Prof. Chodakiewicz discusses Russian military and influence operations at US Army Europe Senior Leaders Forumjan marek chodakiewicz|Wednesday, February 11, 2015
IWP’s Professor Marek Jan Chodakiewicz was invited to speak at the US Army Europe Senior Leaders Forum which took place from January 12-14, 2015 in Wiesbaden, Germany on the topic of "Strong Europe." There were several panels held, in which panelists delivered general remarks and answered analytic questions. Prof. Chodakiewicz was one of the only non-government experts to participate.
IWP’s Professor Marek Jan Chodakiewicz was invited to speak at the US Army Europe Senior Leaders Forum which took place from January 12-14, 2015 in Wiesbaden, Germany on the topic of "Strong Europe." There were several panels held, in which panelists delivered general remarks and answered analytic questions. Prof. Chodakiewicz was one of the only non-government experts to participate. On January 13, he gave remarks at a panel entitled “Russian Military Modernization, Influence Operations, and Russian Operational Art from Georgia, ZAPAD-13, to Ukraine and Donbas.” Other panelists included high level intelligence officers, a senior civilian defense specialist, and a diplomat. The leadership conference included NATO allies: Germans, Spanish, Belgians, British, and others. The bulk of the audience consisted of brigade and some regiment commanders, generals, State Department officials, and DoD representatives. The audience also included senior officers and NCOs, including from the units slated to be deployed to Ukraine. A version of Dr. Chodakiewicz’s comments appear below. Muscovite Continuity:
An Integrated Strategy and Counterintelligence Operation In the past few years, the Kremlin has brought forth a dazzling array of its tools of statecraft, combining political warfare, public diplomacy, active measures, disinformation, propaganda, covert actions, and military power, including conventional and guerrilla operations. In a word, President Vladimir Putin predictably has pursued power to restore the empire. Moscow has deployed methods on which it has relied from times immemorial. We deal here with continuity rather than discontinuity. Thus, the Kremlin's moves could be anticipated. This is plain, despite the shocking surprise of some of the Western observers who failed to predict Russia's expansion and, consequently, their flawed attempts to understand the phenomena at play. For example, some of them discovered the alleged novelty of "hybrid warfare." Yet, what we have seen from Georgia to Ukraine is a traditional, irregular fighting method which has adopted itself to new circumstances by incorporating new technologies. As I argued in my Intermarium, history undergirds Putin's moves, his imperial aim remains immutable; and his tools of statecraft are fixed. Within this context, let us look at Moscow's soft power, strategic messaging, propaganda narrative, military build-up, and new technologies, including cyber and social media capabilities. We shall also briefly consider the relationship between Russia's economic resources and will to power, as well as the capacity of Western sanctions to diminish both. I. The Context The context allowing us to understand Russia requires remembering the factors which have continued to inform Russian conduct for several hundreds of years. First, the Russian Federation is a despotic and patrimonial polity with its Byzantine caesaro-papism (no division between church and state and, hence, no sphere of freedom) descending from the Mongol-controlled Duchy of Moscow and its successors: the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. Second, another thread of continuity stems from the fact that the Russian Federation is a product of the transformation of Communism into post-Communism, and not liberal democracy. The transformation ensured that the institutions and the personnel of the totalitarian state have survived to haunt their subjects and the rest of the world into the 21st century. This is the deeper meaning of Putin's famous dictum, "once a Chekist, always a Chekist." Third, continuity in the Russian Federation pertains further to the modus operandi of the regime. Marxist-Leninist dialectics allow the Kremlin to be very flexible and pragmatic, amoral, and relativistic. No longer a millenarian ideology, which masked as "science," promising paradise on earth by following a self-anointed vanguard of the proletariat, Marxism-Leninism serves the post-Communist successors of the vanguard as a handy tool to maintain themselves in power by deftly exercising control over the captive Russian population. II. The Aim What is the aim of the Russian post-Communist regime? It wants to maintain Putin and his team in power. It endeavors to restore the empire in three areas. Its