Core Russian Military Capabilities

Nuclear Forces and Weapons

Russia is one of the oldest nuclear powers, first detonating a nuclear device in 1949.205 As heir to the former Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal, Russia has one of the world's two largest inventories of strategic weapons. While participating in strategic arms reduction treaties (START) with the United States, Russia is also committed to maintaining and modernizing its nuclear forces. Land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles are controlled by the Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF), and the sea-based and air strategic systems are managed by the Navy and Aerospace force, respectively. Moscow plans to spend about $28 billion by 2020 to upgrade the capacity of its strategic nuclear triad.206

• In the first leg of the triad the SRF operates three older ICBM systems for more than half of their land-based nuclear delivery vehicles. The oldest ICBMs in the arsenal are the silo-based liquid-fueled SS-18 (deployed in 1988-92) and SS-19 (deployed in 1979- 84). These missiles carry, respectively, 10 and 6 multiple independently-targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs). The solid-propellant, single-warhead SS-25 was deployed in 1985-92 as a road-mobile ICBM. As these aging missiles reach the end of their operational lives, they will be withdrawn from service by 2019-2021 and replaced with newer, modern road-mobile and silo-based ICBMs by 2020. The SRF's missile inventories will be equally split between road-mobile and silo-based ICBMs.207

• The second element of the nuclear triad is a fleet of at least 10 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) under administrative control of the Naval High Command. The Russian strategic Navy is modernizing, mainly by building and deploying the DOLGORUKIY-class SSBN platform for the new SS-N-32 BULAVA sea-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).208

• The third element of the nuclear triad is the Russian Aerospace Force's fleet of strategic bombers, which forms the core of the Long-Range Aviation (LRA) Command. Like other components of the triad, the LRA is modernizing, to continue operating Tu-95

Russian SS-27 Mod 2 road-mobile ICBM.

Russian Tu-160 heavy bomber and II-78M tanker.

BEAR and Tu-160 BLACKJACK bombers beyond 2030. The last “new” BLACKJACK was added to the fleet in 2005, and all existing Tu-160s will be upgraded to Tu-160M1 or M2. Russia has announced that it will resume production of Tu-160M2 bombers and complete development of a new generation bomber (Russian designation: PAK-DA) within a decade, but timelines for both programs may slip if financial difficulties arise. The new bomber design is expected to have some stealth and shortor rough-runway capabilities, and employ both conventional and nuclear armament.209,210

The main function of strategic forces is effective, reliable deterrence. Scenarios for the use of strategic nuclear forces fall into three main categories: preemptive strike (first strike), counterstrike (launch on warning, prior to impact in-country), and retaliatory strike (response to impacts in-country). Because the retaliation option imposes the most difficult situation on the strategic forces—which must respond even after an enemy's strategic strike has impacted and disabled elements of the force—strategic forces, weapons, and battle management systems are designed and built to be hardened, stealthy, redundant, and reliable—and trained to function in a WMD-degraded environment.211

Russia continues to retain a sizable nuclear stockpile even after several decades of arms reduction treaties. Russia has a large nuclear weapons infrastructure and a production base capable of producing large numbers of new nuclear weapons annually.212,213

The U.S.-Russia New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), signed on 8 April 2010, sets for each country a limit of 1,550 warheads on strategic platforms, including one warhead attributed to each heavy bomber. There is also a combined limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed ICBM and SLBM launchers and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear armaments, and a separate limit of 700 deployed strategic systems overall. The treaty will last 10 years, with central limits to be met by 2018 with the option for a single extension of another 5 years. Colonel General Sergey Karakayev, commander of the SRF, has stated that an arsenal of 1,500 nuclear warheads would provide Russia a sufficient deterrent against attack.214 According to Russia’s New START Treaty data provided on 1 April 2017, Russia declared 1,765 warheads on 523 deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers.215

