Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
THE last war taught military leaders an important lesson about the nature and scope of resistance movements in occupied countries. Up to that time, countries threatened by aggression had prepared to defend their territories by offering frontal resistance along their national borders. Taking advantage of superior strength, the aggressor smashed this kind of resistance in one country after another. Motorized columns quickly penetrated the frontiers, drove wedges deep into the interior, cut off whole regions and encircled parts of the defending forces. Thereupon isolated commanders surrendered and whole units threw down their arms or were annihilated. When the army had fallen to pieces, the enemy completed the occupation of the country with relative ease, often aided by an official policy of surrender brought about by fifth columns, treachery in government circles, defeatism among military leaders and personal and political antagonisms of various kinds. Thus it was that Poland, Denmark and Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France, Jugoslavia and Greece, were taken over one after another. Only a few units succeeded in withdrawing behind the Allied lines, to continue the struggle outside the national territories. Most of the occupied nations, depressed and demoralized, accepted conquest as inescapable.
As the war continued on a world-wide scale, however, the occupied nations emerged from their bewilderment. Gradually they became aware that defeat at their frontiers had not ended the war; slowly they resumed active resistance. In many countries, however, this movement did not gather momentum until the very end of the war, and was restricted mainly to economic sabotage. Since these resistance movements avoided open clashes with the enemy's armed forces and did not utilize their large reserves of manpower, they had little strategic significance.
The political reasons noted above which made resistance ineffective were compounded by an almost inconceivable lack of understanding by Allied military leaders of the military value of continued combat in the enemy-occupied nations. The initial mistake was the voluntary surrender of the trained armies, with their commanders, weapons and equipment. No attempt had been made before the war to lay the foundations for a continuing war of liberation against the invader, and new armed forces had to be improvised within the occupied countries at the cost of great suffering.
There is no doubt that the possibilities of a liberation movement were more fully developed in Jugoslavia than in any other country during the Second World War. Jugoslav resistance was not limited to economic sabotage and small-scale guerrilla activities. And it showed that an occupied nation can wage a real "territorial war" with large-size regular units and achieve the country's final liberation with its own forces.
Is this lesson of World War II understood today, when again there is danger of war? At present, several European countries have realistic programs for frontal defense in case they are attacked.[i] And, of course, it would be senseless for countries whose frontiers coincide with the NATO defense line--and especially those which have strong armies of their own--to plan to abandon frontal resistance and to hand over their territory and their administrative and industrial centers without fighting. Such nations have every reason for attempting to repel aggression at their border areas and planning a counter-offensive that will crush the enemy on his own soil.
The fact is, however, that most European countries do not as yet possess the material resources required to make this the only possible concept of defense. And in many cases the concept of a frontal defense at all costs could have fatal results, leading only to the situations of 1939, 1940 and 1941. Such suicidal undertakings would undoubtedly provoke world-wide admiration; but they would do a disservice both to the countries attempting them and to the system of world defense against aggression. The nations thus defying one of the major lessons of the Second World War would lose their armies, their military organization, their weapons and their morale. To admit that some West European countries might be occupied does not imply pessimism or defeatism. We know too much about the ratio of forces which the two hostile blocs could put in the field to preclude the possibility of occupation for any country. Facing that possibility realistically and courageously, each threatened country must decide what concept of defense it should adopt, and what kind of war it should prepare to wage in order to avoid surrender if a superior enemy penetrates the country.
In the first place, each country should provide for a planned withdrawal to prepared lines or zones, where frontal resistance can be continued. In the final analysis, this objective might also be attained by withdrawal to the territory of one or several allied countries. World War II has shown, however, that often this cannot be done. Only a powerful army can execute a successful frontal withdrawal before a superior enemy. Moreover, it is not proper to leave unarmed people at the mercy of the invader. This means that a country unable to withdraw its forces to allied territory will be faced by two alternatives--either to surrender, or to wage the war in a new form suited to the changed military situation and the new relationship of forces.
