Episode 51: Michael Kofman: We got it (mostly) right

The Russian military’s build-up around Ukraine between February and April 2021 was the topic of much media speculation.

Russia analyst Michael Kofman and Peter Roberts pull apart the military timelines and deployments, drawing insights to better shape the Western way of war for the future.

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  • Moderator: Professor Peter Roberts
    Respondent: Michael Kofman 

    (Unedited Transcript)


    Moderator: Welcome to the Western Way of War. This is a weekly podcast that tries to understand the issues around how to fight and succeed against adversaries in the 2020s. I'm Peter Roberts, Director of Military Sciences at the Royal United Services Institute on Whitehall and every week, I'll talk to a guest about the Western Way of War. Has it been successful? Is it fit for task? And how might it need to adapt in the future? The podcast is only possible because of the kind sponsorship of the good people at Raytheon UK, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technology, a British Company that creates jobs in England, Wales and Scotland, contributing over £700 million to the UK Economy.


    According to the mail I get from listeners, not everyone is convinced by the reporting and accounts we've been hearing about the recent deployment of what seems to be, most of the 58th Army. Whilst it remains fashionable for militaries to talk about digital, cyber, AI and autonomy, the recent Russian deployment of in excess of 100,000 military personnel to the Ukrainian border regions, was a salutary reminder of the enduring utility of hard-power, platforms and people. In deterrents, the new tools favoured by Western Military and Political Chiefs seemed of little value in shaping the behaviours of a competitor or belligerent. Understanding the motivations and decision-making of Moscow will take some time but there isn't much evidence to support claims that the redeployment of Russian forces was, I don't know, caused by a successful set of Western diplomatic means? Meanwhile, states who have been watching how the US, NATO and Europeans responded during the Russian build up of forces may take away very different messages. Their realities and future decisions, domestic, economic and foreign policy-related, will be shaped by the less than convincing statements of support from democratic allies and little action in backing up words with deeds. In retrospect, we might be generous in assessing the outcome of recent events as a draw between great powers.


    In answering some of the questions from listeners and in trialling one of the potential formats for Season Three of this podcast, I wanted to dig into the reality of some of these events and then pose the question about what this might mean for the Western Way of War, so reversing the usual format you've been accustomed to. But who could we possibly ask fulfil such an open-ended remit? Who knew enough about Russia, their military, their intent, their politics to make sense of the last couple of months without being swayed by so much of the endless drivel spouted by Moscow and Western Capitals? Michael Kofman is a regular guess of the RUSI Medical Sciences team. We trust his judgements on Russia and he always brings us interesting perspectives and insights and a greater understanding of what is actually happening, free from the military hype or political spin. Michael serves as Director of the Russia Studies Programme at CNA and is a fellow of the Kennan Institute Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington D.C. His research focuses on Russia and the former Soviet Union, specialising in the Russian Armed Forces, Military thought, capabilities and strategy. Previously, he served as a Programme Manager and a Subject Matter Expert at the National Defence University.


    He's a Senior Editor at War on the Rocks, a publication familiar to many of the listeners, where he regularly authors articles on strategy, the Russian Military, the Russian decision-making and related foreign policy issue. He runs a personal blog on the Russian armed forces at russianmilitaryanalysis.wordpress.com, worth dropping into even to go back and trawl through his more historic posts. Michael, listen, welcome to the show and unusually, I'm going to reverse the format that you've been accustomed to. We're going to leave the usual question until right at the end. So, first, I want to get your take on what happened recently with the Russian deployment to Ukraine?


    Michael Kofman: Thanks for having me on your podcast. I'm sure pretty excited to be here. The deployment, or now re-deployment that's in progress as they're moving, pulling forces back from the border with Ukraine, really began in February of this year. It started with (inaudible 04.16) in Crimea with some airborne troops, then the ceasefire broke down along the line of contact, actually before that in January between Ukrainian forces and, sort of, the separatist of Russian-led forces, in Donbas and then you began to see Russian military stacking troops in Crimea and North East of Ukraine in an area just South of (inaudible 04.38). This is about, let's say, maybe 200km off the Ukrainian border. And what they were doing is they were bringing in a large chunk of forces from-, the Southern Military the carcasses were where the dominant armies, the 58th Army from Central Russia several thousand kilometres away from the 41st Army there, and from parts of the Western Military District. So, they had three different airborne units as well (inaudible 05.02). And the reason this drew a lot of attention is because they had never stacked that amount of military power in Crimea before, since the annexation so it looked quite off. And of course, this was, kind of, out of cycle. It was not a regular exercise and they were being very cheeky about it and they were making it very visible.


