Better late than never. Almost a month ago the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) published a report about Anti-Access and Area Denial warfare (A2/AD), and I had the privilege of contributing with a chapter. However, I have been so busy doing other things that I just didn’t get around to writing a plug here on the blog before now.
The new report is called Beyond Bursting Bubbles, and it is a sequel to their much acclaimed Bursting the Bubble report from last year. In the original report, FOI pointed out that Russian missile capabilities and A2/AD assets are widely overrated in Western defense debates. As they pointed out, there are several obstacles to effective A2/AD, and there are several things the West can do to counter such moves. This piece of truth earned FOI a lot of publicity, as it challenged the widely accepted practice of drawing definitive red circles around Russian strongholds to indicate impenetrable A2/AD bubbles.
The new report is an anthology with contributions from a panel of scholars and practitioners. The list of authors is impressive, and I am humbled to be included:
- Michael Jonsson and Robert Dalsjö, FOI (Sweden)
- Justin Bronk, Royal United Services Institute,(United Kingdom)
- Douglas Barrie, International Institute for Strategic Studies (United Kingdom)
- Jamie Meighan, Royal Air Force (United Kingdom)
- Sam J. Tangredi, US Naval War College (USA)
- Anders Puck Nielsen, Royal Danish Defence College (Denmark)
- Ilmārs A. Lejiņš, Latvian Army (Latvia)
- Robin Häggblom, Independent Analyst (Finland)
- Alexander Lanoszka, University of Waterloo (Canada) and Luis Simón, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium)
- Keir Giles, Chatham House (United Kingdom)
- Ben Hodges, Center for European Policy Analysis (USA)
My own chapter approaches the problem of A2/AD from an operational angle. It is a refined and much improved expression of the argument in this blog post. The essence is that we need to look at A2/AD not only from the angle of what is possible, but also considering if it makes any sense. Russia will only attempt A2/AD if it helps them achieve some desirable political goal. If establishing A2/AD is politically unattractive, they are not going to do it. FOI did a great job last year of debunking some of the myths about Russia’s missiles, but their focus was mainly tactical, and I felt the argument would be even stronger if it included political and strategic perspectives. This leads to what I have chosen to call operational countermeasures against A2/AD, which is basically just a moniker to describe ways to turn A2/AD into a counterproductive political headache for Russia.
One of the benefits to being late with this advertisement is that I get to comment on some of the feedback I have received. If I could write it all over, I would probably spend some more energy on a theoretical discussion about the difference between A2/AD and air combat in general. A surprising number of people seem not to distinguish between these two things, which just goes to show how commoditized the concept of A2/AD has become. I doubt that Russia could use A2/AD as a meaningful tactic in the Baltic region, but obviously I am not arguing that they would avoid using their missiles for air combat in general.