Russian Perspectives on Network-Centric Warfare: The Key Aim of Serdyukov's Reform




The reform of the Russian conventional armed forces, announced in the aftermath of the Russia-Georgia War in August 2008, as part of an agenda that became known as the 'new look' cannot be understood, or properly assessed, unless its fundamental drivers are defined. Overall, following Defense Minister, Anatoliy Serdyukov, declaring the key features of the reform on October 14, 2008 on the day he briefed a closed session of the defense ministry collegium, the reform agenda appeared guided by an effort to enhance the combat capabilities and combat readiness of their conventional armed forces, loosely centered on the paradigm of forming mobile, smaller, and modernized forces. It seemed to make sense given the operational failings of the Russian armed forces during the Five-Day War, and marked a consistent and determined campaign to drag the military out of its 20th-century table of organization and equipment (TOE) to re-equip, restructure, and train for the conflicts of the 21st century. In the following analysis, which draws upon Russian perspectives on foreign experience of network-centric approaches to warfare, an important caveat must first be stated. Linking the 'new look' with its main driving force in this way almost risks talking up the reform, which undoubtedly faces numerous obstacles. This paper explores what the Russians mean when they use the term 'network-centric warfare,' and examines the writings of its leading proponents. It also assesses the level of sophistication and understanding of such concepts among Russian military theorists and senior defense officials, arguing that the timescale involved in completing this revolutionary transition will range from 10 to 20 years.



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