Russia currently has an active stockpile of approximately 2,000 non-strategic nuclear weapons. These include air-to-surface missiles, short-range ballistic missiles, gravity bombs, and depth charges for medium-range bombers, tactical bombers, and naval aviation, as well as anti-ship, anti-submarine, and anti-aircraft missiles, and torpedoes for surface ships and submarines. There may also be warheads remaining for surface-to-air and other aerospace defense missile systems.216,217

Russia’s nuclear forces modernization goals include: replace Soviet-legacy systems with modern nuclear weapons, maintain rough parity with the U.S. nuclear arsenal, improve the survivability and efficiency of its nuclear weapons, and maintain prestige on the international stage. Russia’s nuclear modernization includes both strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons.218,219,220,221

Biological and Chemical Weapons

In 1992, then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin admitted having an offensive biological weapons program and publicly committed to its termination. Subsequently, the Russian government reversed itself and now claims neither the Soviet Union nor Russia has ever pursued an offensive biological weapons program.222

In 1997, Moscow declared the world’s largest stockpile of chemical agents and munitions—40,000 metric tons of agents—under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The declared inventory consisted of a comprehensive array of traditional chemical warfare agents filled in munitions such as artillery, bombs, and missile warheads, as well as stored in bulk.223

As a state party to the CWC, Russia is obligated to destroy its chemical weapon stockpile.

As of January 2017, Russia had destroyed 96.4% of its declared chemical weapons stockpile, according to press reporting.224 Russia intends to complete destruction of its remaining declared stockpile by 2020.225 Moscow has completed destruction activities and closed the facilities in Gornyy, Kambarka, Maradykovskiy, Leonidovka, Schchuch’ye, and Pochep and continues destruction of its remaining chemical weapons stockpde at a facility in Kizner.226

Russia used chemical incapacitants to resolve the Dubrovka Theater hostage situation in 2002 and may consider using them in other counterterrorism actions.227

Anti-Access/Area Denial

Anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) refers to preventing an adversary from operating in a particular region or area. Russia repeatedly cites in open source literature the need to repel or defend against a Western aerospace attack. Russia would seek to deter any Western use of aerospace power against Russia using its conventional, non-strategic nuclear, and, in extreme circumstances, its strategic nuclear forces. Russian military theorists have examined the likelihood of a great power war arising out of a local conflict, similar to the events leading up to World War I, and escalating to combat with U.S./NATO or another peer.228 Based on insight gleaned from studies of warfare since 1991, Russia would seek to limit the capability of an adversary to conduct aerospace strikes on its territory.229,230

Russian strategy for A2/AD would focus on a combination of various elements that military planners and theoreticians have identified as critical to the development of a comprehensive approach to A2/AD.231,232 These involve the incorporation of the following elements.

Information Operations

Information operations are seen as a critical capability to achieve decisive results in the initial period of conflict with a focus on control of the information spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battle space. Authors often cite the need in modern warfare to control information—sometimes termed “information blockade” or “information dominance”—and to seize the initiative early and deny an adversary use of the information space in a campaign so as to set the conditions needed for “decisive success.” Russia continues to emphasize electronic warfare and other information warfare capabilities, including denial and deception as part of its approach to all aspects of warfare including A2/AD.233

Strategic Air Operations

Russian military theorists continue to emphasize the key importance of strategic air operations in modern war. This concept originated in the 1920s, where Soviet planners viewed the initial period of war as the time that aviation would strike deep in enemy rear areas to destroy mobilization and concentration areas. At the same time, air forces would also prioritize the defense of the country against enemy air attack and conduct close air support of ground operations, achieving air supremacy in the first days of the war using all means.234 This concept was underscored in 1993, when Defense Minister Grachev indicated that “war will begin with an offensive aerospace operation on both sides.”235 Russian planners have indicated that in such a war there will be no front and no rear, with space emerging as an independent theater of military operations. Russian doctrine, down to the present day, continues to emphasize that strategic objectives can be achieved with mass aerospace strikes early in a conflict with victory achieved without the seizure and occupation of territory by forces.236