Surrender is an act of national disgrace, which demoralizes the people and paves the way to collaboration with the enemy and to various forms of treason. The nation loses something even more important than territory--it loses its army and thereby the means for regaining its liberty and its territory. And most important of all--given the ultimate perspective of victory by a coalition in the war--surrender by an allied country (or indeed even of a neutral overrun by the same aggressor) harms not only the country itself but the general allied cause as well, for it unnecessarily postpones the hour of victory. The Liberation War in Jugoslavia showed unequivocally that manpower is fundamental to victory and should be valued above territory. No territory can be maintained if the army is lost; any territory can be regained if the army remains.
The collapse of the front need not, therefore, be followed by surrender, but only by a change from classical frontal war to mobile territorial war. Present-day European armies must envisage waging both types of warfare. Only thus can each country prevent the rout of its army in the event that frontal warfare on its own territory becomes hopeless.
Since history has thus far provided no example of a transition from frontal to territorial warfare, many military leaders and theorists may view these ideas skeptically. But there cannot be a precedent for every event that takes place. And history has shown us examples of territorial wars, even though these developed on a different basis than by a direct transition from frontal war. In its final years the Liberation War in Jugoslavia became a genuine, territorial war on a large scale. Since it demonstrated the usefulness of this type of war both for the people of the nation attacked and for the strategy of the coalition in general, let us examine its characteristics in rough outline.
(1) In the first place, the Jugoslav experience shows that under present conditions territorial war is no longer merely a "little war" (though it includes the typical activities of a little war), but is a genuine "great war." It cannot be referred to simply as a "partisan war," because this name designates the actions of small units, usually carried out in support of a regular national or allied front. By territorial war in the modern sense we mean an independent war or, at least, a war which is an integral part of the general coalition war.
A modern territorial war is a regular war. All Jugoslav units, from the smallest to the largest, were directed from one center and conducted their operations in accordance with the principles of regular warfare. The operations of the larger regular units are the dominating element, and will be so from the very beginning for armies which switch from frontal to territorial warfare. In armies formed after the occupation has taken place, as was the case with the Jugoslav Liberation Army, they appear only in the later stages, but at last they become the dominating element. Part of this process took place in our army in 1942; it was completed in 1943.
To enable the larger regular units in Jugoslavia to survive and operate it was essential to coördinate their actions with those of the small--also regular--local partisan detachments and sabotage groups throughout the countryside, along lines of communication and in the towns. An army waging a territorial war therefore consists of two parts: large regular units to carry out the bigger operations, and many partisan and diversionary groups for auxiliary actions. While the larger units engage the main mobile forces of the enemy, the small partisan groups scatter the enemy and pin him down over the whole territory. Even at the end of 1944, when our army had switched from territorial to frontal warfare and had 51 divisions at its disposal, we still had 107 large partisan detachments and countless small diversionary groups. They proved very useful.
Modern territorial warfare is characterized by the fact that it is waged by large regular units. These units--regiments, brigades, divisions and army corps--may be formed in the course of the war itself, as in Jugoslavia; or, if an army switched directly from frontal to territorial warfare, would be the same units that existed previously, though lighter and more mobile. The operations carried out by these units are no less important than those of frontal warfare. They are not merely skirmishes between partisan groups and enemy patrols or police. A large number of divisions may participate on both sides. In Jugoslavia, both sides used artillery, tanks and planes.
That experience proved beyond question that even when most of a country's populated centers and communication are in enemy hands, units as large as divisions and corps cannot only exist and operate but also fight and win more easily than smaller ones can in such warfare. Nor is this experience contradicted by the fact that our wartime divisions were somewhat smaller than normal (3,000 to 5,000 men, or less; in the last year of the war from 8,000 to 10,000 men). Had we had more supplies the units could have been larger and their victories greater.
The term territorial war is appropriate for this special form of regular war, since it implies that the warfare is waged over the whole territory of the country, and not merely along a more or less unbroken line. This, of course, determines only the basic strategical and tactical conceptions of the military operations. Their political substance represents a liberation war; though a liberation war is not necessarily "territorial." It can also be a "little" war--guerrilla warfare. A liberation war will be a regular territorial war only if it is waged mainly by large regular units.
