Siege Warfare, the West and Russia

“Peu de sièges et de nombreux combats” (“Few sieges and many combats”) ~ Marshal Turenne

Not since the Peloponnesian War has there been an evolvement from grand maneuver warfare to Siege Warfare, and now in our historic era, cities throughout Asia to inter cities of America will know the devastation of total war.   

The pseudo-concept of “Hybrid Warfare” as termed by Western military theorists, will be seen as a tamed or toothless concept, when annihilation of all normal urban city conditions will be de rigueur, while terrorism in all its various forms emerges throughout the European states and crosses over from their Atlantic shores to the urban areas of the United States.  

Siege Warfare  -- propagated with zeal during the later sixteenth century through the middle of the seventeenth century, and most ardently conceived by great French Marshals such as Turenne and Condé -- is emerging again but in a more brutal form, a modern form and content of war strategy and tactical innovations owing their dialectical history to those past epic epochs. 

Such war of attrition, or what is also known as Siege Warfare amid city-state wars so audaciously described by Machiavelli in his own history on warfare,  would later be refined on a smaller scale during the Seven Years War in North America. 

Specifically it was under the impetuous and mercurial but brilliant Montcalm in New France who lay siege to British forts in British Colonial America that such tactical warfare became more defined. 

I advocate that it is important now, in these times, to go back and study such Siege Warfare to better understand the horrific but necessary warfare armies are waging in our times, such as the Syrian Arab Army which has fought against the terrorist forces in Palmyra, Aleppo and Raqqa. However, what the Syrian Army and their ally Russian soldiers have shown us is that only direct combat at the appropriate time is more profitable than prolonged sieges.  

So not to confuse the reader about my intentions of why I mention Siege Warfare in this period of our history, allow me to clarify a few ideas about Russian military thought in general, which comes out of also Soviet military thought from Russia’s past history.  As I have written previously in Parts I and II of these essays on Timothy L. Thomas’ book “Russia Military Strategy” there are concepts of his critique on Russian military theory that should be understood in a more detailed way, without grand generalizations.  

For instance, the American military analyst Thomas quotes a Russian military journal in which it is stated that the Russian Army is a “goal-oriented organization, spatial, temporal, and quantitative confines for armed forces employment” and therefore to again quote this journal, it must be that the form of military action would be “organizational side of troop actions, combining most important characteristics of actions: goals and tasks, the makeup of engaged forces and specifics of their command and control under given conditions, structure of actions, their scale in time and in space.”  Then Thomas makes a one-sentence summary to the quotes from the journal by asserting, “The organizational side of troop actions is a good way to remember what is meant by forms”.  

Let us briefly examine his quotes regarding Russian military thought.

We must first ask ourselves what is meant by “organizational side of troop actions”. Does that mean Divisions, Brigades, Army Groups according the fighting the Russian troops will be involved in? Or does it mean a chain-of-command behavior according to a troop deployment in battle? Does “goals and tasks” mean a simple military doctrine overriding the political goal or strategy, or does it mean a combination of both?  And of “specifics” regarding such concepts as “engaged forces”, the “conditions” and “structure of actions” including the development of “time and in space”, what do all these terms mean in relationship to the actual reasons for going to war in the first place?  

Essentially, these terms mean nothing unless they are understood within the specific laws of warfare which are outside the subjective analysis of individual military thinkers, diplomats and statesmen regarding the friction of war that has an objective process of its own, once war between belligerent nations has been released. As stated by Soviet and Russian military thinkers, “An all-sided analysis of war as a complex socio-political phenomenon is simultaneously as analysis of the laws expressing the dependence of the emergence of wars, and their aims, on economic and political conditions… War, as a particular state of society, is characterized by its specific laws…”  

 In order to understand the modern Russian Army, we must analyze its form and content by its immediate political and economic conditions and its aim to rectify or solidify its current state of affairs within the international community. 

Since the demise of the Soviet Union orchestrated by certain reactionary elements within the USSR, which was in fact a betrayal of the aspirations of the Soviet peoples, the new Russian Federation has struggled economically and politically to again find its way.              

The struggle is mirrored in the Russian Army, particularly from its conflicts in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and most recently its political and military advisory role, along with actual Russian engaged units in Syria, and its complex “volunteer” role in the Ukraine.  The contradictions are such that on one hand the Russian Armed Forces still sees itself as a protector of those rising nation-states who yearn to free themselves from the insatiable appetite of American imperialism, and on the other hand it must guard itself against the strident Russian nationalism that Lenin warned about as being reactionary to the welfare of the Russian people.  

However, I would say that the average Russian soldier, ultimately, always sides with the Russian masses, and that he or she is more like those troops of the ancient Roman legions that were wary of Caesar, but knew that soon or later, Caesar would destroy himself by reaching beyond his political capacity.  The Russian soldiers will engage their foes, they will fight under all conditions, they will allow their officers to create the appropriate time and space for them to engage in the friction of combat as they have in Syria, where they have fought not amid grand maneuvers like during the Great Patriotic War, but in the taking of cities amid carefully planned sieges such as what took place in Aleppo.  

The methodology of Siege Warfare is apparent by the precise Russian Aerospace Force, its Spetsnaz GRU units, its Cyber warfare programs, as well as its humane protocol to create corridors of escape for civilians and those terrorist troops who want to surrender amid the sealed or closed-off cities. 

Nothing is left out in detail by the General Staff of the Russian Federation Army, for it is the most modern army in the contemporary war in understanding the laws of war, and knowing  those laws can be unpredictable once war has begun. 

In my closing remarks about the character of the Russian soldier regarding his place in contemporary history, I would like to quote a French author whose great biography about Napoleon made some penetrating commentary about Russia, her adversaries and about the Russian Army character in general.   I think what Stendhal wrote in his “A Life of Napoleon” is pertinent to how the particular Russian military forces fight whether it be in a so-called Hybrid War or in continuous, modern siege engagements which I foresee, where cities in Europe, as well as in North America, will be reduced to complete fiery destruction, want and rubble due to economic calamity and fascist oligarchies that will manifest themselves, particularly in the United States. 

Concerning Russia’s most serious adversary -- the equivalent of its Imperial Athens or militarist Carthage - Stendhal wrote, “Since Peter the Great, Russia has always believed that by 1819 she would be the mistress of Europe if she had the courage to desire it, and America is henceforth the only country capable of withstanding her. That, it will be said, is taking the long view.”  Such a prophesy of history should not be lost on those who are interested in the laws of war that are part of the dialectical process of world history.

As for the character of the Russian Armed Forces -- which goes beyond an analytical study of the Russian Army in terms of scientific observation and not losing sight of the spiritual make-up of the national character of the Russian soldier -- Stendhal wrote, “General Masséna once related in my presence how a Russian soldier, on seeing a comrade fall, is persuaded that he will come back to life in his own country, and bends down to ask him to convey news of him to his mother. Like the Romans. Russia has superstitious soldiers commanded by officers who are as civilized as we are.”  

The modern Russian soldier may not, like during the Napoleonic wars, believe he will reincarnate in his own country if he is killed in battle, but he is disciplined in war like the ancient Roman legions and there is no present adversary that can force him off the field of battle.  We know Russian troops have died in the Ukraine, Syria, and at a military facility in Chechnya.  They will eventually die, if they have not already, and give their lives for Russia in Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and beyond the Middle East in the years to come. And in their deaths, they will lay waste to the cities where terrorists thrive.  

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