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IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT A2/AD: RETHINKING THE RUSSIAN MILITARY CHALLENGE by Michael Kofman

Kinetic

Vivere est militare!
America’s strategy community has a problem that it likes to call “A2/AD,” and while the symptoms are very real, in the case of Russia strategists and planners have largely misdiagnosed the nature of the challenge. Anti-access and area denial, commonly known as A2/AD, is more than another defense community buzzword: It has become a deeply rooted way of talking about the military capabilities of adversaries that the United States considers to be relative peers. The term has enjoyed great utility as short-hand for a select grouping of adversary capabilities that pose major problems to America’s preferred way of conducting combat operations (unrestricted and uncontested). But when applied to Russia, the “A2/AD” frame has become dangerously misleading. Over time, anti-access and area denial has evolved from a vehicle for useful conversations about Russian conventional capabilities to a vision of a Russian doctrine or strategy for warfighting that frankly does not exist. The result is a general misreading of the Russian military’s operational concepts and strategy for large scale combat operations.

The problem with the A2/AD lens is born from the term’s origins. As Luis Simon has observed, the term began among the China-watcher community and has since been applied to Russia, a continental land power in a decidedly different geographical theater, and with a tradition of military thought distinct from China’s. The concept admittedly has utility when looking at a maritime theater involving Russia or China. Still, while there is commonality in capabilities between America’s great power adversaries, when broadly applied to two very different countries the term confuses more than it reveals because Russia is not China, and Europe is not the Pacific. In fact, the Russian term for A2/AD — restriction and denial of access and maneuver, (ogranicheniye i vospreshcheniye dostupa i manyuvra) — is just a ham-fisted transliteration of the Western term A2/AD because there is no Russian term for A2/AD. This is not a concept in Russian military thought, and there is no Russian strategy bearing that name.

Jyri Raitasalo of the Finnish Defense University writes that “Western discourse misidentifies the problem, and in so doing it facilitates overlooking potential Russian responses to Western actions ‘left of bang,’ or alternatively, in situations when military hostilities have already begun.” An entire cottage industry of articles, reports, and monographs has sprung up looking at what A2/AD might look like when applied to different domains. A2/AD sticks because it plays to the U.S. defense community’s tendency to fixate on adversary capabilities, seeking counters or an edge, while frequently overlooking how the other side intends to employ them in war. As a consequence, the discourse turns into technology fetishism, planners and strategists focus on procurement solutions to adversary capabilities rather than developing strategies to counter their operational concepts.

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Wakko

Well-known member
Aaah, Kofman... Kofman is pretty good, as Western "Russian military experts" go. And I've seen him evolving over time, so we know that he pays attention. Definitely worth reading.
 
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Rufus Shinra

Well-known member
As a consequence, the discourse turns into technology fetishism, planners and strategists focus on procurement solutions to adversary capabilities rather than developing strategies to counter their operational concepts.
Shut up and help me find a way to rebrand our equipment to make it sound Murikan enough that we can sell it en masse.

More seriously, yep, attacking BLUFOR on its homeland s a retaliation is a pretty good way of weakening its resolve, considering how historically weak is their political resolve during expeditionary adventures.

EDIT: interesting link in the OP's article. https://www.cna.org/CNA_files/PDF/CAB-2018-U-017105-Final.pdf
 
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Wakko

Well-known member
Ha, that's the same I clicked as a follow-on reading. It's also very interesting because of this:
The good guys—that would be CNA—small and weak but possessing a magical weapon, known by its lyrical name as “open source analysis.” We have to define it because it’s really what this whole panel is about. It means looking at what your adversary says in public and inferring from that his true beliefs and intentions.
I've read most of what Kofman wrote in the last 6-8 years, plus I've seen practically all there is on youtube of his talks, interviews, discussions. He is of of the few western military analysts who actually pay attention to what the Russian military and political elites say (that's also because he's one of the few who actually understand Russian). It is quite visible in the way he's able to react to changes in Russian military doctrine, and there were quite many lately (since 2008). The newer ones are the acquisition of massed long-range precision strike weapons with strategic effects (which was sought by the USSR in the 1980's but was put on hold between 1991 and 2008), which he mentions in the WotR article. He used to be very skeptical of Russia's ability to fund its defense ambitions - that is until recently.
 
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