Rigid and clearly-defined fronts are not typical of territorial war, although they may appear in the course of it in flexible, modified forms. This is especially so during the final phase, when the enemy is being expelled from the country. Along with the use of the whole national territory, free manœuvring is characteristic of territorial warfare. The larger units operate now in one area, now in another, while the smaller detachments cover the whole territory with their guerrilla activities. Wherever large regular units appear, liberated territories are formed; these may often be abandoned, to be formed again somewhere else. At times all the forces on both sides are in movement and in action. Then the liberated areas practically disappear: but almost all the "occupied" areas disappear likewise. The two armies find themselves enmeshed in a huge no-man's land, but with all movements on both sides more or less centralized and directed according to plan. Such, approximately, was the way the fighting looked during the sixth enemy offensive in Jugoslavia.
(2) A territorial war in a civilized country is an organized war directed according to plan. In its general outline the command is expressly centralized, although in detail it leaves much more independence and initiative to the subordinate commanders than is the case in frontal warfare. This single and centralized command gives regular territorial warfare its strength and advantage over the non-regular "little" war.
In territorial war discipline must be as firm as it is in frontal war--or, if anything, firmer. It is based less on formal regulations and coercion than on a profound consciousness of duty on the part of officers and soldiers, attained only by tireless indoctrination. The more disciplined the unit and the better organized its activities, the greater its effectiveness and the smaller its hardships and losses. All tendencies toward disorganization, anarchy, plundering and arbitrary action must be firmly checked since they weaken the resistance, lower the prestige of the army in the eyes of the people, and reduce the prospects of success in battle. In this respect, we in Jugoslavia were not sentimental.
Territorial war is not, and must not be, a disorganized affair on the principle of "every man on his own and a shot at the enemy when possible." That form of resistance requires sacrifices out of all proportion to enemy losses. Naturally, if no organized insurgent army exists the people themselves may spontaneously take up arms to protect themselves and their homes, thus beginning an insurrection. Under such conditions, this is useful. But we learned that spontaneous uprisings are doomed to failure unless a military organization is set up in time and large military units formed.
(3) Even during the Second World War territorial wars were more political and ideological in character than the frontal war conducted by the Great Powers. They will be even more so if there is another conflict. This political emphasis finds expression not only in the fact that the outbreak of war is closely linked with political events in individual countries and in the world, but also because in a liberation war the smallest tactical actions are bound up with the specific political problems of an area at a given moment. All battalion and even company commanders, and especially the leaders of partisan detachments, must independently solve many political problems; their military actions cannot otherwise be intelligent or efficient. This is a necessity which cannot be avoided in such a war, regardless of the desire of many officers in European armies to refrain from politics in the exercise of their military profession.
The decisive rôle of morale in wartime is nowhere so obvious as in a liberation war. How otherwise explain the victory of the Jugoslav Liberation Army, which fought under exceptionally trying circumstances against an enemy enjoying great material superiority? In the world as it is today, only a country which has solved its basic social and national problems to the satisfaction of the people--or, at least, shows that it is in process of solving these problems--can find within itself sufficient moral strength to fight in this way. A liberation movement must mobilize the people; its army must win the day-by-day support of the civilian population, especially of the peasants, for without them neither a large territorial war nor a small partisan war can be fought successfully. A territorial war is a people's war. In such a war it is very difficult to use coercive measures. Further, women and young people play very important rôles, and increase its mass character.
In his work "On War" (Volume 6, Chapter 26), Clausewitz called liberation wars against invaders "people's wars" and referred to those who opposed such wars because they allegedly offer as great a threat to the domestic régime as to the foreign enemy. Such views are shared even today by some persons in the ruling circles of various European countries. But the liberation movements in the last war showed that no social class or political group has reason to fear for its position if it is resolute in the struggle against an invader. The masses of the people will rally against the occupation and, indeed, nothing can prevent them from doing so. In every nation those who lose their influence and position are those who remain aloof; and those who are destroyed with the enemy are those who have struck bargains with him.