    They were deploying a sizeable amount of military power but not quite will all the ingredients you would expect for a major offensive operation. So, nobody could tell intent, you know, people began calling, sector and defence and the like, were walking to Russian counterparts, essentially, there were very clear concerns and the deployment, which took about a month-, it actually took them quite a while to bring these forces, so, you know, it was sort of building. It had this building effect. There were Western reactions to it. There was a great deal of concern and consternation over what Russia might be planning and there were very mixed messages coming out of Moscow, between the different people that, kind of, represent the regime. They were, sort of, advancing three different narratives. One was that this was a clear signal to Ukraine not to think that it has any military options so that we take the Donbas and Ukraine have to return to the negotiating table on implementation of the Minsk Agreements. Another one was, in response to Ukraine's push for a NATO membership action plan. Now, to be clear, I think most people who follow this issue know that Ukraine has no prospects of getting into NATO in the near medium and to be frank, probably long-term. No alias never says never, right? That's a sure way to be wrong, but Ukraine's prospects for getting into NATO are pretty dim.


    Nonetheless though, you have to work with a, kind of, valid reality of people who are looking at the squash on Moscow and they want the signal to people in the United States that they should not pursue. They should not spend political capital on (inaudible 06.56) so one of the clear messages from Moscow was, look, if anybody pushes a Membership Action Plan to Ukraine, there will be real instability in Donbas and that will lead to an escalation, which will result in the destruction of the Ukrainian State as you know it now. It was a pretty overt threat. And the third message from from the Russian Minister of Defence. So Shoigu said, 'This is all about Defender 2021 and US military presence and exercise in near Russia's borders. You know, we're responding to your cause and measures and the like.' And they were all different but the truth of it, at least from my point of view, is that it was very clearly meant to be a coercive display. This is in fact, was coercive diplomacy traditionally looks like. Coercive diplomacy is diplomacy backed by the threat of force or the limited use of force, right? To compel your opponents or to change their politics or policies. That is kind of what it traditionally looked like in the older days, it's a more gunboat diplomacy and the like and the west was actually an avid practitioner of this form of diplomacy, actually during the era of imperial expansion. So, to me, the end outcome here is neither a glorious victory for coercive diplomacy.


    I think Russians believe that they got their message across. They got some political responses from Ukraine's political leadership, from Zelensky, looking for further meet and discussion. They also feel that they got probably their point across to the United States and to Ukraine's Western Partners about what Russia could do to Ukraine so that people are cautious both in terms of how they approach the confrontation with Russia, and also how they approach their policy towards Ukraine, right? Basically, showed a very clear signal of, look at the military power that Russia can stack readily on Ukraine's borders and here's the reality. A war with Ukraine with this amount of readily deployed military capability, would honestly be short and sharp. The mean battles on fourteen and fifteen were as well. They were about two-week long fights and that both countries that very, sort of, politically rhetorically support Ukraine fall into two broad categories. Those who have absolutely nothing to offer Ukraine militarily in terms of actual support. They're usually the most vocal ones, you know, or States that might be inclined but the character of that fight would be so sharp and brief, they're just not going to get there in time with anything substantive or meaningful to alter the course of a battle or to alter Russian calculations.


    So, in the end, this entire episode comes out as an interesting watch. I think Russians think believe that they were successful in their demonstration and I'm not sure what evidence they take away from that but they do feel they got the responses they wanted but it's definitely not a success story for Western deterrence. This is not what successful deterrence looks like and most western efforts actually we kind of a bundled mix of political messaging and discontinuance or incongruent military signalling, if you look over the past couple of weeks of how this whole thing played out. So, I wouldn't walk away from this, no. (TC 00:10:00)


    Moderator: I mean, I think there's so much in there that I want to pick on little strings of it and the first one, if I can, is just going over this fact that it was so visible and yet, despite the fact it was so visible, in many ways that confused western analysts even more, right? Because they want little green men. I mean, you talk Russia now, everyone wants to talk about sub-threshold or hybrid or grey zone or Gerasimov Doctrine or, you know, whatever the latest misunderstanding is about Russian Strategy. But that's how they want to characterise it. So when this all came out very overtly, very visibly, you know, the YouTube tracks of train loads of tanks going past and air defence missiles and that really confused western analysts, didn't it?