Russian planners have analyzed U.S. operations such as DESERT STORM, NOBLE ANVIL, and IRAQI FREEDOM for insight, observing military art at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels in campaigns that displayed U.S. aerospace capabilities and underscored the importance of developing comparable indigenous capabilities that can be employed defensively.237,238 This emphasis on strategic air operations is reflected in long-term procurement goals of platforms and weapons focused on space, aerospace defense, and precision-guided munitions.239,240

Integrated Air Defense System

Russian doctrine places a great deal of emphasis on aerospace defense as a key component in its overall A2/AD strategy.241,242 Though still in development, Russia’s 21st century integrated air defense system will be designed to integrate future and existing systems around a central command structure that is designed to promote the interaction of all air defense forces and weapons.243,244 Capabilities optimized against cruise missiles are key to this defense component, not just those optimized to target aircraft.

Russian S-400 Surface-to-air missile systems - a key component of Moscow's A2/AD strategy.

Modern Precision Strike Capabilities: Air and Sea Systems in Combination with Older Technologies.245,246

Russia continues to develop a variety of sea- and aerospace-based programs that offer a variety of offensive and defensive capabilities that could enable the implementation of its integrated A2/AD strategy.247,248 These include the continued production and deployment of coastal defense cruise missiles, air/surface/ sub-surface-launched anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs),249 submarine-launched torpedoes, and naval mines, along with Russian fighter, bomber, and surface-to-air missile capability.

These are intended provide Russia with the ability to limit access to its territory and extend its strategic depth by providing long range kinetic strike capability.

Precision Strike

Russian doctrine on Precision Strike is essentially a 21st century extension of the Russian doctrine of “deep battle” initially codified during the 1920s and 1930s by Chief of the General Staff Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevskiy and represents an attempt to incorporate new technology into traditional Russian strategic, operational, and tactical strategy. Deep battle was a strategic concept that focused on terminating, overwhelming, or dislocating enemy forces not only at the line of contact, but throughout the depth of the battlefield. Deep battle encompassed maneuvers by multiple Soviet Army front-size formations simultaneously. It was not meant to deliver a victory in a single operation; instead, multiple operations, which might be conducted in parallel or successively, would induce a catastrophic failure in the enemy's defensive system. Initially, deep battle focused on improved ground and air forces and was influential in Soviet operations in World War II from 1943 onward. Chief of the General Staff Marshal Nikolay Ogarkov, writing in the 1970s to 1980s, updated the deep battle concept to develop a more aerospace-centric approach in an attempt to incorporate traditional Russian doctrine with precision technology.250

Ogarkov theorized throughout his tenure as chief of the Soviet General Staff that conventional precision-guided munitions were part of a revolution in military affairs. In an influential 1983 Krasnaya Zvezda article, Ogarkov took notice of the impact of new types of precision weapons and micro-circuitry on the development of conventional capabilities. For Ogarkov, the development of new conventional forms of non-nuclear weapons would enable the sorts of multi-front operations that were envisioned in the original deep battle concept. On a theoretical basis, Ogarkov forecast that precision strike could exercise a direct and decisive outcome of a future war.251,252

Despite enthusiasm by the Soviet General Staff, very little progress was made in the development of precision-guided munitions except at the theoretical level for the remainder of the Soviet period. In 1991, DESERT STORM provided the Soviet military with proof of concept regarding the use of precision-guided munitions. Former Soviet officials and Russian authorities argued that the DESERT STORM campaign demonstrated the capability of precision-guided airstrikes in the land attack role to paralyze the rear area and an adversary's economy. Targets could include vulnerable areas of the economy, command and control centers, and transportation centers. The introduction of precision-guided munitions changed the nature of modern war by reinforcing traditional concepts that emphasized decisive action during the initial stage of warfare and at the same time undermined the traditional Russian reliance on large ground force groupings to achieve tactical and strategic objectives.253

Russia was unable to achieve real progress in the development of precision strike until the first decade of the 21st century, when it was able to create a viable state armaments program that allowed prioritization of certain key components of 21st-century warfare. Between 2010 and 2015, Russia’s strategic forces, space and aerospace defense platforms, and precision-guided munitions254 such as ISKANDER, KALIBR, or KH-101 were defined as priorities, and system development, production, and testing occurred. The effectiveness of precision-guided munitions are being tested in a variety of settings, including Command Staff exercises KAVKAZ-2012, VOSTOK-2014, and KAVKAZ-2016, as well as operationally against targets in Syria beginning in 2015.255,256,257