The struggle against the fifth column is of exceptional military importance in a liberation war. Without a fifth column, the invader is blind and powerless. The problem cannot be solved merely by dealing a heavy blow at enemy agents at the outset. The logic of the occupation itself creates new forms of fifth columns. Even people who seemed to be perfectly reliable in peacetime can turn out to be fainthearted and opportunistic. There are always speculators and egoists who put their private interests above the interests of the nation, working for the enemy at first, perhaps, as neutrals, then as petty collaborationists, and, finally, as traitors and spies. It is not a long road from the weakling's first tacit acceptance of the inevitability of the occupation to the moment when the invader puts a rifle into his hands to use against his own people. The fifth column cannot be defeated merely by military action which seeks to annihilate it physically; that action must be backed by a persevering and intelligent political struggle which aims to destroy it ideologically and morally. Even in a prewar period, such political action is a most important part of the preparation for territorial war.
(4) A territorial war is always characterized by violence, terror and reprisals on the part of the invader. It claims its victims not only in the fighting ranks but also among the civilian population. In this respect it does not differ from a classical frontal war, with its atom and other bombs, guided missiles and chemical and biological weapons. Civilian losses are today an inevitable accompaniment to every type of war.
There are no guaranteed methods of preventing casualties at the front or in the rear in any type of contemporary warfare. The Jugoslav experience showed, however, that in territorial war there are reliable ways of reducing the number of casualties. The best way to protect the adult male population from reprisals is to draft these men into military units or, at least, to arm them as Home Guards for local self-defense. Reprisals then become much less likely. The active participation of women and, especially, young people actually guards them from danger rather than exposes them. We learned that the surest method of preventing the unlawful shooting of prisoners-of-war is to hold enemy prisoners. And the most efficient method for preventing reprisals against women, children and old people is to increase the activity of armed units and to spread the uprising. When the enemy realizes that the slaughter of hostages only increases the resistance of the population and spreads the insurrection to other areas, he begins to question its usefulness. This experience carries an international lesson. If the resistance is intensive in all occupied countries of Europe, each nation will pay a proportionately smaller price for the common victory.
(5) In preparing for territorial resistance it is necessary to assess realistically the ability of the invader to control "occupied" territories. Our experience in Jugoslavia demonstrated that wherever we maintained large units, the invader required at least a reinforced battalion to man one garrison. Smaller garrisons, and especially small gendarmerie stations, were marked out for certain annihilation. The density of the occupation forces in a given area was always in proportion to the strength of our army. Where only small partisan detachments were operating the enemy kept many small garrisons, making it easier for him to control the area. Where larger units of our army were operating (especially when they were armed with heavy weapons), the enemy reduced the number of garrisons but increased their size. This allowed our units greater freedom of manœuvre, liberated territory and increased the security of the population.
This rough yardstick that the enemy requires one battalion for every garrison provides an illustration of what might take place in such a country as Switzerland, for instance, if an invader had to fight a territorial war there. Nine enemy garrisons would require an enemy division. And how many cities and industrial centers, towns and large villages are there in Switzerland? Hundreds. Would the enemy be able to devote so many divisions to the occupation of this one country? Obviously not, for there would still be the regular front of the great allies; and in all the other European countries he would be faced with the same problem. Besides, the enemy would need divisions and even armies to keep down the Russian and satellite peoples. The result would be that in Switzerland, and in every other country that was fighting a modern territorial war, there would be large free territories, free towns and even cities. The resistance could carry out all kinds of operations, large and small, organize its intelligence and communications, and supply its army.
On the other hand, a nation which surrenders can be held with the aid of a few gendarmes and domestic agents, perhaps with a few mobile police regiments in reserve, especially if its government administration enters the service of the aggressor. Under modern conditions of territorial resistance, then, occupation is a relative matter. Actually, a whole national territory can never be occupied. The greater part of the population and large parts of the national territory will always remain free if the people and their army will it so.
(6) The operational basis of a territorial war is not in the towns but in the countryside, that is, in open areas which no occupation, no matter how heavy, can control. The existence of such areas made it possible for Jugoslavia to transform the original partisan army, consisting of 92 detachments with a total of 80,000 fighting men in 1941, into a large regular army totalling 53 divisions with 800,000 fighting men in 1945. But this countryside is only a kind of rear for the units, whose operations are in the main directed against towns with large enemy garrisons. This should not, however, reduce the importance of creating armed groups within the towns themselves. These groups are also a significant force in territorial warfare.
