October 21, 2015

Today's Russia's “Hybrid Policy” as a Strategy for the Implementation of Its National Geopolitics

Yuriy Radkovets


War — Politics Ratio

We all know the famous popular quotations of the famous Prussian General and military theorist, reformer and historian Carl von Clausewitz: “War is the continuation of policy by other means” and “The military must submit to politicians”. Although the General as the Commander did not show himself special, but he became famous for his unfinished work “On War” (“Vom Kriege” — in German), devoted to questions of the theory of war. His theories of strategy, tactics and philosophy of war significantly affected the development of military thought in the West, and up to now have been taught in military academies and are widely used in the management of enterprises and in the marketing business included.

He is also echoed by the definitions of the well-known American Military Commander, a Four-Star General William Westmoreland: “Wars are started by politicians and ended by soldiers”, or in another interpretation: “The military don't start wars. Politicians start wars”. This military was directly involved in World War II, Korean Wars, he commanded the units and formations of the Airborne Forces, headed the prestigious Military School of West Point, he was the commander of the whole US military contingent in South Vietnam (1964-1968). During the Vietnam War — the main event in his life, — he was the Chief of Staff of the US Army (1968-1972) — one of the highest military posts in the Armed Forces of the United States. In all positions and at all times he had to make responsible decisions and to solve complex problems. Up to now, his military experience and practice are subject to studying by military specialists all over the world.

Thus, considering the above-mentioned basic definitions of famous theorists and practitioners of military science, under the current conditions of the Russian Federation's using against Ukraine of technologies and mechanisms of the “hybrid war” and “hybrid peace”, the logical question is: what then is the essence, content and focus of the “hybrid policy” of the Russian Federation in relation to Ukraine and countries of the former Soviet Union, member countries and partners of the European Union and NATO, and other Western countries?

And in general, how today can be defined the concept (category) of the “hybrid policy”?

The Definition of the Concept (Category) of the “Hybrid Policy”

In April 2015, there took place a presentation of the publication “Hybrid War: To Survive and Win”, — that's the title Yevhen Mahda, Ukrainian political analyst and political expert, Director of the Center of Public Relations, Doctor of Political Sciences, gave to his book. The book tells about the historical, energy and information-psychological aspects of the “hybrid war” and gives reasons for which Ukraine has become a victim of the Russian aggression. In fact, this is the first scientific and journalistic research in Ukrainian Political Science. Later, in an article for Media Sapiens, Yevhen Mahda in plain language answers the main questions about “hybrid war”: what its background is, when it started and whether Russia had been preparing for the “hybrid war”; he tells about the sources of the Donbas separatism; offers a recipe of Ukraine's victory in the “hybrid war” and so on.

But, unfortunately, neither in the book nor in the article, Ye. Mahda gives a definition of the Russian Federation's “hybrid policy”, from which “hybrid war” and “hybrid peace” have derived. In this context, his research can be considered not fully completed.


The publication of Ye. Mahda's book and article was preceded by the scientific analytical article “Hybrid Warfare” as a Key Instrument of the Russian Revenge Geostrategy”, by V. Horbulin Director of the National Institute for Strategic Studies, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor, Academician of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, which had been previously published in the scientific NISS analytical quarterly “Strategic Priorities” (Issue 4, p.5-12, 2014), and January 23, 2015 — in “Dzerkalo Tyzhnya. Ukraina”, Issue 2. In this article, V. Horbulin reviews and analyzes, including referring to foreign experts, the problem of conceptualizing the notion of “hybrid war” in the context of the Russian Federation's realization of its geo-strategy of revenge. He also shows features of implementation of “hybrid warfare” in the situation of the Russian aggression against Ukraine (within the framework of the “war of three quarters”), especially on examples of the events in the Crimea and Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as its energy and information components, and has formulated conclusions and recommendations for Ukraine in terms of its countering Russia's “hybrid war”.

Thus, this scientific-analytical study does not define the category of the Russian Federation's “hybrid policy” either. At the same time, in his article, Horbulin (both, in the title and in the text), stresses the fact that “... Russia's “hybrid war” against Ukraine is a key instrument of the Russian Revenge Geostrategy”, whose ultimate goal is gradual but steady resumption of Russian influence and weight in the international arena — and this is a political (or geo-political, to be exact) category! In fact, this article gives an approach to the definition of the term “hybrid policy” (“hybrid geopolitics”).