The Russian General Staff postulates that modern warfare is increasingly reliant on informal ion, particularly from space, because of the expansion of the geographic scope of military action and the informal ion needs of high-precision weapons.258 Russia has a significant constellation of satellites in orbit. According to Colonel Sergey Marchuk, chief of the Main Test Space Center, Russia has more than 130 spacecraft, civilian and military, performing communications, navigation, geodetic survey support, meteorological, reconnaissance, and intelligence gathering missions.259

Russia’s space program is both formidable and in a state of rebuilding. Moscow seeks to maintain the health of its current constellations while deploying a next-generation architecture on par with Western space systems. Over the next several years, Russia will prioritize the modernization of its existing communications, navigation, and earth observation systems, while continuing to rebuild its electronic intelligence and early warning system constellations.

Kh-101/102 air-launched cruise missiles on a Tu-95MS heavy bomber: Moscow first used its precision strike arsenal in combat during a series of 2015 strike operations by sea- and air-launched cruise missiles against targets in Syria.

Russia’s current systems provide an array of capability including high-resolution imagery, terrestrial and space weather, communications, navigation, missile warning, electronic intelligence, and scientific observations. With a long-standing heritage in space, Russia gains a sense of national pride from its space program, which has included manned missions and leading the world in space launches. Currently ranked third in total number of satellites in orbit behind the United States and China, the figure below displays a breakdown of Russia’s satellites in orbit.

Russian satellites in orbit, 5 October 2016.260

Russia has concluded that gaining and maintaining supremacy in space has a decisive impact on the outcome of future conflicts.261 According to Russia’s 2010 military doctrine, militarization of outer space is a “main external military danger.”262 The 2014 update to Russia’s military doctrine calls out Western global strike capability by name.263 Russia, in military journals, has observed that Western operations have shifted to non-contact operations that rely on long-range, space-supported precision-guided munitions.264,265,266 Russia has been very vocal expressing its concerns about Western precision strike capabilities and missile defense plans. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin compared U.S. ballistic missile defense efforts in Eastern Europe to the Strategic Defense Initiative of 1983 and stated that such an effort justifies the development of Russian counterspace programs.

The Russian General Staff argues for pursuing in wartime such strategies as disrupting foreign military C2 or information support because they are so critical to the fast-paced, high-technology conflicts characteristic of modern warfare.267,268 Russia believes that having the military capabilities to counter space operations will deter aggression by space-enabled adversaries and enable Russia to control escalation of conflict if deterrence fails.269 Military capabilities for space deterrence include strikes against satellites or ground-based infrastructure supporting space operations.270

On 1 August 2015, Russia created the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces by merging the former Air Force and Aerospace Defense Troops. Defense Minister Shoygu stated the change was “prompted by a shift in the center of gravity... towards the aerospace sphere” and as a counter to the U.S. Prompt Global Strike doctrine.271,272 This merged force includes Russia’s space forces who have the mission of conducting space launches and maintaining the ballistic missile early warning system, the satellite control network, and the space object surveillance and identification network.273,274,275

Russia also reorganized its space industry responsible for space research, design, and production. Russia merged the government-owned United Rocket and Space Corporation (ORKK), which previously absorbed the majority of the space industry corporations in 2013, with the Federal Space Agency.276,277 President Putin finalized the dissolution of the Federal Space Agency on 1 January 2016, naming the joint organization the Roscosmos State Corporation.


Russia views the information sphere as a key domain for modern military conflict.278,279 Moscow perceives the information domain as strategically decisive and critically important to control its domestic populace and influence adversary states. Information warfare is a key means of achieving its ambitions of becoming a dominant player on the world stage.281

Russia’s planned space launches through 2019.280

Since at least 2010, the Russian military has prioritized the development of forces and means for what it terms “information confrontation,”282,283 which is a holistic concept for ensuring information superiority, during peacetime and wartime.284 This concept includes control of the informat ion content as well as the technical means for disseminating that content. Cyber operations are part of Russia’s attempts to control the information environment.

