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Leveraging Lietuva: Establishing a 21st Century Nonlinear Warfare Centre of Excellence
Victor R. Morris
In May Lithuanians celebrate “Partisan Day” in commemoration of the Partisan War, where approximately 100,000 Lithuanian Partisans fought a guerilla war against the Soviet Union in Lithuania from 1944 to 1953. During this time; the resistance was uniformed, organized and able to effectively control entire regions. On March 11, 1990, Lithuania formally declared independence from the Soviet Union and re-establishment of the State of Lietuva or Lithuania in English, which was met with sanctions, Soviet military responses and international attention. 1 These historical examples illustrate nonlinear and hybrid applications of warfare which include a combination of military and non-military means at all levels. 21st century nonlinear warfare applications are ultimately associated with long-term political outcomes delivered through whole of government sponsored unconventional and nonmilitary means which surpass the use of force.
In order to formally assess current and future threats to European security and the methods to counter such threats, this article seeks to elucidate nonlinear or hybrid warfare 2 definitions, historical applications of this type of warfare by Lithuanians, and justifications for the establishment of a “Nonlinear Warfare Center of Excellence” in Lithuania’s second largest city based on national civilian nonviolent defense strategies and existing Baltic Centers of Excellence (COEs). The proposed establishment of a center in Kaunas is meant to augment the existing NATO Energy Security Center of Excellence in Vilnius, Lithuania and NATO Joint Warfare Center in Norway, to create a better shared consciousness within the Baltics involving nonlinear State and non-State threats. For the purposes of this article, the historical nonlinear warfare focus is on two significant periods in Lithuania’s history: Klaipeda Revolt (1923) and Partisan War (1944-1953).
Defining 21st Century Warfare
“New generation, ambiguous, hybrid, nonlinear, unrestricted, irregular, unconventional and asymmetric” are all terms associated with 21st century warfare. Warfare is historically defined in two general forms: Traditional and Irregular. Traditional Warfare can be summarized as peer-to-peer or peer-to-near peer competitors fighting for the destruction of the other. This competition also involves seizing territory or resources. Irregular Warfare is defined as a “violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations.” 3 Irregular Warfare favors indirect approaches, asymmetric means and employs hybrid threat strategies to reach mutually benefitting effects. A central component of Irregular Warfare is unconventional warfare, which employs “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, and guerilla force in a denied area.” 4 Another definition of Irregular Warfare outlines the achievement of “strategic objectives by avoiding an adversary’s conventional military strength while eroding an adversary’s power and will, primarily through the use of indirect, non-traditional aspects of warfare.” 5
Nonlinear warfare directly or indirectly employs military and non-military instruments in the physical domains and information environment 6 which are overlapped by cyberspace through the following comprehensive means: intelligence agencies, professional soldiers, special operations forces, insurgents, guerillas, extremist groups, mercenaries and criminals. This article utilizes the term nonlinear war in the same way as defined by 21st century Russian military or “Gerasimov” doctrine: as a means to achieve desired strategic orientation and geopolitical outcomes primarily using non-military approaches. General Valery Gerasimov also states that “the open use of forces often under the guise of peacekeeping and crisis regulation is resorted to only at a certain stage, primarily for the achievement of final success in the conflict.”
Additionally, contemporary nonlinear or hybrid warfare has been used to describe potent and complex variations of warfare in the 21st century. Although this type of warfare is not new, contemporary threat actors are redefining the application by employing 21st century technologies and combinations of diplomatic, intelligence, militaristic, economic, informational, cyber and humanitarian means in all domains to create war on all fronts. What further complicates or “blurs” this form of warfare is the persistent fluctuation and manipulation of ideological and political conflict-- key aspects of nonlinear warfare which extend past traditional coercive diplomacy and unconventional war.
Analyzing 20th Century Nonlinear Warfare in Europe: Klaipeda Revolt (1923) and Partisan War (1944)
The Klaipeda Revolt occurred in the Klaipeda Region of former East Prussia in January 1923. The region which is modern day northwestern Lithuania was detached from East Prussia, Germany by the treaty of Versailles and placed under French provisional administration. Lithuania’s reasons for the uprising were to unite with the region due to the large Lithuanian-speaking minority of Prussian Lithuanians and major port, which was the only viable access to the Baltic Sea for Lithuania. 7 Nonlinear warfare planning and execution can be identified in the phases of the revolt through: initial diplomatic, political and economic initiatives, propaganda campaigns, direct military actions and international diplomatic measures. Initially, a delegation of Prussian Lithuanians unsuccessfully pleaded the Lithuanian case to a Conference of Ambassadors. This event was followed by a secret session conducted by the Lithuanian government where they decided to organize a revolt after re-assessing the ineffectiveness of additional diplomatic means. Additional planning elucidated that direct military action against the occupying French Regiment was too dangerous in both the military and diplomatic sense. The agreed course of action for the revolt was to stage it locally using tactics and techniques from previous revolts in the region using indirect military approaches. Prior to the propaganda campaign, Lithuania restricted trade to the region to demonstrate economic dependence due to insufficient food production. The goal of this non-military instrument was to maximize influence and attract supporters.
