Small Wars Journal

NATO Commander Breedlove Discusses Implications of Hybrid War

Mon, 03/23/2015 - 7:23pm

NATO Commander Breedlove Discusses Implications of Hybrid War

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, March 23, 2015 – Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove discussed the implications of hybrid war during a presentation to the Brussels Forum over the weekend.

Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, said Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea and continued actions in the rest of Eastern Ukraine is a form of hybrid war.

Russia is using diplomacy, information warfare, and its military and economic means to wage this campaign, he added.

Aspects of Hybrid War

One of the first aspects of the hybrid war is to attack credibility and to try to separate a nation from its support mechanisms, the general said.

“Informationally, this is probably the most impressive new part of this hybrid war, all of the different tools to create a false narrative,” he said. “We begin to talk about the speed and the power of a lie, how to get a false narrative out, and then how to sustain that false narrative through all of the new tools that are out there.”

Military tools remain relatively unchanged, he said. “But how they are used or how they are hidden in their use, is the new part of this hybrid war,” the general said. “How do we recognize, how do we characterize and then how do we attribute this new employment of the military in a way that is built to bring about ambiguity?”

An Across-government Approach

Using the economic tool, he said, hybrid warfare allows a country to bring pressure on economies, but also on energy.

“What the military needs to do is to use those traditional military intelligence tools to develop the truth. The way you attack a lie is with the truth,” Breedlove said. “I think that you have to attack an all of a government approach with an all of government approach. The military needs to be able to do its part, but we need to bring exposure to those diplomatic pressures and return the diplomatic pressure. We need to, as a Western group of nations or as an alliance, engage in this information warfare to … drag the false narrative out into the light and expose it.”

Regarding Western response to Russian actions in Ukraine, no tool should be off the table, Breedlove said.

“In Ukraine, what we see is what we talked about earlier, diplomatic tools being used, informational tools being used, military tools being used, economic tools being used against Ukraine,” he said. “We, I think, in the West, should consider all of our tools in reply. Could it be destabilizing? The answer is yes. Also, inaction could be destabilizing.”


Outlaw 09

Wed, 04/15/2015 - 2:26pm

Russia and Putin have truly decided on war in the Ukraine--there will be no compromise.

US and western diplomacy is literally a waste of time and the language of "hard power" is about the only thing he will understand.

This President cannot change his approach at this late of date that makes any impact at all going forward--just reinforces the idea he has swapped the Ukraine for Iran and also reinforces Putin's image that this President is basically weak.

[B]"Waste of time and nerves" - #Steinmeier acknowledges it was difficult to speak 'language of diplomacy' with #Lavrov[/B]

Bill M.

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 7:31pm

In reply to by RantCorp

I like your description of fascists acting like Muslims, and there is certainly a degree of accuracy in that description. Bob and others often claim it isn't a religious war, the real issues are political. Others, like myself, don't think it is inaccurate to attempt to separate the two. Politics are about power, so is religion, and sharia law is a way to establish political power based on the identity of religion (regardless of whether or not their pious). When Shia and Sunni deliberately kill each other based on their identity groups defined by their faith, then religion certainly plays a role. When Al-Shabaab singles out Christians to kill during attack on the Shopping Mall and the University, then there is an element of religion in those politics. That doesn't mean it is only about religion, it isn't, but the religious aspect can't be ignored. It is their principle mobilization means.

We have our own political identity groups in the U.S., which unfortunately seem to be drifting increasingly to extreme poles, but our political identities are not necessarily defined by religion, so I think it is difficult for Americans to grasp that politics and religion are not separate entities in every society. We view others through our secular lens, and we risk getting a warped view of reality. It seems they're trying to impose their religious values and religious form of governance upon each other, and most extreme seek to impose it upon the West. Many will disagree, but for the Islamist Fascists seeking to impose their will upon the West and others through the use of force, they're at war with us. We won't win it by throwing money at, since many fighters came from middle class families and are well educated. Using your excellent analogy of fascists, claiming to be solve the problem by giving them jobs, would be equivalent to claiming we could have defeated the Nazis by providing economic aide. Maybe if we didn't give them such a raw deal after WWI the Nazi party would never have gained power, but once they gained power it gains its own momentum based on its identity politics (that were quasi-religious), and the root cause of poverty is no longer the root cause.


Mon, 04/13/2015 - 3:45pm

Needless to say we have all had different experiences that have shaped our opinions regarding the religious beliefs of our opponents - and our allies for that matter. I would suggest in Iraq and AF 99 % of our opponents consider themselves to be practicing Muslims. The important question is to what extent those beliefs motivate their determination to fight and die for Islam.

Many moons ago I was struck by how ideal the obligations demanded in the Koran for the conduct of Jihad were suited to UW. I somewhat naively believed folks who were religiously observant in their daily lives would be as equally faithful in the application of a Jihad/UW matrix. I don’t know why I equated the commitment to the simple rituals pertaining to daily pray, ablution, greeting, abstinence, clothing etc. with the hardship and violence of irregular warfare. As I said, it was a long time ago.

During my first deployment I identified a trend that indicated effective fighters, who I knew to be particularly strict with themselves in matters of their faith, were more likely to be among the KIA. Whereas those less observant remained in vocal abundance and rude health. This wasn’t something that went unnoticed by the majority and it could cause considerable bad blood if a ‘doubting Thomas’ (if you will) felt embarrassed by the actions of the more determined/pious.

Though this resentment came as somewhat of a surprise to me it did not surprise the natives. After about 12 months I began to appreciate a significant difference between the majority talking the talk and a very small minority walking the walk when the question of faith and death came calling.

The straw that broke the camel’s back came when I returned to HQ with a small bundle of personal items belongings to a popular and effective commander who was KIA. He was also deeply religious. We had attempted to stretcher the wounded men out but attempting to transport badly wounded in this manner is an appalling experience for both wounded and the stretcher-bearers. After a day sepsis took hold and the constant jostling caused by manhandling stretcher cases over mountainous terrain broke open the wounds etc. They all succumbed to a slow painful death before we reached safety.

Standing before their CO I recounted the harrowing experience and how better a field-ambulance or a field-hospital in-country would do wonders for all concerned. Sitting in his water-cooled office, behind a teak neo-Georgian desk, in his tailored silk clothes, gold RADO watch, fine carpets, shiny new pickup parked out front he chided me for my lack of understanding for his faith and how those that had succumbed to their wounds were blessed to have been martyred. With a scarcely concealed yawn (it was midday and the height of summer) he proceeded to regale his desire for his own martyrdom (no doubt sometime after his midday nap).

This commander (who I had thought one of the better ones) wasn’t a religious blowhard but his Staff was peppered with Wahhabi Fruitcake who were particularly odious in their fire & brimstone lecturing of the natives and the occasional infidel. The mostly illiterate fighters were forever reminded by the Fruitcake of their ignorance of the holy language and were constantly berated for their fondness for dancing, female Hindu singers and other transgressions.

When the lack of Fruitcake presence at the sharp end was mentioned the Fruitcake denouncements took on a more shrill tone bordering on hysteria. One particular Fruitcake prosecuted the line that these heroes considered their HQ skills a curse and if only the natives were better Muslims and capable Staffers, they would gladly go off to the front where blissful martyrdom was plentiful.

My team were somewhat bemused by my anger at this complete bullshit. Despite nearly all of them being much younger than I and with ‘goat-shit between their toes’ they were somewhat perplexed I expected anything different.

Within a year this disastrous Wahhabi influence (much of it funded by the US Gov it has to be said) had begun to spread throughout the leadership. By the time the Soviet had basically wiped out the resistance insurgency the senior leadership had been completely corrupted by their friends from the Gulf. The rise of the Wahhabi and the demise of the Muj fighting effectiveness didn’t come as a surprise to anyone – perhaps with the exception of Charlie Wilson.

Equally unsurprising when the Soviet support dried up and this toxic Pak-centric leadership returned to AF they proceeded to destroy what remained of the country. Whilst the Pak-based leaders fought among themselves the UW arm of the Pak Army (The Taliban) stepped into the chaos. The Talibs were followed by the Costa Nostra who proceeded to blanket the countryside with poppy under the patronage of the Talibs and their ISI masters.

What followed is history.

The effects of toxic leaders is something we are all familiar with. However in a fighting force that purports divine inspiration and eulogizes death in combat as the ultimate prize, bad leadership is extremely destructive. Throw in a bunch of Fruitcake who cast the light fantastic how everyone should be actively trying to get themselves killed and you have a toxic mix from hell that makes effective IW impossible.

I dare suggest 99.9 % of the fighters had never heard of Lord Acton but if you were to remark ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ your average illiterate fighter would know exactly who and what you were referring to.

So what?

As Bill M rightly points out it is highly likely you will be confronted by some opponents willing to fight and die for Islam. My experience is that these folks represent a very small minority and are KIA quickly and often wastefully. The destructive decision-making causes those who witness the death of these faithful few to question the purpose of these deaths and the blatant hypocrisy/incompetence of the leadership that caused them.

It is my experience Jihadi leadership attracts a type of personality that our secular outlook might better be served by viewing it as fascist rather than Islamic. Rather than religious leaders acting like fascists I believe it is more accurate and useful to approach it as fascist leaders acting as Muslims.

The application of simplistic dogma, racial intolerance, religious bigotry, rigid discipline, gratuitous violence, avarice, corruption, extreme vanity etc. (and that’s directed at their own people) are all characteristics we readily identify with fascism. The IS’s slaughter of Shite recruits is something you could have lifted out of a WW2 concentration camp newsreel.

Naturally many of the faithful who are not KIA or WIA end up deserting. Those who choose to remain, find it necessary to re-examine their philosophical approach to the fight. From my observations those who remain religious and are effective fighters internalize their religious beliefs and disassociate the fighting and dying from religion and stay for more material/worldly reasons. Their religion becomes somewhat puritan and this path becomes very narrow and personal to the extent there is little room for fellow-travelers.

Taking orders from some native asshole who claims to be inspired by God is profoundly resented – to put it mildly. If a Wahhabi Fruitcake wants them to do something he needs to show the money well before he opens his big mouth.

This sense of disillusionment with leadership offers an opportunity for us to exploit. If we are able to show respect for their faith - both in word and deed – it is possible to drive a wedge between the leadership and its fighters. IMO we tend to succeed in conveying the notion we are not attacking their religion but we squander any goodwill extending from the fighters in particular, and the local population in general, by approaching the leadership as if it were Islamic rather than fascist.

Not only does the leadership find this highly amusing but we alienate the majority of the population who we are at pains not to offend. It is if we put Eichmann, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler etc. on trial for heresy from the teachings of Christ. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who was not offended. We couch our dealings with the fascist element with whom we are fighting in a vernacular based on Islamic this, jihadi that, fundamentalist here, sharia there - despite the fact this cadre of leaders cares little for such ideologically based reasoning.

Islamic sensitivity gets us absolutely nowhere with the less than 1% who are actually doing the fighting as they have long given up on the Islamic dimension of the conflict and their cynicism leaves them equally unmoved.

The remaining 99% who are neither fascist nor violent just get more pissed off with the whole charade dragging their faith thru the mud.

IMO the leadership of the KSA and Iran are the best examples of fascist regimes masquerading as a religious entity. The orthodox attire, sharia governance, populist bombast etc. is an elaborate facade for two oil cartels who are determined to control the means of oil production so as to acquire wealth for a tiny clique of elites.

The Pakistan leadership has the decency to wear military uniforms as the go about enriching themselves whilst 180 million of their fellow countrymen are mired in abject poverty.

In the broader sense if adherence to Islamic martyrdom was a significant motivation for Muslim fighters, Israel would not exist. As Israel clearly does exist the faith argument would dictate the Israeli national boundary was a berm running along all its entire borders that contained the bones of several hundred million Islamic martyrs who perished attempting to reclaim the Temple Mount.

