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Moscow’s Aerospace Theory of Victory: Western Assumptions and Russian Reality

Dmitry (Dima) Adamsky
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This memo seeks to refute assumptions that are widespread among Western experts about the current Russian approach to aerospace operations and its strategic implications, and to offer alternative interpretations.

First, this report argues, that contrary to the Western claim, the Russian theory and practice of aerospace defense have not been based on defense systems only, but have been a harmonic mixture of offensive (strike) and defensive activities. Moreover, the Russian aerospace operation will probably have not only to lean on defense-offense mix, but also to be preemptive in order to succeed.

Second, this report claims, that in contrast to the Western misnomer “anti-access/area denial,” the proper professional term to describe the Russian theory of victory against an aerospace attack on the global and regional levels is Strategic Operation for Repelling Aerospace Aggression—an operational endeavor that encapsulates the abovementioned strike-defense dialectic.

Finally, contrary to the assertion by many Western analysts that a fait accompli strategy is driving Russian operations, this report argues, that there is apparently little space for the political-military leadership to consider this option. The issue is not even the lack of strategic intentions, which are indeed apparently absent; rather, it is insufficient capabilities. If, however, such an unlikely gambit materializes, it is more likely to be the result of hasty overreaction and inadvertent escalation than to be a preplanned move driven by the geopolitical assertiveness that many Russia watchers in the West have been attributing to Moscow.

An additional insight arises from the research. The case under scrutiny reveals that Russian reforms in the aerospace sphere often have been suboptimal, self-damaging, and irrational, because of such nonstrategic factors as the ambitions of the senior military leaders and parochial institutional interests that drove most of the transformations. Consequently, one can grasp the Russian theory of victory in aerospace defense—and in general, any other Russian military modernization and innovation—only in the context of intraservice and interservice competitions.

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DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT A. Approved for public release: distribution unlimited. Cleared for public release

Details

  • Pages: 42
  • Document Number: IOP-2021-U-029278-Final
  • Publication Date: 2/25/2021