If the seminal national events for Europe were the lightning-short wars of German unification in 1864, 1866, and 1870, the national war for Russia was in the Crimea against Turkey, England, and France. This Russian defeat led to military reforms with far-reaching consequences. The desired model for Russia became Prussia’s example: an efficient military organization that could harness the powers of the state. The Prussian military model held to organization, education, and mass participation. Russian military reforms began with social reforms - the freeing of the serfs - in order to form a citizenry more capable of bearing arms. The reforms of Russian War Minister Miliutin laid the basis for the military districts’ ability to mobilize human resources and to train and equip them for service. More important, educational and staff reorganizations took place, again on the German model.
Bruce W. Menning traces the results of the Miliutin reform as the intellectual setting for adaptation of operational art as practiced by German Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke. Analyzing the western influence of theorists and practitioners, Menning highlights the teaching of Russian General Staff Academy instructor G. A. Leyer, who, as a professor of strategy, laid the foundation upon which others - notably A. A. Neznamov and M. I. Dragomirov - would erect an operational construct similar to that of Moltke. Others contributed as well, with the debate over offensive and defensive warfare (i.e., between short and long wars); over the influence of technology and doctrine; and over the legacy of Russia’s premier wars before the Great War (World War I) - 1877– 1878 against Turkey and 1904–1905 with Japan-all feeding the development of operational thinking. If Russia did not invent operational art, it certainly embraced it, more as a result of war’s experience than by conscious importation.
The failure of World War I led to a critical reappraisal. Jacob W. Kipp begins with the origins of Soviet operational art in the Civil War that followed World War I and the revolution in Russia. Kipp traces the contribution of former tsarist officers and their experience based on the failure of strategic vision in World War I. Fighting a civil war from a central position, Kipp notes, encouraged operational thinking, while strategy was almost implicit in Communist ideology. By virtue of necessity, civil wars demand that campaigns be conducted in a strategic framework that provides an operational setting. Simultaneity and sequencing of campaigns quickly becomes a critical component of such operations. Both the World
War I experience and the conduct of the Civil War thus led to the formulation of operational art within the Soviet high command. Kipp goes on to describe the rise of a department of operational art in the revamped educational system of the newly formed Red Army. The process saw the Soviet Union institutionalize operational art as a level between tactics and strategy. Thinkers and doers like Tukhachevsky and Triandafillov brought out the offensive centrality of operational conduct. Their influence upon Soviet doctrine between the Revolution and World War II created the foundations of Soviet operational doctrine and the development of tank and mechanized forces in innovative ways. These contributions to doctrine, training, and organization heralded the Red Army’s full-scale adoption of operational art.
David M. Glantz takes Soviet operational art thinking a step further by delineating the organizational revolution within the Soviet Red Army. The experiment with mechanization-the right balances between tank, mechanized infantry, artillery, and cavalry formation - is discussed in light of how the Soviets anticipated fighting the next war. Glantz further shows the appreciation Soviet commanders had of operational maneuver as doctrine before the German summer offensive of 1941. He traces this concept throughout the Red Army’s experience in World War II, as the Soviet command steadily developed its capabilities at the operational level. The sequencing, timing, and organization of tank corps, armies, and groups (fronts) and their operational conduct to achieve the military aim-the destruction of German forces-became codified by battlefield experience. At war’s end, Soviet operational maneuver capabilities were such that full-scale army groups pressed continuous operations over hundreds of kilometers in sequenced, simultaneously orchestrated campaigns using continuous operational maneuver. Glantz concludes his study with an appreciation of the Soviet/Russian reaction to American AirLand Battle Doctrine and the NATO follow-on force attack concept. He notes too that Soviet doctrine went beyond synchronized operational maneuver with the use of operational maneuver groups and special force attacks.
How did logistics influence Soviet operational art? This is the basic question that Graham H. Turbiville addresses. The Soviet experiences in the Civil War and World War II gave their military leaders an acute appreciation for operational logistics. Turbiville postulates that Soviet doctrine sought to integrate logistics at the operational level so that sequenced and simultaneous offensives could be supported and sustained. It was the logistical inability to build and sustain operational forces that led to the establishment of a strategic rear force service. This organization, headed by General V. I. Vinogradov, established the organizational support structure, built the operational reserve forces, and sustained continuous offensive force application in the latter part of World War II. After the war, adaptation of logistical lessons, including the complete motorization of
the logistical system at the operational level, were instituted. This recognition of operational logistics underscored the case for using operational maneuver groups.
Each of the writers on Soviet doctrine researched and wrote their essays before the breakup of the Soviet empire and the Red Army. Where appropriate or necessary, these contributions have been revised or updated. However, the fact that the authors were preparing their contributions during what was perceived by many as the height of Soviet military power lends a certain poignancy to their presentations and findings.
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