In a more contemporary example, if religious motivation was a moral obligation driving Muslim fighters, why is it Islam’s most extreme militant element - the IS - abandoned Kobane and is currently fleeing Tikrit?

We all have one,


Outlaw 09

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 3:56pm

We keep forgetting as well that the Iranians also drive on a form of hybrid warfare.

Things are now getting "hot" in the Sunni Shia divide--the US Administration simply did not anticipate this occurring when in fact a number of people warned them it would happen--ie the KSA.

This Qassem Soleimani Instagram was deleted minutes after it was posted. The Mideast as Iran vs Saudi

Bill M.

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 7:54pm

In reply to by RantCorp


Agree with 85% of your post, but disagree with your assessment that the only majority of fighters are dirt poor and only fighting for a pay check. This view led to our naïve approach to focus on jobs instead of fighting. No doubt there are a dirt poor fighters, and there are millions of dirt poor people who won't fight, so the motivation to pick up a gun and fight is more complex. The 72 virgins is over hyped, but the identity of religion is a critical factor. I don't think we're fighting too many non-Muslims? It isn't just foreign fighters who have wealth and status, there were plenty of folks fighting in Iraq that were well to do. Belief in a cause is a powerful motivating force that should not be dismissed. As you stated, our current enemies in the Middle East are willing to embrace death, which is the only thing making them somewhat effective. It is an asymmetry we're still having a hard time adapting to.

Our unwillingness to accept risk is certainly a liability when it comes to employing military force effectively to achieve stated aims. As I posted previously, we have commanders who brag about not taking casualties on a rotation as though that is a metric of success. In most cases, it these same commanders that failed to aggressively pursue the enemy. This cowardly view is becoming a cultural norm in the conventional army. Imagine if Patton embraced this view? Hitler may have ended up unifying Europe. We don't throw lives away, that isn't our culture, but taking risk is still a part of battle. If we allow commanders to get away with defining success as taking no casualties, while failing to accomplish their mission we will create a force that will face a severe culture shock when we fight a tough adversary again and start taking casualties on the scale we did in previous wars.

Bill M.

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 7:31pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw 09,

Your generation of Special Forces set the standard that has never been surpassed. As you stated below, we still have the guys who would take the same level of risks if national and military leadership would accept it.

De Oppresso Liber


Thu, 04/09/2015 - 4:36pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09



Many folks don't realize there are millions of Americans who are up for this fight.

All they need is for the RMA mickey mouse to stop messing with the natives get out of the fucking way!

Feeling groovey,


Outlaw 09

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 3:52pm

In reply to by RantCorp

RC--we have had that type of fighter before in the US Army--it was SF of the 60s/early 70s and the regular Army did not take it well and did it's best after VN to eliminate it.

In VN we were running a 50% KIA/WIA and yes we even had our MIAs but no one backed away from the missions even when it meant loses and all wanted into the fight.

And UW was our fight.


Thu, 04/09/2015 - 3:04pm

Bill M & Outlaw,

When our opponents sign up for what we erroneously call Jihad, they are essentially giving away their lives for a small monthly wage. To them (and their dependents) this wage is often the only paid job they’ve ever had and probably the only one they'll ever have. When such fatalism - borne of grinding poverty and a sense of complete hopelessness - is misrepresented by us as a desire to go to heaven and get laid (I still find this absurdity so ridiculous every time I read or hear it - and it’s been 30 years now ) we basically deny ourselves any opportunity of ‘Knowing your enemy as you know yourself…etc.’ as Sun Tzu would have it and our military decline continues unabated.

The leadership of the Pak ISI, KSA Mabahith, Iranian Quds and the Fruitcake do not labor under any such ill-founded ‘God’ nonsense. Why is it we do?

It’s all good and well lamenting the absence of Operational art and Strategic vision but for 14 years thru this jaundiced lens we have nourished a malformed ‘Jihad’ acorn and grown a massive RMA oak that has very little penetrating roots into the ground upon which it stands – whether Iraq, AF or perhaps soon the Uk. The slightest breeze (a squad is overrun, a single helicopter goes down, one of our own is captured etc.) and the entire effort begins to lurch alarmingly.

The failure in VN required an enormous effort by the PAVN against the French and the US that took millions of Vietnamese 30 years to bring our military crashing down. IMO in a fight, the Taliban, IS or QUD, would struggle to match a single PAVN Regiment.

Our opponent’s simple fatalism towards their job is the fundamental difference between the manner they execute UW and our own approach. In my mind the acceptance of death as an employment condition goes a long way in explaining why their successful campaigning has cost millions of dollars and our own failures have cost trillions. We are determined to reduce the hazards of dismounted close combat to the same level of risk a policeman might face battling crime in a tough inner-city neighborhood. We have convinced ourselves RMA can solve this impossible equation and render us triumphant. A fools errand if ever there was one.

If we are hoping to create a force that can be rapidly dropped into an UW battle ecosystem we need to attract individuals who are as unconcerned with their future as many of our opponents are. IMO to help facilitate this sentiment for UW we need to attract recruits who are at least 25 year olds. By that age you have seen enough of life’s experiences to wilfully choose a job that is very likely to get you killed or maimed.

Obviously if we hand out body armor and declare ‘Èi tàn èi èpì tàs ‘(With this, or upon this) we’ll attract our own version of fruitcake but currently we are at a considerable disadvantage when we promote any future beyond serving in a fighting infantry unit.

A perfectly level-headed 5th generation refugee stuck for his entire existence in some Baluchi/Gaza/Kashmiri/Somali shit-hole does not concern himself with longevity, medevac, college degrees or a pension when he is making a decision to join the fight. He wants to know on what day of the month he gets paid.

Funnily enough the best example of how not to recruit for UW is to reflect upon the mental aptitude of the foreign fighters who originate from more affluent societies and join guerrilla armies. Many of them have volunteered because they have been marginalized by their own society. This manifests in a range of problems - dysfunctional behavior at best and severe mental health psychosis at worst. As opposed to popular belief such ‘committed’ FFs are generally considered a liability by the natives and find themselves steered into actions that often result in severe losses – Kobane in Iraq being a perfect example.

The dirt-poor illiterate native on the other hand is as sane a person you’d ever hope to meet. He has made a rational decision to exchange a unrewarding laboring job for a regular income carrying a weapon. Before he embraces such a dangerous undertaking he accepts that death is highly probable and gets on with it. If he did not he would not enlist. Such an understanding enables an individual to remain an effective and resilient fighters for decades and at a fraction of what we spend to motivate a sane westerner to do a single tour. For our opponents each successive month they remain in the job is considered another bonus month among living wage-earners!

As Bill M said the US can train you like no other and I would add once you are in the fray they can keep you alive like no other - as opposed to the complete absence of decent training & support our fatalistic opponents endure. We need to marry this same grim acceptance that death is inevitable to our vastly superior ability to keep our fighters alive and effective.

Obviously death is not a given nor desirable but we need to establish the understanding that for a UW fighter there is nothing that warrants serious consideration beyond the next UW fight. This sentiment ratcheted up by our vastly superior training, support and resources would give us an extremely powerful advantage when fighting at close quarters. A coming together of such psychological and physical fighting qualities would create a hair-raising matrix of the support being challenged by the sharp end to keep them alive and vice-versa.

Currently our obsession with avoiding casualties is neutralizing the possibility of this dynamic combat matrix emerging.

The Army of Sparta took this to an even more personal level by disallowing marriage whilst on active service and encouraged a camaraderie wherein many a Spartan was physically and emotionally in love with the man standing at his shoulder. His hoplon was not designed to shield his own body but the man to his left. This is level of commitment is a step too far for most but it is interesting to note the Taliban, IS et al all practice pederasty and when inclined to seek female companionship they enslave or recruit ‘Jihadi’ brides.

Who knows perhaps the current ‘Women for Combat’ movement could find their ambition to have women in combat fast-tracked by SOC endeavoring to raise an effective UW/CUW force.

My own personal bias stops me suggesting your own children as ‘camp-followers.’ I for the life of me can’t see anything martially inspiring about having your own children in theater (in fact the complete opposite) but that’s just me. Our opponents however are more than happy to have their off-spring located within earshot of the battlefield upon which they fight.

Obviously this uncompromising ethos is not necessary nor desirable for most of the military. However one thing is certain, if the chain of command responsible for conducting UW does not embrace Mission Command as the be all and end all of sustainable UW, we will continue to get weaker.

I just thought of a name to put on your UW tab - Spartan.

Git sum,


Outlaw 09

Sat, 04/04/2015 - 9:43am

In reply to by RantCorp

RC--a close look at the numerous videos and reporting coming out of the mercenary side as well a the Russian fighter side--the Russian tactics have not seemed to actually changed much even though they claim they modernized.

From my working with the Russian 14/15th Peacekeeping Brigade staffs in 2012 and 2013 at Grafenwoehr I was stuck by the adherence still today to the centralized command structure even though they yes went to a professional army.

Centralized down to having the BN and Brigade Commanders physically sign the operational orders similar to the 80s Soviet Army.

Being spontaneous is not a Russian staff officer thing even today after they claimed to become "professional".

So if a SF team and their "mobile forces" using the massive ISR that we now have can and could constantly take headquarters or commo units under attack and disappear and that alone will cause enough havoc and confusion in a structured force to actually cause them to stop and rethink.


Sat, 04/04/2015 - 5:12am

In reply to by Move Forward


You can't transfer directly like for like. A mountainous moonscape with illiterate muslim allies and a Ukrainian prairie with well-educated christian allies is so different in character that the similarities in the nature of the problem become difficult to identify - but they are there if we spend the time and are willing to look.

The point of the sitting Mi 17s was to illustrate the randomness of UW. Parking helicopters for an ambush was something I never expected - hence the reason it was done and more importantly indicated the enemy was smarter than me and the same spontaneity kept their reaction tempo well inside our decision loop. I imagine the ramp-up time for a MANPAD played some part in taking the risk (though at night the AIM-92 was inoperable) but the difference in ground conditions in Af and the Uk may render it too high a risk.... or would it?

Having said that a report of imminent enemy SF action in your sector on the Uk prairie may compel you to send out patrols searching in the weeds looking for buried human shit only to suffer a frontal assault of a hundred SF mounted atop a dozen MBTs rolling straight over the top of your men scratching around in the weeds.

You would train on your own hardware and take with you your all-arms skills as well as all gear that was politically acceptable or plausibly deniable. Comms, optics, fire control, medical would be a given. From what I can discern those alone would be a huge boost. UA MBTs, helicopters and artillery are aplenty. An ODA manned with 25 - 30 old's wouldn't take long to reconcile the differences in hardware. Besides they would rely on their native team members to operate the non-western hardware.

Likewise ATGMs utilizing tandem warheads to address reactive armor could be easily explained away by numerous strikes with native munitions once the target was rendered stationary by a Javelin or TOW.


Move Forward

Fri, 04/03/2015 - 7:04pm

In reply to by RantCorp

What was the Kazurra link you spoke of?

I always enjoy your stories, but wonder about the survivability of parking a few helicopters today on ridgelines with minimal protection. There were Medal of Honor incidents where that failed with dismounts on such a ridge, and of course in Lone Survivor, even a tiny SEAL team was found by the Taliban. Add indirect fire of more capable foes and you have a rather lucrative target.

In contrast, helicopters parked in limited secured FOBs and major airbases supporting hundreds of COPs in a place like Afghanistan and Iraq, would seem fine against most insurgents. We can field defenses against indirect fire in many such bases, use counterbattery radars, and employ capable perimeters. Its difficult to picture an ODA operating openly from a house in a village surviving precision indirect fire of future adversaries, let alone bivouacked around a few MH-60s or little birds on a ridgeline.

