Many continue to report on the war as it is a conventional war that started on 24 February 2022. Additionally, some claims that Russia has failed to achieve any of its objectives and that its political goals for Ukraine are constantly being downgraded.
I strongly disagree. Russia has not given up on its aim of subjugating Ukraine and destroying the Ukrainian nation. It is still striving for great power status at the cost of the West. While its tactical and operational aim and objectives may have changed, its strategic aims remain fixed.
Ukraine is today exposed to the very same war it has been defending itself against since 20 February 2014. Russia is still the aggressor. Its aim and objectives remain the same. Ukraine is still being exposed to a Hybrid War.
The only thing that has (temporarily) shifted is the timeline. But even that is surprisingly consistent. What started as a long-term strategy became temporarily an attempted blitzkrieg, before reverting to what it always was: a protracted war.
As such, the overall strategy remains, in principle, the same. It’s a Hybrid War and the parallel and synchronized use of both military and non-military means to destabilize and undermine nations from within.
A perfectly synchronized plan
Synchronization is the ability to effectively coordinate the employment of both military and non-military means in time, space, and purpose to create the desired effects. It allows Russia to “escalate” or “de-escalate” both horizontally and vertically.
In this context, horizontal escalation or de-escalation refers to it’s the many instruments of power being applied in parallel. For example, by escalating the military aggressions (as it did on 24 February), and simultaneously intensifying its diplomatic, political, economic, and information efforts, Russia can achieve effects greater than through a one-dimensional military effort only. Instead of only military gains, Russia ensures multiple effects across NATO, the EU and Ukraine (e.g. impact on foreign policy, diplomatic initiatives, bilateral relationships, finance markets, costs of living, information sphere, public opinion, fear, and more).Wars can rarely, if ever, be won on the cheap. The battle for Ukraine is no exception.” Click To Tweet
The strategy allows it to both shift the balance between the different means employed as well as escalate and de-escalate within the various means. During the first eight years of the war, Russia focused its efforts on non-military means, while the use of military force had a supporting – but still crucially important – role. Currently, Russia’s main effort is military, while its non-military means support its overall efforts. However, The moment negotiations start, this balance will again shift.
This is why The Washington Post‘s observation is significant:
“Europe shouldn’t let Ukraine go into default. If Ukraine loses the economic war, it will lose militarily too. Wars can rarely, if ever, be won on the cheap. The battle for Ukraine is no exception.”
It goes to the heart of the Russian strategy. A potential victory will be the result of a collective and cross-sectorial effort aimed at exploiting the weaknesses of the opponent(s).
The ability to effectively coordinate the employment of both military and non-military instruments means that the latter becomes a force multiplier.
Being militarily inferior to NATO, the ability to synchronize its complete toolkit, combined with risk willingness, a quick decision-making process, and military posture, puts Russia potentially on near equal footing with NATO.
If we continue to portray the war as a conventional war, we – the USA, Europe, NATO, and Ukraine might end up being defeated. It will hinder us from developing an effective counterstrategy.
Fortunately, having been exposed to the hybrid war for more than eight years already, Ukraine has taken the lead in developing an efficient counterstrategy. The National Security Strategy of Ukraine (NSS), approved by the Decree of the President of Ukraine of 14 September, 2020, identified a broad set of risks and threats, as well as national structural weaknesses.
The hybrid threat was one of the threats identified, and the insufficient efficiency of state bodies was seen as one of its structural weaknesses. Consequently, the NSS introduced the task of introducing a national resilience system to increase the preparedness of both society and the state.[quote floatt=left]It is a brilliant concept that, if properly implemented, will render the Russian Hybrid War ineffective.[/quote]One year later, the President approved “The Concept of ensuring the national resilience system.” It is aimed at ensuring the ability of the state and society to identify threats, identify vulnerabilities and assess national security risks, and their negative impacts, respond effectively and recover quickly and fully from emergencies or emergencies of all kinds, including but not limited to hybrid threats. It is a brilliant concept that, if properly implemented, will render the Russian Hybrid War ineffective.
While the Russian Hybrid War aims to undermine democracy, the main aim of the National Resilience System is to strengthen democracy.
Allies’ part is crucial
Its success, however, is based on continued cross-sectorial support by the USA and the EU. The non-military support by the EU and NATO is, in this context, as crucial as the comprehensive military support from the USA.
Since NATO has refused to intervene militarily to both defend Ukraine and stop the “tsunami of ripple effects” from the war, the EU’s role in ensuring western and Ukrainian resilience in a protracted war has become more crucial. Continued economic support is but one field essential for a Ukrainian victory.While the Russian Hybrid War aims to undermine democracy, the main aim of the National Resilience System is to strengthen democracy. Click To Tweet
I find it rather ironic that trying to avoid the costs of an UN-mandated humanitarian intervention in Ukraine by NATO (or a coalition of willing), we are, in effect, accepting potentially far bigger costs. This includes loss of military deterrence, loss of security and stability, economic recession, increasing costs of living, the lack of energy and food security, and more, as well as the ensuing risk of unrest, riots, and possible collapse of governments.
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