The weaponization of information is a key aspect of Russia’s strategy and is employed in time of peace, crisis, and war. In practice, information battles draw upon psychological warfare tactics and techniques from the Soviet Era for influencing Western societies.285 Moscow views information and psychological warfare as a measure to neutralize adversary actions in peace to prevent escalation to crisis or war.

Chief of the General Staff Gerasimov announced that “information operations troops” were involved for the first time in the Kavkaz-2016 strategic command staff exercise in September 2016, demonstrating Russian military commitment to controlling the information domain.286,287,288

Propaganda Helps Shape The Information Environment

Russian propaganda strives to influence, confuse, and demoralize its intended audience, often containing a mixture of true and false information to seem plausible and fit into the preexisting worldview of the intended audience. Rus sian propaganda targets a wide variety of audiences, including its own population, selected populations of other countries, domestic and foreign political elites, and the West writ large.291,292 The variety of techniques for disseminating Russian propaganda include pro-Kremlin “news” websites and TV and radio channels such as Russia Today and Sputnik News, bots and trolls on social media, search engine optimization, and paid journalists in Western and other foreign media.

Information Confrontation

“Information confrontation,” or IPb (informatsionnoyeprotivoborstvo), is the Russian government’s term for conflict in the information sphere. IPb includes diplomatic, economic, military, political, cultural, social, and religious information arenas, and encompasses two measures for influence: informational-technical effect and informational-psychological effect.289,290

• Informational-technical effect is roughly analogous to computer network operations, including computer-net work defense, attack, and exploitation.

• Informational-psychological effect refers to attempts to change people’s behavior or beliefs in favor of Russian governmental objectives.

IPb is designed to shape perceptions and manipulate the behavior of target audiences. Information countermeasures are activities taken in advance of an event that could be either offensive (such as activities to discredit the key communicator) or defensive (such as measures to secure Internet websites) designed to prevent an attack.

Cyber-Enabled Psychological Operations

One of the newest tools in Russia’s information toolkit is the use of cyber-enabled psychological operations that support its strategic and tactical information warfare objectives. These new techniques involve compromising networks for intelligence information that could be used to embarrass, discredit, or falsify information Compromised material can then be leaked to the media at inopportune times.

• Hacktivists. Russian intelligence services have been known to co-opt or masquerade as other hacktivist groups. These groups appeal to Russia due to the difficulty of attribution and the level of anonymity provided. It is widely accepted that Russia, via patriotic hackers, conducted a cyber attack on Estonia in 2007.293 Under the guise of hacktivism, a group called “CyberCaliphate,” seemingly ISIS associated, conducted a hack against French station TV5 Monde in January 2015. The CyberCaliphate group was later linked to Russian military hackers. The same group hijacked the Twitter feed of the U.S. Central Command.294

• CyberBerkut - A False Persona. Russian hackers also use false personas. CyberBerkut is a front organization for Russian state-sponsored cyber activity, supporting Russia’s military operations and strategic objectives in Ukraine.295 CyberBerkut employs a range of both technical and propaganda attacks, consistent with the Russian concept of “information confrontation.” Since emerging in March 2014, CyberBerkut has been implicated in multiple incidents of cyber espionage and attack, including distributed denial of service attacks against NATO, Ukraine, and German government websites. More recently, it has focused on the online publication of hacked documents, ostensibly obtained from the Ukrainian government and political figures’ computers. CyberBerkut uses information gained through these hacks to discredit the Ukrainian government. The intent is to demoralize, embarrass, and create distrust of elected officials.298,299,300,301,302,303

Major themes of Russian propaganda include:

The West’s liberal world order is bankrupt and should be replaced by a Eurasian neo-conservative post-liberal world order, which defends tradition, conservative values, and true liberty.296

The West demonizes Russia, which is only trying to defend its interests and sovereignty and act as an indispensable nation in world affairs.

