THE FUTURE WAR
Views of a Russian General
(ed. note. The following article was reprinted in 1916 in The
Journal, a publication of the American, The Military Service Institution.
It had appeared originally in The London Times Russian Section, July 29,
1916. While some of the general's conceptions about the nature of future war
may appear naive today, others proved only too valid. At any rate the article
is interesting as an example of the genre and may be considered by those of us
who are attempting the same sort of prognostication today.)
In the columns of the Russkoe Slovo General A. P. Skugarevski indulges
in some interesting speculations on the changes in future warfare presaged by
the present conflict. It is impossible, he writes, precisely to divine the
issue of the present war. We may guess, calculate, hope, even be convinced, and
nevertheless nobody can say for certain how the present world war will
But at the present time it is possible fairly accurately to imagine the picture
of the next war after this. The smaller the success achieved in the present war
by the entente powers the sooner will the next war occur. If Germany is not
conclusively conquered, if Europe does not secure real guarantees against a
recurrence of what William II has done and is doing, a fresh war will
inevitably take place in ten or twenty years. During this interval all states
will increasingly arm themselves.
The new war will be, like all wars preceding it, an unprecedented war; it will
be a war in comparison with which the present war, which will then be a war of
the past, will seem child's play, as many now deem the wars of the past
(This was found and translated by a colleague, John Johnston, who
is writing a book on the history of military wargaming and its relation to the
development of military theory.)
All the wars I can remember were unprecedented wars. Sevastopol
found me a boy, and we were then told that this was a wholly unprecedented war;
it lasted nearly four years, 1853-6; bullets fell like hail, and flew an
enormous distance, nearly a thousand paces! Till then the range of rifle fire
had not exceeded 300 paces, and even at that distance, as was jokingly
remarked, it was impossible to hit a three storeyed house. Most important of
all, the then new rifle bullet could not be eluded; wherever you turned it
would be after you.
The Austro Prussian War of 1866 I can remember as an officer. Not fairy tales,
but facts were told of it. The needle gun, which then made its appearance on
the Prussian side, mowed down men like grass; rifle fire acquired special
importance; the bullet ceased to be called a fool as was the case in the days
of Suvorov. There appeared even fire worshippers. This war cost the Prussians
two million thalers a day. Only think, was then said, two millions a day! The
war now costs from twenty to thirty millions a day, and nobody pays any
particular attention to it.
The Franco Prussian War of 1870-1 in its time was regarded as an unprecedented
war: the Germans led into France nearly a million troops. This war caused a
tension of the military forces of the state beyond which apparently it would be
impossible to go. And, nevertheless, after it all, states, with Germany at the
head, yearly increased their armaments. Armies began to be called armed
peoples; readiness for war was reckoned by days and hours.
But when the present war broke out it was found that all states, Germany among
the number, were far from prepared for it. The numerical strength of the armies
of the biggest states two years ago was fixed at from four to five million men
for war time, but twice, almost three times as many have now had to be put
forward. For such numbers of men nobody, not even the Germans, had sufficient
armament or equipment of various kinds.
All this had to be created during the war. The states are now trying to get
into the ranks all males capable of bearing arms; but these efforts at first
did not attain complete success owing to insufficiency of rifles, guns, shells,
cartridges, machine guns, air ships, ammunition, and even clothing, and also on
account of inadequate cadres of officers and unprepared organization in
general. The British had not even conscription, which they introduced a year
and a half after the beginning of the war. Only after two years of this
gigantic conflict are the states ready to begin an actual decisive campaign.
Armies of Forty Millions
In a future war, in ten or twenty years, we may expect that this
will not be the case; humanity must at last learn how to prepare for war. In
the future struggle of nations all men capable of bearing arms will be taken
into the ranks of the armies, and for them everything will be ready in
peacetime. What kind of army will Russia then have to establish?
In Obuchev's Military Statistical Annual Buniakovski's distribution of men and
women according to age is cited. Although these figures are old, the relative
distribution of ages had not changed, as the latest information of the
Statistical Annual of 1914 also shows. According to these figures it appears
that out of the total population of the state males from twenty to forty five
constitute 17.8 percent. But the experience of the present war has shown that
both younger men from seventeen to nineteen (3 percent) and older men from
forty six to fifty (4 percent) are called out for service. Consequently by
fully exerting their strength a state can call out for war up to 25 percent of
its population of the country.
