CounterPropaganda · Information Warfare · Propaganda · Russia · Ukraine

Russia’s Hybrid War in Ukraine: Breaking the Enemy’s Ability to Resist


104 Pages. Good report and the author brings up great points.

I have a few points of contention, however.

Guerilla Warfare. I have watched the Ukraine crisis unfold twice. First in Crimea, the second time in East Ukraine. Having learned guerilla warfare in US Special Forces intimately, I was struck by the similarity of techniques.  Guerilla warfare was usually used against a militarily superior force, it is the original asymmetric warfare. Guerilla warfare is intended to use a superior military’s dominance against it, usually intended to demonstrate to the ‘people’ that the government cannot protect them from even such a tiny force.  This is intended to embarrass the government and reinforce the notion that the guerilla force cares about the people more.  I am paraphrasing like heck, here, and leaning on lessons I learned in the 1970s, so my words may not be precise.  The only difference between guerilla warfare, as taught in Special Forces in the 70s and what we are seeing in Ukraine is the overwhelming threat of the Russian military backing up the rebels as well as the clear support and financing of the Russian government. Once Ukraine determined that the RF was not going to attack and Russia was not a credible threat, they launched their Anti-Terrorist Operations against the rebels (p 65).

Guerilla warfare using modern tools?  For everything I have seen, what we are seeing fits easily into the mold of guerilla warfare using modern technology.  Modern weapons, a well equipped force and an overwhelming information war gave the rebel (guerillas) a distinct advantage over Ukraine.

Information warfare supported by conventional forces?  I could not help wonder why the author is predisposed to the notion that military forces were being supported by an information war. I propose that the Russian information war was dominant and using the rebel forces on the ground, the Russian military, diplomats, national leadership, media, online operators, Russian NGOs and others to repeat/use centrally generated memes in support.

In the following paragraph the ‘intensive information campaign’ appears to be an afterthought, reacting to actions on the ground. In reality, some of the information activities often accidentally preceded the action and usually accompanied the action.  Accounting for the delay between publishing and the target audience reading and internalizing the information, a delay might make the information’s usefulness negligible. The delay never seemed to occur, which supports my theory.

These offensive operations were supported by an extremely intensive information campaign aimed at fazing decision-makers, generating despair, fear and dissatisfaction vis-à-vis the central government, and weakening the resistance potential of the local Ukrainian army and police units by lowering their morale. (p 61)

The following paragraph, in Chapter 6, conclusions, made my head spin.

In terms of its content, hybrid war did not constitute a real novelty. Basically, all the tools and means employed by Russia in the framework of hybrid warfare have long been parts of the Soviet/Russian foreign and security policy inventory, as well as of the history of asymmetric warfare. The only real novelty was the highly effective, in many cases almost real-time coordination of the various means employed, including political, military, special operations and information measures. (p 87)

Overall, great report, although I believe the author embraced the term hybrid warfare too easily, only because it is en vogue, popular to use.


The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

András Rácz

Since the change of power in Ukraine in February 2014, Russia has been swift to occupy and annex the Crimean peninsula. In April 2014, separatist riots broke out in Eastern Ukraine, following a very similar pattern to those in Crimea. These actions were accompanied by a strong and intensive, well-coordinated diplomatic, economic and media campaign both in Ukraine and abroad, also supported by pressure exerted by the large Russian military units lined up along the border with Ukraine.

The form of warfare Russia employed in Ukraine in 2014, often called hybrid war, has been aimed at defeating the target country by breaking its ability to resist without actually launching a full-scale military attack. In line with contemporary Russian military thinking on new generation warfare, hybrid war is built on the combined use of military and non-military means, employing basically the whole spectrum of a states policy inventory, including diplomatic, economic, political, social, information and also military means.

This report aims to seek answers to two main research questions. First, what are the main features and characteristics of Russias hybrid warfare as conducted in Ukraine? Derived from the first, the second research question is focused on the operational prerequisites for the Russian hybrid war. In other words, is the Russian hybrid war a universal warfare method deployable anywhere, or is it more country or region-specific?

Download Report (.pdf)

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