Next, the Lithuanian government financed and organized pro-Lithuanian organizations affiliated with the local press. With internal and external support, the local press reported on alleged Polish plans for the region as part of an information operations campaign. The objective of this campaign was to strengthen anti-Polish sentiment and shift public opinion towards Lithuania. Lithuanian activists were sent to various towns and villages to give patriotic speeches and organize pro-Lithuanian committees who would later become revolt and regime leaders. On January 7, 1923 one of the committees delivered a proclamation alleging that Lithuanians were persecuted by foreigners and that they had to right to take up arms against slavery. The proclamation also pleaded the “Lithuanian Rifleman’s Union” for help. The Rifleman’s Union was a paramilitary organization who provided manpower for the revolt and solidified themselves as a historical fighting force.
Finally, the revolt started on January 10, with 1,090 volunteers entering the region from Lithuania wearing civilian clothes identified only by a green armband. Once in the Klaipeda Region they were met with local volunteers whose numbers grew as they passed through local cities. Once the contingent was consolidated, it was re-organized into three armed groups. During this period, the direct applications of conventional military tactics are applied to seize key terrain (Klaipeda) and secure the border with Germany. By January 11, the pro-Lithuanian Forces controlled the region, except for the city of Klaipeda. Klaipeda was defended by 250 French soldiers, 350 German Policemen and 300 civilian volunteers. 8 The situation in Klaipeda was eventually settled through cease-fires, diplomatic conventions and international acceptance. The revolt was eventually legitimized and the region became an autonomous region under the unconditional sovereignty of Lithuania. Although nonlinear war favors indirect and unconventional approaches, conventional or traditional applications are decisive to reach desired political objectives at the tactical and operational levels with regard to seizure of territory to form autonomous republics or states. History dictates that vulnerabilities in this convention were exploited by Nazi Germany when it supported anti-Lithuanian activities and campaigned for reincorporation of the region into Germany, culminating in the 1939 ultimatum.
Subsequently, from 1944 to 1953 Lithuanian Partisans waged guerilla warfare 9 in Lithuania against the Soviet Union. At the end of World War II, the Red Army moved the Eastern Front towards Lithuania and occupied Lithuania by the end of 1944. Due to the Stalinist occupation and subsequent conscription of Lithuanians into the Red Army, thousands of Lithuanians fled into the forests for refuge. During this time, the groups became organized and centralized forming the “Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters” in 1948. 10 The Freedom Fighters employed irregular and asymmetrical military means to achieve a political objective involving the recreation of an independent Lithuania. The irregular forces and tactics were designed to be applied against superior opponents which are core tenants of irregular warfare. The Partisan resistance in Lithuania was uniformed and well organized. They were able to control entire regions of the country until 1949 with effective hierarchical partisan units. Each unit employed cohesive nonlinear warfare means involving direct conventional military tactics and indirect nonmilitary information operations at all levels. A fusion of unconventional operations involving sabotage, subversion and assassination was also conducted to meet the overall political objectives. Some examples of nonlinear or hybrid applications from above involve indirect fire attacks with conventional mortars, ambushes, and printing underground newspapers. The Partisans published various bulletins and leaflets totaling a variety of periodicals. Another decisive example of using nonlinear means to reach a political end states involves protesting and disrupting elections to the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and to the Supreme Soviet of the Lithuanian SSR from 1946 to 1947.
Furthermore, nonlinear actions are countered with reactions which must take the same or similar form. The partisan operations were disrupted by the Soviet backed “Peoples Defense” formerly called the “Destruction Battalions” in 1941. The Battalions were a collaborators organization and consisted of recruits, volunteers, and felons. The battalions operated on ideology and were not reliant on rank and social status. The battalions were tasked with fighting against the armed resistance movement. They also employed irregular paramilitary tactics involving active combat, ambushes, reconnaissance and passive guard activities combined with terror campaigns 11 against the local population and perceived resistance supporters. As a local force, the Peoples Defense was relatively successful because they spoke the language, knew the people, landscape and circumstances which allowed them to forcefully coerce economic actions involving forestry, peat extraction and road construction. The partisans responded by organizing reprisal actions against the Soviet collaborators, killing an estimated 19,000 collaborators 12. This aspect of the partisan resistance perpetuated the Soviet narrative portraying the fighters as “murderous bandits” thus adding more complexity to the ongoing information campaigns being waged on both sides. By the early1950s, Soviet forces had eradicated most of the Lithuanian nationalist resistance. Intelligence gathered by the Soviet infiltrators within the resistance movement, in combination with large-scale Soviet operations from1952 to 1953 managed to end the campaigns against them. Despite the overall outcome of the Lithuanian resistance movement, this event is of historical importance for this article because it demonstrates the execution of nonlinear war involving Soviet State and Lithuanian “Non-state” revolutionary actors in the 20th century.
