May 04, 2023

Russian Military Debates AI Development and Use

Over the past decade, artificial intelligence (AI) moved front and center in the Russian military’s thinking about new concepts and technologies for current and future wars. Following the Ukraine invasion, and the imposition of IT and high-tech sanctions on the Russian Federation, the Russian government and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) are seeking ways to adapt to the resulting environment. The MOD considers AI as a decision-making tool and a key element in managing uncrewed technologies with a human-in-the-loop as a guiding approach to research and development.

Ultimately, Russia’s military performance in Ukraine and the Ukrainian military’s adoption of new and emerging technologies may likewise inform the domestic debate on the use of AI in combat.

Statements made by the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government to communicate the importance of AI have reflected the national aim to become an AI RDTE&F (research, development, testing, evaluation and fielding) leader – an ambition that can certainly be thwarted going forward due to sanctions that have affected Russian IT and high-tech industry during the Ukraine war. In his speeches, the Russian head of state notes that AI is pivotal to Russia’s future, noting that the artificial intelligence competition among states is fierce, and Russia’s place in the world, along with the nation’s sovereignty and security depends on AI research and development results. In the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, defining national sovereignty has evolved into arguing for Russia’s “technological sovereignty”, a concept best described as diminished dependence on imported Western technology and growing reliance on the domestic ability to produce key high-tech systems of importance to strategic industries, such as AI.

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