March 15, 2018

Russian Hybrid Aggression Against the Free World and Democracy Continues. Can It Be Effectively Counteracted?

March 13–14, 2018 the 11th Forum “Europe-Ukraine” was held in Rzeszów, Poland. President of the “Borysfen Intel” Center Victor Hvozd made during a Forum a presentation entitled “Russian Hybrid Aggression Against the Free World and Democracy Continues. Can It Be Effectively Counteracted?”


One of the most critical issues in the modern world is Moscow's aggressive neo-imperial policy, which has already led to the actual new “cold” war between Russia and the West. Within the framework of this policy, Russia's “hybrid” wars against Western countries, international organizations and their partners and allies, especially against Ukraine, continue. At this, the scale of the Kremlin's actions already allows us to talk about its conducting a world “hybrid” war, which in its consequences can be compared with the use of weapons of mass destruction.


As before, the strategic goal of Moscow's “hybrid” wars against the United States, NATO and the EU is to change their position on Russia and to benefit from it in terms of restoring the distribution of spheres of influence in the world.

At the same time, at tactical level, Moscow is trying to influence Western policy towards Ukraine, first of all in the context of lifting the sanctions against the Russian Federation.

Report by the President of “Borysfen Intel” Victor Hvozd at the 11th Europe–Ukraine Forum
in Rzeszów, Poland, 13–14 March, 2018

To date, the Ukrainian issue has become particularly relevant to V. Putin's regime, which is due to a further increase in the negative effects of such sanctions on the Russian economy.

For example, Russia has already spent its Reserve Fund on resolving the country's economic problems and began to use funds from the National Welfare Fund. At this, despite Moscow's statements on the improving economic situation in the country, it remains extremely unstable.

In particular, the temporary restoration of GDP growth in the country, which was observed in the first half of last year, was the result of artificial increase in world oil prices, and not real positive changes in the work of the Russian economy. At the same time, there was a steady downward trend in production volumes in manufacturing industries.


Taking into consideration the above-mentioned circumstances, the leadership of the Russian Federation is intensifying its attempts to influence Western countries through weakening the United States and their positions in the world, and through undermining the unity of NATO and the EU. For this end, a set of tools and methods is used that include:

  • interference in presidential and parliamentary elections in Western countries;

Lately, the most resonant examples of such Kremlin's actions have been its attempts to influence the results of the presidential elections in the USA in the autumn of 2016, as well as presidential elections in France and parliamentary elections in Germany in 2017. In the same period, was pointed out Russia's interference in elections in a number of other countries, including Austria, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Macedonia. Moreover, in the context of the parliamentary elections in Montenegro in the autumn of 2016, Russia tried to organize a coup d'etat in the country.

  • the use of Russian lobby in the political and business circles of the United States and European countries to promote Russian interests, first of all, on lifting sanctions against Russia and support of its policy towards Ukraine;

Actual lobbyists of Moscow's policy are: in Germany — the former Federal Chancellor G. Schröder (is the Chairman of the Board of “Nord Stream AG”); in France, the former President of the country N. Sarkozy and the leader of the “National Front” M. Le Pen; in Italy — former Prime Minister S. Berlusconi; in Hungary — the Prime Minister V. Orban, in Slovakia — the head of the government R. Fico.

Besides, Russia has a powerful lobby in the OSCE, the European Parliament and other European organizations as well as parliaments of individual countries of the European Union. Moscow also strongly relies on leading European companies that have their own interests in the Russian Federation. In particular, this concerns the German companies E.ON and BASF, which are partners of Russian “Gazprom” and have significant assets in the Russian Federation.

  • shaking the political situation in the EU countries, as well as putting pressure on their governments through all sorts of Euro-skeptic, left-wing, nationalist, pro-Russian and radical political forces;

The most active of these forces are as follows: in Germany — the “Alternative for Germany”; in France — the “National Front”; in Italy — the right-wing coalition consisting of the “Forza Italia”, “Northern League”, “Brothers of Italy” and “Fourth Pole” parties; in Austria — “Freedom Party of Austria”; in the Czech Republic — “Action of Dissatisfied Citizens”, “Freedom and Direct Democracy”, Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia; in Hungary — “Fidesz” and “Jobbik”; in Slovakia — SMER; in Bulgaria — “Bulgarian Socialist Party” and the national movement “Attack”; in Lithuania — “Russian Union”; in Estonia — “Reform Party”.