(7) Jugoslavia's relatively large area (approximately 257,000 square kilometers) gave our units great possibilities for concentration and dispersal, permitting the transfer of troops from one area to another for surprise offensives and flexible withdrawals. Would territorial war be impracticable in countries of smaller size? A more detailed study of our experience indicates that similar manœuvre is entirely possible even in small areas. The Jugoslav province of Slovenia covers approximately 20,000 square kilometers, or about half the area of Switzerland. This province was in a special position since parts of it had been annexed directly to the Third Reich and other parts to Italy. The enemy was very sensitive about what went on there. Moreover, the main lines of enemy communications crossed the province, and the Slovene units had specific tasks to carry out. In view of this, Slovenia had more autonomy in waging the war than did the other provinces and Slovene units seldom operated in other provinces. Throughout the war, in spite of hard-hitting enemy offensives using large numbers of troops (almost 100,000 Italians, for example, took part in the third enemy offensive in Slovenia), the Slovene units never were compelled to abandon their operational territory and withdraw to other parts of the country. When sometimes they crossed over into neighboring Croatia it was to help the Croat units execute certain large-scale operations, after which they again returned to Slovenia. The Slovene commanders never felt that the narrow limits of their province did not provide sufficient manœuvring space for fighting and means of subsistence.
In another war, almost all the European nations which have the misfortune to be occupied will, as a result of the experiences of the last war, conduct at least a small territorial war, if not a large one. In these conditions, each insurgent will find support in neighboring countries, permitting some military units of one country to find shelter for a time on the territory of another. Often during the last war the Italian Garibaldi-Nattisone partisan division, which operated in Friuli in northeastern Italy, was given shelter by our Slovene units, and in the same way Bulgarian partisan units often sought refuge in eastern Serbia.
(8) In Western Europe one often hears that mountainous terrain is essential for success in territorial war. The facts do not bear out the thesis. In the first place, Jugoslavia is not predominantly mountainous, since 54.8 percent of her area is less than 1,600 feet above sea level and a further 27.4 percent lies at an elevation of between 1,600 and 3,300 feet--a total of 82.2 percent of rolling terrain suitable for manœuvre. There is another 14 percent of moderately mountainous land (3,300 to 4,900 feet in altitude), which from the military point of view is not essentially different. Steep mountains (4,900 to 6,500 feet) cover only 3.3 percent of the area, with really high mountains (above 6,500 feet) accounting for the remaining .5 percent. Partisans thus fought on a terrain all but a fraction of which is suitable not only for operations by infantry units armed with modern weapons but also for actions by motorized troops, tanks and all sorts of artillery, as well as for the establishment of air bases. And indeed, our experience never gave us reason to believe that it is easier to wage partisan or territorial war in the mountains than on intermediate terrain. On the contrary, our fighting men always considered high mountains an uncomfortable and difficult battlefield and avoided them whenever possible. Furthermore, in the mountains, where there was no enemy, the partisans had nothing to do and no one to fight. Their function was to fight and they could do that only where the enemy could be found: on the plains and at lower altitudes.
(9) There is also a belief in Western Europe that it would be very difficult to conduct a territorial war there on account of the density of population, the proximity of settlements to one another and the well-developed network of roads. Extreme density of population on almost absolutely flat areas certainly hampers large-scale operations. However, most European countries do not belong in this category, or at least not entirely. Jugoslavia has 63 inhabitants per square kilometer, with one part less densely and another more heavily populated. Operations were carried out in both, but especially in the more densely populated areas. Again the experience in Slovenia is instructive. In Slovenia there are 70.5 inhabitants per square kilometer, which makes it not different essentially from the military point of view from, for instance, Switzerland with approximately 112 inhabitants per square kilometer. In Slovenia all sorts of operations were carried out by units which by 1943 had grown to two army corps consisting of six divisions, three independent brigades and approximately 15 partisan detachments of several hundred fighters each--a total of from 35,000 to 40,000 fighters. The density of the population never was an obstacle to these operations. On the contrary, our units always strove to penetrate the richest areas, where the enemy usually put up the strongest defense but where living and fighting conditions were better: food more plentiful, equipment easier to get, recruits more numerous, care of the wounded easier, and organization of communications and intelligence simpler.