You guys have the experience I lack, but you might consider that today's more prevalent airbursts and fuel-air explosives might make dug-in teams less safe than in times past. In the book "Outlaw Platoon," the platoon leader wrote about enduring such airbursts from what must have been Pakistan Army assisting Taliban. Border units also attacked the platoon with indirect fires in one instance.

Then there was this was from your comment:

<blockquote>My point is if we promote non-linear/UW/CUW as an effort that could entail SF manned MBTs, Ospreys, Apaches, M110s whatever, it may address the capability blind spot between SF and GPF that the little green men are currently exploiting. Having an all-arms element within SF would enable a steep learning curve for training FID when the natives encounter vacationers who bring artillery and MBTs with their shades and sun-cream. Asking an ODA to fulfil the mission when numerous deciding encounters are ‘steel on steel’ or a five day bombardment is more than they can carry on their backs. Asking the GPF requires a Declaration of War.</blockquote>

I guess one could inquire how much deniability there would be in having a few Ospreys and Apaches routinely showing up on a Ukraine battlefield? We know ISIS has captured Abrams, but no such reality exists in Ukraine making it pretty obvious who is providing support. Now if we provided arms to the Ukraine Army, you could achieve some degree of stealth with SOF operating tanks alongside their Army. But you could do that with conventional armor Soldiers as well.

Your comments about leaving SF or CIA behind on the battlefield and perhaps using lots of mines and indiscriminant artillery, probably would not be happening today. We can't even get away with lots of submunitions anymore due to fear of duds, collateral damage, and other agreements. Placing lots of mines in an area used by civilians also seems unlikely. We aren't the Soviet Union or Russia contrary to some of Bill C's implications.

Then there is the reality that an M1 tank burns 2 gallons per mile and holds 500 gallons that must be replenished frequently on the move or even idling for extended periods. You won't be airdropping the fuel for a bunch of SF/SOF operated tanks anytime soon. A few SF/SOF won't be able to maintain a bunch of tanks for long, either. Nor do I suspect LTG McMaster would look kindly on SF/SOF trying to steal the armor mission.;) MG Lundy and the National Guard also might question the 160th SOAR flying AH-64Es instead of using regular Army Aviators. They already have their own toys.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 04/03/2015 - 4:47am

In reply to by RantCorp

RC--you might be interested in this great AP article that just hit today as she was in eastern Ukraine interviewing both Russians and locals--who she stated knew the Russians were there but would refuse to comment on them.

The General is very pleased." Training and fighting: v good @NatVasilyevaAP on the Russian role in E Ukraine.…

Alexei, Debaltseve: "I'm not going to hide it: Russians were here. They went in and left quickly."

Nataliya Vasilyeva @NatVasilyevaAP

Andrei, outside Luhansk: "If they hadn't gone in (to Debaltseve), I don't know what we would have done."

Again the theme--mercenaries could not win a major fight thus the Russian Army would take over much as they did in August 2014.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 1:56pm

In reply to by RantCorp

RC--what has amazed me in following the Russian Army in the Ukraine is just how little their fighting doctrine from WW2 has actually changed--they even use "blocking units" similar to the NKVD units that would shoot Soviet soldiers who ran from the fighting.

The translation by the way was accurate--the road cut fighting he talked about and being driven back by the UA did in fact occur and then the being rescued by a Russian Army far East tank BN did in fact occur.

Terrorists shot dead Russian soldiers, who stood blocking detachments in #Debaltseve - intell…

Outlaw 09

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 12:50pm

In reply to by RantCorp

RC--just a side comment--there was about three months prior to the announcement by the Soviet Union that they were pulling out of AFG a hour long video on Soviet militay TV about the daily life of a Spetsnaz team from use of the M-17 for recon patrols to actually engaging insurgents.

This particular team was taking a break and talking among themselves about another team having been ambushed and what the insurgents had done to their bodies and then one of the team asked "what kind of enemy is that--and this was the core comment--it is time to go home".

This was the first actual mentioning to the Russian GPF via Soviet military TV that they were going to go home--because if Spetsnaz said it was not worth it then they had to be correct.

The interview I believe is highly accurate as the area he was fighting in Debaltseve was actually during the first phase of the fighting being carried by the Russian mercenaries--remember Putin during Minsk stated that Debaltseve was surrounded--which it was to a degree by mercenaries but after the Putin comments in Budapest -- it indicated that the Russian elite units had been given the green light to take the town which they did--loses centered around the figure of 1900 plus and the loses on the mercenary side were just as heavy as well which is reflected in the translation.

Your comments on the heavy use of artillery and rockets is interesting as that is also what General Hodges has also recently said--150 tons of shells a day during the height of the fighting.

The core take away from the Russian non linear warfare is the tight integration of GPF and their SOF including GRU units.

Russian Spetsnaz in general does not mind in the least bit riding IFVs and or tanks.

Bill M.

Sat, 04/04/2015 - 2:36pm

In reply to by RantCorp

Added a line:

Do we know what we're doing anymore? I tend to agree with a gentlemen who participated in SWJ discussions a few months ago that we either don't know how to win, or we choose not to win. We're more concerned about legitimacy than winning, and if those with non-callused hands who push legitimacy above else, tend to be blind to the fact that losing certainly leads to illegitimacy. We have commanders, even in SOF, whose metric of success is bringing everyone home. They minimize risk to force and fail to seek success in combat. If this was Patton's metric for success we would have lost WWII. It came to a head for me when a Platoon from the 173d was almost overrun, and the father of one of the soldiers killed went on the attack trying to destroy the commander, an aggressive commander who would be one of the few willing to implement the operational approach you suggested. To make worse, the father was a retired Army officer (a product of the 90s), who never saw combat. If we're not willing to fight to win, then we should not commit ground our conventional forces. A perverse form of political correctness has replaced sound strategy and doctrine in the U.S. military.

Our flaws are due to a prevailing political correctness and perverted concepts on war that our polices promote. Despite this, based on having worked with officers and NCOs around much of the world, I have yet found any nation that produces officers and NCOs as well trained as the U.S.. Our policies tie their hands to the point they can't effectively employ forces. You may recall the COINdistas up in arms (only figuratively) because the Marines deployed tanks to Afghanistan. A perfect example of our unwillingness to seek decisions through combat, instead we think we can build a well in a village and the Taliban's heart's will be won.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 04/04/2015 - 1:04am

In reply to by RantCorp

RC---your points are actually close to the reality of the open source media coming out of eastern Ukraine.

Even the Russian troops at one point in their attack against Debaltseve actually got lost and were looking at Russian maps of the Ukraine and trying to figure out where they were and it was an airborne unit--so not every Russian unit seems to be GPS oriented.

Secondly there is a massive mistrust of the "locals" ie the miners and truck drivers, the far right mercenaries ie Cossacks and Russian criminal types and the Russian Army and that has exploded into violence a number of times once just in the last two days and then the inter Russian crime gang turf wars which exploded in Donetsk four days ago resulting in 3 killed and 2 wounded.

Thirdly the Russians still sue their tanks as basic infantry support fire teams and a series of well placed javelins could and would blunt any of the recent Russian elite unit attacks not counting those tanks driven by the locals who are not professional tank drivers.

Providing secure comms--something SF is use to day in and out and is the current weak point in the US as they are getting jammed hourly or intercepted hourly thus the Russians know virtually every move they make which would disappear if the UA units went secure voice.

There are so many crossing points that a mobile armored SF team can work at--it is just taking a normally copter based and or walking team and putting them in a mobile armored vehicle thus not really competing with GPF.

We did this all day long by placing a Cambodian Ranger company into M113s of the 11th CAV who had no infantry and it had the advantage of a massively increased fire power when the Rangers engaged NVA bunkered troops or BNs on the move and one had a move to frontal contact engagements--on those days the life of a SF advisor was vastly easier.


Fri, 04/03/2015 - 9:46pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M,

As you rightly point out the enemy get a vote and not only are they as smart as we are but in the East European theater they're literate in languages and technology that has successfully developed every conceivable weapon system, up to and including ICBMs. So I fully agree we are skinning a different cat to the one found in Northern Iraq or Helmand. No less wicked in nature but very different in character.

The 'Fucking Circus' organization of the separatists suggests to me there isn't the buy-in from the Russian speaking population within the Uk or Russia that Putin would like us to believe. IMO something as fundamental as a solid comms network that remains secure and active as far forward as a SF MBT commander would be a force multiplier that could be inserted tomorrow morning - if we had ODAs so trained.

Though facing opponents who have a highly literate capacity it is interesting a considerable number of convicts and non-Slavic nationalities are present in their ranks. All the inherent ethnic flash-points this poses in the conservative rural Ukraine OE flags something of a recruitment problem.

In the Uk we can choose natives with every technical and literary attribute. If we were so inclined we could recruit native team members who are twice as smart as we are. The difference in the caliber of native stock we have access to and the stock our opponents apparently enlist in their effort indicates to me they have discovered a profound weakness in our military capability.

Rather than address this dangerous vulnerability we insist on keeping our military capabilities in their traditional lanes established in WW2. We cite strategy, politics, the Enlightenment, Global Warming etc. as the reason folks with sandals, grade-school education, fertilizer bombs, cell phones, pickups, drug-addiction and God fight us to a standstill.

Rather thn ll of the above is it possible the reason we are failing is because we simply don't know what we are doing?


Bill M.

Fri, 04/03/2015 - 12:57pm

In reply to by RantCorp

O.K, I see where you're going now. When I read your initial description on how SPETNAZ were doing it, it was unilateral USSR SOF units conducting direct action with MI17s. Now that you're talking UW enabled with high tech I am on board with your concept. In fact, JSOTF-North in Northern Iraq did a very similar approach in 2003 during the first phase of Iraq war. Over 12 years later, you may be right that many of those skills have eroded. I'm too far removed now to know what the guys are focusing on in their limited training time available. Using UW to fight conventional forces is considerably different, and harder I would add, than HVI hunting in a FID/COIN/CT environment. I'm also concerned that Russian military, to include counter SOF technology, may have evolved further along than we anticipated. Time to get back to looking at this problem anew.


Fri, 04/03/2015 - 9:54am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M,

Putin can get away with Ranger size groups of ‘little green men’ but it is highly unlikely a Western politician could pull it off without public approval. The advantage of an ODA is people barely blink if a SF trooper fails to come home. I suppose you could ask a Ranger if he has any objection to his body being dumped into the nearest bomb crater by his buddies or his corpse being left in his burned out MBT but I think many of them would find that above their pay-grade.

A twelve man ODA commanding twelve MBTs utilizing their own comms, optics etc with a native driver and gunner would pack a serious punch and be completely inconspicuous. 6 SF MBT commanders and 6 SF NCO riding on the back of 6 MBTs with a squad of natives - perhaps even better.

Likewise numerous multiples of 12 man ODAs spread across the battle ecosystem boosting artillery, helicopter, medevac units etc. The advantage of such a small element is it can be concentrated, pulsed or dispersed in a matter of hours for tactical, operational or political reasons.

For instance you could have just twelve SF troopers on a kilometer of front and within a few hours a hundred odd SF on the same front commanding several thousand native troops pushing for a breakthrough and then quickly melting away. From what I understand this is the model the Spetsnaz are using in the Donbas.

Like you I genuinely believe we only go where we are welcome and the natives I was allied with where always more than up for the fight. In my experience the presence of a foreigner at the sharp end gave them even more get-go. In the Uk it´s the command and control of armor and artillery at the tactical level where they are being burned.

