Is There Really a Gerasimov Doctrine?
A friend recently recommended that I take a look at an article by Molly McKew, "an expert on information warfare" entitled The Gerasimov Doctrine that was published by Politico last fall. The ominous subtitle of the piece is "It's Russia's new chaos theory of political warfare and it's probably being used on you." In the first paragraph McKew writes:
Lately Russia appears to be coming at the United States from all kinds of contradictory angles. Russian bots amplified Donald Trump during the campaign, but in office, Kremlin-backed media portray him as weak. Vladimir Putin is expelling U.S. diplomats from Russia, limiting options for warmer relations with the administration he wanted in place. As Congress pushes a harder line against Russia, plenty of headlines declare that Putin's gamble on Trump has failed. Confused? Only if you don't understand the Gerasimov Doctrine.
The Gerasimov McKew refers to is General Valery Gerasimov, Russia's Chief of the General Staff. Apparently, neither he nor anyone else in the Russian military or government has ever enunciated a "Gerasimov Doctrine," rather it's something McKew and others have extrapolated from one of his writings, a 2,000-word article she cites as The Value of Science is in the Foresight, though the full title is, The Value of Science is in the Foresight: New Challenges Demand Rethinking the Forms and Methods of Carrying out Combat Operations.
McKew's construction of the "Doctrine" is entirely based on two short passages, one of which she doesn't even quote in its entirety. The first is:
The very 'rules of war' have changed. The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness
The second is:
All this is supplemented by military means of a concealed character, [McKew's quote ends here] including carrying out actions of informational conflict and actions of special operations forces. The open use of forces – often under the guise of peacekeeping and crisis regulation – is resorted to only at a certain stage, primarily for the achievement of final success in the conflict.
So, what exactly is General Gerasimov really saying here? A 2016 report put out by Charles K Bartles of the All Partners Access Network (APAN), a "U.S. Department of Defense social networking website used for information sharing and collaboration" provides a very different analysis of the document. For example, Gerasimov links the "Arab Spring," eastern European "color revolutions" and in later comments the Ukrainian Maidan Movement with military capability development. According to Bartles, in order to understand this, we need to consider "the Russian view of warfare and forced regime change as it has developed since the end of the Cold War."
In the words of Bartles:
In the Russian view, transgressions against the post-Cold War international order began with the partition of Yugoslavia in the 1990s when Russia was at her weakest. While the Western narrative of NATO's Yugoslavia intervention is one of military action to prevent mass genocide, Russia has a much different view. Most Russians generally view the NATO bombing campaign as having been illegal because it was conducted without the approval of the UN Security Council and believe that Serbia was simply being punished for engaging in counter-terrorism operations, albeit with some excesses. The most egregious sin, from the Russian view, was the partitioning of Yugoslavia. This action set a precedent for external actors to make decisions about the internal affairs and territorial integrity of sovereign nations alleged to have committed some wrong.
Thus, it is no surprise that Russia justified many aspects of its Crimea annexation based on the lessons learned and the precedents set by the West in Yugoslavia. Additionally, the most obvious U.S. regime change operations occurred in Afghanistan and Iraq. Russia views those operations as having been very similar to the Kosovo operation. In the Russian view, the pattern of U.S. forced regime change has been as follows: deciding to execute a military operation; finding an appropriate pretext such as to prevent genocide or seize weapons of mass destruction; and finally launching a military operation to cause regime change.
However, Russia believes the pattern of forced U.S.-sponsored regime change has been largely supplanted by a new method. Instead of overt military invasion, the first volleys of a U.S. attack come through the installment of a political opposition through state propaganda (e.g. CNN, BBC), the internet and social media and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). After successfully instilling political dissent, separatism and/or social strife, the legitimate government has increasing difficulty maintaining order. Once the legitimate government is forced to use increasingly aggressive methods to maintain order, the United States gains a pretext for the imposition of economic and political sanctions and sometimes even military sanctions such as no-fly zones to tie the hands of the besieged government and promote further dissent.
Eventually as the government collapses and anarchy results, military forces under the guise of peacekeepers can then be employed to pacify the area, if desired and a new government that is friendly to the United States and West can be installed.
As Bartle's points out this theory may sound far-fetched to American ears but then think of what happened to Libya in 2011, which more or less fits the pattern to a tee. If true, it also clearly informs Gerasimov's work which is then the exact opposite of what McKew says it is. Gerasimov's report may not be about what the Russians plan to do to us but rather about how they will rise to face "the challenge" of what we may do to them.
(the full text of Bartle's analysis of Gerasimov's work can be found here: file:///C:/Users/acr13/Downloads/20151229%20Bartles%20-%20Getting%20Gerasimov%20Right%20(2).pdf)