first target is the so-called "near abroad" (the newly liberated nations of the old USSR); next on the list are the former Warsaw Pact countries; and, finally, there follows whatever else the logic of imperial expansion dictates. In a way, the sky is always the theoretical limit, but the resources, will, and means inevitably tend to serve as a check on the imperial appetites. Restoring the empire means anything between incorporation and satellitezation. This is accomplished through a variety of means -- including cultural and economic influence, for example, the much feared energy weapon vis-à-vis the European Union -- deployed shrewdly to undermine and even disintegrate the Western Alliance, NATO in particular. III. The Tools What are the tools? Moscow deploys the following resources: 1. Energy revenues and shady business deals. The latter usually involve raw materials and minerals. They function in a world of murky financial transactions involving a multitude of related companies acquired in the past twenty-odd years by post-Soviet nationals, mostly the oligarchs, with often rumored criminal underworld ties, whose actions are increasingly coordinated with the Russian state. 2. Integrated strategy
- Active measures (all tricks short of violence, including spies and agents of influence, e.g., the activities of the Anna Chapman group in New York; the Snowden operation)
- Counterintelligence and "wet affairs" (e.g., the Alexander Litvinienko assassination, kidnapping of an Estonian intelligence officer from his country into Russia)
- Swaggering (including Russia's antics in the Arctic and airspace violation through overflights in the US, Canada, the Baltics, and Scandinavia, as well as coastal water penetration via submarines, as has been experienced lately by Sweden [BBC, 11 December 2014])
- Sheer force (war against Georgia in 2008, invasion of Crimea in 2014)
- The will to deploy all of the above
- Iron will of the leader and his team
- Popular resentment of the West among the post-Soviet Russian people
- Western naiveté and gullibility
- Intimidate and destroy cyberinfrastructure (Estonia - 2007; Ukraine - 2013-now; Poland - on and off; US - consistently), including once in conjunction with kinetic military operations (Georgia - 2008)
- Implement stricter controls over its own population, to counter cyberspying, and to foster paranoia (e.g., Red October virus - 2012, see http://www.iwp.edu/news_publications/detail/the-red-october-virus-a-pretext-for-putins-crackdown)
- Fake websites (including on Facebook, e.g. to spread disinformation about the war in eastern Ukraine or its particular aspects, like the downing of the Malaysian Air passenger plane in July 2014)
- "Doctoring" Wikipedia pages
- Fake virtual think tanks (e.g., Center for Eurasian Strategic Intelligence, see interpretermag.com, 15 December 2014)
- Propaganda tweets and hubs (e.g., dearputin.com is set up to allow foreigners to apologize to Putin for Western "aggression" in Ukraine; the website is available in 19 languages; or so-called "source-laundry assets," news websites, legitimizing the Kremlin's propaganda spin in one accessible place for local and foreign media to pick it up)
- Trolls on the internet (various fora, and comment sections of on-line newspapers)
- Hackers and destruction, or at least crippling, of web news sources deemed hostile to the Kremlin
- Setting up new and improved English language news media, e.g., Russia Today (RT), Sputnik News (the latter projected to employ from 30 to 100 people in each of its 130 studios in 34 countries, including 100 staff in Kyiv, propagandizing in 30 languages, see Guardian, 6 January 2015)
- Promoting, through the Kremlin's media empire, of the Western and "near abroad" useful idiots, agents of influence, and others parroting Moscow's propaganda line, who otherwise would linger in obscurity (e.g., an erstwhile populist Samoobrona [Self-Defense] activist, Mateusz Piskorski, in Poland, or the leaders of a radical nationalist miniscule group, Falanga; a bevy of similar non-entities and pro-Russian extremists elsewhere in Europe; the pseudo-Atlanticists in Germany, thus ensuring that the Kremlin's message spreads and the unity of the West suffers, e.g., Interpretermag.com, 11 December 2014, http://www.interpretermag.com/in-this-info-war-the-problem-is-not-only-russia/)
- Seemingly legitimate Russian and allied news media patiently and consistently repeating Soviet-vintage propaganda to control the narrative which, in turn infects the Western media echo chamber (e.g., one of the most popular is the canard that the Red Army "liberated" Poland in 1945, completely ignoring that liberation means bringing freedom, and Stalin merely pushed out and replaced Hitler as a new occupier. How could anyone be liberated by Stalin?)