The Kazzura article speaks of the separatist’s fondness for the Soviet era R 159 field radio as opposed to the modern issue they have now. I mean to say the R 159 was a piece of junk in the mountains. Perhaps on the steppe they work but an ODA manned command and control digital network, with optics and perhaps mini UAVs, would give an enormous boost to the Uk armor, artillery and helicopters etc.

SF or SOC? ODA or Ranger?

Maybe we need a new name to go with the UW we have forgotten how to fight. Certainly there currently exists a capability gap our opponents are exploiting. ODA-Marco? Ranger-Mini? I suppose terminology matters to provide continuity but it is the hitherto forgotten skill-set that should define the formation. I'm sure someone would come up with a punchy name.


Bill M.

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 11:43am

In reply to by RantCorp


Two questions regarding your post. First, you're the not first person who had personal experience regarding the USSR in Afghanistan that has shared this opinion:

"By the time political changes in the Soviet Union caused a withdrawal of the Soviet army from AF this integrated all-arms SF force had completely routed the Muj – contrary to popular opinion."

I read, from an apparently credible source, that the Muj were on the verge of surrendering/quitting the fight before the USSR pulled out. The burn the swamp approach versus draining the swamp was reportedly having a devastating impact on morale. What are your thoughts on this?

Regarding SF going to an all arms approach, do you mean SOF, or SF specifically? To some extent, it would seem the Rangers with modifications to their training and organization would be better suited to conduct these operations than SF 12 men ODAs. Certainly there is value in combined and joint operations, and SOF historically, until post 9/11 hard lessons learnt, was somewhat resistant to this approach. May be more receptive now for specific operations.


Thu, 04/02/2015 - 11:23am

In reply to by Outlaw 09


Thanks for the link to Kazzura. I don't know how authentic it is but it took me back to the Soviet prisoners I interrogated. The very Russian take on authority and the grim acceptance of fate is something I haven't dwelt on for a long time. My favorite Kazzura observation was the combat leaders losing men down to the level of their own incompetence. A coming together of Kafka and Dante in the worse possible place.

The chaos is a feature of all irregular forces I have experienced. Perhaps it why we are singularly failing to deal with them. They are so flaky that a GPF has no chance of making a lasting effect on such a 'will of the wisp' opponent.

It was interesting to read his take that there was little regular Russian Army in his sector. A contradiction of your observations. However that particular 'oversight' may be the price he has to pay to Moscow for not being thrown under a bus by the Russian mafia.

At the end of the day I find it disturbing we are unable to militarily counter what a Russian describes as a 'Fucking Circus.' The organization of the Talibs and the Muj was actually much worse and with a fraction of the equipment. The Wahhabi fruitcake bringing their own God factor moves the circus into the asylum.

It was interesting to read the minimal effects the Grad have on dug in infantry which was also my experience. Somewhat perversely the lack of effect on dug in troops is not shared by the friendlies, who advancing in the open, suffer the effects of rogue 122mm rocket falling short. Since WW1 it shouldn't surprise anyone that a supposedly annihilating bombardment can have little effect on dug in troops but it's good to read a 2015 experience reaffirming a 100 year old reality.

IMO this discrepancy between what we expect of our RMA and the reality of its effect lies at the heart of our problem at countering UW. Unfortunately there is no money to be made in cultivating a greater understanding of ‘ wanting it more’ . Unlike upgraded CVBGs, ICBMs, JSFs, MRAPs etc. - 'who wants it more' comes free of charge and I think suits have a great of difficulty coming to terms with that.

One way we might 'enjoy' the fruits of their warm embrace is to examine the approach of the Spetsnaz. My personal bias loathes me to suggest a Spetsnaz solution to anything but perhaps their all-arms approach of fighting in formations as large as a battalion is something that might help us with UW. The all-arms aspect may inspire the suits as well.

I was struck by a photo taken during the fighting in Debaltsevo depicting SF riding a MBT into combat. This is an iconic WW2 image of Soviet penal troops riding into battle. An errant liberated US POW paratrooper shared this experience for a brief moment in 1945 before the entire squad and their T-34 was destroyed, leaving him the sole survivor.

Our SF might spend an entire mission eating snake, digging wells, speaking lousy Pashto to toothless men or kicking in doors. However the Spetsnaz will more often than not go into contact with hundreds of other Spetsnaz riding in/on MBTs, APCs, and helicopters. Their core doctrine is built on an all-arms approach to securing the objective.

Initially the purpose of having highly trained infantry who fought utilizing every weapon system in the Soviet arsenal was to seize NATOs tactical nuke missile/artillery sites in the opening minutes of a NATO/Warsaw Pact war. An entire SF battalion would attempt to overrun the objective and fight off all-comers until the main force reached them. Mi17s were the backbone of this capacity.

After dropping off the troops a single Mi 17s could lay down a defensive minefield consisting of nearly 15,000 AP mines or provide ‘artillery’ support fires with 192 57mm Air to Ground rockets per helo. If heavy equipment was needed the Mi 26 could lift in any heavy equipment needed.

In Afghanistan the mission wasn’t as localized as a tactical nuke launch site but the same units were deployed across the east of the country alongside the Durand Line. The mission was to empty the countryside of people with a heli-borne blitzkrieg of AP mines, 57mm rockets and DA and maintain those gains by plugging the logistical supply routes straddling the Durand Line with a combination of PPP mines and all-arms ambush.

I was on the receiving end of such an element. 40 odd men in four Mi 17s bivouacked on inaccessible dead-ground atop a mountain-ridge. Helicopter assault telegraphs its arrival probably 10 minutes prior to arrival on target and considerably longer at night. On this occasion we later learned they’d been on the ground with their four Mi 17 for 2 nights and a day. About 0100 a large supply column entered the killing zone. The column was confident suitable cover would be reached come sunrise.

An ambush ensued where-in several hundred heavily armed Muj were attacked by perhaps a 30 Spetsnaz. Needless to say it appeared a suicidal task until the four picketing Mi17 helicopters ‘appeared from nowhere’ and decimated the much larger force with hundreds of 57mm rockets. Prior to leaving they stripped the dead of items of interest (namely FIM92A Stingers) and blanketed the killing ground with more than 25,000 PFM-1 anti-personnel mines.

It was the instantaneous application of enormous firepower in the middle of nowhere upon a barren landscape that was impressive. These elements could be inserted anywhere and at any time. I imagine in some instances they lay low for weeks atop some mountain and waited for the best target to emerge from Pakistan.
By the time political changes in the Soviet Union caused a withdrawal of the Soviet army from AF this integrated all-arms SF force had completely routed the Muj – contrary to popular opinion.

In the Uk the task is not the seizure of a tactical nuke or the plugging of the Durand Line. The mission is to secure a ‘Russian-speaking enclave ‘. But the tactical tool is the same and true to their all-arms approach they morphed into ground-based artillery armed SF rather than the Mi 17 MO. Masses of rocket firing helicopters would undermine Moscow’s narrative of little green men and holiday-makers using captured Uk Army equipment.

My point is if we promote non-linear/UW/CUW as an effort that could entail SF manned MBTs, Ospreys, Apaches, M110s whatever, it may address the capability blind spot between SF and GPF that the little green men are currently exploiting. Having an all-arms element within SF would enable a steep learning curve for training FID when the natives encounter vacationers who bring artillery and MBTs with their shades and sun-cream. Asking an ODA to fulfil the mission when numerous deciding encounters are ‘steel on steel’ or a five day bombardment is more than they can carry on their backs. Asking the GPF requires a Declaration of War.

Currently the suits couldn’t give a damn if mastering UW is in the national interest. Money talking and the rest is bullshit probably caused the decline of every empire since the dawn of time but this system is the system we have and unless hundreds of thousands of Americans are being slaughtered in their beds (as opposed to a mere 3600 being murdered at their desks) it will not change.

However if a certain number of SF embraced the Spetsnaz model and fielded heavy equipment (perhaps ‘combat proven in the Ukraine’) the suits come on board to promote their sales to the GPF. With the suits support the leper status of non-linear/UW might suddenly become vital to the national interest – albeit for all the wrong reasons but hey - Ways, Means, Ends.

Just blowing smoke,

Outlaw 09

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 10:32am

In discussions on the Russian hybrid warfare or what they call non-linear warfare we definitely do not need to forget that there is also a conventional aspect of non-linear warfare which often gets forgotten.

Finally a US Army General calls what has been ongoing in eastern Ukraine exactly what it has been---pure uninhibited conventional warfare with a very large W.

Gen. Hodges:"The fighting that has been going on in Ukraine is a very serious, kinetic, violent steel-on-steel fight"

US general says new Russian offensive in Donbas ‘possible after Easter’ …

Russia had to supply 150 tons of artillery shells and rockets per day of fighting—NOTE: there is no artillery munitions and or rocket munitions plant inside eastern Ukraine---it all came from Russia usually via rail and or their so called "humanitarian aid" convoys.

Gen. Ben Hodges: "We have never been under Russian artillery like the volume that they are experiencing" in Ukraine

Bill M.

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 12:23pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.,

Your definition helps scope the debate, and now in fact there is no debate that we're expansionist. I don't agree it is a role reversal, because we starting pushing for global influence (beyond Latin America) toward the end of WWII. When the USSR collapsed, we transitioned to a unipolar world where we were the only superpower. I would argue that we're transitioning to a nonpolar world, where multiple actors compete for influence.

For one, I'm not opposed to the U.S. seeking to expand its influence. I think it makes perfect strategic sense. We can disagree with how we do it, and what we try to push with our agenda, because in fact those do create unnecessary tensions in some cases. However, you seem to seem to support/justify Russia's actions in Ukraine. On this point, we disagree, and if we don't seek to deter Russia they'll only continue to act out and disrupt the fragile peace that exists in Europe.

Bill C.

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 11:52am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M:

Given my role-reversal (Cold War to now) thesis, I adopted the definition of "expansion" that we used -- during the Cold War -- to refer to Soviet/communist efforts at advancing their influence.

Then, as now, "expansion" was not defined -- as you have properly noted above -- in what might be called "the traditional sense."

Thus, then as now, the definition of "expansion" extended far beyond such ideas as an aggressive power seeking to "expand it borders, dominate other countries militarily and/or lock people within their borders."

In this regard, consider the following from the U.S. State Department, which emphasizes that "expansion" -- during the Cold War (and, I would argue, still today) -- is to be understood in terms of advancing one's "influence;" whenever, wherever and however one can:

" 'The main element of any United States policy toward the Soviet Union,' Kennan wrote, 'must be that of a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russian expansive tendencies.' "

"The United States, Kennan’s article implied, should face down the Soviet Union and its Communist allies whenever and wherever they posed a risk of gaining influence."

"Kennan, who considered the Soviet threat to be primarily political, advocated above all else economic assistance (e.g., the Marshall Plan) and 'psychological warfare' (overt propaganda and covert operations) to counter the spread of Soviet influence."

"... containment, in the more general sense of blocking the expansion of Soviet influence, remained the basic strategy of the United States throughout the cold war."

With this definition of "expansion" now before us, does my role-reversal thesis -- and my questions based on and related thereto -- now seem more correct, important and relevant?

(Given this confusion, and 20/20 hindsight, looks like I should have began my discussions here with this Cold War definition of "expansion." And which, with your help, I have now ultimately and finally provided. Yes?)

Bill M.

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 9:33am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C (edited),

I still see few parallels between the U.S. seeking to strengthen its relationships with various partners to address common security challenges, and the USSR's use of force to take over a number of nations, and then impose severe population control measures to maintain control, to include prohibiting their people from leaving. To borrow a phrase, we lobby for a coalition of the willing. The Bush administration strayed into new ground that Presidents before him, nor Obama are pursuing. He certainly had cause to do so after the 9/11 attacks; however, that wasn't the norm, and it isn't the norm now.