In Slovenia it is difficult to find a point more than 10 to 15 kilometers, as the crow flies, from an automobile road. The roads were useful to the enemy but they were useful to us, too. When we wanted to prevent the enemy from using them, we had means at our disposal to do so. A concrete example: six parallel automobile roads lead from Ljubljana to Celje, through a gap of 20 to 30 kilometers wide between the Sava River and the Kamnik Mountains--that is, one road to each three to five kilometers. No point on this terrain is more than three or four kilometers from the nearest road. The whole terrain is heavily populated. The Kamnik-Zasavje Detachment, numbering 100 to 200 fighters, fought in this area from 1942 until the end of the war, operating as a whole and never breaking up into smaller units. It constantly attacked lines of communication and convoys. It withstood at least two enemy drives per month. Yet the enemy never succeeded in driving it out of this region. These and many other similar examples taken from actual practice should be convincing evidence that territorial war can be waged in any country with a similar network of roads.
(10) Was the relative backwardness of prewar Jugoslavia responsible for success in this new form of war? In the first place, it might be noted that a relatively low standard of living does not in itself cause a liberation movement to develop. If this were so, it would be hard to understand why the Bulgarians or Rumanians --whose living standards did not differ much from those in many Jugoslav provinces--did not develop any important resistance movements against the Germans, although they had as many reasons for it as we did. Besides, in the last war troops of many highly-civilized nations fought under conditions which were no easier than those under which Jugoslavs were fighting--for example, the British soldiers in the African deserts or the Americans in the jungles of the Pacific. The men of the French resistance fought bravely; if they were not as effective as they might have been, this was not due to the degree of their civilization but to their general conception of the struggle and the tasks they had set themselves. In Jugoslavia before the war, all the provinces had not reached the same level of development. But there was no essential difference between the standard of living in Slovenia and the other countries of Western Europe. And yet the Slovenes fought no less well than the other nationalities of Jugoslavia. Explanations of the will to fight in men must be sought elsewhere than in criteria of "civilization" or "backwardness." In my opinion, any nation could fight a territorial war in the future, regardless of its state of development, provided it possessed a high degree of national consciousness and devotion to freedom and independence.
(11) What kinds of weapons are needed for territorial operations? The three basic requirements are suitability for manœuvring and extreme mobility, for hard and rapid blows, and for fighting at close range. What are needed, therefore, are: first, light weapons, easy to carry; second, weapons of high destructive power, capable of strong and sudden concentration of fire; and third, weapons of somewhat less than ordinary range. It is quite incorrect that forces in a territorial war, including partisan units carrying out auxiliary activities in the enemy rear, should be armed merely with light infantry weapons. Certain new armaments developed during and after the last war will greatly facilitate the waging of territorial war in the future--among them antitank rocket launchers, recoilless guns and infrared sights for firing at night. They will help solve three important problems which have to be faced in territorial actions, namely anti-tank fighting, destruction of fortified points and effective firing during night operations.
(12) Special attention must be drawn to the extremely important rôle of the air force in this type of war. In essence, modern airborne troops employ simply the typical methods of territorial war. In the last war, with a few exceptions, the possibilities of using airborne troops were not fully utilized. One reason was that they were overburdened by various requirements arising from the principles upon which frontal warfare is waged, and hence were not flexible enough for use in territorial operations. The opportunities for using them--especially in one's own occupied country, or in a friendly country--are much more extensive than is usually believed. If they adopt appropriate tactics, the length of their survival in the enemy rear need not be limited. This was proved by Jugoslav divisions which operated for years in the thick of enemy forces. Even smaller airborne units such as battalions and regiments can accomplish a great deal if they use clever tactics and are armed with good weapons.
Transport aviation adds greatly to the mobility of land units in territorial warfare. Besides performing marches and infiltration, such units will in future be able to make use of air transport in their manœuvres. The possibilities of surprise through the rapid transfer of the main effort from one area to another will thereby be greatly increased. Transport also plays an important rôle in evacuating the wounded and sick who are a particular burden on the field forces in territorial warfare. In the course of the fourth enemy offensive against our main forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for instance, Jugoslav units were compelled to carry with them 4,000 wounded and sick (mainly typhus cases), which greatly hampered the operations against 11 German and Italian divisions. On the other hand, when the Allied air forces evacuated several thousand wounded to southern Italy at the end of 1944 and the beginning of 1945, the burden on our units was greatly relieved and their fighting morale was heightened.
