There are so many aspects to Vladimir Putin’s “hybrid” war against the West that it is remarkably easy for Moscow to hide what it is doing one place by doing something else elsewhere. That makes the annotated checklist of his “arsenal” of such measures provided by Tallinn’s International Centre for Defense and Security especially valuable.
That listing, contained in a 3800-word article prepared by analysts at the Centre under the direction of Yevgeny Tsibulenko and Dmitry Teperik, focuses first on what Moscow has done in Ukraine, what it is doing elsewhere, and, importantly, on cases where foreign societies and governments have defeated it.
The article takes the form of a list of 10 features of Putin’s arsenal of “hybrid” means:
1. “Ukraine is the proving ground where Russia tests the weapons and tactics of hybrid aggression which it then applies to the destabilization of the situation in the US and the EU countries. The methods Russia uses are often the classic ‘active measures’ from the KGB handbook.”
2. “Russia can seek to destabilize the situation even before the conclusion of elections in Ukraine in order to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the newly-elected President.”
3. “Yet another Russian means to destabilize Ukrainian elections is a creation of fake pages of oblast and district organizations, political parties and candidates for disseminating unreliable information over the course of entire campaign.”
4. Moscow can again (as it did in 2013) force the Kyiv political leadership to take actions that will provoke popular reactions and then seek to exploit those reactions to its own ends.
5. “Social networks can become the instruments of geopolitical influence which Russia fully used at the time of the annexation of Crimea and the unleashing of war in the east of Ukraine.”
6. “The Kremlin will use the religious factor in the presidential elections in Ukraine.”
7. Moscow will use similar hybrid tactics to undermine the unity of Europe, to destabilize the EU and NATO and to legitimatize and strengthen its authority on the international scene.
8. To that end, “Russia will use a very broad spectrum of levers for influence on European countries from harsh ones like military threats or economic and energy blackmail to soft including a network of Russian and pro-Russian agents of influence, and also hybrid ones, including influence via the spread of disinformation in the mass media and so on.”
The authors list the following means: high level contacts, business and economic links, energy leverage, support for pro-Russian politicians, cooperation with and support for ultra-right groups, disinformation through mass media, espionage, the use of migrants from the former Soviet space, and any unique opportunities a country may present.
9. This arsenal of Russian hybrid war can and has been countered via the mass media and social media, the expulsion of Russian diplomats, and the identification and punishment of Russian spies.
10. Further, it can be countered by holding Russia accountable for its violation of international law in Ukraine and elsewhere.
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- The rise and decline of Donbas: how the region became “the heart of Soviet Union” and why it fell to Russian hybrid war
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- How Ukraine counters use of drones by Russian hybrid forces
- Deception, Disinformation, and Doubt: Hybrid Warfare in Eastern Ukraine
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