You referenced an article written in 1993 when our nation was still struggling to identify a post cold war security strategy. A lot has been learned since then. Provide evidence that it is?

As for pushing our economic system upon others, I tend to agree with you that is our desire, but we have limited means to "push" it upon others. We compete with other systems and actors. Any attempt to push it will probably backfire. Our economic system is showing signs of strain in our country, and IMO it is less than an idea system for many other countries. I actually think globalization will slow, and to some degree reverse. Instead, we'll see more regional trading blocks in the near future. Unfettered capitalism across national borders doesn't work for the majority.

However, competing economically and recommending that countries adapt our economic system is NOT U.S. expansionism. We're not expanding our borders, we're not dominating other countries militarily and locking their people within those borders, and we're not forming colonies to be exploited. I don't think you made a defensible case that we're an expansionist nation in the traditional sense, unless you have a different definition of defining expansionism than what I posted in the sentence above?

If you want to argue we're excessively interventionist, that we're hubristic in our political and economic beliefs, and that our vision for the international order is unrealistic, then I would agree with you. I don't agree we're expansionist.

Bill C.

Wed, 04/01/2015 - 6:02pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Russia's actions today appear to have less to do with economics than with resisting Western efforts at transformation. As outlined below, Putin appears to be ready to sacrifice economic security for identity and autonomy:

"Russia’s aggression in Ukraine should not be understood as an opportunistic power grab. Rather, it is an attempt to politically, culturally, and militarily resist the West." ...

"Putin has come to view himself as a last bastion of order and traditional values. He is convinced that liberalism is contagious and that Western mores and institutions present a real danger to Russian society and the Russian state. He surely dreams of the pre-1914 days, when Russia was autocratic but accepted, revolutions were not tolerated, and Russia could be part of Europe while preserving its distinctive culture and traditions."

"From that perspective, the Ukrainian revolution is a symbol of everything that is wrong with today’s Europe. It flirts with people power and moral relativism, it stirs passions, and it shows utter disregard for Russia’s geopolitical ambitions. And with his adventure across the border, Putin has signaled that he won’t stand for it."

"Putin is apparently ready to abandon all thoughts of Russia being a European nation in good standing -- far better for it to be a civilization of its own -- and has proved willing to sacrifice his country’s economic interests to achieve his goals."

"His (Putin's) foreign policy amounts to a deep rejection of modern Western values and an attempt to draw a clear line between Russia’s world and Europe’s."…

Thus, and much as would seem to be the case with the greater Middle East, et. al, in Russia also there is this move to:

a. Reject the Western values, attitudes and beliefs that are being thrust upon them.

b. To attempt to, instead, contain and roll back Western efforts to advance its power, influence and control via such methods. And,

c. To try stand up/re-stand up one's own civilization; using the appeal of earlier, more prestigious and more indigenous values, concepts, ideas and periods of history.

Thus, these "reactive" actions of non-conforming states and societies to be understood:

a. Not in terms of the greatest (and only remaining) superpower of the world, post-the Cold War, sitting idly by on its hands. But, rather,

b. Within the context the formal, documented, announced and pursued post-Cold War expansionist agenda of the United States. (See my comment immediately above.)

Herein, and thus, to understand, not only the positive -- but also the negative -- outcomes of our such post-Cold War decision and actions.

Thoughts on hybrid warfare, etc., needing to properly take this role-reversal -- vis-a-vis the Cold War and today -- properly into account?

Outlaw 09

Wed, 04/01/2015 - 2:30pm

In reply to by Bill C.

Just some thoughts to your comments. There will be typos tonight as I am working on a German Russian keyboard.

If we take the history of all so called superpowers and yes that even applies to the colonial countries of the 17th and 18th centuries--they all have expansionism as their core driver--then and now why--I would argue it is driven by economics not politics--yes politics because that drives the expansionism which in turn provided economic development and natiional and elite wealth for a few not for the masses.

Right now though I would argue that something else is driving Russia and especially Putin and it is almost like the colonial period--raw resources--Russia has never realy left being a one or two maybe three raw resource based state controlled economic system.

If one takes a look at the EEU and the Putin drive to recreate the "imperial" Russia you will actually see the old Soviet concept of using the Warsaw Pact countries as raw resource and finished product providers to the "motherland" as a complex state controlled enterprise concept--this has not changed one inch from the Stalin days.

Example--during the 80s the SU would get favorable ship building deals with the GDR-- basically the ships were provided to the SU at virtually cost and the GDR lost tons of money on the deals--then built into the contract was a passage that "allowed" the SU to return the ships for a general overall at the fifth year--The Soviets would pound the ships into the ground and flat out over use them and then it cost the GDR their own money to completely refurbish them to a new state--that was economic blackmail but typical for how the SU built their own colonial system--and one wonders why eastern Europe has gone West???

Review the Soviet colonial empire in the view that it provided to the SU everything they themsleves could not produce and or lacked for a raw resource--no different than the British empire and now through their form of fascism they are in fact trying to rebuild that exact same economic empire--thus their EEU creation.

Example--just how deep was the Ukraine military industrial complex tied to providing new electronic and high tech weapon systems to the current Russian Army?

Example--it has been reported today by the Ukrainian Army that Russian troops and her mercenaries dismantled a complete factory and loaded it into 20 trucks which then left to Rostov Russia on 30 March--why would be an interesting question if your job is to protect ethnic Russians then why do you destroy their jobs?

To drive though that expansionism one needs an ideology and for this Russia and Putin it is the believe in a far right or fascist ideology that has been used to support and or justify this expansionism.

If one takes the 1998 comments by the current senior Russian General assigned to the JCCC in the Ukraine, coupled with Putin's comments starting in say 2000 coupled with the multiple comments by his chief ideologue Dugin since also 2000 you will notice that all three are in lock step with a developing form of Russian fascism that has historically always been there.

Great example--it made it out of social media yesterday that the current main "separatist" leaders in eastern Ukraine all travelled to and stayed a long while at a Dugin sponsored "training center" in 2000 and then it is no accident that the same faces show up now in the Donetsk.

This expansionistic drang by Russia was not forced on them by an action or actions of the US, EU and or NATO--while our actions may and or may not have caused this new ideology it is definitely being used by this ideology to justify now their actions as an easy form of disinformation that can be sold quite well in the mass media.

We really do need to fully understand what this new form of Russian fascism is and what direction it is headed in.

Bill C.

Wed, 04/01/2015 - 12:24pm

In reply to by Bill M.

The way that our policies compare to those of the former USSR -- as your information above clearly indicates and confirms -- is that they are "expansionist" oriented.

Note here how the New York Times, as early as 1993, characterized this fundamental and distinct sea-change/about-face in US foreign policy, to wit: as being "reversed:"…

Likewise note how former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, in 1993, addressed/characterized America's post-Cold War expansionist mission:

"During the Cold War, even children understood America's security mission; as they looked at those maps on their schoolroom walls, they knew we were trying to contain the creeping expansion of that big, red blob. Today, at great risk of oversimplification, we might visualize our security mission as promoting the enlargement of the "blue areas" of market democracies."

All I am asking is whether this such much-acknowledged sea-change/about-face -- re: our foreign policy and associated strategy(ies) -- presents:

a. Major difficulties for the United States -- as it did for the Soviet Union -- re: their expansionist agenda and era? And:

b. Presents major advantages for our enemies -- as it did for the United States -- when we sought to "contain" and "roll back" the Soviets efforts?

Thus, in general, the (I believe) (1) exceptionally timely and (2) exceptionally relevant question of:

How does this "role-reversal:"

a. Negatively effect such things as how one pursues one's political warfare, informational warfare, unconventional warfare, hybrid warfare, narrative, etc.? And how does this such "role-reversal:"

b. Negatively effect/complicate things for our special operations forces -- who are having to now operate within such (for modern Americans) an unusual and, seemingly, much more-difficult environment?

I thought these might be very good questions indeed; given our role-reversal -- which is so clearly acknowledged, documented and described, for example, by such excellent and diverse sources as (a) The New York Times and (b) former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake above.

Bill M.

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 9:17pm

In reply to by Bill C.

a. President Clinton adopting a formal "engagement and enlargement" strategy during his time in office.

Our foreign policy rests on 3 pillars:

"—Security. Our security depends upon our willingness to play a leadership role in world affairs, but we cannot sustain our leadership role without maintaining a defense capability strong enough to underwrite our commitments credibly.

—Economics. For America to be strong abroad it must be strong economically at home; at the same time, domestic economic renewal depends on the growth and integration of the global economy.

—Democracy. The best way to advance America's interests worldwide is to enlarge the community of democracies and free markets throughout the world."

A superficial view would assume we're expanding our empire, but it is a transition from the previous era of Cold War realism tied to balance of power to cooperative security among states to deal with common threats. Enlargement was enlarging an empire as you imply, but enlarging the cooperative network of nation-states. It is an approach we still pursue, but now with more realism, since even the hard core neoconservatives realize Russia is not a friend.

b. Bush had to invade Afghanistan, we have no need to apologize or regret that. As for transforming it, I think the goals were good, but unrealistic based on the timelines. You can't transform a country overnight unless you pursue the extreme tactics of your friends in the USSR by killing off the resistance and pushing tens of thousands of people into reeducation camps. Iraq is seen by many as an exercise of hubris that was based on faulty assumptions. We have no reason to apologize for removing Saddam, he killed thousands of his own people, sponsored terrorists (not al-Qaeda, but anti-Israeli groups), and destabilized the region.

c. We sure as heck didn't occupy Libya, we provided airpower to stop Libyans from being slaughtered by Kaddafi, I guess policies based on principle where we protect the defenseless is amoral in your view? Russia conducted an illegal invasion of the Ukraine, so should the international community just standby and hope for peace? Or were sanctions and other actions to deter further aggression warranted?

No I don't have to see how our policies compare to the former USSR, because the difference is considerable.

Bill C.

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 1:07pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M.

I hope you can see the relationship between (1) America/the West being expansionist and (2) Russia (and, indeed, people elsewhere in the world) feeling threatened.

Given the fact that numerous former Warsaw Pact nations have now joined NATO (and the EU?), this would not seem to suggest -- to the Russians at least -- that American/Western influence was "waning across the world" or, more specific to our discussion, was waning in their neck of the woods.

Re: Putin's having expansionist goals beyond protecting its borders, STRATFOR does not seem to agree. Thus, your point of view here would seem to need some greater explanation/evidence to support it.

Hans Morgenthau (certainly not a leftist?) understood the expansionist designs of the United States when he noted that, like the former Soviet Union, the goal of the United States was to "expand the reach of its respective political values and institutions and to prevent the expansion of the other."

Paul Nitze (also not a leftist?), who authored the famous NSC-68, also understood America's expansionist tendencies. Thus, he (in a 1990 article in Foreign Affairs) warned the United States, post-the Cold War, not to go down the expansionist path of the former Soviet Union/the communists. This, because of the "lesson of history" that the Soviet Union/the communists had so painfully learned re: its expansionist/transformational efforts. This lesson being "the near impossibility of erasing cultural ties, ethnic identities and social practices in a world where communications and ideas cannot be suppressed."

And yet, in spite of this (and specifically because we believe that our version of "universal values," and our "the end of history" thesis, will be better received than that of the communists) we find:

a. President Clinton adopting a formal "engagement and enlargement" strategy during his time in office.

b. President Bush invading Afghanistan and Iraq and spending inordinate sums in a futile attempt to transform these states and societies more along modern western lines.

c. President Obama helping to overthrow Gaddafi and sanctioning Russia.

Thus, if not to the strategic end of "expansion," to what might we, and the rest of the world, associate our such post-Cold War agenda and actions?

