A must-read for everyone, especially members of the Council of National Security and Defense of Ukraine [RNBOU]. Please repost. –A. Maximenko
By Vasily Pavlov, retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Russian army and ANNA correspondent in Syria
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
Allow me first of all to introduce myself. I am a retired Lieutenant Colonel. I have spent just over a year in Syria with the troops of the Republican Guard as a volunteer military reporter. I was engaged in filming and, of course, seeing how the Syrian army operates, what problems arose, and… I have voiced this before and would like to tell this so that it can be discussed by people who are not firmly related to this topic, so that they can look at the possible threats on the basis of the Syrian experience, threats that can arise for us. To look at the relevance of the Libyan-Syrian, and now already the Libyan-Syrian-Ukrainian experience.
One of our military theorists said: “Today, modern Russian military science does not give us a clear understanding of what a modern war will look like. So we will prepare for anything.” In a nutshell that is how it is. In reality, if military science does not give us such an answer, that is very unfortunate. In fact, the answer exists–it is absolutely clear what kind of war is most likely today.
The concept of the modern war today has completely changed and this is due to the following reasons: the development of a confrontation between the USSR and the United States has led to the fact that the means of destruction have continuously improved and become more complex. A situation arose where the means of destruction have become more costly than the targets to be destroyed, and war in this sense in the Soviet and post-Soviet time is unprofitable. I think everyone will agree that war is an economic concept, it has economic roots. As a result of war, each side is trying to achieve some result that can then be converted into the economy.
And today the situation is such that a modern army in an aggression against any state cannot win with acceptable losses. The losses of the aggressor, even without mentioning the fact of possible retaliation–weapons of mass destruction are widespread now, which definitely makes losses unacceptable–even aggression of a strong country against a weak one is economically disadvantageous. The losses are so great (specifically economic losses) that the whole point of the war is lost. This was shown in Yugoslavia where NATO incurred such [large] expenses, as if it had lost the war. Example: about 2 thousand cruise missiles, and over 3 thousand sorties could not destroy the puny Yugoslavian air defense system. NATO forces could not start [ground] operations until the problem was solved by political means.
–How much does a cruise missile cost?
About a million dollars, now probably about 10 million.
–I am not sure, but somewhere around that. An armoured personnel carrier [APC] hit by such a rocket costs around 300 thousand… they were able to win, but the consequences of such a victory nullified the result.
And so the concept of a new method of warfare was created–a terrorist war conducted using cheap mass force, recruited locally and in neighboring states. A thousand untrained fighters are cheaper than one trained soldier with modern means of warfare. A Javelin (FGM-148 Javelin–American portable anti-tank system) costs as much as a thousand fighters. But damage from a thousand fighters is clearly superior to damage caused by such a complex.
Terrorist armies are cheap, massive, effective, plus offer no opportunity to retaliate. Because a terrorist army belongs to no-one, there is no-one to strike against. Everyone knows the masters of the army, who sponsors it, but formally no claims can be made.
This terrorist war is made up of several components:
The decline in living standards of neighboring states and the creation in them of points of instability, places where you can recruit fighters, where a low-intensity conflict allows cross-border penetration, where the population has weapons. And it allows, at the state border, for the creation of a permanent source of fighters. A decline in living standards in neighbouring countries leads to a decline in the cost of the fighters. Unleashing religious or nationalist hysteria, mass media work and then sponsoring and providing arms. Ukraine actually, in my opinion, fits the parameters and what is happening there is a springboard preparation. We see what is happening now in Ukraine; this process itself was the target [purpose].
It is the same in Syria. It is clear to everyone that the rebels cannot win. But that is not the goal–to win. Victory [the target] is instability, the process of war. With us the source of manpower may be migrant workers (if their life has not worked out–if they could not find themselves there and here as well), local arriving Wahhabis. Wahhabism, unfortunately, started advancing strongly in our country–it is a movement that does not know shades of grey, they really are ready to die. Plus a huge help to a potential aggressor will be our Chechen fighters who return from Syria. They openly say that in Syria they are preparing for war over here. And nationalists, oddly enough, Russian ones. Because they will be the source, most probably, of confrontations and will be like “cannon fodder” for the opposing side. Many have said to me that what is happening in Syria is impossible in our country because we do not have such mass Wahhabism. But in Ukraine it was possible to start a war in short timeframes with minimal effort. They can always find an excuse. It really does not matter–religion, national issues, the economy or something else. An excuse is just an excuse, there will always be “cannon fodder” for it.