Leveraging 21st Century Strategies and Institutions to Counter Nonlinear Threats
Centers of Excellence (COEs) are nationally or multi-nationally funded institutions that train and educate leaders from NATO member and partner countries. Some of their key tasks involve doctrine development and capabilities improvement through a variety of means. These COEs offer recognized expertise and experience that is crucial to both the Alliance, and to the adaptation of NATO. There are currently 20 COEs coordinated by Allied Command Transformation (ACT) in Norfolk, Virginia, and all are considered to be international military organizations. Although they are not part of the NATO command structure, they are part of a wider framework supporting NATO Command Arrangements. Each COE specializes in an area of expertise, which in most cases correlates to experience and national strength which benefits the Alliance.13 In the case of Lithuania, the strength lies in the forward thinking outlined in the 2015 Lithuanian Ministry of Defense’s manual entitled: "How to Act in Extreme Situations or Instances of War.” 14 The manual provides instructions for appropriate forms of civil disobedience in the event of an occupation involving armed soldiers with no insignia or government affiliation. There are specific sections which outline civil disobedience through strikes, blockades, disinformation, and the online organization of cyber attacks against the enemy. This manual captures what previous hybrid warfare assessments have failed through the acknowledgement of the potential of nonviolent resistance in countering aggressive hybrid war. National civilian nonviolent defense 15 encompasses the entire population, which includes all institutions, formal and informal networks as the resistance force. When the resistance force is coupled with the deployment of non military strategies involving communication and psychological operations, it wages a total war and targeted noncooperation with the aggressor in all systems and subsystems 16 which are instruments of nonlinear war. Finally, the Nonviolent Civil Defense to Counter Russian Hybrid Warfare White Paper summarizes the aforementioned points by asserting that civil centric opposition makes invasion or later occupation unsustainable in the long term. “At its core, national civilian defense is a political struggle conducted by political means through flexible but integrated local and national networks of civilians that can mobilize hundreds of thousands or millions of people to engage in disciplined, self-organized, agile and flexible anti-aggressor actions. “ 17 Civilian nonviolent defense offers important short and long-term strategic advantages over traditional military strategies in defending people and territory, when combined with national security forces whose roles involve protection of the population and territorial defense.
Additionally, there are existing center of excellence in the Baltic States which specialize in nonlinear instruments and approaches to warfare. In addition to Lithuania, there are centers of excellence in Latvia and Estonia who also share a similar nonlinear warfare history during the aforementioned periods. The center of excellence in Vilnius, Lithuania specializes in a broad range of energy security related subjects involving trade diversification trends, securing gas supplies and interdependence. Global gas trading is of high importance for Europe and potentially becomes an economic and resource instrument employed during nonlinear war. Next, the NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Riga, Latvia is a phenomenal enabler for understanding and countering state and non-state actor information campaigns which have been assessed as a decisive nonlinear warfare instrument. This instrument is a crucial aspect of the aforementioned civil defense strategy and may be employed to counter adversary propaganda, plausible deniability 18 and false narrative information campaigns. Thirdly, Estonia is home to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence, located in Tallinn, Estonia. In 2007, Estonia was targeted with cyber attacks targeting critical infrastructure, which highlighted for the first time potential vulnerabilities of NATO countries and lack of capability to deter or counter cyber attacks. This attack was also a harbinger of future state sponsored nonlinear warfare in Europe involving malicious cyber operations . Finally, the establishment of a forth Center of Excellence arms the Baltic States with better means to understand both the environment and threat actor goals involving nonlinear approaches to war. Lithuania is a prime candidate for this initiative because it leverages an existing nonlinear warfare defense strategy and collective understanding of both the Baltic Region and contemporary operational environment through a combination of physical and cultural proximity, purpose, mutual respect and shared history. When national defense strategies are fused with historical and recent experience in irregular warfare related activities involving counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, it leverages capabilities needed to understand and counter 21st century nonlinear threats.