(Herein, Ambassador Nitze -- and re: his 1990 warning -- might suggest "lunacy.")

Bill M.

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 7:00am

In reply to by Bill C.

Bill C.,

I wish you pick one conspiracy theory and stick to it. You're principle argument is that America is expansionist, and now you're making a more rationale argument that Russia feels threatened. As MF notes below, American influence has been waning across the world for some time now. Like Russia, but in a very different way, we're attempting to maintain our influence (it is currently a losing battle) in the world.

Russia is doing much more than protecting its borders, it does have expansionist goals. Putin thinks Russia is a superpower, which is why he is flying his bombers around the world recently in a provocative manner. Russia is a dying country, and Putin isn't reversing that. In a few decades if demographic trends don't reverse they'll be a Muslim majority country. Putin knows NATO isn't going to invade Russia, he is creating a myth to cling to political power at home.

Your attempt, like others on the far left, to paint America as the new USSR ignores history. Funny how in hindsight communist USSR and China who killed millions of their people, restricted information, and kept their people within their borders by force of arms, are now seen as the good guys.

Bill C.

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:07pm

In reply to by Move Forward

Move Foward:

Good info here re: Latin America and it moving to the left in recent years.

My thought, however, and as I thought I made clearly, related to "during the Cold War." Wherein, if I am not wrong, such movement would have been and, indeed was, less tolerated/countered more aggressively.

In hindsight, and given the greater similarity between Mexico or Canada and the Ukraine -- as might be gleaned from the information provided below from my above-linked STRATFOR article -- I probably should have used one of these countries for my comparison.

"Ukraine is the cornerstone to Russia's defense and survival as any sort of power. The former Soviet state hosts the largest Russian community in the world outside of Russia, and is tightly integrated into Russia's industrial and agricultural heartland. Ukraine is the transit point for 80 percent of the natural gas shipped from Russia to Europe and is the connection point for most infrastructure — whether pipeline, road, power or rail — running between Russia and the West.

Ukraine gives Russia the ability to project political, military and economic power into Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and the Black Sea. Ukrainian territory also pushes deep into Russia's sphere, with only a mere 300 miles from Ukraine to either Volgograd or Moscow. To put it simply, without Ukraine, Russia would have fewer ways to become a regional power and would have trouble maintaining stability within itself. This is why Ukraine's pro-Western 2004 Orange Revolution was a nightmare for Russia. The change in government in Kiev during the revolution brought a president that was hostile to Russian interests, and with him a slew of possibilities that would harm Russia, including Ukraine's integration into the European Union or even NATO."

Given such a Mexico or Canada comparison, would my argument have been better made?

Move Forward

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 6:03pm

In reply to by Bill M.

A 420,000 Soldier active Army is far too low. If SOUTHCOM is under-resourced, that quantity would exacerbate the problem. My concern is that we often see El Salvador and Columbia cited as examples of light footprints that worked. Yet if El Salvador now has a leftist government since 2009, reaffirmed in 2014, and other South and Central American nations are heading that way----something is not working down south.

Shaping is an ambiguous term that like many Design and EBO terms is unclear leaving conspiracy theorists to run wild with speculation. In contrast to open Army support in places like Honduras and whatever SF and the CIA may do in a covert manner, nations like China openly provide funds to Latin nations. I'm not convinced that this administration is even concerned about this trend despite the basket case economy we see in Venezuela and Cuba under socialism, with Argentina and Ecuador not doing much better. An upcoming Panama Summit of the Americas meeting in April should be interesting with Cuba now invited. If this trend travels to Mexico and businesses are nationalized, imagine the consequences (short of invasion Bill C).

As for your examples, the Balkans could have been much worse off if we had done nothing as we currently do reference Assad and our half-hearted bombing efforts against ISIS. We did not have a large forward presence in the Middle East prior to Desert Storm, and yet our current basing in Kuwait gives us options not being explored as would basing in Kurd territory in larger numbers.

Communist insurgencies in Latin America were not solved permanently by a light footprint because they were legitimized by voting processes despite SOUTHCOM and SOCOM efforts and whatever the State Department and CIA concocted that failed to work.

Vietnam was unique but provided a model we utilized more recently in Afghanistan using helicopters to move troops, supplies, and firepower from safe FOBs to COPs without exposing troops as much to IEDs and ambush. Technologies like body armor and precision munitions available today could have made Vietnam far less bloody. A professional rather than draft Army and more use of reserve components would have reduced deployments, especially at the far larger Army levels of those years. As it was, the Vietnam COIN campaign eventually had been won by ground forces, both regular and SF---it was the transition and failure to bomb a conventional invasion that caused the loss.

With an adequately sized active Army, rotational forces could routinely join prepositioned equipment in Poland and Baltic nations. Pacific Pathways is similarly a model for the Pacific. My long ago article suggesting building up a base on South China Sea islands using an old grounded carrier as a centerpiece was seen as an easy A2/AD target, yet China appears to be doing something similar. At some point, as during the Cold War and as continued in Korea, you must be willing to demonstrate resolve despite threats. When you see China criticizing THAAD deployments to South Korea, and Russia threatening Denmark for hosting air defense radars, you start to suspect you are on the right track. You can solve much of the rest with active armored defenses against submunitions and rapid dispersion during heightened tensions.

The alternative to Army armor of airborne troops, rapid deployment and Stryker/LAV forces that are vulnerable and lack antiarmor punch, amphibious forces, and SF/SOF alone are not going to impress Putin or the PLA. You don't need to forward deploy Army forces at tens of major internal conflicts around the world. You do need to use ground forces to support the most critical threats to our vital national interests in Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific---and overtly rather than covertly support SOUTHCOM and other sensitive areas. That is only feasible with a 490,000 Soldier active Army that is regionally aligned and frequently rotated forward. It is not very feasible or effective with 420,000 Soldiers sitting mostly stateside.

Bill M.

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 1:19pm

In reply to by Move Forward

Move Forward,

First, I agree with your concerns about downsizing our forward posture. Second, I don't agree with downsizing our Army below 420k, this isn't the mid-20th Century where we have time to mobilize an Army after a threat emerges, especially a high tech military. Third, yes there are writers with little credibility, but large fanfare, that claim SOF and airpower make conventional forces irrelevant. We both know that argument is crap.

Where I disagree with you. First, most of our shaping operations are not causing the security issues we're facing. Believe it or not there are other actors on the global stage that can influence events, so it is a false claim to assume America's actions are decisive. Second, while I agree we need to maintain an overseas force posture, our previous robust force posture didn't prevent the chaos in the Balkans, Saddam from invading Kuwait, communist insurgencies in Latin America, North Vietnam from invading South Vietnam, and tens of major internal conflicts around the world. They wouldn't prevent anything we're seeing today either.

Move Forward

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 8:17am

In reply to by Bill M.

<blockquote>Your apparent envy of SF just won't stop, and your arguments become increasing illogical. SF never claimed they could do what the conventional army does. However, SF engagement around the world is policy choice that falls far short of committed the big army to impose our will. In short, there is a big difference between shaping (what we generally do) and attempting to use force to impose our will.</blockquote>

Come on Bill M. We see a constant refrain that light footprints by SF/SOF can solve nearly anything when combined with airpower. Meanwhile, we see that sentiment excusing the decline of active Army force structure down to the 490,000 that existed in a much more peaceful time, and likely the 420,000 that ultimately will come to pass. I watched hours of local citizens fearing loss of their jobs due to sequestration during a DoD road show. The logic of some who (contrary to your and other's realism) think we can get by with a much smaller active Army is utterly illogical. The shaping you describe is part of the problem that ultimately leads to actual conflicts.

You mentioned the problems we had propping up failing governments to our south. We similarly insisted on trying to keep Iraq and Afghanistan as single states where the proportions of their populations clearly called for a different result. Yet now we see papers advocating "political warfare" that would "shape" us into even more problems of perception of secret squirrel activities occurring behind the scenes.

In contrast, in areas that we used to see strong forward-deployed presence of active Army forces, deterrence was preserved for many decades, i.e. Korea and Europe. Bean counters seeking a cheaper route convinced policy-makers that a lighter footprint would suffice and that Navy, Marine, and USAF force structure should replace active Army strength. Others see Federal Civil Service as the bill-payer. That is the vicarious envy you see in me. Some Captains command 100+ Soldier units, other's command squads. Some Platoon Sergeants teach 2LTs the ropes while simultaneously managing and training a platoon of troops while other E-7s and E-6s have much more limited jobs in terms of supervision and broad knowledge. Some troops deploy for 12-15 months during wartime because the active Army is too small. Others deploy for 4-7 months because they have enough strength to rotate at that shorter duration.

You mention Russian bombers but look at how primitive and non-numerous they are. We fly greatly updated B-52s to be sure, but they are still flying prop bombers. Their stealth fleets are only in the prototype stage while we have hundreds of aircraft. The Russian Navy is a tiny fraction of its former self yet its untested current one and Chinese PLAN become some exaggerated boogey-man that "requires" a great increase in Navy and USAF spending and force structure. A pivot to an area of the world that largely is peaceful is illogically conceived while the world burns elsewhere.

It makes no sense, nor does the rush to impose sanctions that caused the Pacific war in WWII, and treaties that others always cheat on. Yet because we hurry to prematurely end forward presence in multiple locations to downsize the active Army, a vacuum results that invites trouble. That trouble is not solved by PW/UW or CIA "shaping" that only looks like hidden meddling in their affairs. At least when the Army and Marines are forward-deployed, it is a clear message of help and deterrence that small teams of SF/SOF cannot duplicate. If whole of government was a working proposition, why are our neighbors to the south dissing us? Who truly believes that whole of government aid and diplomacy solve anything in the Middle East?

One solution might help. In addition to pushing so hard for a two-state solution in Israel (where Israelis have things largely under control), why not explore the same approach in Syria and Iraq where it might work? Perhaps Yemen should not be a single state, who knows. We certainly don't want to discourage the new Egyptian ruler and Saudi Arabia from creating coalitions of the willing. Yet some would have us abandon the Saudis and new Egypt ruler and instead embrace Iranian influence that continues to spread terror and disruption. Some ignore Assad's killing of hundreds of thousands of Sunnis and think willful head-burying in the sand will see things work out in the end. Perhaps, you can excuse my suspicion about diplomacy, U.N., sanctions, shaping, whole of government, and SF/SOF/airpower when you look at the daily headlines caused by the inadequacy of these sole solutions.

Bill M.

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 7:13am

In reply to by Move Forward


Your apparent envy of SF just won't stop, and your arguments become increasing illogical. SF never claimed they could do what the conventional army does. However, SF engagement around the world is policy choice that falls far short of committed the big army to impose our will. In short, there is a big difference between shaping (what we generally do) and attempting to use force to impose our will. Shaping works in some places, and it doesn't in others. It works less now because we have more competitors. In Latin America, China and Iran are increasingly displacing our influence, yet SOUTHCOM is probably the most under resourced geographical combatant command. Anti-U.S. sentiment has existed in that region for years, because during the Cold War the CIA (supporting U.S. policy) supported some evil regimes to limit communist influence. Clearly that approached failed over time. We didn't compete with superior ideas, we just spent millions on supporting dictators who fight communist insurgencies. We made our bed in Latin America, but one thing is clear, the left leaning governments are just as corrupt as the right leaning ones. There are opportunities to take that region in a different direction if we can move beyond our myopic focus on counternarcotics.

SF is always constrained by policy, which is fine. Sending advisors is still an option when we don't want to own the problem. If it doesn't work out then it doesn't work out. If we send the army in force and it doesn't work out it is a national loss that has strategic repercussions. Very few situations warrant such an effort.

Move Forward

Tue, 03/31/2015 - 12:37am

In reply to by Bill C.