In Russia, the starting point of modern scientific-theoretical researches on the phenomenon of “hybrid wars” is considered the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces General V. Gerasimov's report “Main Trends in the Development of Forms and Methods of Using the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and Actual Tasks of Military Science to Improve Them” at the general meeting of the Academy of Military Sciences of the Russian Federation in late January 2013 in Moscow. His report is a synthesis of a quite long work of the group of military analysts and professionals (leading experts) of the General Staff, who for a certain time were engaged in conceptualizing the problem of the “hybrid war” in modern conditions, and seeking mechanisms to address it.



In fact, the real author of the main provisions of the “hybrid war” is a Soviet military theorist, Divisional Commander Georgi Isserson, who back in 1940 presented them in his book “New Forms of Struggle”, despite the fact that it contradicted the prevailing at the time in the art of war views, within the framework of the pre-war reorganization of the Workers and Peasants' Red Army, which no longer relied on the cavalry, but on armored vehicles and aviation.


This report also showed how a modern military-political conflict should develop, what components should be used in it, and at what stage. Besides, the report mentioned the growing role of non-military methods of pressure on the enemy, primarily through political (diplomatic), economic and humanitarian elements. As for the information component, it was defined as the core activity at all stages of the conflict: its origin, maintenance and post-conflict period. Special attention was paid to “asymmetrical measures”, which included activities of special forces; support to the internal opposition and collaborators, as well as strengthening of the targeted informational influence on the object of attack.


From the report of
Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces


Now we can confidently state that a lot of the unveiled in the Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General V. Gerasimov's report, was practically used during Russia's annexation of the Crimea, and then in the East of Ukraine. That is, today we can say that against Ukraine there began and now is going on a full-fledged war — “hybrid” in form and “asymmetric” in content, as a “logical” continuation of Russia's “hybrid policy” against Ukraine, which began with the proclamation of its independence and has continued lately in order to return Ukraine into the sphere of Russia's influence. In such wars regular armed forces are used only at final stages — in case the campaign had been planned correctly, which was confirmed in the Crimea, but was not confirmed in the Donbas. At the same time, this report does not contain a direct definition of the “hybrid policy” either.


From the report of Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces (www.vpk-news.ru)


As for foreign experts, among a number of leading analysts (a world-class strategist, a leading military analyst, Professor of Military History, a Consultant of the Ministry of Defense, the Israeli polemologist Martin van Creveld; a former Security Adviser to the UN and NATO, a member of the Upper Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, Major General Retired Frank van Kappen; a famous American military theorist Frank Hoffman; an American military theorist, the author of “The Accidental Guerrilla” David Kilcullen; a former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; the author of the book “Strategic Consequences of Hybrid Wars: the Theory of Victory”, Lieutenant General of the US Air Forces D. Lasica) there is no one to have assessed the phenomenon of the “hybrid policy”.

But in principle this can be explained and understood, because they all were mainly military experts and analysts, whose main task was to define the phenomenon of the “hybrid war”, its components, methods, techniques and mechanisms of implementation, peculiarities of the stages of preparation and conduct, content of “asymmetric” measures and so on. That is, they actually did not pay attention to the definition of the term “hybrid policy” because they were focused on its derivative category of “hybrid warfare”.



As a result of hard work on the analysis and evaluation of the available materials, experts of the Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies “Borysfen Intel” have made the following definition:

“Hybrid policy” is a targeted complex use of political, diplomatic, economic (including credit and financial, fuel and energy, military-technical, etc.) trade, as well as information-propaganda and others, including unconventional (“asymmetric”) measures of a State (or a coalition of states) to subdue the internal and external policies of another/other state(s) with the help of a wide range of hidden methods and mechanisms of bribing, intimidating and blackmailing of both, the leadership of political and business elites and various party and community groups, and the population of those states in general.

So, based on the definition and content of the concept “hybrid policy,” we can say that this is a geopolitical category, because “hybrid policy” is aimed first of all at subordination of a state's (states') domestic and foreign policy to some other state through a wide spectrum of “asymmetric” measures.

It should be noted that, as a rule, “hybrid policy” has a hidden, but offensive and, in general, aggressive nature towards another state (other states) both in “near abroad” and in “far abroad” countries, as well as in common with surrounding countries, economic, informational, cultural and other areas.