How is a terrorist war different from an ordinary one?
If in a normal war an army fights another army, in a terrorist war, where the objective is not victory but war itself–militants fight against a population. And no army in the world can defend its population from militants. All armies, every single one–regardless of the level of development of a country, or its technical capacity–all armies are designed to fight other armies like it. A small example. A thousand militants in Jobar can take a territory from which it will take at least 50,000 soldiers to reclaim it. Why? How can an army protect the population? It is necessary to reliably cordon off the area so that militants do not break through (and militants can attack/break through from any direction), and saturate the territory inside with soldiers. So no one country can maintain an army that is capable of protecting more than one or two populated areas simultaneously from militants. If we deploy all the armed forces of Russia, they can defend Moscow–saturate it with forces so that militants cannot operate. Or Leningrad. Or Novosibirsk plus Khabarovsk. That’s it! Many are surprised–why the Syrian Army now reaches 600 thousand and cannot win. The army cannot win in this war because the defense of all populated areas simultaneously is impossible. And militants, unlike a classic army, can attack several places at any time and simultaneously. If with a front line [as in classic warfare] there is a line of contact, then in the case of terrorist warfare the whole territory of a country is a front line. There can never be enough troops in principle.
Nord-Ost showed us that 20 basically unarmed militants (small arms) were being destroyed for three days using virtually all the counter-terror forces of the country. And with civilian casualties. A cinema is not the most complex object to clear. A residential housing tower will present far more problems. If there are, say, 50 such groups (and recruiting a thousand fighters is elementary), they can not only paralyze a city like Peter (maybe they will need 1,500 for Moscow), they can destroy a huge amount of the population and they cannot be destroyed without destruction of the object of their attack. The example of Syria is very telling–where the army attempted to destroy militants on its own, the city was still razed.
From the times of World War 2 it is known that you cannot take a city if it is defended, until it is destroyed. All cities either surrender to avoid destruction–the opponent retreats, seeing the superiority [of the opposing force], or they are destroyed. Stalingrad, Berlin [Voronezh] are all vivid examples of cities that were defended. With terrorists it is much more complicated. Because their goal is to terrorize the local population, they do not need to engage with the army; on the contrary they are trying to avoid this. Their target is unarmed civilians. And police have as an object to help the militants (I am saying all this from Syria’s example).
Where do militants get weapons?
They need minimal arms with which they attack police stations that are completely undefended. They gather weapons there. Then with these weapons they attack army stores that are located in the rear and so undefended, they gather heavy weapons. So even without external support in several days a terrorist army can arm itself. Neither the army, nor the police, nor counter-terror operatives can deal with this. The decision is there but unfortunately it is very difficult [to deliver it to decision makers], I do not know why nobody talks about this or thinks about this among our commanders. But Syria clearly showed that the only option for defence of populated areas is the presence of volunteers. Only friendly volunteers supported by the army can guarantee the defense of populated areas.
What is meant by volunteers?
They are not men walking around the streets with assault rifles. How was it done in Syria? They are civilians, most of whom served in the army (though this is not necessary), who know how to get in touch with a commander if the need arises. The commander is an army officer. Active or retired. He periodically gathers them (they know each other), drills them. During all this they live their normal peaceful lives. They know the signal, the commander knows where to get weapons. The advantage of such units over the army and militants is that they, unlike the army, are fighting on their territory which they know. A volunteer unit need not constantly be on battle alert, but they should have the opportunity to gather, be under the command of and coordinate with security forces. Without this, not one instance of bandit attack in Syria was prevented where there was no coordination with the security forces. If the volunteers act on their own, without coordination with security forces, it is useless. An example of a village attack. They had a great unit, but a thousand citizens can only put out no more than 10-15 men around the clock–they need to work, they need to sleep. And a group of militants 100-men-strong topples them. And if the militants have 2 thousand men, they do not even notice such a resistance.