  • strengthening Russia's influence in Europe through the Russian diaspora;

At present, in the territory of the FRG alone, there live about 2.3 million so-called “Russian Germans” who have arrived in Germany since late 1980s and keep in touch with Russia. All in all, the number of Russian-speaking population in the FRG is up to 6 million people, which is a fairly respectable audience for the promotion of pro-Kremlin ideas.

For this purpose, Russia has founded several dozens of different Russian Germans-oriented mass media, including print media, FM radio stations, TV channels and Internet portals. There is also financial and other support for pro-Russian organizations of immigrants from Russia in Germany, in particular the International Convention of Germans from Russia.

  • causing tensions in the EU by provoking a “migration” crisis;

One of the objectives of Russia's interference with the conflict in Syria is to increase the flow of refugees to Europe, which has already led to a complicating socio-economic and criminal situation in the countries of the European Union. This resulted in the growing contradictions between the EU member states over the issue of accepting refugees and the spread of Euro-skeptic and nationalist sentiments in the European society.

  • cyber attacks on computer networks of Western countries in order to get an unauthorized access to closed information and violation of the normal functioning of important objects;

According to US intelligence, Russia is responsible for the world's largest hacker attack on world computer networks, which was conducted in June 2017 with the help of the NotPetya virus. As a result, significant losses were suffered by the United States, EU countries, Ukraine and other enemies of Russia.

Besides, in recent years several other facts of Russian computer attacks on government, military and financial institutions, as well as the control systems of important transport, energy and other infrastructure of different countries have been repeatedly revealed.

  • increase of Russian presence in the information space of Western countries;

In order to increase the effectiveness of Russia's information policy, a new Doctrine of Information Security of the RF was adopted at the end of 2016. According to the document, the main goal of Russia's actions in the information sphere is “the breakthrough of the information blockade by the United States and the EU” within the framework of building “equal interstate relations in the information space” and “formation of a free information circulation environment”.

As part of the practical implementation of the provisions of the document, measures were taken to create a wide network of mass media (including television and radio channels and Internet publications) aimed at the American and European audiences.


Along with this, Russia continues to conduct active “hybrid” wars against Ukraine and other countries of the former USSR of a democratic and European choice, in particular Moldova and Georgia.

At this, the main objective of Moscow's policy towards Ukraine remains to establish control over it and block its movement to Europe. To achieve this goal, the leadership of the Russian Federation focuses its efforts on the following key tasks:

  • creation of conditions for the restoration of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine;
  • disintegration of Ukraine under the guise of its decentralization and federalization;
  • depriving Ukraine of support from the United States and EU countries.
  • provoking disagreements and conflicts in relations between Ukraine and neighboring countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

The main methods of action of the Russian side to achieve the said goals regarding Ukraine are as follows:

  • provoking a social explosion (“Third Maidan”) in Ukraine by initiating all sorts of populist forces;
  • strengthening the pro-Russian lobby in Ukraine, as well as creation on its base of a so-called “fifth column”, ready to participate in social unrest and seizure of power locally;
  • supporting various separatist forces in Ukraine, including Western (Transcarpathian) and South-Western (Northern Bukovina and Southern Bessarabia) regions;

Russia actively supports the idea of the creation of Hungarian and Rusyn autonomies in the Transcarpathian region of Ukraine. To this end, assistance is provided to local Hungarian and Rusyn organizations (the Union of Hungarians in Transcarpathia) and to the nationalist parties of the neighboring countries that stand behind them (first of all, the “Jobbik” Hungarian party).

Similar assistance is provided to Romanian organizations in Odesa region of Ukraine and Romanian nationalist parties who advocate for the creation of “Greater Romania”, through including Ukrainian territories (in particular, the “Greater Romania” party).

  • imposing on Ukraine and its Western partners a Russian variant of the implementation of the Minsk Agreements;

First of all, this concerns Ukraine's implementation of the political part of the peace plan (including granting of special status to self-proclaimed republics) before the withdrawal of Russian troops from the occupied territories and the transfer to Ukraine the control over its Eastern border.

Due to this Moscow is trying to create preconditions for the federalization of Ukraine and to get powerful levers of influence on it and, at the same time, to achieve lifting of Western sanctions against Russia.

  • organization of provocations against citizens and institutions of the USA and EU countries in Ukraine;

The latest provocations were: blasting an explosive device near the US Embassy in Kyiv on June 8, 2017 (on the eve of the consideration in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of a draft law on setting Ukraine's accession to NATO as a priority of its foreign policy); shelling of the Polish Consulate in Lutsk on March 29, 2017; bombing a bus with Polish tourists in Lviv region on December 11, 2017; setting on fire the building of the “Hungarian Culture Association in Transcarpathia” in Uzhhorod on February 4 and 27, 2018; attempts to set on fire Romanian schools in Bukovina. All in all, in February, 2018 alone, there were 12 such provocations and attempts to conduct them.