    Michael Kofman: Yes, I think it was very hard for people to read intention, so then there was a big question of, okay, what have we really learned since 2013, 2015? There's a much-expanded in the local intelligence capacity right? And still looking at it, they're pretty robust in local debates and, between, okay, what are the indications of warnings. If they deploy this system, does that mean they're going to invade, or does it not? You know, people reading the tea leaves. Do they have enough logistics for a long operation? Well, they don't but that doesn't mean that there's going to be a long operation. There's lots of different ways to fight conventional war, right? Who said it's going to be a long operation? And other folks, kind of, looking and saying, 'Well, how many days of warning would we have based on their current posture, if they want to conduct intervention and the like?' And basically reveal that we are much better than we in 2014, 2015. Actually, a lot of, I think Military Analysts did get this right and did not sound the alarm that this is for sure an imminent invasion. Some people were saying, 'How often do we see military deployments like this without a country invading?' And the answer is, all the time. Leaders use force because they believe that they need to use force to achieve political goals, right? Just because they see a military deployment, doesn't mean it's going to be an invasion.


    But, looking at it, you also saw that the reality is that in any future scenario, if Russia was to deploy a lot of military power on the borders of another state or NATO member or anybody else, it would not at all be clear-cut what they planned to do. Military analysts would not-, and other people would not be able to give tremendous amount of indications of warnings ahead of it and hard convention of military power. This is the power that counts at the end of the day. Most of this little men, green stuff, doesn't get you much and eventually leads to escalation with conventional intervention. That's basically, that at the end of the day, is what it ends up achieving the more significant the political objectives.


    Moderator: And that's where we got to with this force, it was a really significant force. I think analysts disagree over whether it was 100,000 or nearer to 150,000, but it was a massive collection of units from 58th, from the 41st, from the Western military district, I mean it was really significant and moving across strategic distances to concentrate in one place, and that's what through the mainstream media off as well, I mean it was a considerable military deployment. People then focused down on logistics and was it a balanced capability? Do you think we will ever have a proper understanding of how large or small or coherent this force package was?


    Michael Kofman: So, the problem was that there are a lot of Russian forces based along Ukraine borders, running all the way from north to south, so there's plenty of divisions and brigades out there and they were bringing in a bunch more. They're essentially mustering them in two gathering areas so we could see them and made it very easy to see, as opposed to forward deploying to assembly areas and then dispersing, making it very hard to track, and if they had done that it would have got very scary because people would have actually assumed that they planned to conduct offensive operations. So to me, actually, the amount of force they added to what was already based, permanently based, around Ukraine and Russia wasn't that much, and because people were stacking these numbers it felt very scary. I mean the most significant relationship wasn't tremendously that much. I think all in all they walked with, I don't know, them adding an additional 20-25,000 tops in terms of real functional combat elements and that's probably even a high estimate, from what I can tell. But, in general, including the forces they've deployed around Ukraine's borders, it's more than enough for a very large scale operation, maybe not one of long duration but they wouldn't need one.


    Moderator: There's been a lot of talk over the past few years about this idea that it's all down to the water crisis - the water canal is the one that the Russian's want, it's a bit like the land bridge to Crimea, so almost there was an expectation from many Western observers this had been a long time in coming, and that actually, whatever it took to just push them over the edge, genuinely there were tactical gains out there that the Russian military could have made. I dont know whether you think that has any validity, but I think that the land bridge to Crimea is a great thing to reflect in terms of what that turned out to be and how they solved that problem, right?


    Michael Kofman: Yes, so, people have been wrong about those things for quite a while. So, actually, the last-, the water crisis in Crimea has been a Spring, kind of, war scare almost every year that's been coming and going, and the last big one was back in 2018. The challenge with that whole scenario was first, it would require like a 70km front along Karoblis in terms of invading this part of Ukraine and that would present Russia a whole host of new problems in terms of occupying and supplying that new territory, it's actually not that easy to cleave territories off of other states because you get there and you find that the electricity and the water and the food comes from somewhere else so you can't just-, only on a map with crayons can you easily seize another part of a territory. That's how Russia got into the electricity and the water supply problem in Crimea in the first place because all that came from outside of Crimea. The second part of that is that canal has probably dried up and de-fonted and it will probably take a year to restore it, so people have this mental image that the canal is running from nearby rivers like a pipe and the Russians can get to this part of the pipe and just turn it on and solve Crimea's water problem, but that's not really how it's going to happen. So that's the other problem with it.


