Professional Readings Archives

Reading #137

Thinking Like a Russian Officer

  • By: Timothy Thomas /
  • Published: April 2016
  • Read More
  • Access: Open
  • Type: Public
  • Saturday, April 1, 2017

Acting Director Major General Robert “Bo” Dyess’ Comments:


"Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

Sun Tzu

"Nonmilitary means of achieving military and strategic goals has grown and, in many cases, exceeded the power of weapons in their effectiveness."

Gerasimov Doctrine


For the past two decades, assumptions of domain superiority drove the doctrine, equipment, and posture of U.S. forces. These assumptions must now be reviewed and questioned due to advancements in adversary capabilities, capacities, and approaches. Russia has focused their modernization efforts on systems designed to defeat perceived U.S. strengths. Moreover, the velocity of human interaction, compression of events in time, the use of state-sponsored military intimidation, propaganda, deception, disinformation, and the ability of highly empowered individuals to influence disparate populations indicate a changing character of warfare that harnesses cognitive influences. Today we see Russia and China often pursuing informational actions to accomplish objectives as part of a broader national whole of government approach to achieve political ends.

This week's professional reading "Thinking like a Russian Officer," by Tim Thomas provides a Russian perspective on "new-type" warfare, also known as hybrid war in the West. Thomas discusses recent publications by various Russian authors who aided in the development of Russian military strategy. Thomas observes that these "publications offer a lens to view how Russian officers are evaluating the military and the geopolitical landscape in front of them." Citing retired Russian officers S. G. Chekinov and S. A. Bogdanov, "future wars will be resolved by a skillful combination of military, nonmilitary, and special nonviolent measures that will be put through by a variety of forms and methods and a blend of political, economic, informational, technological, and environmental measures, primarily by taking advantage of information superiority." Thomas concludes by highlighting that a consistent theme through many contemporary Russian publications "strategic goals will not be achieved in future wars unless information superiority is assured over the enemy, including employment of various actions to influence the behavior of the armed forces personnel and population of the adversary country to instigate internal tensions (split) in society."

This week's reading reminds us that future U.S. Army forces will operate not only on physical battlegrounds but also in the contested spaces of information and public perception. Leaders must understand how to use information to fight effectively in those contested spaces and consider information operations as an integral part of planning and execution across the range of military operations. Concept development for Multi-Domain Battle provides an excellent opportunity to examine how we can expand physical and cognitive maneuver in time, space, and purpose across multiple domains. Refining and operationalizing the concept of "Expanding Maneuver" allows the Army to achieve greater clarity on how the Department of Defense might expand strategic options for our National leaders in terms of time, decision space, and approaches for the early 21st Century security environment.

On 5 April 2017, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) is sponsoring an Expanding Maneuver Senior Leader Forum. The purpose of the forum is to stimulate operational and strategic level discussion to inform outcomes for further consideration across the community of interest. Specifically, the forum will focus on expanding the current frame for Unified Land Operations beyond physical to consider outmaneuvering adversaries both physically and cognitively to ensure the Army and the Joint Force are better postured to maintain a competitive edge over our Nation's adversaries.

The following Army Warfighting Challenges are directly related to this week's topic:
#1 Develop Situational Understanding:

How to develop and sustain a high degree of situational understanding while operating in complex environments against determined, adaptive enemy organizations.

#4 Adapt the Institutional Army and Innovate:

How to improve the rate of innovation to drive capability development and deliver DOTMLPF-P solutions to the warfighter at a pace that meets operational demand within the existing constraints of the acquisition and budgeting processes.

#10 Develop Agile and Adaptive Leaders:

How to develop agile, adaptive, and innovative leaders who thrive in conditions of uncertainty and chaos and are capable of visualizing, describing, directing, and leading and assessing operations in complex environments and against adaptive enemies.

#13 Conduct Wide Area Security:

How do Army forces establish and maintain security across wide areas (wide area security) and across multiple domains to protect forces, populations, infrastructure, and activities necessary to shape security environments, consolidate gains, and set conditions for achieving policy goals.

#14 Ensure Interoperability and Operate in Joint, Inter-organizational, Multinational Environment:

How to integrate joint, inter-organizational, and multi-national partner capabilities and campaigns to ensure unity of effort and accomplish missions across the range of military operations.

#19 Exercise Mission Command:

How to understand, visualize, describe, and direct operations consistent with the philosophy of mission command to seize the initiative over the enemy and accomplish the mission across the range of military operations.

#20 Develop Capable Formations:

How to design Army formations capable of rapidly deploying and conducting operations for ample duration and in sufficient scale to accomplish the mission.

Continuous feedback, collaboration, and teamwork are keys to the success of the Campaign of Learning and driving innovation in the Army. Please use the Army Warfighting Challenges as the framework to contribute your ideas and recommendations with respect to this topic to improve our ability to innovate as we develop the current and future force.

The Army Warfighting Challenges (AWFC) framework may be accessed here:

For previous weekly readings go to: ARCIC Professional Readings

  1. Army Operating Concept, TRADOC Pam 525-3-1, 30 October 2014
  2. Multi-Domain Battle

All the best,