  • fueling conflicts around historical issues and other disagreements between Ukraine and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe;

In this regard, the most illustrative is Russia's systematic inspiration of conflicts between Ukraine and Poland over the tragic events in Volyn during the Second World War.

Besides, the Law of Ukraine “On Education”, adopted on September 5, 2017, was used by Russia as a headline-making occasion for such actions.


A separate component of Russia's “hybrid” war against Ukraine is its active information campaign to discredit foreign and domestic politics of Ukraine, incitement of the population to anti-government protests, excessive sharpening of attention to economic and other problems of the country, as well as formation of public opinion about the “futility” of Ukraine's integration with Europe and “inevitability” of its further disintegration.


The above-mentioned activity of Russia is organized and coordinated at the highest state level in the administration of the president of the country and is realized through different state bodies and non-governmental organizations. The main ones are: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Federal Agency “Rossotrudnichestvo”, which use a set of relevant instruments, including mass media, information and analytical centers and special funds.

According to European experts, among such media, Russian pseudo-news agencies and multimedia services, in particular Sputnik, TV channel RT and the “Russian World” Foundation, are the greatest threat to the EU.

At this, Russia's measures of “hybrid” wars have priority funding from the state budget of the country. For example, 18.7 billion rubles a year is allocated to support the work of the television and radio channel “Russia Today” alone.

All this makes Russia's “hybrid” wars systemic and increases their efficiency and effectiveness. Thus, Moscow's actions have greatly contributed to the spread of Euro-skeptic, nationalist, left, and in some cases extremist and pro-Russian sentiments in Europe. In general, these trends have already led to a number of negative consequences for the European Union. The most talked-about of them were:

  • the UK's withdrawal from the EU (the so-called Brexit) by the results of the referendum in June 2016. In turn, this provoked activation of supporters of the idea of leaving the EU also in other countries, in particular in the Netherlands, France, Greece, Italy, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia;
  • the crisis around Catalonia due to attempts to withdraw from Spain after the referendum on October 1, 2017. Despite the suppression by the central authority of the separatists' rallies, Catalonia remains a powerful source of internal instability, both in Spain and in the EU as a whole;
  • aggravation of Polish-Ukrainian and Hungarian-Ukrainian relations as a result of Poland's adoption of the Law “On the Institute of National Remembrance” and Hungary's negative reaction to Ukraine's Law “On Education”. In such a situation, Hungary has already begun to create barriers to cooperation between Ukraine and NATO and the EU.


The danger of the considered tendencies, which pose a direct threat to the security of the USA, NATO and the EU, as well as their partners, first of all Ukraine, necessitates creation of a comprehensive international system to counter Russia's “hybrid” wars.

To date, the basis of such a system has already been created within the framework of relevant decisions of Western countries and international organizations and practical actions for their implementation.


As you know, at the level of the European Union, of great importance was the adoption by the EU leadership of a number of conceptual documents, which recognized Moscow's conducting aggressive “hybrid” wars against Europe, and established countermeasures against the Russian Federation.

Such documents include:

  • Joint Framework on Countering Hybrid Threats (April 2016);
  • EU Global Strategy (June 2016);
  • Resolution of the European Parliament “EU Strategic Communication to Counteract Propaganda Against It by Third Parties” (December 2016);
  • Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on the Implementation of the Joint Framework on Countering Hybrid Threats (July 2017);
  • EU Cybersecurity Strategy (July 2017).

In turn, this allowed to focus the efforts of the governing bodies of the EU on blocking Moscow's negative influence and to create the infrastructure necessary for ensuring such actions.

The main elements of such infrastructure are:

  • EU Hybrid Fusion Cell, as part of the EU Intelligence and Situation Center (EU INTCEN) of the European External Action Service;
  • East StratCom Task Force;
  • EU Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA);
  • Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT);
  • Computer Emergency Response Team in the EU (CERT-EU);
  • special services of EU countries.

NATO has created its own system of institutions for countering “hybrid” wars.

The main of these institutions are:

  • European (EU-NATO) Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE, Finland);
  • NATO Computer Incident Response Capability (NCIRC) Technical Center.

It is good, that there is close cooperation between the EU and NATO in this sphere, which allows to combine their efforts to protect transatlantic security from external “hybrid” threats.