<blockquote>The fact that, as you suggest, many countries and people in the region may want to join NATO so as to gain freedom from Russia; this is seen in the same negative light today -- by Russia -- as we would have viewed, during the Cold War, the idea that many countries and people, in our neck of the woods, wished to go communist and/or join the WARSAW Pact. Herein and regardless of what these countries and populations might have "wanted," it is impossible to believe that, during the Cold War, we would have (or, indeed, did) simply sit back and allow this to happen.</blockquote>

Sit back and allow this to happen? Suggest you read this link (that does not require providing your e-mail) and about the current Pink Tide.…

We all know how bad Venezuela and its economy have gotten since Chavez in 1998, and Columbia has had the FARC problem for years. In this article, it mentions that by 2005 up to 75% of South America was governed by left-leaning governments. Not sure that is accurate, but consider Bolivia since 2006, Ecuador since 2007, Brazil since 2003, Nicaragua again since 2007, not to mention Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, El Salvador (2009) and other Caribbean nations like Cuba since 1959.

One then might speculate that the U.S. has done a pretty poor job of trying to thwart this trend with military forces. Both Presidents Bush and Obama were in charge during this evolution and if we have been using SF and the CIA in some sort of political or unconventional warfare, it does not reflect well on their effectiveness other than in Columbia.

If anything is clear from this trend, it is that China and Russia both have increased their influence in both South and Central America since during and well after the Cold War. The difference is that in the Cold War, the Soviets had to construct fences with minefields and guards to keep oppressed Eastern Bloc citizens <strong>in</strong> their failed economies replete with lack of liberty and opportunity. In contrast, the U.S. has had to build fences and use border patrol to keep Central Americans and others <strong>out</strong> who otherwise flock to the U.S. and its better way of life and known freedoms.

The likelihood of U.S. offensives and subsequent occupations of South and Central America is about as likely as that of NATO attacking a "vulnerable" Russia--nonexistent. We may attempt to influence those neighbor nations. We won't be sending tanks as the Soviets did in the Cold War to maintain their stranglehold on the Eastern Bloc. Nobody twisted any arms to get nations to join NATO. The Ukrainians have had much more than arms twisted in recent months, as did the Georgians, Chechnyans, and Afghans before that none of which were NATO members. NATO did assist Afghanistan the second time around and yet you see its current President asking us to stay rather than NATO twisting any arms to remain.

Oops, I left out El Salvador with a new leftist leader since 2014. Guess its kind of similar to Iraq where we leave behind a light footprint and the majority subsequently votes and rules in a way we would not prefer. And who was Secretary of State when much of this Pink Tide was solidifying from 2008 on?

Bill C.

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 5:37pm

In reply to by Bill M.

(Edited and added to:)

It appears that the people over at STRATFOR have a conspiracy theory that seems very similar to mine own.

"Russia has been working on consolidating its affairs at home and re-establishing the former Soviet sphere for many years now and has recently made solid progress toward pulling the most critical countries back into its fold. For Russia, this consolidation of control is not about expansionism or imperial designs; it is about national security and the survival of the geographically vulnerable Russian heartland, which has no natural features protecting it.

Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, most of Russia's buffer (made up mainly of former Soviet states) fell under pro-Western influence and drifted away from Moscow. But the past few years have seen a shift in global dynamics in which much of the West — particularly the United States — has been preoccupied by events in the Middle East and Afghanistan, leaving little time and energy to devote to increasing its influence in the former Soviet sphere. Russia has used this time to begin rolling back such influence."…

Note here that the Russian effort is viewed from the perspective of defense -- not offense -- and is seen to be primarily designed to contain and "roll back" Western power, influence and control. This, in the face of very clear efforts by the West to advance same.

In our Cold War days, the reverse would seem to have been true, with the West being seen as the one being in the defensive mode, and the one attempting to contain and roll back Soviet/communist efforts to advance their power, influence and control. (For example: on our door-step back then, and in such places as Latin America).

Thus, my "role-reversal" thesis (we are now seen as the aggressor, and in "their" various necks of the woods, and "they" are now seen as the defenders -- not only of "their" home territories -- but also of "their" home values, attitudes and beliefs -- which are under clear assault by the West).

This such "role-reversal" would seem to have amazingly adverse implications for our UW, political warfare, etc., approaches; for our narrative; and for our special operations forces seeking to operate within and advance same.


a. When We Were Seen as the Good Guys: During the Cold War and in such diverse places as near Nicaragua and far away Afghanistan, our UW, political warfare, etc., approaches -- and our narrative -- could take on the mantel of (1) the defender of the ordinary people and (2) the defender of their traditional values, attitudes and beliefs. This, in the face of very clear Soviet/communist efforts to radically transform same. In such a favorable environment as this, we could rally the conservative elements of the population, and many of the ordinary people, to our -- and their -- common cause.

b. When We Are Seen as the Bad Guys: Today, in such diverse and far away places as the Middle East and the Russian borderlands, our UW, political warfare, etc., approaches -- and our narrative -- cannot take on this "defender" mantel and legitimacy. As such, we find that (1) the conservative elements of the population have -- in this "bizzaro" world of our own making -- (2) often become our sworn enemies.

(Bizarro world: A place where everything is inverted, backwards, or similar but just not right.)

Thus, unconventional warfare, political warfare, informational warfare, etc., today to be seen:

a. Not only, as you suggest, through the lens of inability to use conventional warfare approaches to achieve our goals.

b. But also, as I suggest, through the lens of the role-reversal that I (and STRATFOR?) have identified above; one that causes we former "defenders" -- of traditional values, attitudes and beliefs and conservative populations and causes -- to take on the much more difficult and, indeed, very opposite role.

Final note:

The fact that, as you suggest, many countries and people in the region may want to join NATO so as to gain freedom from Russia; this is seen in the same negative light today -- by Russia -- as we would have viewed, during the Cold War, the idea that many countries and people, in our neck of the woods, wished to go communist and/or join the WARSAW Pact. Herein and regardless of what these countries and populations might have "wanted," it is impossible to believe that, during the Cold War, we would have (or, indeed, did) simply sit back and allow this to happen.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 8:06am

In reply to by Bill M.

The NATO SG yesterday made an interesting statement;

Russia has spread the myth since Crimea that NATO was expanding eastward thus their push back---interestingly if one looks at the eastern countries that wanted to join NATO --NATO held them in suspension for a number of years before allowing them to join initially out of a fear of upsetting Russia.

His comment yesterday--"we did not expand eastward--the east wanted to join us. Meaning they asked us not vice versa.

Comments out of the Baltics over the last few days reinforce that theory--meaning they saw NATO as a "protecting force from Russia" long before Russia became a problem.

What many failed to see in the Baltics and it should be revisited--just exactly what was the Soviet military actions taken in some of the Baltic countries when they indicated they were exiting the Soviet Union especially under Gorbi---it was down right aggressive, not friendly in the least bit and violent.

Maybe that was their reason for asking to join NATO??

Bill M.

Mon, 03/30/2015 - 6:24am

In reply to by Bill C.

You have a conspiracy theory that will reject and twist facts time to fit your theory. We are forcing no country into our sphere with the exception of our fool's errand of forcing a regime change in Iraq. Eastern European countries want to join NATO to ensure their freedom from Russia. They rejected Russia, they embraced the West. Many countries and their populations want help in fighting islamists, because oddly enough they don't want to live under a terrorist regime. As for UW, political warfare, etc., the fact is conventional warfare has limited utility in some cases, so we need alternative approaches. It isn't more complicated than that.

If you want to believe in conspiracies, black helicopters coming from the Jewish run UN, and that America is always wrong, then you are free to do so. It would be best if you actually traveled to some of these areas and what the people versus adversary propaganda are saying.

Bill M., at his March 28, 2015 7:17 AM comment below, suggests, if I read him correctly, that Putin's political objective was/is to weaken NATO and that, accordingly, this is what Putin is applying his hybrid warfare approach to achieve.

Did I get that right?

General Breedlove, for his part then, would seem to be saying that we should use our "diplomatic tools, informational tools, military tools, economic tools" to counter Putin's strategic approach and, thereby, prevent him (Putin) from weakening NATO.

Does this also seem correct?

My concern is that the political objective of Putin is not to weaken NATO but, rather, to prevent the West from causing the Ukraine (et. al?) to (a) make a decisive break with Russia and, instead, (2) move to affiliate itself with the West. Putin believing that such a move -- if successful -- by populations within the Ukraine, would stimulate similar demands and moves by populations within Russia. (Thus, Outlaw's "Maiden" argument?)

If my (really just Outlaw's) characterization of Putin's concerns above is accurate, then we must come to understand Putin's post-Cold War motivations, political objective and strategy more in terms of "containment" and "roll back" of the West generally. This, given the fact that today it is the United States/the West that is seen -- by the populations within Russia and elsewhere throughout the world -- as being in an aggressive/expansionist mode.

This such understanding -- by populations throughout the world -- has important and rather mind-boggling implications, I suggest, for such things as U.S./western political warfare, unconventional warfare, hybrid warfare, information warfare, and "the truth" (and applications of America's special operations forces to support same).

If "we" are being viewed as being on a crusade today (much as the Soviets/the communists were during the Cold War) to transform other states and societies more along our rather unique and unusual political, economic and social lines -- and if "they" are seen (much as we were during the Cold War?) more as "defenders of the faith," then our enemies will be able to:

a. Point to (much as we did during the Cold War) the fact that such state and societal transformations as the foreign power requires will radically, completely and fundamentally alter the values, attitudes, beliefs and way of life of the targeted populations. Thus, our enemies will be able (much as we were able during the Cold War?) to:

b. Ally themselves "naturally" with the conservative (and/or radically conservative) elements of these populations.

Does this such role-reversal -- and the implications thereof -- not give us pause? Specifically as relates to such things as how political warfare, hybrid warfare, unconventional warfare, information warfare, etc., would need to be waged/approached by the United States/the West -- in such radically different/reverse circumstances as we find ourselves in today?

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 6:58am

SACEUR does fully understand the conventional threat that Russia now shows NATO---this scenario is not far from wrong--we are now formally in Cold War v2 and it is not going away in our generations until Russia swings back from her far right side of politics:

Polish, U.S. air defense units exercised countering massive RU ballistic and air attack (map from a tv report)

The exercise, staged with a U.S. Patriot battery, assumed up to 100 Iskander-M strikes and up to 500 air raids in first 12 hrs of conflict.

Russian media " USA wants to provoke Russia into a conflict in Transdnistria"

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 4:44am

A nice push back by NATO against the Russian argument that NATO could not operate and or have long term bases in the former Warsaw Pact countries that joined NATO-at the outset of the Crimea this was the Russian core disinformation campaign to discredit NATO in the eyes of the Baltics, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic.

The Russian disinformation was constantly repeated that they had been "told" by Western leaders there would be no eastern NATO expansion and yet NATO expanded eastward thus threatening Russia.

NATO then announced the "Dragoon Ride" of the 3/2 CAV back from their Baltic training areas in the form of a 1200km road march which served both as a warning to Russia, served to visually support NATO eastern members and was a great training opportunity for a CAV unit to conduct a very public tactical road march and get massive PR along the way.

By the way USAREUR has been increasing the public appearances of US military units inside Germany during exercises simply because with the withdrawals/drawdowns and the GWOT most European civil societies have never seen US military forces and their equipment in the public eyes for literally years.

Russia disinformation exploded with subtle threats and not to subtle verbal threats that they would respond in kind which was they unannounced 80plus exercise in full violation of OSCE and Vienna Conventions.

But aside ---a great pushback against the Russian disinformation campaigns against the Baltics.

