West finally adapting to hybrid warfare



The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is developing a new strategy to speed decision-making and improve its response to the kind of unconventional warfare the West says Russia has used in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reports:

NATO is hoping to complete the strategy in time for a July summit of alliance leaders in Warsaw. In a new effort at cooperation, officials have been working with the European Union, which is putting together its own plans…

A new hybrid warfare playbook would attempt to lay out the kind of assistance the alliance would provide should a member state come under outside pressure from Russia or another country. Such support could include sending cyber experts to help respond to computer hacking attacks, communication specialists to counter propaganda or even the deployment of NATO’s rapid reaction spearhead force…

Liberal democracies are ill-equipped to deal with autocrats’ ‘hybrid warfare’, according to some observers.

The brief disappearance of a girl in Germany recently become an international political issue. Russia is exploiting the case for propaganda purposes as part of its strategy of a hybrid war aimed at destabilizing the West and dividing Europe, Spiegel writes:

In addition to cyber attacks and propaganda, Russia also uses political networks to pursue its disruptive actions in the West. In contrast to the past, the pro-Moscow camp abroad is no longer leftist but staunchly right-wing. Russia sees itself as the leader of a new, global conservatism — anti-liberal, xenophobic and homophobic — against a supposedly decadent West and its decline in values. Moscow uses right-wing groups to advance its agenda.

“The structure is ideologically based on the expansionist neo-Eurasianism of Alexander Dugin [right],” says a report by the Czech intelligence agency BIS. Dugin, a professor in Moscow, dreams of a worldwide “conservative revolution.” He is an adviser to the president of the Russian parliament and a frequent guest on Russian television, and he is seen as Putin’s mentor. The Russian General Staff use Dugin’s book, “The Foundations of Geopolitics,” as a textbook for aspiring officers. Dugin’s goal is to unite right-wing forces in Europe under the banner of a Eurasian movement.

The standard Kremlin response to charges that it’s waging a hybrid war against Europe is that Russia is simply defending itself against similar methods employed by Western powers, analyst Lucian Kim writes for Reuters:

In a speech to Russia’s Academy of Military Sciences in January 2013, Chief-of-Staff Valery Gerasimov complained that Russian knowledge of asymmetric warfare was “superficial.” The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the United States in particular, had demonstrated their mastery of non-military campaigns in the Arab Spring and Ukraine’s pro-Western Orange Revolution in 2004, Gerasimov said.

Such modesty is disingenuous. Disinformation and subversion as weapons of war are as old as catapults and cavalry. The Kremlin’s advantage in the information age is that all of Russia’s major media outlets are under its control, allowing it to hammer its audience with one, unified message. The Kremlin claim that it’s in an “information war” with the West implies that there is vast conspiracy among myriad media in the United States and Europe, public and private, to produce the same lies about Russia.

“Western diplomats are at a loss about how to counter the effects of Kremlin propaganda on Russian speakers in EU countries,” Kim contends. “In March, the European Union established the East StratCom Task Force ‘to address Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns’.”

The West has yet to develop an effective response to what can be variously termed their “asymmetric,” “sub-conventional,” “hybrid,” “non-linear,” “ambiguous,” “unrestricted,” unconventional” and “next-generation warfare” tactics, according to analyst Richard Weitz. Chinese and Russian instruments of influence have included economic coercion, proxy actions, sophisticated propaganda and exploitation of ethnic and other societal tensions. The aggregate effect of these tools has presented a potent hybrid mix that other countries have found difficult to counter.

For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the transatlantic alliance has been forced to seriously consider the physical security of some of its members, including the possibility of a hybrid war, analyst Anne Applebaum wrote for Foreign Affairs.

In a world where social media can become a weapon of disinformation and journalists can be hoodwinked by phony “experts,” we need new methods not just of combating disinformation but of identifying it, explaining it and understanding how it works, argue Applebaum [a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy] and Edward Lucas,  a senior vice president at the Center for European Policy Analysis, and energy, commodities and natural resources editor at The Economist.

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