The legal basis for EU-NATO cooperation is:

  • Joint Framework (section “Increasing cooperation with NATO”) on Countering Hybrid Threats (April 2016);
  • Report of the European Parliament “Countering Hybrid Threats: EU-NATO Cooperation” (March 2017).

The organization of cooperation is carried out:

  • through the European (EU-NATO) Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE, Finland);
  • at the level of institutions of the European Union and NATO with similar functions;
  • during joint crisis management exercises, in particular: Crisis Management Exercise 2017 (CMX 17) and Multi-Layer Crisis Management Exercise 2018 (ML 18).


A separate system of counteracting “hybrid” threats from Russia is being created in the United States.

The main components of such a system include:

  • Special interdepartmental committee for coordination of actions of US intelligence services in the sphere of combating external influence;
  • Special Congressional Commission for Investigating Russia's Intervention in the US Presidential Election;
  • Global Engagement Center (GEC);
  • Information Access Fund (offers competitive grants for public and private partners working in the field of counteracting propaganda and disinformation from foreign nations);
  • American intelligence services.

In 2018, 40 million US dollars were allocated to support the activities of the Global Engagement Center alone, which shows the country's increased attention to this issue.


Since 2014, Ukraine has been actively creating a system of counteracting Russia's “hybrid” wars which is of particular importance for our country.

The main steps in building such a system are:

  • Designation of the conceptual measures of counteracting Russia's actions in the “hybrid” sphere, in particular:

adoption of the new Concept for the Development of the Security and Defense Sector of Ukraine (March 2016);

drafting the Law “On National Security of Ukraine”.

  • Legislative restrictions on the activities of pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, including:

prohibition of the activities of the Communist Party of Ukraine;

conducting a court trial on the prohibition of the activities of the Party of Regions in Ukraine.

  • Strengthening the counteraction to anti-Ukrainian propaganda, namely, the adoption of:

the Law of Ukraine “On the Condemnation of the Communist and National-Socialist (Nazi) Totalitarian Regimes in Ukraine and Prohibition of Propaganda of Their Symbols” (April 2015);

the Law of Ukraine “On Amending Some Laws on Creation of Printed Media by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine for the Time of Anti-Terrorist Operation” (May 2017);

Information Security Doctrine of Ukraine (February 2017).

  • Ensuring protection of the Ukrainian language, culture and education, including:

adoption of the Law of Ukraine “On Education” (September 2017);

cancellation of the declared unconstitutional Law “On the Principles of the State Language Policy” (March 2014; February 2018; was adopted in the times of V. Yanukovych's regime).

  • Improving of the protection of strategically important objects, including the adoption:

the NSDCU's decision “On Improving Measures to Protect the Critical Infrastructure of Ukraine” (December 2016);

the Concept of Creation of a Critical Infrastructure Protection State System (January 2018).

  • Improving of the protection of the Ukrainian cybernetic space, including:

creation of centers for responding to cyber threats as part of the state information infrastructure.

As of today, a Situational Center for cyber security has been created on the basis of the Department of counter-intelligence protection of the state's interests in the sphere of information security of the SBU. To ensure its work, the necessary technical equipment and software have been obtained within the framework of the implementation of the first phase of the agreement on implementation of NATO Trust Fund Ukraine–Cyber Defence.


A significant factor that raises Ukraine's ability to counter Russia's “hybrid” wars is our state's cooperation in this sphere with the USA, the EU and NATO.

At present, the most important forms of such cooperation are:

  • Implementation of a joint project within which the East StratCom Task Force analyzes the channels and ways of spreading Russian propaganda in Ukraine;
  • Active work of Western media on exposing the realities of the Putin regime's policy on the Ukrainian direction, as well as supporting Ukraine's actions in confrontation with the Russian Federation;
  • The USA, NATO and EU's advisory assistance to Ukraine on containment of Russia's “hybrid” wars, including through representations in Kyiv and other bodies (in particular the NATO Information and Documentation Center);
  • Funding by Western countries and international organizations of special programs to support the reform process in Ukraine, facilitating the work of Ukrainian mass media, and providing grants for the implementation of various types of projects involving non-governmental organizations;
  • Deepening cooperation between the United States, NATO, the EU and Ukraine in the sphere of cybernetic security.

In particular, recently a “Ukraine Cybersecurity Cooperation Act” has been adopted in the USA, which provides assistance to our state in improving the national concept of cybersecurity, and taking practical measures to protect the computer networks of state bodies and reducing Ukraine's dependence on Russian information and communication technologies.