Combat aviation is very important for carrying out more difficult tasks, such as attacking fortified positions and defending one's own forces from attack by superior enemy concentrations. Difficulties in using artillery and tanks--ever-existent due to the very nature of territorial war--can be lessened through the close coöperation of air forces. Aviation is useful for liaison work between various commands, and renders possible more frequent personal contact between commanders. It also can be an important source of supply, especially as regards materials which are difficult to capture from the enemy.
For these reasons every country which seriously considers the possibility of engaging in territorial war must build up its aviation, and especially its transport aviation. In this connection, the great usefulness of helicopters must be emphasized. They open up new prospects, especially with regard to supplies and evacuation. The problem of airfields for transport aviation should not cause too much concern. If the transport aviation cannot temporarily be based on one's own territory, it can be based on neighboring allied territory. Units on "occupied" territory will always be able, with a little resourcefulness, to set up makeshift airfields as we used to do (although disappointingly few planes came to land on them).
(13) Foreign armies which are considering the possibility of territorial war on home ground always have misgivings about being able to supply their units, especially with ammunition. This is certainly a difficult problem, but our experience has shown that there is a remedy for this also.
There was no continuity of organization between the old Jugoslav Army and the new Liberation Army. The latter was formed on a completely new basis. At the very beginning, the weapons and ammunition which had been hidden both by our underground organizations and by individuals acting on their own initiative when the old army disintegrated proved to be extremely valuable. The quantity was small, but enough to start with. The weapons and ammunition already in the possession of a regular army at the time of transition from frontal to territorial warfare are likely to be sufficient at the beginning--and if a territorial war is planned in advance, there will have been ample opportunity to prepare reserves of material and to store them away in hiding places for months and even years of war. In this connection it must be kept in mind that less ammunition is used, and less should be used, in a territorial war than in a frontal war; troops should think twice before firing a round or a shell.
In Jugoslavia we built up an army of 300,000 armed men before receiving from the Allies a single rifle or a single round of ammunition. We armed them exclusively with weapons captured from the enemy. Only in the second half of the war did we begin to receive aid from abroad, but this was never sufficient to cover our needs. War booty was our main source of materials until the end of the war. It is to be hoped that in a possible future war, the liberation armies will receive more aid than in the last war. It would, however, be erroneous to count on this source alone, since it cannot be sufficient. The major Allies will have the problem of supplying their own armies. Moreover, let us hope that the number of people carrying on large-scale resistance will be larger. And there are bound to be shortages of transport planes and pilots, as well as interference by enemy planes. Liberation movements in a future war must be prepared to rely at least partially upon their own resources.
If the war lasts a long time, it may become necessary to rearm the fighting forces in part. To the extent that there is a shortage of ammunition for their own weapons and calibres, resistance forces will have to adopt enemy weapons and calibres. "Standardizing" armaments will occur in a new form--in accordance with enemy calibres. This would be unthinkable in a frontal war, but is quite natural in a territorial war.
A soldier who received his training during the last war in the school of partisan welfare cannot help regarding present Western defense conceptions with certain misgivings. He must, of course, admit the great value of large divisions equipped with modern arms, powerful weapons for fire support, strategic aviation, atom bombs and atomic artillery, guided missiles and other up-to-date armaments for resisting the aggressor frontally and disorganizing his rear. Along a conventional front in a possible future war similar armaments will no doubt be basic for defense and counter-offensive. But the tendency to underestimate the military importance of resistance by nations which have fallen under enemy occupation, and to think of it only as insignificant auxiliary action by guerrillas and saboteurs, seems shortsighted. The strategic value of liberation wars seems to have been underestimated in Western military planning; not enough is being done to prepare for organized resistance by nations which, owing to their exposed position, might be occupied, at least temporarily. In estimating the relative strength of the Eastern bloc and NATO, the supposition appears to be that all the enemy divisions will be used on the conventional front. But the number the enemy will put there can be considerably reduced by compelling him to fight a territorial war in any nation he overruns. If the assessment of the situation overlooks these huge reserve forces it may weaken Europe's defensive power.