US Mission to NATO ✔ @USNATO
#DragoonRide rolls along.... and #Warthogs come to the party | Video:

Politically speaking this was and is a massive not so subtle statement to Russia that NATO reserves the right of free and unlimited access to all of it NATO members and you will notice the "ride took them close to the Ukraine" something that has not be so publicly stated since 1994.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 03/29/2015 - 5:05am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill--a follow on comment--Russia right now has four military options and they are not easy ones;

1. stop the fighting now within the borders of what is physically occupied in eastern Ukraine and work for a true compromise under Minsk with free and unhindered elections under Ukrainian law--Putin will not allow that as it is a complete "failure" in the eyes of his far right allies and in the face of the massive troop losses AND right now the occupied zones are not even viable as an entity financially nor politically and would require massive Russian support in aid and money neither of which Putin has at hand

2. the Russian troops and her mercenaries could provoke a Ukrainian response thus declaring Minsk completely dead and ask for a CSTO peacekeeping mission which they are attempting to try to do IMO right now but they are not getting active support for a provocation as the UA is taking the shellings and not returning fire which shows the strength of their military right now vs Russian forces

3. OR and this is the most likely one--they can provoke something and then go over to a massive assault taking the full territory of the Donbas to include Mariupol and Odessa cutting the Ukraine off from 30% of it's economic base and from it's harbors thus making the Ukraine dependent forever on Russia---results would be a strong set of economic sanctions to include SWIFT cutoff and a possible total collapse of the weak Russian economy where massive banks failures are only a month or so away.

This option has the advantage of controlling the Ukraine forever and also providing a land bridge to the Crimea and total control of Azov sea and domination of the Black Sea with all it's natural resources ie oil and gas which are slowing disappearing in Russia since Russia is basically a raw resource providing second rate power.

4. and it is the most least possible one--a complete Russian assault on all of the Ukraine and that would IMO lead to a full NATO military confrontation--Putin is keeping that in the hold the cards hand but it would led to him losing power in the long run something he does not want and he would then lose all his billions he has squirreled away.

Kazzura translations: "Bitter truth about Debaltsevo operation."
Inside look from Russian side …

500+ unmarked graves added to Rostov-On-Don cemetery between 2014-07-01 & 2014-09-28

Rus-backed militants fired w/ Grad MRLS yet again, this time at Smeele, #Luhansk region …

Tymchuk: non-stop buildup of Russian forces in Ukraine continues. In the last day alone, Russia sent in 48 vehicles with weapons/fuel/ammo

Twice a day rail shipments are also being received out of Russia with weapons and munitions.

Bill C.

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 5:10pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Re: My role-reversal thesis:

a. The strategic goal of the West today is best understood as being the same as that of the Soviets/the communists during the Cold War, to wit: as expansion. And, re this role-reversal thesis:

b. The strategic goal of Putin is best understood as being the same as that of the U.S./the West during the Cold War, to wit: as containment and roll back.

Thus, re: the Soviets/the communists strategic goal today (containment/roll back) have Putin efforts -- from a strategic perspective -- "failed?"

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 12:19pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill---you ask some interesting questions that the mainstream does not ask.

Putin made one major mistake that is haunting him ---he believed after the Crimea the UA would not put up much of a fight in eastern Ukraine but the Ukrainian civil society forged in Maidan stepped up and has been providing massive support to the field units from grandmothers cooking borsch for the troops and then hand delivering it, to kids, their mothers and IDPs weaving camouflage nets to crowdsourcing to buy helmets, body armor and night vision. And they provide send offs and return celebrations for the units--this goes for the volunteer BNs, the National Guard and regular Army plus their SF and airborne and tank units.

The Ukrainian Army feels they are fighting for their Maidan and the Ukraine civil society and that makes a great equalizer.

After their massive defeat in August where they were encircled and they believed the Russian Army when they stated they could leave and then were slaughtered in large numbers they learned to never trust Russian military after that encounter.

One saw they learned in Debaltseve where they were able to do a strategic withdrawal under complete encirclement and under massive fire losing just 189 out of 2.5K and causing the Russians to loss 1964 and it was amongst their elite units. After Putin in both Minsk and Budapest claimed to the world they would have 500 KIAs and 2K POWs unless they surrendered as they were surrounded by the Donbas "miners and truck drivers".

My fear is that Putin is believing his own propaganda and believes his military is the stronger on the battlefield which it is technically but not from the fighting spirit.

Why-- he underestimated the UA and it is forcing his military to chew up more of his actual professional units both with high loses and a high ops tempo which they cannot sustain much longer thus the need for conscripts which you are right do not fight well as they are not "convinced" they should be fighting Ukrainians--that is why he is using the Far East troops as they know nothing of what is ongoing in the Ukraine other than they are "killing ethnic Russians and are a Nazi junta".

As much as they have thrown in via troops, heavy armor, artillery and modern weapons systems they should have been deeper into the Ukraine than they are today.

Right now he has even higher poll numbers and I am afraid that truly means he cannot afford a "loss of face in any form" and it appears if one looks at the massive resupply the Russian have been during since 15 Feb into the Ukraine---they will push for a complete takeover of the Donbas and again my fear is he is assuming he might have to go all the way to Kyiv in order to stop the Ukraine from joining fully the EU and or NATO.

There have been a number of suggestions from the West on how to find a compromise but I am afraid that any compromise will be celebrated as a major victory and thrown back into the West's face.

Today there was a small comment by a Ukrainian political who has been there from the beginning who feels that Putin wants to go to Kyiv in order to end for once and for all times the Ukrainian "problem".

What comes after him---even worse as the country has drifted to the far right and I see no so called "liberal" on the horizon as "liberals" are not to be seen after the far right drift. As long as the chief ideologue Dugin is there and he will be---nothing will change and it appears that Putin unless replaced will be there far past 2018.

So we better come up with a containment strategy quickly.

Bill M.

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 8:17am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

@ Outlaw 09,

That was a good run down, thanks. I'm not faulting the non-linear warfare doctrine, because if Putin and oligarchy were capable of thinking strategically and understood the strategic context, they could have adjusted it ever so slightly and achieved their political objectives (annexation of Crimea and weaken NATO). There is no doubt that a country can employ this doctrine in select places and do a lot of damage to other states, but to what end? It will also be less effective that the cat is out of the bag, I would hope that NATO countries (and other countries) that sit next to Russia have indicators and warnings now that it is taken place. I think Putin initially weakened NATO, but over time this clumsily executed operation could strengthen NATO.

Question for you, can Putin lose with grace? What does a loss look like the day after? If he can't bare the idea of losing (because he'll lose his political credibility), do you think he is willing to escalate the fighting? Where does the situation go from here?

I agree with your comment that his military and militias (little more than criminal gangs) do not fight well. In fact, the militias remind me of cowardly gangs where their members love to get tattoos, do a little weight lifting, and pose with tough looks on their faces for YouTube, but when the real fighting starts another picture emerges. As for the Russian soldiers, it doesn't seem their hearts are in the fight. The moral to the physical is 10 to 1, and Putin seems to think the ratio is exactly the opposite. He apparently has the same view about mass that Stalin did.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 03/28/2015 - 5:46am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill--you have made a strong point that many have not yet seen with the potential failure of his approach--there are in fact four major points of failure that are actually now occurring and the western media and the US civilian leadership are not seeing it.

General Breedlove I believe does see it and it is worrying him.

Yesterday's admission by the SACEUR that NATO did not "see" the Russian moves coming is a tad refreshing as he virtually admitted that the Indications and Warnings intel side simply did not see it. I am betting that in general since the Russian doctrine of "non linear warfare" caught everyone by surprise even though it had been out there for two years there were in fact no I&W designed for "hybrid warfare".

If you think about it---Russia has actually been unintentionally revealing just about every aspect of their "non linear warfare" to us.

The second admission by the NATO SG is also refreshing-- NATO must relearn how to respond to Russian military moves with speed with a capital S.

That said--Russian non linear warfare is right now suffering four distinctive single points of failure:

1. yes the Russian disinformation campaign or what they call "informational conflict" is overwhelming the West 24 X 7 365--BUT here is the problem now for them---it is volume not quality and they have repeated their mantra over and over to the point it just no longer really works, coupled with a strong social media push back which has them now focusing on the social media response and a now in the last week or so responses by the US, and Canada.

The Crimea was successful infor war wise as Russian pounded the Crimea massively with a proRussian anti Ukrainian messaging so the population truly felt they were on the verge of being overrun by the Nazi junta and welcomed the Russian annexation---but in the last month or so they are slowly showing signs of "buyers remorse".

Example --initially the German civil society tended to support the Russian views towards the Crimea and US---now in the latest polling they have swung fully against Russian actions---it has taken this long to finally push back on the Russian info war.

2. Russia felt they could use "local miners and truck drivers" to takeover eastern Ukraine but when the rag tag UA started actually winning over them and by August the "locals" were on the verge of actually losing and Putin could not afford a loss of face inside Russia he then entered militarily.

He had not anticipated that based on the Ukrainian behavior in Crimea--he then sent in his elite units thinking it could be over shortly and yet this rag tag UA inflicted a large startling number of actual loses which he then was forced to hide and cover up. All though he swung the momentum to Russian forces the costs were high.

He was then forced to increase the number of Russian soldiers inside the Ukraine and then had to bring in a large number of non Russian forces from the Far East so he would not lose more "Russian" forces.

The costs of that effort are now in the 20-30M USDs per day--at the height of the recent fighting Russia was having to provide 150 tons of artillery and rocket and rifle munitions per day.

What the West also saw was the abject failure in the fighting abilities of the Russian mercenaries which became basically cannon fodder before Russian troops had to be used such as in Debaltseve--again this had not been the case in Crimea where Russian elite units had "local support".

It was also shown to the West that even with "locals" they did not have the ability to use the new modern weapons systems pushing Russian troops more into the fight than was ever foreseen in their doctrine.

3. economically---the Russia non linear warfare IMO did not foresee the use of heavy sanctions and Putin misread the impact in the drop of the oil price placing a heavier load on the general public than is envisioned under their non linear warfare coupled with the 20-30M USDs a day for the eastern Ukraine and that does not count the suitcases full of 100 USD bills going across the border to just pay for the mercenaries and "contract soldiers".

4. politically---Russia had the full intent to "freeze" eastern Ukraine using it as leverage against the Ukrainian government and force them out of the EU and to avoid NATO--in fact yes the region is "frozen" but it has been Russia that has been "frozen" in place politically.

Right now the Ukrainian government has been making and implementing moves that forces the hand of Putin--meaning the mercenary region is a rump area with virtually no supporting structures totally dependent on Russian aid and money vs the Russians wanting the cost to fall to the Ukrainian side--the UA has been able to slow down and stop to a degree Russian military moves forcing Putin now into the decision point of investing more money and Russian soldiers to achieve the outcome he wants vs being hit with far heavier sanctions and arming of the Ukraine.

So yes he has annexed Crimea and he sits inside eastern Ukraine but the doctrine of non linear warfare has been actually slowed and stifled by the Ukrainians and it has given the Baltics and Poland a chance to see it actually function and come up with their own solutions to counter it and it has rejunvenated NATO and brought the US military now stronger into the Baltic regions in ways Putin did not anticipate prior to the Ukraine.

What is currently missing on the US/NATO/EU side is now a long term counter info war campaign that never stops--and we are a long way from that but at least now the West understands just what infor warfare is and it's impact.

Just a side note--another single point of failure was the complete misreading of the ethnic groups (Russian vs Ukrainian) inside eastern Ukraine---they did not swing the way they had in the Crimea--he had anticipated a complete swing of the entire Donbas region towards Russia and yet only less than half went Russian the rest remained Ukrainian- a massive misread for non linear warfare.

IMO this is the worst mistake out of the above four.