  • Trainings in protecting critical infrastructure, including with participation of the NATO Energy Security Center of Excellence.


The work of these bodies and systems has already yielded tangible positive results. First of all, this relates to a more adequate understanding by the USA and Europe of real goals and direction of Moscow's policy, as well as the methods of its implementation. In turn, this allowed to increase the resistance to the Kremlin's attempts to implement its plans for the United States, NATO and the EU. At the same time, Ukraine's ability to confront Russia's armed aggression with the elements of a “hybrid” war has substantially increased.


At the same time, neither the United States and Europe, nor Ukraine, can completely block Moscow's negative influence. The proof of this is strengthening of positions of Euro-skeptic, pro-Russian, nationalist and left-wing parties and movements as shown by the results of parliamentary elections in the EU countries in 2017.

Results of parliamentary elections in some EU countries in 2017:

  • Germany (September 24): “Alternative for Germany” — third place (11.5 % of votes);
  • Austria (October 15): “Freedom Party of Austria” — second place (26 %);
  • Czech Republic (October 21): “Action of Dissatisfied Citizens” — first place (29.6 %); “Freedom and Direct Democracy” — fourth place (10.6 %); Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia — fifth place (7.7 %).

Similar trends are also observed in Ukraine. In particular, lately, various populist forces have intensified their activity trying to shake the political situation in the country.


All this is largely due to the inadequacy of the systems of countering Russia's “hybrid” wars, for which there are both, objective and subjective reasons. To date, the main ones are as follows:

  • absence of an integrated, coherent strategy for blocking Russia's actions in the “hybrid” sphere in the USA, Europe and Ukraine. Actually, such actions are tactical and situational in nature, and the interaction of parties is organized only on some, though important, directions;
  • insufficient determination of the EU leadership and, unfortunately, of Ukraine as the main object of aggression on the part of Moscow, in taking critical steps to counteract Russia’s influence. In particular, Russian mass media, public organizations and representative offices of “Rossotrudnichestvo”, which are the main tools of Russia's “hybrid” wars, continue to work in both, EU countries and Ukraine;
  • Russian lobby in the political and economic circles of the USA, EU countries and Ukraine, which creates obstacles in conducting effective policy of deterring the Russian Federation. The manifestations of this are the appeals of individual politicians and businessmen, both in the West and in Ukraine, about the need to stop the pressure on Russia and renew cooperation with it;
  • problems in relations between Ukraine and EU countries, including economic and historical ones. The unresolved issues keep getting activised periodically, as a result of Russian provocations and irresponsible actions by local political forces, and create additional obstacles for deepening the cooperation between Ukraine and its European counterparts in countering Moscow's policy;
  • lack of, and in a number of cases, inefficiencies in the use of funds allocated by the EU countries and Ukraine’s governments to contain the Russian Federation. In addition, a particular problem is the lack of professionals who can work effectively in countering Russia's “hybrid” wars.


Such problems will require further joint work of the United States, Europe and Ukraine to build and enhance the effectiveness of the system of containing Moscow's neo-imperial policy, including in the “hybrid” sphere. First of all, in this regard, it is considered appropriate to focus on the following main areas:

  • development of a more active and offensive comprehensive strategy to counter Russia's “hybrid” wars. Thus, it is necessary to move from the containment of Moscow's actions to taking active steps to influence the situation in Russia and its foreign policy with the use of a whole range of political, economic, informational and special methods and measures;
  • establishment of the tight and comprehensive cooperation between the USA, the EU and Ukraine in this sphere. The solution to this issue would be to create a centralized system of international and national institutions, including:

an international advisory center with the functions of designation and generalization of the “hybrid” threats from Russia, for developing a common strategy for action and response, and coordinating the steps to implement them;

national centers with the task to assess threats to their countries in the “hybrid” sphere and organize activities to protect national interests;

a system of structures for the implementation of appropriate measures, including: special services, non-governmental organizations and mass media.

  • ensuring proper financing of Russia's containment measures; increasing the efficiency of financial expenditures; training of the relevant professionals, including at the international level;
  • increasing the state's attention to non-governmental organizations that may be involved in countering Russia's “hybrid” wars.


The implementation of these steps will require the political will of the leadership of all interested countries, including overcoming the fear of further deterioration of relations with Russia, giving preference to common values over national interests, as well as resolving existing interstate disagreements based on common interests.

The rejection of this approach will have extremely negative consequences in terms of weakening and undermining the unity of Western civilization, which will lead to further spread of chaos in the world. The consequence of this will also be increased threats of armed conflicts and wars of local, regional and world levels.