical periodicals published in Russia nowadays, the monthly magazine “Military Thought” plays a special role. The point is not only that its founder is the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation. The status of the journal is determined by the fact that the Editorial Board includes the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces and three of his deputies, the Chief of the Military Academy of the General Staff, the Commander of the Strategic Missile Forces, the Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces, the Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces, the Commander of the Airborne Forces, and in total about 30 military leaders, specialists and journalists. That is why the analysis of the materials of the “Military Thought” allows you to get a certain idea of the current state of the Russian army, the specific problems of its development, and much more. For this purpose, we analysed the content of fourteen issues of the journal (No. 1-12 for 2021 and No. 1-2 for 2022) published a little over a year before the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
The second military power in the world?
In the first issue for 2021, the editors inform readers that “the main efforts of the magazine are aimed at supporting the development of military-theoretical problems, highlighting the development of the theory of military art, military science, improving the forms of use of troops (forces) and methods of armed struggle”.
Indeed, on the pages of “Military Thought” articles are constantly posted on various nuances of tactics and strategy, the latest achievements of both the Russian and foreign military-industrial complex. During the analysed period, more than ten materials were published on the use of artificial intelligence technologies in military affairs, several materials on military robotic systems. Some aspects of electronic warfare, confrontation with an aerospace enemy, protection against threats in cyberspace are also being studied.
The situation with the introduction of new types of weapons, according to the published information, is also quite favourable: “the task of rearmament set by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief in the May 2012 Decree has been completed, and the level of modernity in the Armed Forces is 70.1%” (No. 1, 2021). Moreover, as Andrei Ilnitsky, adviser to the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, states: “Both according to Chinese ratings and American ones, for example, according to the American analytical company Global Firepower and the Chinese agency SOHU, the Russian armed forces are considered the second in the world” (No. 8, 2021).
Can such statements be trusted, do they correspond to reality and, in particular, to the real military-technical equipment of the Russian army? As an answer, we will quote excerpts from the materials of the “Military Thought”.
“Obviously, Russia is seriously behind…”
The articles note Russia’s enormous backwardness in the high-tech sphere, which is reflected in the production of military equipment and weapons. Here are quotes from the February 2022 issue: “In economic terms, especially in terms of the volume of high-tech industrial production, the Russian Federation is inferior to a significant number of developed countries — it is far from being in the top ten leaders in introducing the latest technologies. Based on a comparative analysis of the innovation systems of 131 countries and their rating in terms of the level of innovative development in 2020, Russia ranked 47th.” “Obviously, Russia is seriously lagging behind the world leaders in the field of modern industrial technologies.”
Difficulties are also recorded with the development of new weapons: “Currently, the share of modern weapons and equipment in the Russian troops is already more than 70%, however, the results of control checks, exercises, reviews of graduates of military schools and training centres often indicate the presence of problematic issues in the development of weapons and military equipment”.
Here, for example, are the problems faced by the elite of the Russian army — the airborne troops. It turns out that “there is no detailed scientific study of air assault operations in the modern military theory of Russia” (No. 6, 2021). In addition, the outdated capabilities of Russia’s military transport aviation lag behind the requirements of modern airborne forces. Experts point out that the cargo compartment of the Il-76 transporter, including the more advanced modifications of this aircraft, designed for the transportation (landing) of military equipment of the 70s of the last century, has not undergone fundamental changes. And the new generation of armoured vehicles entering the arsenal of the Airborne Forces “significantly increased in terms of overall weight and dimensions and often can no longer be transported by aircraft of the Il-76 family, which today are mostly used in military transport aviation” (No. 9, 2021).
There are serious omissions with the repair of military equipment of the Airborne Forces. A significant part (35%) of the mobile repair workshops of the Airborne Forces are workshops with a service life of 15 years or more. At the same time, even more modern maintenance workshops do not have the equipment to repair the newest airborne combat vehicles. “From the foregoing, it follows that none of the existing mobile maintenance and repair workshops has a sufficient level of provision with technological equipment that makes it possible to fully carry out the entire set of maintenance and repair operations for the main types of weapons and military equipment of the Airborne Forces” (No. 4, 2021).
Other branches of the military also have all sorts of complexities and shortcomings, here are a few relevant quotes. “It can be stated that the existing system of advanced strike aviation guidance does not fully meet the requirements of modern combat operations.” This is due to the fact that “inadequate attention has been paid to the issues of identifying general patterns and features of the influence of methods and means of air guidance on the quality of tasks performed for air support of troops, as well as building a forward guidance system in modern conditions” (No. 11, 2021).