    The land bridge to Crimea was another silly idea. Why would Russia create a 300km border that they would have to defend across all of south eastern Ukraine? They might as well conquer all of eastern Ukraine, at least to the Dnieper River. So, these things don't make sense. They are useful to reflect on for other things that people are often wrong about like land bridge to Kaliningrad. So, whenever you hear yourself suddenly talking about, 'I think that the plan will be a land bridge from this thing to this other thing', say, 'Alright, well, how come that's happening? Let's look at all the cases where we've been wrong about that prediction. Are we likely to be wrong in this case as well?' So, I was a big sceptic on the water crisis issue, on the land bridge, which was pointless, they built a real bridge. A bridge that everyone first said they couldn't build, then after they built it they all said it would collapse, and none of that's come true. Right? So they all said this bridge won't stay up because of the difficult topography of the Kursk straight and that's also not true, so, again. The reason this wasn't true is because Russia has actually been taking a lot of water mitigation measures in Crimea that will slowly, over time, take effect. It's a difficult situation but they're not going to conquer the southern part of Ukraine to resolve the water problem in Crimea. Interesting reflection for all the people who said there'd be lots of wars over water. Where are those?


    Moderator: Yes, I mean, and you can reflect on Lake Chad having been reduced in size by two thirds and whatever it is, you know, 20 million people being displaced because of it, we haven't seen those wars emerge. Yes, maybe they will, but you know, it doesn't feel like it's there right now and certainly it's not in that game. I think that's really interesting. Now, you wrote an article in the Moscow Times about this, you were talking about why in Russian eyes this conflict can't be frozen, and I thought that was a really interesting take on it. I wonder if you could just give us a couple of minutes on that? I want to pull that thread a little bit for the audience.


    Michael Kofman: Sure. The big charge against Russia is that they can't accept this current status quo and the freezing on the conflict on basically Ukrainian-Western terms, because that constitutes an almost complete policy defeat, that means the Donbas region is de facto annexed by Russia and Russia pays quite a bit and gets almost none of what it wanted. Because the entire strategy from the Russian side of this conflict was not to own any Ukrainian territory or control or pay for it. It was to impose Russia's will on Ukraine to have a clear say over Ukraine's strategic orientation, to be able to maintain not only the predominance of Russian influence in Ukraine but to keep as a de facto buffer state as part of a strategy of extended defence, vis a vis, key Western military-economic blocs which are NATO and the European Union. And buffer states are almost never neutral, right? A buffer state is someone's buffer against somebody else and that's the argument, right? And Ukraine's current over to the West is, 'Hi, I will be your buffer against Russia, please support me, please give me money, because Ukraine de facto is an economic dependency of the West.' That is the reality of it, and it's looking to be a security dependency, too. The Russian aim, of course, is to make Ukraine a dependency of Russia and the Russian buffer against Western global military and economic blocs and the like.


    So, this is the first primary reason why a large offensive operation to conquer more Ukrainian territory never made any sense because that did not solve any political objectives for Russia. And second, this is why Russia cannot also accept the current status quo of a frozen conflict essentially on Western terms, but there's obviously nothing Europeans would love more than to freeze this conflict without any political compromises or without Ukraine having to give Russia anything that Russia wants. It's an ideal outcome for Ukraine. Well, it's a semi-ideal outcome given the circumstances for Ukraine. It's definitely the ideal outcome for Germany and France who would love nothing more than to basically walk away from this conflict they have frozen and deal with other things they care about. So, the only country it's obviously not ideal for is Russia given their foreign policy.


    Moderator: So, one of the other things I wanted to get to that we are talking about is, with this deployment, (TC 00:20:00) there was a lot of discussion in mainstream media about unintended escalation might suddenly run-off and this could suddenly become uncontrollably a global war resulting in thermonuclear exchanges. I mean there's a lot of even scholarly writing about military unintended escalation and how that plays out between great powers. I'm not sure that that idea, that presumption, of what unintended escalations look like has a reliable history, particularly between Russia or the Soviet Union and the West. Even in the modern era there was that naval skirmish between Russia and Ukraine in the same way in 2018, right? I mean, it didn't end up in thermonuclear exchanges. We don't have that in our mindset but there does seem to be a presumption in the West that, somehow, the military is going to follow a Clausewitzian narrative that all conflict is naturally escalatory and somehow it will grow and morph into something much larger than it is when it starts. But that's not the case, and I don't think-, now correct if I'm wrong here-, that Russia sees it that way either, right?