- Waging a peace offensive against the West's defending itself (e.g., vs. deploying US missiles in Romania, see TASS, 17 December 2014)
- Condemning violence (e.g., vs. torture by the CIA, see TASS, 17 December 2014)
- Exposing and branding "fascism" and "the fascists" (e.g., the new government of Ukraine and, in particular, its voluntary militias)
- Defense of Christian civilization (e.g., against "gay propaganda")
- The Snowden affair (which has become an intelligence and counterintelligence operation by Moscow, see http://www.iwp.edu/news_publications/detail/snowden-hero-or-traitor)
- Wikileaks (which should now be considered primarily as a platform for foreign intelligence influence operations rather than merely a cyber anarcho-hactivist performance art)
- The Western paleo-conservative and libertarian duping (which afflicts Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul followers who see Vladimir Putin either as a champion of traditional values or a victim of Western aggression into "his" sphere of influence; e.g., http://sfppr.org/2014/04/putins-active-measures-buchanans-grief/)
- The Kremlin narrates its aggression in Ukraine, the Baltics, and Caucasus as if Russia were fighting the Second World War all over again. It includes attacking its opponents in the "near abroad" as "the fascists," while assistance to the rebels and Russian minorities is dubbed "fraternal assistance," which -- at the same time -- the government denies to be rendering. The assault on the near abroad (nearly identical for both foreign and domestic reception) is pregnant with the symbolism of the Second World War, which is projected in a much more emotional manner for the domestic consumer.
- Moscow claims (both for domestic and foreign audiences) to be defending Jews in Ukraine from fascists and anti-Semites. However, simultaneously, it blames the "oligarchs" -- a by-word for "the Jews" -- as having taken over in Ukraine, a cryptic message that is easily read by Russia's domestic audience.
- The Russian Federation pursues a pro-active policy of support for the Russian minority (or, rather, more accurately, post-Soviet Russian speakers) residing outside of the state's boundaries, primarily in the near abroad (but also elsewhere in the diaspora, e.g. Cyprus). The concern for these "Russians" is expressed in nationalistic, cultural, and religious terms. They are "fellow Russians," "our [(post) Soviet] people," and Christian Orthodox. The existence of large Russian-speaking former post-colonial remnants is the main tool of Moscow's influence in the "near abroad." The Kremlin meddles in the affairs of foreign countries by invoking "human rights" in defense of the allegedly "oppressed" Russian minority, and additionally boosts its strength by providing economic and diplomatic assistance, which translate mainly into cultural continuity with the Soviet times and continuous alienation from mainstream cultures through resistance to assimilation. The Russian minority is the main tool of Russian imperialism. This is not only evident in Ukraine, but in the Baltics in particular.
- Putin singles out the Poles as the greatest threat and the main troublemakers (e.g, the Poles, at the behest of the US, allegedly trained the Kyiv Maidan fighters, and "Polish mercenaries" allegedly battle the rebels in the Donbas). Historically, the Poles were the main rivals of the Muscovites in the struggle to dominate of the Intermarium, the land between the Black and Baltic seas, and the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1919 - 1921 was the only time in history that the Red Army was defeated in the field. Hence, at the symbolic level, the Russian President replaced the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution commemoration with a holiday celebrating the termination of the occupation of Moscow by the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania-Ruthenia in 1612. All this is absolutely obvious at home in Russia, and uniformly ignored in the West. The Kremlin hastens not to explicate this complicated issue beyond the post-Soviet zone.