The United States is determined to interfere with and overthrow sovereign governments around the world.297

• Trolls. Russia employs a troll army of paid online commentators who manipulate or try to change the narrative of a given story in Russia’s favor. Russia’s Troll Army, also known as the Internet Research Agency, is a state-funded organization that blogs and tweets on behalf of the Kremlin.304Trolls typically post pro-Kremlin content and facilitate heated discussions in the comments sections of news articles. Their goal is to counter negative media and “Western influence.” While the goal of some trolls is to simply disrupt negative content, other trolls promote completely false content.305

• Bots. Another way Russia manipulates the information space is through the use of bots. Bots are automated pushers of content on social media. These bots vary in sophistication and can continuously push content or imitate real life patterns. Bots can drown out unwanted content or push a specific message. Bots have the ability to overwhelm the information space and discourage readers from looking for real content.306,307

Russia uses a Troll Army to disseminate and overwhelm blogs and twitter communications.

CyberBerkut Arm Patch.

Information Defense

The Russian Federation Security Council’s 2016 Information Security Doctrine mandates protecting Russian citizens from outside threats to the information sphere. The doctrine aims to secure Russian informat ion freedom and protect information technologies from foreign influence, cyberattacks, intelligence collection, and terrorism. The doctrine emphasizes the need to develop a national system for government control of the Russian Internet, information warfare forces, and cyber weapons.308

Since at least 1999, Russia has attempted to gain consensus on international governance of the Internet and international norms and rules guiding the behavior of states in the information space. A major component of the proposal pertains to a state’s ability to govern its information space as a means of maintaining state sovereignty and preventing an arms race in cyberspace. Although state sovereignty traditionally refers to domestic enforcement law, Russia commonly uses this term to denounce other nations meddling in their internal affairs. Russia also proposed a code of conduct for cyberspace with specific dictums regarding non-state cyber-actors, such as criminal hackers involved in cyber activities.309,310

The Internet Research Agency In St. Petersburg.

Media Laws - A Hedge Against Instability

In the past decade, Russia has implemented numerous laws curbing domestic media in broadcast, print, and cyber media, taking an abrupt turn from the post-Soviet glasnost policies of media “openness” and its own constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech.311 The use of social media to organize opposition street protests in 2011 and 2012 prompted a reappraisal of official internet policy. Since then, the authorities have treated the Internet as a serious threat, pushing through laws increasing government controls over technology and content giving the state powers to block content, ban websites, monitor online activity, and limit media ownership.312 The ultimate goal of this policy appears to be to create what some have called a "sovereign internet.”313

The Kremlin's strategy of reducing foreign influence on the media has not been confined to the internet. Numerous other pieces of legislation have been passed restricting the level of foreign ownership of the media, impeding the work of the foreign NGOs supporting independent media in Russia and forcing Russian media to account for any foreign funding they receive. A recent law has even banned foreign companies from conducting TV audience research in Russia.314

Indirect Action

Indirect action is a component of Russia’s strategic deterrence policy developed by Moscow in recent years. Its primary aim is to achieve Russia’s national objectives through a combination of military and non-military means while avoiding escalation into a full blown, direct, state-to-state conflict.315 Drawing on a combination of facets from Russia’s whole-of-government or interdepartmental strategy and overt or covert military means, indirect action seeks to exploit weaknesses and fissures in target countries in order to fulfill Moscow’s desired national goals.316

In Ukraine, indirect action manifested itself in non-military measures first, with less visible efforts taken to exert pressure on Kiev, like restricting food imports to Russia, but then broadening to wider actions involving financial, economic, and information warfare. Later, this was followed by unconventional military action involving Russian Spetsnaz and other non-attributable military units in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.317 This phase involved the actual seizure of facilities and infrastructure by these covered units, along with the use of local agents, sympathizers, and irregular forces in the vicinity to cause unrest and subversion, all of which are distinct hallmarks or evolutions of Soviet-era Spetsnaz wartime operations.318

Electronic Warfare

Based on authoritative military academic writings, the Russian military views electronic warfare as an essential tool for gaining and maintaining information superiority over its adversaries. Russia’s world-class electronic warfare forces support denial and deception operations and allow identification, interception, disruption, and, in combination with traditional fires, destruction of adversary command, control, communications, and intelligence capabilities.