In conclusion, the creation of another center of excellence in Lithuania’s second leading academic, economic and cultural city strengthens the Baltic bond through a holistic and whole of governments approach to understanding and countering nonlinear warfare through collective defense strategies and subsequent civil military cooperation and rapid response training. Nonmilitary means of hybrid war must be countered in kind through collective civil disobedience plans which integrate state institutions, emergency services, security forces, all source intelligence and population-centric grass roots movements 19 in all domains to include cyber centric collection, surveillance, dissemination and mobilization (counterintelligence, HUMINT and social media). In a western contemporary operational environment it is also imperative to leverage shared consciousness through democracy and history as a means to collectively prioritize (involving significant conventional threats), counter and deter nonlinear state or non state threats to the Alliance.
1. Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Act_of_the_Re-Establishment_of_the_State_of_Lithuania
2. There are a myriad of definitions for Hybrid Warfare and the instruments or means in which it is waged. Nathan Freier of the Center for Strategic and International Studies was one of key people that originally defined hybrid warfare involving four threats: (1) traditional; (2) irregular; (3) catastrophic terrorism; and (4) disruptive, which exploit technology to counteract military superiority. David Kilcullen author of the book “The Accidental Guerrilla” states hybrid warfare is the best explanation for modern conflicts, but highlights that it includes a combination of irregular warfare, civil war, insurgency and terrorism. Journalist Frank G. Hoffman defines hybrid warfare as any enemy that uses simultaneous and adaptive employment of a complex combination of conventional weapons, irregular warfare, terrorism and criminal behavior in the battlespace to achieve political objectives.
3. Joint Publication 3–26 Counterterrorism 2009 defines Irregular Warfare in concise terms on page viii.
4. The Counter Unconventional War White Paper (USASOC) 26 September 2014 defines unconventional warfare in joint doctrinal terms and lists it as a central operation or activity in Irregular Warfare.
5. Hybrid War: Is the US Army Ready for the Face of 21st Century Warfare by Major Larry R. Jordan Jr. 2008, defines Irregular War the same way as the US Special Operations Command and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and low intensity combat in 2005.
6. JP 2-01.3 Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment presents a holistic view of the Operational Environment. The information environment is the aggregate of individuals, organizations, and systems that collect, process, disseminate, or act on information. It is made up of three interrelated dimensions: physical, informational, and cognitive.
7. Klaipeda Revolt http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klaipeda_revolt
8. Klaipeda Revolt http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klaipeda_revolt
9. US Army Training Circular 7-100 Hybrid Threat 2010 highlights a guerilla as a combat participant in guerrilla warfare, a member of military and paramilitary
operations conducted in enemy-held or hostile territory by irregular, predominantly indigenous forces.
10. Partisan War http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithuanian_partisans
11. Terror campaigns or urban terror campaigns are listed as one of many forms of total war contained in the book Unrestricted Warfare written by two modern era Chinese Colonels.
12. Partisan War http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithuanian_partisans
13. NATO Centers of Excellence http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_68372.htm
14. How to Act in Extreme Situations or Instances of War http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/01/how-to-survive-a-russian-invasion/384692/
15. Nonviolent Civil Defense to Counter Russian Hybrid Warfare White Paper. Maciej Bartkowski, Ph.D March 2015: Civilian nonviolent defense offers important short and long-term strategic advantages over traditional military strategies in defending people and territory. It exploits the political vulnerabilities of the adversaries. In particular, it looks for ways to undermine the essential pillars that sustain opponents and their war machinery while minimizing costs for the society under attack. Furthermore, national civilian nonviolent defense can instill a significant degree of civic empowerment, self-organization, decentralization, and civic solidarity–elements necessary for a successful post-war democratization.
16. JP 2-01.3 Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment presents a holistic view of the Operational Environment. A systems perspective of the operational environment strives to provide an understanding of significant relationships within interrelated Political, Military, Economic, Social, Information, Infrastructure (PMESII) and other systems.
17. Nonviolent Civil Defense to Counter Russian Hybrid Warfare White Paper. Maciej Bartkowski, Ph.D March 2015.
18. Plausible Deniability is a core tenet of Russian Maskirovka Doctrine involving denial and deception. Maskirovka is a Russian term (Маскировка) broadly meaning military deception. Its earlier and narrower military meaning was simply camouflage. It later also acquired the intelligence meaning of denial and deception (wikipedia).
19. Grassroots movements can be classified as the “underground” contained in unconventional warfare doctrine where political mobilizations occur. The Euromaidan protests and Arab Spring are recent examples of this phenomenon. In a Lithuanian context it involves the legitimate government leveraging political mobilization as a defense mechanism.
Victor R. Morris is an Army civilian contractor and instructor at the U.S. Army Europe’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC) in Germany. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of JMRC,US Army Europe, US European Command, the Department of the Army, NATO or Booz Allen Hamilton.