- The chief successor state to the USSR loudly proclaims its unity of purpose with Orthodox (Russian) Christian faith. It vows to uphold it as Russia's true faith, while accommodating as junior confessions Judaism and Islam. Protestant Christianity is treated as a sect, and Catholicism regarded as "a Polish religion," and dangerous theological and political competition.
- Russia stands for freedom and protects dissidents in fear of persecution in the West (Snowden)
- Russia supports Christian civilization against the West's counterculture, in particular "gay propaganda."
- The Euro-Maidan Rising was a US-engineered coup
- War in Ukraine is about defeating fascism; the pro-Russian rebels are anti-fascists; the Ukrainians are fascists.
- Russia is not supporting the rebels in eastern Ukraine; the foreign fighters there are uniformly volunteers.
- Ukrainians commit mass atrocities (and Russian propaganda outlets duly produce pictures from the Chechen wars which they peddle as Kyiv's murderous actions; similarly, fake witnesses appear to testify about alleged Ukrainian atrocities, including, e.g., a ubiquitous woman who - under different guises and multiple identities - swears to have participated in at least a dozen affairs simultaneously, see Euobserver.com, 8 January 2015)
- Russia and Russian-backed rebels are a pro-Jewish force for they protect Jews from "the fascists" (this is perhaps the most blatant way to pander to the Western media and public)
- Moscow protects the "human rights" of minorities (without stressing the Kremlin's chief, if not sole interest in the Russians)
- "Tin cans" (konservy), or military intelligence officers who galvanized, organized, and led the rebellion
- "Green people" (Russian special forces infiltrators) who provided the backbone for rebel operations
- Volunteers, real and imagined (both locals and outsiders)
- Move NATO nations and their allies beyond debating whether to counter to how to counter Russia's "weaponization of information," i.e. its infowars, by drawing from vast Cold War experience, in particular from the 1980s, instead of reinventing the wheel (e.g., Euobserver.com, 8 January 2015).
- Integrate strategic communications of NATO and its allies, while retaining local flavor of each of the participant crafted to particular challenges.
- Craft NATO messages pro-actively, anticipating the Kremlin's moves
- Provide cultural translation to second tier NATO nations, in particular the Mediterranean countries to help them understand issues at stake and to counter Russian disinformation
- Carry out the same operation for Third World consumption
- Create English language multiple media platforms to influence Western public opinion to alarm it to the nature of post-Soviet aggression
- Produce social media shows on topics of interest to counter Russian propaganda, in particular where it has seeped successfully into the Western public circulation because of the complicity, conscious or unconscious, of the prestige media (e.g., NATO has produced a Youtube video to dispel the Kremlin propaganda canard that western Ukraine consists entirely of fascists, see Financial Times, 7 December 2014)
- Create a Russian language media platform (TV, radio, internet) to influence the Russian speaking public all over the world: Radio, TV, and Web Liberty (RTVWL). Open its offices in all nations of the post-Soviet zone, in the "near abroad" and Russia itself in particular.
- Create separate web-based platforms to counter each of Russia's propaganda narratives (e.g., that there are no Russian troops in eastern Ukraine); make the endeavor interactive; post pictures and crowdsource; get the greatest public involvement possible at all levels.
- Jam Russian broadcasts in response to jamming Western media activities; respond to Moscow's blocking of Western web-based platforms by taking down Russian internet infrastructure.
- Require reciprocity in media access. E.g., if Sputnik News opens an office in DC, then RTVWL must be permitted to set one up in Moscow. If Russia Today (RT) is allowed to broadcast in the United States, broadband and cable access is automatically granted to RTVWL in the Russian Federation.
- Wage cyberwar against the Kremlin cybertrolls and hackers
- Launch a public diplomacy program for Russian children; make it a part of educational exchanges. If the Russians want to send neo-Line X "scientists," they may do so at the pain of expulsion but, more importantly, only if Russian children can be exposed to the American way of life -- of course in Middle America as opposed to Manhattan, Los Angles, or San Francisco.
- If the US really wants peace, it should give a nuclear deterrent to Poland or station a missile defense force there.
Wiesbaden, 13 January 2015
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