In addition to technical disruption, effective use of electronic warfare can confuse adversary commanders and decisionmaking at any or all levels, demoralize opposing troops, and allow Russian forces to seize the operational initiative.319,320,321 Russia has fielded a wide range of ground-based electronic warfare systems to counter GPS, tactical communications, satellite communications, and radars.322 Further, military academics have suggested that electronic warfare fuse with cyber operations, allowing electronic warfare forces to corrupt and disable computers and networked systems as well as disrupt use of the electromagnetic spectrum.323,324 Russia has aspirations to develop and field a full spectrum of electronic warfare capabilities to counter Western C4ISR and weapons guidance systems.

Power Projection

Moscow continues to prioritize modernizing its military forces, viewing military power as critical to achieving key strategic objectives and global influence. Russian acquisition plans for its ground, air, naval, and missile forces are designed to enable the ability to conduct out of area operations during peacetime and to contest U.S./NATO military superiority in the event of a regional conflict. The rebuilt Russian military includes modernized, agile general purpose forces, vital to limited out-of-area power projection. While the objectives of the Russian military do not suggest a return to the Cold War posture, Moscow intends to use its military to promote stability on its own terms and to assert its great power status.

Russian jammer on display at Kubinka in 2016; Moscow has invested heavily in developing sophisticated electronic warfare capabilities.

Russia’s State Armaments Program will continue to emphasize priority programs related to the development of a viable 21st-century military, prioritizing strategic forces, space, precision-guided munitions, and aerospace defense capabilities. Russia’s strategic triad along with the increasing capability of its conventional forces remains a critical deterrent in preventing an attack. Russian long-range aviation remains a priority for Russian leadership as a key part of its strategic deterrent capability, while also providing an advanced conventional option to rapidly project power well beyond Russian borders. Russia is also modernizing its naval forces, which conduct operations globally in order to “show the flag” and contribute to Moscow’s narrative of Russia’s re-emergence as a global power. Russia is also focused on enhancing its C4ISR capabilities, which will enable improved targeting and timely responses to perceived threats.

• Long-Range Aviation: Russia periodically deploys assets of its LRA bomber force to conduct limited out-of-area operations as a power projection tool. LRA operations have included activity in the Pacific, the Arctic, and even as far south in 2008 as Venezuela. The capabilities of LRA aircraft allow for missions as far as 5,000-10,000 kilometers away.325

• Naval Forces: The Russian Navy will continue to conduct operations in parts of the world that are deemed important to national objectives. In recent times, these have included operations in the Mediterranean,326 the Arctic,327 and periodic deployments to the western hemisphere328 and the Indian Ocean.329 Russia’s naval recapitalization program will focus on the development of modern general purpose submarines and surface combatants to enable continued out-of-area operations.330,331

• Expeditionary Operations: Along with more conventional power projection missions, Russia has displayed a new capability to field an expeditionary force capable of intervening in a foreign conflict. In Syria, Russia used a mix of maritime and air assets to forward deploy its forces, and Russia will almost certainly be able to logistically support its current level of operations in Syria via a mix of those means for the foreseeable future.332

After politically supporting the Syrian regime throughout the Syrian civil war, Moscow began to deploy military forces to Syria in September 2015, likely both to shore up the regime and assert Russia’s status as a military player and powerbroker in the Middle East.333 The majority of Russian air strikes and artillery operations have supported regime ground offensives and focused on opposition targets, with an increased focus against Islamic State forces at certain points in their campaign.334,335,336