In ten years the population of Russia will exceed 200,000,000; but in Germany
it will not have reached 100,000,000. Consequently in Russia more than
40,000,000 men will be called out for war; in Germany fewer than 20,000,000.
The strength of an army is determined not alone by its numbers, but the quality
of its discipline, organization, training, equipment, etc. not to mention the
ability of its leaders. The present war has only confirmed this old truth. I
will not enter into details of organization these form too special a question;
I will refer merely to a few figures.
Conscription of Officers and Women
For an army of 40,000,000 not fewer than 300,000 officers will be
required. To create such a corps of educated officers, and not hastily trained
subalterns, out of volunteers alone is wholly impossible. It will be necessary
to introduce conscription for officers; all young men who have received not
even complete middle school education, will be obliged to serve as officers.
This is even now partly the rule, but not in a sufficiently drastic form. It
will then be necessary only to adopt measures to prevent the appointment of
officers from persons not qualified for that position. In all schools of the
empire not only drill and gymnastics will have to be introduced, but also
scientific tuition of several branches of military knowledge. A huge number of
men are taken away from service with the colors by duties in the rear, where
certain branches of male labor can be replaced by female labor - the
manufacture of clothing, boots, many kinds of food, tinned provision, bread,
many mill wares for the War Department, and so forth. Perhaps it will be
necessary to introduce conscription for girls and childless widows, so that
more men can be sent to the front.
Of course, while personal military conscription is thus strained, there will
not be forgotten the interests of agriculture and factory industry
indispensable for support of economic life in the country and providing
resources for continuation of the war. The Germans, noticing that for the first
year of the war the birth rate of the population had fallen, established
special furloughs for married soldiers with a view to checking this fall.
Cavalry, Infantry, Aviation
In an army of forty millions there will be from twenty five to
thirty million infantry; one to two million cavalry; about five million
artillery, about a million sappers and technical experts of various kinds, and
about five millions for rear duty staff, administration, parks, transport,
hospitals and various economic institutions. With the army will be as many as
100,000 guns, a million Maxims, tens of thousands of motor cars armored,
freight, and light cars. By the beginning of the war at least fifty million gun
projectiles must be prepared and five thousand million rifle cartridges.
Besides machine gun detachments, each company of a regiment will have its
portable machine guns on light stands.
If lastly, there should be invented a substance which when swiftly transformed
into gas will not develop a great quantity of heat (at one time hopes were
reposed in liquid air) instead of the present quick loading rifles self loading
ones will be introduced (such as are used in machine guns, and there may even
be self firing rifles Willie's project).
Aviation will receive special development in the future war. It is clear that
in ten to twenty years every state will reckon the numbers of its dirigibles in
thousands, and the number of its aeroplanes in tens if not hundreds of
thousands. Private aviation ought to be encouraged. For the systematic
application of such aerial strength military procedure will be introduced with
maneuvers. Battles in the air between entire aerial flotillas will always be
avoided: they represent material too precious to be risked in this manner, but
the dropping of shells from above onto large stretches of country will be
extensively practiced. And if the laws of war permit the application of
inflammable materials and substances for the development of poisonous gases,
then the raids of aerial flotillas will instantly convert large districts of
several square versts into complete deserts, where every vestige of animal and
vegetable life will be slain, and where large units of armies will be
annihilated to single man.
Artillery and Transport
I shall not attempt to say to what caliber guns will be increased,
but undoubtedly they will fire several dozens of versts and aeroplane will be
an indispensable accessory of every battery to correct its fire. Perhaps Dover
will be shelled from Calais. Instead of fortresses, which cost so much in peace
time, the fortification of entire lines will be projected in peace time.
Before the war estimates of work will be made, materials and machinery will be
prepared, and on declaration of mobilization these projects will be swiftly
realized; fortified lines will be established in a few days where necessary and
also in the number required.
Feeding of the future armies will likewise demand enormous means. Reckoning
only two pounds of bread or biscuit per day per man for an army of 40 millions
two million puds (32,000 tons), will be needed daily, for the transport of
which 100 trains will be employed, and almost the same number for the transport
of a single day's tinned goods. For the meat ration, reckoning a pound per head
per day, and the average weight of cattle at 20 puds, if the war lasts a year,
20 million head of cattle will be required.
