Being a Russia scholar interested in how artificial intelligence (AI) will influence international security and warfare, you often feel like the Jan Brady of the Bunch. With all eyes on China (Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!), Russia’s relatively limited budget for AI research and development, and its smaller private sector innovation ecosystem, seem less formidable by comparison. But when it comes to military applications of artificial intelligence, overlooking Russia is a mistake. Moreover, as top U.S. military leaders now believe that American forces will increasingly be drawn into urban combat, Russia’s investments in artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies that can help its soldiers counter the physical, cognitive, and operational challenges of urban warfare and perform better in future conflicts deserve closer attention.
Since the mid-1990s, Russia has deployed troops to urban areas in Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria for conventional offensive operations, counter-insurgency, and counter-terrorism missions. While the Russian government, its military, and its people are well familiar with the heavy toll urban warfare exerts in manpower, resources, and political capital, Russian strategists also realize that much of the fighting in future conflicts will take place in cities.
Broadly speaking, developments in military robotics, autonomy, machine learning, and artificial intelligence that improve intelligence collection and analysis, facilitate navigation and maneuver in dangerous terrain, and allow for more precise targeting can help reduce the costs of urban warfare and enhance combat effectiveness across the spectrum of military operations. Since the start of its modernization reforms in 2008, and especially over the course of its involvement in Syria, the Russian military has achieved major breakthroughs in developing a wide range of unmanned systems and in further refinement of its command, control, computers, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities — technologies that Moscow expects will safeguard soldiers’ lives and make its forces more precise and lethal in combat.
Read the full article in War on the Rocks.