Russia has also sought to use the Syrian intervention as a showcase for its military modernization program and advanced conventional weapons systems, including employing systems from outside of Syrian territory to demonstrate its power projection capacity. Moscow has launched Kalibr land-attack cruise missiles from naval units in the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, demonstrated new capabilities with air-launched cruise missiles from its Tu-160M1 BLACKJACK and Tu-95MS BEAR H heavy bombers, forward-staged long-range Tu-22M3 BACKFIRE bombers for strikes from Iranian territory, and deployed some of its most advanced air and air defense systems to Syria.337,338,339,340 These operations are meant to demonstrate strategic capabilities and message the West about the manner in which the Russian military could operate in a major conventional conflict, while also providing combat experience for the personnel and allowing the systems to be field tested.341,342

A Russian naval task force centered on its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, conducted a 5-month deployment to the Mediterranean to support strike operations in Syria.

Underground Facilities

Russia inherited a vast underground facilities (UGFs) program from the Soviet Union, primarily designed to ensure the survival of the leadership and military command and control in wartime. This program involved the construction of underground bunkers, tunnels, secret subway lines, and other facilities beneath Moscow, other major Russian cities, and the sites of major military commands. Although the majority of these hardened facilities are near-surface bunkers, many critical sites are built deep underground and, in some cases, are hundreds of meters deep.343

Deep underground command posts both within and outside of Moscow are interconnected by a network of special deep subway lines that provide leadership a quick and secure means of evacuation. The leadership can move from their peacetime offices through concealed entryways to protective quarters beneath the city. A deep underground facility at the Kremlin and an enormous underground leadership bunker adjacent to Moscow State University are intended for the National Command Authority in wartime. They are estimated to be 200-300 meters deep and can accommodate an estimated 10,000 people.344

The leadership can remain beneath Moscow or travel along the special subway lines that connect these urban facilities to their preferred deep underground command posts outside the city, and possibly to the VIP terminal at Vnukovo Airfield, 27 kilometers southwest of the Kremlin. Two of the most important underground complexes for the National Command Authority and General Staff are located some 60 kilometers south of the city.345

The support infrastructure for the UGFs in and around Moscow is substantial. A highly redundant communications system, consisting of both on-site and remote elements, allows the leadership to send orders and receive reports. Highly effective life support systems may permit independent operations for many months following a nuclear attack.346

Russian military officials suggest the UGF program has been retained. In October 2014, chief of the General Staffs Main Operations Directorate, General-Lieutenant Andrey Kartapolov, told a Rossiyskaya Gazeta correspondent that the new National Defense Management Center in Moscow is safe from a nuclear strike. The National Defense Management Center became operational in December 2014 and is at the apex of the national command structure. General Kartapolov noted that protection against nuclear strike is always considered in building the most important facilities.347

Denial and Deception

The Russian military relies on extensive use of denial and deception (maskirovka) to obscure intentions and conceal military movement. The family of capabilities that composed traditional maskirovka includes camouflage, deception, denial, subversion, sabotage, espionage, propaganda, and psychological operations.

Russian operational and tactical maskirovka is a form of operational combat support. It encompasses a set of interrelated organizational and technical measures and practical actions of staffs, troops, and facilities intended to deceive foreign intelligence. Maskirovka promotes surprise, maintenance of combat capability, and survivability. For example, maskirovka in rocket units and subunits is organized and carried out for the purpose of ensuring that the enemy experiences maximum difficulty in collecting intelligence data to reduce the effectiveness of strikes, but is also carried out to create the false appearance of a combined unit in support of deception at the operational level of war.348,349,350,351,352,353

Moscow employed maskirovka at the beginning of the 2014 conflict in Ukraine, when media reported on the presence of “little green men” in Crimea who strongly resembled Russian soldiers although they wore uniforms without insignia identifying their origins. President Putin insisted they were “self-defense groups” or “volunteers.” By the time Moscow admitted to the presence of Russian troops in Crimea, this deception had created enough confusion to forestall significant international intervention in the conflict, and the ground reality was irreversibly tipped in Russia’s favor.354,355,356,357,358

Moscow used troops without insignia - the “little green men” - to seize the Crimean Peninsula in early 2014, claiming these forces were local militia.

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