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Concepts and DoctrineCyber / InformationOpinionShort Read

Fake reporting to please the (Russian) boss

Russian Reporting.  The modern battlefield is full of reporting from one formation to another.  This is no different in the war in Ukraine. 

Intreps and Sitreps that are “over-optimistic”, not to say outright fabrications, and submitted to satisfy the wishes of higher command and politicians, are hardly unknown in any nation’s armed forces.  [As a case in point amongst many, one might cite the inaccurate, self-serving bomb damage assessments of Bomber Command in the opening phase of WW2 before it was prevented from marking its own homework.]

But the phenomenon is perhaps more extreme and more endemic in present-day Russian forces reporting than in most.  As an OSINT source Russian milbloggers writing on the war in Ukraine are a source to be read with considerable caution: but some of them are more consistently credible than others.  Here, we translate a heartfelt essay from one “Colonel Shouvalov” which appeared over the summer, which resignedly bemoans how Russian reports from the front are confected.  The author identifies this as having its antecedents in the Soviet Army.  Interestingly, he further opines that although senior Ukrainian officers have broadly the same military heritage, the issue has been overcome by their being taken in hand by Western advisers. 

Shouvalov writes in a colloquial style, and here we offer a colloquial, and slightly abridged translation of his reporting. 

= = = = =

If civilians are surprised when dummy enemy equipment is knocked out by Lancets and Krasnopols, that’s normal.  But when people who have at least seen a bit of service are even more surprised, then you can really be surprised yourself.

The Soviet system of Army service, whose spirit we have preserved in our own Russia, is very simple.  Well, to be honest the military man’s first priority is always ‘bang’.  The more modern and powerful the available weapons, the greater the need to hit hard with them.  In the military mindset the word ‘expensive’ is only used when it comes from your own pay.

The second point is reporting.  You may know for sure that you are hitting a decoy and not the enemy’s equipment but if the decoy target is not bad and suits your report then you hit it and report upwards about your success.  Any Soviet officer would have done just that, and many today like to get off on it.  Because the Army is simple.  So your report (perhaps even in bold typeface) on the destruction of the target pleases you, and your superior, and his superior.  But if you write a dull report that the identified target turned out to be a false alarm, and that to hit it seemed inappropriate in view of the need to economise on use of high-precision ammunition, your boss and your fellow officers will regard you as an asshole.  And they will reckon you as ‘not a proper soldier’.

How is this problem solved by the enemy?  Well Western specialists have been given responsibility for [Ukrainian] targeting.  They have not tried to break down the established psychological type of the Soviet officer school (Ukrainian officers, especially senior ones, have remained Soviet in terms of psychological type as they have nowhere else to get it from), they simply took control away from them, removing even the motivation to cobble together falsified reports.  What a change – from the classic military outlook, to the business approach.

But we don’t just hit wooden decoys.  Now I will say something disgusting and unpopular, but let any serving officer show that I am lying: a very popular way to give a good result to the top – is to fire beautifully at the enemy’s already knocked-out equipment.  That Bradley destroyed yesterday can be beautifully shot at today from helicopters, and tomorrow worked over by self-propelled guns.  With video, commentary and the necessary close-up shots.  And now this is not one, but as many as three wrecked Bradleys. 

Russia proudly claims destruction
of, er, a Leopard tank ..?

Since the political leadership demands the necessary report, then the General Staff will demand such a report too.  And the military will solve it in the way they know – the military way.   Everyone in the armed forces knows perfectly well what I am talking about.  This is not something exotic, it is already a widespread practice.  An order to design a picture, photo and video recording of battles – that’s exotic.  You give a known practitioner a video and photo of a wrecked MT-LB, tell him what you want, and back come high-quality pictures, where instead of an MT-LB there is a tank or self-propelled gun along with several smashed BMPs.

 In the army itself no one will ever fight against this, and it is stupid to scold the General Staff or the minister.  We need some kind of external solution.  Something similar to how the goals of the Ukrainians are controlled by Western instructors.  Because for the military, all that I mentioned above is not a crime, and not even an ‘unwanted pregnancy’.  An ‘unwanted pregnancy’ is when you are found out but in such a way that you can’t get out of it.  To pass off John Deere combine harvesters as Leopards was, of course, an ‘unwanted pregnancy’ but even then they got out of it.  Although for this you should be punished three times over, first and foremost for presenting it so stupidly, and because such basic stuff is pointless.

No – that Ka-52 crew engaged a combine harvester!

The political leadership lives in a universe of its own from which it gives orders and instructions to the military leadership.  The military leadership already has its own, very different universe.  And it sends instructions down and reports upwards, based on its vision of the situation.  At the bottom – there is generally a hard reality, but adjusted for military perception.  You are required to report to the universe of the military leadership, and if reality does not chime with it, that is reality’s problem.  You’re an officer: just get on with it.

Postscript: a concomitant phenomenon recently identified by Russian milbloggers is pressure being put on their forces at the front to chase the battle as it is recorded on the delusional maps being used by higher command.  One of them writes:  “There are two charts – one is real, which we and you see, and the other is for the General Staff, on which the formations are completely different. So they are driving the troops to bring the real map closer to the map of the General Staff. But this is not realistic both because of the situation and because the General Staff requires more and more positive reports, that is, the map of the General Staff is ‘improving’ much faster than we are actually catching up with it.

Translation: N Perry together with a former colleague – all rights reserved.
Nick Perry and his colleague are retired Intelligence Corps officers and students of the war in Ukraine.
They are both active in the Medmenham Association which encourages excellence in the field of IMINT –  https://medmenham.org
Nick Perry
Nick Perry is a retired Intelligence Corps officer and student of the war in Ukraine.
He is active in the Medmenham Association which encourages excellence in the field of IMINT -  https://medmenham.org

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