Features, Goals and Actions of the Russian “Hybrid Policy”

In this context, in geopolitical plans and projects of the Russian Federation on implementation of measures of the “hybrid policy” in current conditions more and more prevalent is its purely national geopolitics and somewhat modified law of power (within the framework of the “hybrid war” and “hybrid peace”). In terms of solving these problems, the Russian Federation's geo-strategy determines a number of events (“asymmetric” ones included), aimed at strengthening Russia's political, economic and military power, preservation and strengthening of its international influence, as well as creation of political, economic and other (secure ones included) alliances with other countries. That is, Russia's current geo-strategy is first of all focused on its national interests.

The main essence and content of Russia's “hybrid policy” towards certain countries (Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Greece, Serbia, Macedonia, Finland, Poland, the United States) or coalitions of countries (the EU, NATO, the CIS, the Baltic States, the countries of the Black Sea, Balkan countries), among other things, is seen in the respective plans (projects and programs) through their targeted spreading or declaration (through different channels and from different sources) in the form of threats, fakes, rumors, “information bombs” and so on.

As an example, we will give only a partial list of actual components of today's Russia's “hybrid policy,” in view of its national interests with respect to:

  • plans for a possible use of nuclear weapons by the Russian side in its future confrontation with the NATO/USA;
  • the existing “direct threat” from the NATO USA to the Russian Federation;
  • plans to implement different types of projects (creation of the state “Novorissia”; integration of the occupied territories of the Donbas into the Russian Federation; creation of separate state entities — “Donetsk People's Republic” and “Luhansk People's Republic”; integration of the occupied territories of Donbas into Ukraine on the principles of federalization; bringing Russia's peacekeeping forces to the Donbas and so on);
  • Russia's plans to conduct a large-scale operation against Ukraine with access to the Crimea and Trans-Dniester, or the capture of Kyiv and the whole left-bank Ukraine;
  • recognition of the legitimacy of the Crimean Peninsula's belonging to the Russian Federation in exchange for Russia's stopping the war in the Donbas;
  • resuscitation of ideas of the so-called “Second Yalta” and “Second Potsdam” — as the Kremlin's backroom agreements with the United States;
  • spreading of information that the United States has “given away” Ukraine to Moscow in exchange for its support in Iran, Syria and the IS /“Islamic State”/ issues;
  • propaganda of resolving of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis peacefully on the principles of federalization of Ukraine according to “Bosnian scenario” or a “second Chechnya”, or “freezing” of the conflict like in Trans-Dniester, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagornyi Karabakh;
  • Ppreparations for the “hybrid war” against the countries of the Baltic, Black Sea, Georgia, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Finland, Poland, etc;
  • the launch of the plan to build gas pipelines to Europe, bypassing Ukraine and to the East — to China and Japan.

According to most of the leading Western and Ukrainian experts (diplomats, political scientists, analysts and military experts), within the framework of such a “hybrid policy”, Moscow is resolutely and aggressively set to return Ukraine into the sphere of Russia's influence at any cost.




Russia against Ukraine

In the context of implementation of the Russian Federation's “hybrid policy” against Ukraine, to the forefront there come information operations and other “asymmetric” advantages to influence.

An important component of Russia's “hybrid policy” against Ukraine (within the framework of its information component) is its desire to aggressively influence the minds of the political leadership and business elites, and various party and community groups, as well as of the population of Ukraine in general. In other words — this is the desire not to kill millions of people, but to intimidate and demoralize them (to break their will to resist!) — and to turn them into an obedient tool to achieve Russia's neo-imperial goals.

No less important components of Russia's “hybrid policy” against Ukraine are other — “asymmetric” leverage, namely, fuel and energy, trade and economic, humanitarian, environmental and other non-traditional anti-social (religious, ethnic, cultural, etc.) components.


Russia against the united Europe and NATO/USA

At the same time, against the united Europe and NATO/USA, the goal of Russia's “hybrid policy” (read — the Putin regime) is greater (and geopolitical in nature), namely: to discredit East European and Baltic countries' feeling of wellbeing and confidence in their guaranteed protection by the European Union and NATO, and ideally — to drive a permanent wedge between the United States and its European allies (the European Union), as well as between the Western allies and the countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltic States.


Russia against the European Union

V. Putin's main goal regarding the European Unionis to prevent its expansion, and to eventually destroy the EU. He cynically does not accept the European Union and dreams of a divided Europe, in fact, maniacally copying the evil Russian Emperor Alexander I and treacherous “leader of all peoples” Stalin. History has taught him nothing, and therefore, it will severely punish him for not learning its lessons.