    Michael Kofman: No it's not. I'm going to say something that probably some of your listeners may find, well, will certainly find debatable. There's almost no such thing as accidental war. I'm sorry, this is a very nonsensical reading of history. Unintended escalation does not lead to war. Wars have political causes. Leaders use escalation as a casus belli to pursue wars they wish to pursue for political reasons. When they don't have political reasons to use force, and as they don't believe they need to use force to achieve political aims. If there's unintended escalation, nothing happens. And it happened throughout many conflicts and confrontations. Nothing will actually happen. They will bury it because they have no real incentives to go to war. That's not what they're looking for. So it's typically used as a casus belli. And if they don't have one they can actually manufacture one as well. Even in cases where we kind of portray it as unintended escalation, really what you have is states engaging in courses of bargaining with each other and they fully accept the risk that military deployment or the limited use of military force will result in a larger conflagration. It's not unintended. They understand the over under risk they are taking in this interaction, and they understand, they have a mental reading, on whether the other side has political incentives to engage in a larger war or not. That is essentially the calculation they are making. It's the same calculation as fait accomplis. It's a political gambit that you can take a piece of somebody's territory and they will not counter-escalate to fight for it. And I'll be honest, 50% of the time that gambit fails and that results in a conventional war, but it's not an accident, it's not unintended. It is a very, very intended use of force for political aim. So, all these stories of how one ship was going to run into another ship, or one aircraft was going to run into another aircraft between US and China, I'm sorry but this is why the Cold War didn't turn hot. There were lots of incidents like this and lots of lives were lost, and they didn't result in escalation and war.


    Moderator: What's clear is that when any new US president takes office, in the first 100 days there are usually some military tests that are put on that president's seat by the protagonist. China, historically, has been very clear in doing it. It did it for Obama, it did it for Trump. We've seen these things, and Russia actually does in more subtle ways that we haven't recognised perhaps as well. This could be one of those times where it was useful to do this as well as a test for Biden, right? To understand what it was and to message the new American presidency.


    Michael Kofman: Sure, absolutely, it wasn't just about Ukraine, although most of these interactions often do tend to be about the local bilateral issues, but of course it's looking at the United States as an audience to communicate things to the Biden administration. I want to double back a little bit when I say this also to be clear to people, that yes, we do often tend to have survivorship bias so people shouldn't just assume that you can upload risk and military signaling and confrontation. The reason for that, and the Russian deployment is very useful in this conversation for us, in that, ok, states are not often very honest about their grievances, they're often not very honest about their misperceptions, right? Like the way they see you and the way they see this other country they're dealing with, they're working in a bound of rationality and their perceptions are very different from yours. And they may not be very honest about what are their calculations or miscalculations. So, this is another clear case, we're looking at Russia, and the United States, despite all the, kind of, local intelligence we have, had real doubts about whether or not we could read Russian intents. That's an honest answer. That we could fairly answer for ourselves whether we had a solid as to what the Russian intent would be.


    Moderator: But haven't we rewritten history in many ways to say that we always understood Russia perfectly? We never had a good understanding of what Russian intent was. I mean it was one of the brilliant-, and in many ways I don't think they had a clear understanding of what our intent was, in a sort of east-west Cold War-type scenario, it was never perfectly clear. Signaling about communication was never perfect and understanding intent with Russia was never something we had a perfect idea of, a lot of it coming back to the fact that our cultures are so fundamentally different.


    Michael Kofman: A lot of interactions, as Rob Gervasi used to always say, confusion and stupidity is rarely given its due but it actually plays a significant role in these interactions between states and, as someone who works in the Russian field, we have a joke that a lot of countries have an unpredictable future whereas Russia has an unpredictable past. So, a lot of things that we think we know about our past and our history with Russia actually are not true, and the field is bedeviled, at least, from my point of view, not by things that we don't know about Russia. The real problem is all the things that we think we know about Russia that are not, in fact, true, and what we know about even recent contemporary Cold War history that is not true, and better archival research continues to come out with a new revision of what we even believe we know about late Cold War history when it comes to Russia. So, that's the reality and an uncomfortable reality people have to accept.