“The existing fleet of hardware and technical support (HTS) does not meet the requirements for solving complex tasks … Thus, at present, more than 28 types of specialised HTS, developed back in the 80-90s of the last century, are in the supply of the signal troops of the Russian Armed Forces. These units are technically obsolete and are mainly intended for maintenance and repair of analogue, including decommissioned communications equipment” (No. 1, 2021).
“Currently, the control system for electronic warfare troops does not fully meet the real needs of the electronic warfare troops and the Armed Forces as a whole,” since it “has a number of systemic and technological shortcomings” (No. 11, 2021).
The attitude to such a rapidly developing type of weapons as unmanned aerial vehicles deserves special attention. Having studied the use of aviation in wars of the future on the example of the Karabakh conflict, the team of authors comes to the conclusion that “despite all efforts, there are currently no effective means of combating the massive use of UAVs. Moreover, not only Armenia does not have them, but also the rest of the world (unfortunately, Russia is no exception)” (No. 9, 2021).
Note that another article reads that “since 2019, NATO has had a special working group, including representatives of all member countries of the alliance, which solves the problem of coordinating their actions to develop a common policy, standards and technical solutions aimed at implementing measures to combat UAVs » (No. 6, 2021).
But in Russia, something clearly went wrong with this: “the unsystematic development of a large number of tools, proposals for the creation of private systems to combat UAVs, the creation and intentions to create autonomous units in various departments to combat UAVs show that in the Russian Federation there is no common system of views on solving the problem of combating UAVs” (No. 1, 2021).
However, urgent problems need to be solved not only with drones, but also in many other areas of military affairs, starting from the very beginning: “There is an objective need to change approaches to fire training, develop new tactics and improve the skills of military personnel in the effective use of small arms” (No. 10, 2021).
In the light of the war unleashed by Russia in Ukraine, it is impossible not to pay attention to what incriminating characteristics were given to Ukrainians and the Ukrainian state, as well as to Western countries on the pages of Military Thought. Such publications devalue the military-theoretical significance of the magazine and turn it into a banal military propaganda organ. We offer the following quotes for confirmation.
“Neo-Banderites who usurped power in Ukraine after an anti-constitutional coup d’état”. “The United States spent over $5 billion on restoring the de facto fascist regime in Ukraine and the Maidan of 2014” (No. 1, 2021).
“Under these conditions, the aggressiveness of a new type of fascism – the American one – is growing”. “The military power of Russia in alliance with China is the main deterrent against the aggression of American fascism” (No. 6, 2021).
“A vivid example of the struggle against the mentality of the Russian people is the purposeful incitement of hatred towards Russia in the United States, European countries and Ukraine”. “The basis of such a radical Russophobic desire of Western ideologists to destroy the mentality of the peoples of Russia and their self-consciousness of belonging to a truly great power is the recognition of the spiritual and moral superiority of Russians over the population of the leading Western countries that is losing their cultural, value and moral guidelines”. “NATO countries are implementing many major anti-Russian projects in order to undermine the stability of the state and change power in our country in 2024”. (No. 8, 2021).
“Organisation of a coup d’etat in Ukraine, the creation on its territory of a long-term source of military threat for Russia” (No. 11, 2021).
“Today in Ukraine it has become the norm — undisguised hatred of Russia.» “Kyiv has taken a course on the forceful solution of issues on the Donetsk People’s Republic, Lugansk People’s Republic and Crimea with the tacit consent of Washington. And this could lead to a major armed conflict in Europe” (No. 1, 2022).
It is interesting that not all the authors of the magazine believe that Ukraine and its allies are aimed at “solving the issues of the DPR, LPR and Crimea by force”: “In Ukraine, it is still beneficial for the United States to maintain a sluggish military conflict in the Donbass, since in this case they consistently strengthen their positions along the perimeter of the southwestern borders of Russia, and in the event of a large-scale military conflict, they may lose control of the puppet leadership of Ukraine and, accordingly, this territory” (No. 2, 2022). Some authors are even sure that NATO is not going to accept Ukraine into its ranks: “the admission of Ukraine to NATO seems absolutely unrealistic” (No. 1, 2022). But, as you know, the leadership of Russia and the propaganda apparatus used completely opposite theses and motives to justify the war.
It is not surprising that Andrey Ilnitsky, adviser to the Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, comes to a conclusion that is disappointing for Russian military theorists: “Unfortunately, it should be recognized that in Russia the expert and analytical support for national security policy looks not in the best way… The lack of demand for scientific expertise, servility of the elites, including scientific ones, excessive enthusiasm for the propaganda and information-manipulative side of political and military-political issues seems to be one of the most significant factors that led to the crisis of applied military-political analytics in Russia” (No. 1, 2021).