A widespread liberation war has immense strategic importance. In the last war, Jugoslovia prevented the dispatch of any of her own quisling units to other fronts, reduced to a minimum the enemy's ability to draw on the country's production for his own needs, and pinned down over 30 enemy divisions, with more than half a million men. At the end of 1944, for instance, the enemy was compelled to put 40 of his divisions with 580,000 men into the field against 51 Jugoslav divisions and 500,000 men. At the same time, on the Italian front there were only 27 to 28 Axis divisions, consisting of 350,000 men, fighting against 24 Allied divisions.[ii]
The prospects of final victory in an eventual new world war are on the side of the forces united against aggression. This perspective is based not merely on their greater economic resources which may have a decisive influence, but also on their moral advantages in a war which they have done nothing to provoke. Confidence in final victory will give tremendous moral support to all nations which are attacked, including those which might be temporarily occupied. But it cannot by itself maintain the morale of European nations threatened by occupation. They cannot nourish their fighting qualities solely on the hope that, if occupied, they will be freed from the outside. Indeed, that attitude tends to lull a nation's fighting spirit rather than stimulate it. A threatened nation must be made aware that it can defend itself successfully with its own forces and that it should not expect to be rescued by someone else. It must find strength for the struggle within itself; must develop reliance on its own possibilities. Only such a nation can withstand aggression, occupation, terror and reprisals, and win back freedom and independence. If it does, it thereby makes a vital contribution to the joint victory over the aggressor.
A liberation war can be improvised, as Norway, France, Italy and other occupied countries showed in the last war. Even in Jugoslavia the military organization had to be set up, by and large, during the war itself. But it was a difficult, long and painful road, exacting many victims. If the former Jugoslav Army had made any real preparations for prolonging the war against the invader, our Liberation Movement would have developed under much easier circumstances. Victories could have been won more quickly had we started with a situation similar to the one we had created by 1943, for instance, instead of starting under the conditions of 1941.
A new solution of the problem of organizing in advance for territorial warfare should not be sought in the formation of units of a special type, however. The whole army to be used in frontal operations should be trained both for frontal and territorial war, since it is difficult to determine in advance which units will be left behind the enemy lines. Formation of special partisan detachments and groups of saboteurs, detailed to specific areas, is justified, however.
Psychological preparation also plays a very important rôle. Before the last war, one often heard naïve views to the effect that any preparation for occupation, or even talk about the possibility of failure in the frontal resistance, would spread defeatism in the army and among the people. The unrealistic appraisal of the relative forces and the underestimation of the need of preparing for a territorial war were concealed behind talk of the absolute invincibility of this or that nation and the certainty of smashing the enemy by offensive action. And this, in fact, was a tacit admission that the failure of frontal resistance would mean the end of the struggle and the beginning of capitulation and slavery. But a breakthrough by the enemy need not mean the end of all fighting, and least of all does it mean the end of the war; it simply means a transition from one form of warfare to another. True, this is a much more difficult and sanguinary form, but the better and more complete the preparations for it, the less bloody and difficult it will be. Preparations for territorial war in peacetime do not, therefore, spread defeatism in the army and among the people, but open new vistas for saving national honor and independence. Further, they act as a curb on a would-be aggressor and thereby serve the cause of peace. For if an aggressor is sure that by liquidating the frontal resistance of a country, especially a small one, he can destroy all further resistance and compel surrender, he will not hesitate to commit aggression at the convenient time. But if, on the contrary, he is convinced that after occupying the country he will have to fight a terrible, exhausting and prolonged territorial war, over its whole area, he will seriously reconsider the advisability of attacking. Territorial war thus represents a tangible and convincing inducement for a would-be aggressor to respect peace and shun war.
[i] Thus Jugoslavia's capacity for defending her basic strategic approaches is daily increasing, thanks to the growth of her own resources, her alliance with Greece and Turkey, and American aid in war materials.
[ii] In his memoirs, Churchill quoted from a memorandum he had prepared in late 1943: "These guerrilla forces [Jugoslavian and Albanian] are containing as many [German] divisions as are the British and American armies put together." "The Second World War," by Winston S. Churchill. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951, Vol. V, p. 330.