    Moderator: And that leads us to the final part of this episode which is, so therefore, based on that lack of knowledge and understanding, what can we draw on from this couple of months, you know, since February through to today and our analysis is still ongoing on what we mean by intent. What can we draw from this on how this has an impact or grow an understanding for the Western way of war or warfare? Are there things about this we should transfer across? I mean, I just think there are lesson we're-, no, some insights that we're relearning, perhaps, you know, if I go back on it, I think, thank god people are starting to understand there's more to Russian military strategy than just hybrid, or sub-threshold or the Gerasimov Doctrine, right? It became the single nail around which everyone was hammering. So, I think there's an understanding outside of that which is great, and our analysts are pretty good is the other thing I would take from what you're saying, you know, our military analysts got it pretty much, they were good on it, and I think that's largely reassuring. But on the other hand, mainstream media was as alarmist as they've been in our post-war history about Russia and military activities, but we're just taking away insights, not lessons which we should have. Are there any others that you'd offer the audience?


    Michael Kofman: Yes, sure. Yes the good news is that, this time, we got it mostly right, but most importantly not in terms of turn of luck, there was a logical basis for how people were looking at Russia's military deployment and what Russians were doing, what they were saying, to arrive at a conclusion that I think we'll be able to replicate. There wasn't just blind luck that they got it right this time and they got it wrong, maybe, 2014 annexation of Crimea. So the lessons for me, first and foremost, I'd focus much more on conventional nuclear military power. I find this very significant. I find that Europeans very much don't want to talk about this because they essentially cut their militaries to the bone and they want to be in the business of talking about information warfare, political warfare and various forms of hybrid warfare or covert operations and the like because these are the problems they would like, and there's nothing more interesting than what history does to people who pick a set of missions they would like to pursue rather than things that are very likely to happen to them. And so, to me, conventional military power is an essential part of the conversation. In terms of larger, political aims, these various forms of hybrid warfare consistently do not succeed, they are typically failures, they then result in larger-scale conventional intervention and escalation and, if you're not in that game, you're going to lose, at the end of the day.


    The second part is the interaction between conventional military power and all the measures that we consider to be short of war. Here, in the briefest way that I can explain it in a way that's very straightforward, if a state has invested considerably in its conventional military capability, they are then able to upload tremendous risk in the type of actions that they are able to take against other countries, whether it's political warfare, information warfare, or covert operations, because they know that they can deter a counter response, an escalated response. They are much more confident in their ability to deter their opponents, and so there's a direct relationship between the course of power that conventional military capability offers and all these other actions and means. And that's typically why you would see a state expand all the means of indirect warfare or indirect competition after they've invested in the direct means because they're now more confident. They're not crazy. No nuclear power wants to fight another nuclear power understanding the potential for escalation those risk, but they also understand that if the conventional military balance is relatively stable, that is, (TC 00:30:00) if Russia is confident that it can actually deter NATO and the United States - not win, but deter. Remember people in our community always confuse the terms for defence because they're arguing for one to smuggle in the other, but that's the truth of it. But if they are also confident they can engage in a whole host of activities that are considered to be acts of war measures short of war with reasonable confidence that there's very low potential for escalation. You see this in the cyber domain, you see this is in various acts of covert operations, clandestine operations, that they understand the consequences will be economic punishment and not much else.


    Moderator: Michael, that was brilliant, thank you very much. For our listeners, as I said at the start, we are shaping Season Three of the podcast as we record this one. Much of our approach is going to be based on your suggestions and your feedback. This episode is one of those trial formats we're considering, so get in touch and let us know what you think. I do need to remind you that the accompanying digital output on the way potential adversaries think about conflict is available in the series called 'Adversarial Studies'. Michael Kofman has recorded a previous one of those as well. You can find that and our other digital outputs at RUSI.org/professionofarms. You might also consider becoming a member of RUSI. The institute was founded by the Duke of Wellington a few years after the Battle of Waterloo to counter the institutional and systemic bureaucracy he found in the War Office. His agenda of free thinking, stimulating, intellectual curiosity, and challenge remain at the heart of our work. We receive no core funding from the UK Government, the Ministry of Defence or military, and we're a charity so we cannot make a profit. Our aim is to provide you with an opportunity to grow and improve as a member of the Profession of Arms. If that's your thing, you can find more details at RUSI.org/membership. As always, this show was produced by Peppi Vaananen and Kieron Yates and is sponsored by Raytheon UK. Thanks for listening.

Western Way of War Podcast Series

A collection of discussions with those in the Profession of Arms that tries to understand the issues around how to fight, and succeed, against adversaries in the 2020s. We pose the questions as whether a single Western Way of Warfare (how Western militaries fight) has been successful, whether it remains fit for task today, and how it might need to adapt in the future? It is complemented by the ‘Adversarial Studies’ project that looks at how adversaries fight.


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