And in Russia if cattle breeding does not develop and remains in the same ratio
to the population as now there will then be only 60 million head of cattle in
the country. Thus one and a half or two years of war will exhaust more than
half of this quantity.
The expenditure on the army during the future war will reach 200
million roubles ( 20,000,000) a day; thus a month of war will demand not less
than five milliards and a year sixty milliards. In time of peace Russia will
have to maintain two and a half to three million troops, which will entail an
expenditure of not less than a thousand million roubles ( 100,000,000) annually
in the state budget. The re arming of the army with new rifles will also
require not less than the same amount, while the introduction of new artillery
may cause an outlay of several milliards of roubles. How much money will be
needed for the renewal of materiel after the present war, for the replenishment
of military, alimentary, and property supplies for the new war, it is difficult
even to estimate: probably disbursements for these purposes will be reckoned in
tens of milliards of roubles. Payment of interest on the state loans now made
will call for not less than two and a half milliard roubles ( 250,000,000)
Preparations for the future war will entail such an exertion of the economic
and financial strength of the country, they will affect such a number of
intricate questions concerning the activity of many not to say all departments,
that they will be beyond the power of any single ministry. It will be necessary
to create a new government organ a Ministry of War Preparation. Besides the
existing material conscriptions military, transport, motor it may perhaps be
necessary to introduce conscription for grain, meat, and fodder. All industrial
establishments mills, factories, workshops, even handicraftsmen on declaration
of war will have to work for the army in accordance with a special plan of
mobilization. All these details will able to be carefully drafted in peace time
in order to obviate defects connected with requisition and confiscation.
Probably it will be necessary to have large distributing magazines, formerly
maintained in the event of famine, but which will then be necessary in the
event of war. The duty of supervising the activities of all these
establishments will call for the appointment of a special staff of agents,
provincial and district inspectors, controllers, and superintendents.
But I will not enter into particulars of these suppositions. One thing is
undoubted namely, that a future war in 10 to 20 years will be unprecedented in
comparison with previous wars. Expedients for the extermination of humanity
will be of such a nature that everything of which we hear nowadays will pale in
comparison. The number of killed will be reckoned by millions, of wounded by
tens of millions. If such a war should last more than a year, then no measures
of man breeding whatsoever will save the state from a reduction of the
population, from the ruin and impoverishment of entire countries, from
literally unbearable taxes and duties.
Possibilities of Safeguards
And, nevertheless, this war will be inevitable if Germany is not
conquered and Europe does to secure herself by guarantees against what is
happening in our time. Germany must pay, not only as the authoress of the
conflagration, but as an example to other ambitious parties in the future. When
Germany has been subdued, nobody will prevent the states by a universal treaty
from limiting their armaments and from introducing militarism within certain
limits, for which Russia made a proposal at The Hague Conference. An
international tribunal must at last acquire power.
Some people think that this power can be defended only by the armed hand; while
since it is impossible to create a kind of international Hague army, the
decisions of an international tribunal will be equivalent merely to scraps of
paper. No! The decisions of an international tribunal can rest, first, on the
strength of public opinion. The present war has evoked such economic and
financial disturbance in the belligerent states, such universal indignation at
the barbarous methods of its conduct by the Germans, such huge losses in men,
that society for a long time to come will sensitively and even morbidly regard
any political event calculated to cause an international conflagration; it will
unanimously express its protest by all permissible and even unpermissible means
in government institutions, in the press, at meetings, and lastly in
demonstrations, as we now see at Berlin, Vienna, and Prague. It will be
impossible not to reckon with this public sentiment.
Secondly, if it should prove impossible to place an armed force at the
disposition of The Hague Tribunal for the support of its decisions, it will not
be difficult to equip it with the power of capital. Many international disputes
are decided by the adjudication of payments by one state to another. With this
object each state by treaty can deposit in an Amsterdam bank a fixed amount,
reserving the right to receive interest; while the capital itself can be placed
at the disposal of the international tribunal for adjudication of payments
according to its decisions. Various measures can be proposed for the
restriction of militarism and some measures will have to be adopted if humanity
does not which in the end to arrive a complete self extermination.