A good example of the implementation of measures of Russia's “hybrid policy” in Europe is its provocative activities in the Balkans, first of all in relation to Greece (to “snatch” it from the EU), Serbia, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (to prevent their entry into the EU).

Today (more than ever!) Russia's “hybrid policy” towards the European Union is a real threat, that the majority of European state leaders and politicians underestimate or “modestly” do not want to notice, including with regard to threats of Putin's Russia's support to European ultra-right and ultra-left parties and political movements.

This refers to Russia's (read — the Putin regime) systematic support to European ultra-right and ultra-left political parties (of France, Italy, Hungary and other countries), and this provocative support can lead to restriction of the basic rights of the electorate, professing key European civilization values.

So, what Putin's Russia is doing now in the European Union and in Europe in general, without exaggeration can be called provocative and crafty “hybrid policy”. The sooner the EU develops and implements a comprehensive and effective policy towards the Russian Federation, the better it will be for the European Union.


Russia against NATO

The main goal of V. Putin's “hybrid policy” against NATO is to prevent the enlargement and to completely destroy the Alliance, and the best method to achieve this (according to Putin's scenario) is to take away some of the Baltic States. According to Putin's apologists' estimates, Estonia and Latvia are the best place to destroy NATO and to demonstrate that Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty does not work. At this, if Germany does not respond to Russia's invasion into the Baltic States, if France remains on the sidelines, and only purely American operation will be carried out, then all this will end in NATO's falling apart. And this is the biggest threat, especially for the “new” NATO member states, as they will understand that the NATO's commitments for mutual defense are a lie (bluff), and the military alliance will actually fall apart, making the countries of Eastern Europe once again vulnerable to Russian influence. This way Putin will be able to do what Soviet leaders failed to — to defeat NATO.

According to leading Western experts, this is Putin's most cherished goal and his greatest temptation. At this, he may retreat at any stage, but the temptation is too great — to destroy NATO! Is the risk great? Yes, it is. But the reward is enormous!

Today, the logic of Russia's “hybrid policy” has become even more dangerous. The Russian Federation, trying to compensate for the weakness of its conventional Armed Forces, has significantly reduced the criteria for the use of nuclear weapons. While the Soviet leaders had always considered nuclear weapons only as a means of deterrence that exists exactly for nobody to be able to use it, V. Putin's attitude to it fundamentally different.

Thus, the new edition of the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation (Russian President V. Putin signed the Decree in late December 2014) makes it possible to use nuclear weapons in case of a non-nuclear war, if there is a threat to the existence of the state. And it's more than just words: Moscow has repeatedly stated it is ready to use nuclear weapons, even in a limited war.

It is a dreadfully low bar for the use of nuclear weapons, especially given the fact that the possible war is likely to begin near the borders of Russia and on eastern borders of the EU and NATO member states. And this suggests that Putin has taken the position which the leaders in a “limited” nuclear war was considered unthinkable: that in the “limited” nuclear war one can survive and even win. This Putin's decision is the most dangerous for the whole civilized world since the crisis of 1962.


So, in fact, Putin is now cynically destroying the European and global security architecture, and Georgia and Ukraine may be followed by other countries, including the EU and NATO member states. Without realizing or noticing it, the civilized world will not be able to adequately respond to Putin's hidden or open aggression.

As is well known, appetite comes with eating, and the more Ukraine, the CIS countries and the West, as well as leading European and international organizations, allow Putin and his aggressive “hybrid policy”, the faster and much further he will go in his practical aggressive actions.


The condensed version of the article “Today's Russia's “Hybrid Policy” as a Strategy for the Implementation of Its National Geopolitics” by Yuriy Radkovets was published in the newspaper “Uryadovy Kuryer”(“Governmental Courier”) № 194 (5568), 20.10.2015.

The extended version of this article was published in the newspaper "Golos Ukrainy" ("Voice of Ukraine") № 246 (6250), 26.12.2015.

The reference to the author’s research was published in the article of PhD Octavian DUMITRESCU «From the Hybrid War to the Hybrid Policy in the strategies of Russia» in the edition of the Romanian Center “INGEPO Consulting Company” — “Geostrategic Pulse” № 206/20.01.2016.