The aim of the resistance is not the army function of stopping the opponent on a front line, their purpose is to block the opponent as quickly as possible if they have already entered, to stop their “spread” and to destroy them using counter-partisan warfare (if we assume that the militants/bandits use partisan methods). And the army is only needed for fire support because their power is obviously much greater. So in general, the work is done by the volunteers and the army is on their shoulders, finishing off the militants. Only under such an organisation are the militants afraid of entering and very quickly get destroyed. In other cases, unfortunately, we only have negative experience.
–Blowing up a bus does not create much damage?
–Blowing up a bus is small work. A terrorist war is something else. Blowing up a bus is one single action. It has no effect as a threat. But if simultaneously in 10 cities, 30-50 terrorist groups start to destroy the population… take a tower block. The group walks in, smashes the doors and executes the inhabitants. Where the doors do not go, they use an RPG. In two hours such a tower block will be wiped out. Completely. Then move onto the next one. Imagine 50 such groups in Peter that just go around and wipe out the population.
The vulnerability is very high. They ask, for example, why there was no resistance in Mariupol? Citizens are really incapable of self-organising into an operational fighting force. They can self-organise into a crowd that 100 organised militants can massacre regardless of the presence of weapons among the citizens. A resistance is separate from a crowd in that the commander gathers them, drills them for combat, shooting, allocates in advance how they will act in various specific situations. Conducts training.
The population is incapable of self-organising. They can organise under direction of the army (security forces) before the beginning of hostilities. That is the problem. When hostilities begin, it is too late to organise anything. First of all, there is no time for training, drilling, coordination with external command. Secondly, if the militants have already appeared in a populated area, they will not allow a resistance to appear. As soon as two gather–a sniper immediately shoots one. They [the militants] are very ruthless.
–What do non-ideological fighters want, who are not Wahabbis?
–Money. 50 dollars a month. Some–100. The biggest dreamers–150.
–I wanted to take this conversation back to Russia. Do you preclude such a situation for Russia? Or will this happen for certain?
–I am not an oracle. But the probability is high. I think that all is heading that way. At least what is happening in the world clearly shows that the war has already begun. In my eyes.
–Yes, the world war has already begun. Events in Ukraine I consider as preparatory steps for the invasion. One of the [possibilities]. I’m not saying it will happen tomorrow…
–So the same scenario is considered?
–I think so, yes. It has successfully [proven itself].
–Putin has 80% support…
–Assad also has 80% support.
–Preventive measures like “tightening the screws” that we are witnessing in Russia… laws regarding making statements about the Patriotic War or separating from Russia… if the population does not support the militants…
–They are absolutely ineffective. In Syria the population does not support the militants. The militants do not ask the population whether they support something or not. They come and plunder it, murder. They do not need any support from the population. They come to kill the population. The militants do not need regime change. They do not need to conquer the country. The essence of a terrorist war is in the destruction of the country as an economic unit. The aim of the war is chaos, and not conquest. A terrorist war is the fastest and cheapest way to destroy a country. No-one wants to wait until Russia falls apart by itself, they want to get the result now. Syria maybe also would have “fallen apart on its own” some day. But no-one wants to wait for a thousand years, nor a hundred, nor ten.
The concept of the terrorist war is applicable not only for small countries. Syria, for example, has 25 million people. Ukraine–45. Quite big countries. The essence of the terrorist war is not in conquest but in destruction. Because a destroyed country is considered an acceptable objective. Simply the physical destruction of the economy. So that it becomes an ownerless, undeveloped, chaotic territory.
The events in Ukraine horrified me not so much because of the casualties as because of the ongoing scenario that confirms my worst fears–that preparations are under way and the possibility [of unleashing a terrorist war against Russia] is very high. How will we react? We still have time, but… not long ago I thought that we have 3 or 4 years… now I do not know, it is hard to predict, it is not over in Ukraine, I do not know how events will develop there.
Source: Alex Maximenko FB