Small Wars Journal

Modern Russian Statecraft: Neither New nor Hybrid. Part Two: Post-Soviet and Still Soviet

Thu, 01/20/2022 - 8:11pm

Modern Russian Statecraft:  Neither New nor Hybrid

Part Two:  Post-Soviet and Still Soviet

By Philip Wasielewski

Moscow’s Murder Incorporated

In Part One, we saw how the Soviet Union used extraterritorial kidnappings and assassinations to deter or destroy enemies of the state (real or imagined).  In the 1930s and 40s, this was a mirror imagine of the immense state terror being conducted inside the country.  Assassinations as a tool of statecraft continued into the 1950s, mainly against defectors and Russian émigré and Ukrainian separatist leaders who in the Kremlin’s imagination replaced White Guards and Trotskyites as the greatest threats living outside of the USSR.

The defection in 1961 of KGB assassin Bogdan Stashinsky led to a decreased use of assassinations abroad although they were occasionally utilized such as in the murder in 1972 of anticommunist journalist Monahajudin Gahiz in Kabul, the 1975 kidnapping attempt in Vienna of Soviet naval defector Nikolai Artamonov (aka Nicholas Shadrin) that led to his death, support to the Bulgarian assassination in 1978 in London of Georgi Markov, and possible involvement in the 1981 assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II.[1]

The regular use of lethal measures in Russian statecraft did not resurface until the first decade of the 21st century. In February 2004 in Doha, a former President of the breakaway Chechen republic, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, was killed by an explosive charge in his car. The next high profile lethal operation took place during Ukraine’s elections. In September 2004, Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin after having dinner with three men who later fled to Moscow. Yushchenko survived to win the election but was badly disfigured by the poison. The use of exotic poisons continued in London in November 2007 when Russian intelligence defector Alexander Litvinenko died of Polonium poisoning. In October 2008 in Strasbourg, France, it was mercury poisoning that stopped human rights lawyer Karinna Moskalenko from traveling to Russia to testify in the murder case of journalist Anna Politkovskaya. In November 2012, Alexander Perepilichnyy, a Russian money launderer cooperating with a Swiss investigation of Russian officials for massive fraud, was thought to have died of a heart attack in London. That was until an autopsy found traces in his stomach of a rare toxic flower, Gelsemium, whose leaves can cause effects often mistaken for a major coronary event. Novichok was the agent of choice in March 2018 that nearly killed former GRU spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Besides the Skripals, an innocent bystander who found the discarded bottle of Novichok was severely poisoned. His girlfriend died after contact with the bottle’s contents, and several first responders to the initial incident suffered serious side effects.[2]

Natural causes, meaning gunshots, stabbings, and explosions, also took the lives of numerous persons outside of Russia who were critics of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Between 2009-2016, numerous Chechen separatists living in Turkey were shot or stabbed to death. Substantial evidence pointed to their killers having connections to the Russian security services. Assassinations of other Chechens have taken place in locales ranging from Norway and Vienna to Berlin and Lille, France.[3] These attacks, like the murder of Yandarbiyev, have their roots in the Chechen Wars. But as those wars recede in memory and murders continue, they seem to show that have less of a counterterrorist aspect and more of a political one with Kadyrov using murder to intimidate and silence dissent.

This long, but not exhaustive, list illustrates the volume and frequency of extrajudicial killings abroad. One consistency with the past has been its purpose of punishing defectors and destroying political enemies. Another is the internal and external messaging related to these actions. As Gioe, Goodman, and Frey note in their article on Russian intelligence vengeance as political theater and strategic messaging, the internal message to those who oppose the Kremlin is that there is nowhere to hide, no statute of limitations for one’s “crimes,” and nothing the West can do to protect you. For international audiences, these acts burnish Putin’s image as a strongman and conflate him with the state so that it makes Russia seem fearsome as well.[4]  This dual messaging harkens to similar themes in Soviet propaganda related to the Trust and Syndikat operations. Finally, as in Stalin’s time, violence abroad reflects in part its use at home, such as the murders of opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov and Galina Starovoitova or the poisonings of Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Muza (in Kara-Muza’s case twice). Since 1992, almost 200 Russian journalists have suffered violent or suspicious deaths not including those killed covering the wars in Chechnya.[5]

But a divergence with the past is that extraterritorial lethal operations may not always be instigated or centrally controlled by the Kremlin. Kadyrov appears to have the leeway to conduct his own lethal operations abroad. Secondly, some killings seem to be less about protecting the state and more about preventing embarrassing press stories. The use of terror abroad by Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev was as immoral as its use today. But previously it could be considered, in terms of the movie The Godfather, as “nothing personal, just business.”  Today some murders, be it of a money launderer providing state’s evidence or journalists investigating Russian mercenaries in Africa, may be motivated by a desire to avoid bad press as much as Realpolitik. Emotions such as fear of public embarrassment or anger at a personal opponent seem to have driven some lethal operations, and emotion also seems to be an occasional driver of larger actions as happened in Estonia.

The Bronze Night Affair

Murder is an old tool of coercive statecraft, but events in Estonia in 2007 highlighted a new tool, cyber-attacks, to support old ways in the Bronze Night affair. This event took its name from the bronze military statue that had been placed in downtown Tallinn over the gravesite of a dozen Soviet soldiers killed in World War Two. Such monuments and gravesites are a controversial subject between former Soviet satellites or states and Russia. For the past two decades, Putin has used the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany to merge Russian nationalism and patriotic pride into a pillar of support for his regime. This strategy can give some monuments near mythic significance. Nations subjugated by the Soviet Union because of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact however see them as symbols of Soviet occupation, which included the deportation and mass murder of many of their citizens.  As the issue is about memory and national identity, it is an emotional one.

            The Bronze Night affair began in Tallinn when rival Estonian and ethnic Russian nationalist groups clashed over whether to move the statue and graves to a less prominent location. In April 2007, the authorities decided to transfer them to an Estonian military cemetery. As the move began, a local Russian group, the Night Guard, started protests that turned into two nights of rioting. While order quickly returned to the streets, Estonia faced another threat, massive cyber-attacks. These peaked on May 9th when Russia celebrated the 62nd anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany.[6]  Meanwhile in Moscow, nationalist youth organizations besieged the Estonian embassy and state-controlled media framed Estonian actors as “fascists.”  Russia halted rail exports of oil and coal to Tallinn, which resulted in a 13% loss in transit fees for its port.[7] 

            The Bronze Night events indicate how Moscow can quickly mobilize ethnic Russian groups in foreign countries, harm those countries at the same time with cyber-attacks, further harm their economies with traditional economic sanctions, and confuse world opinion via its media. But there is another side of these events that bears examination regarding their reactive nature and failure to couple tactics with a strategy.

            In 2018, the RAND Corporation published a research report, Modern Political Warfare, which reviewed the Bronze Night incident. The study found that while prior Russian actions may have contributed to the atmosphere that led to the clash between Estonian authorities and Russian nationalists, there was little evidence that Russia initiated or executed the entire crisis.[8] 

Regarding the cyberattacks, the first wave may have been spontaneous actions of Russian hackers, with the state playing a supporting role in the second wave.[9]  Initial cyber-attacks, on April 27-29, were characterized as technically and operationally unsophisticated, and “any coordination mainly occurred on an ad hoc basis.”  It was not until the second wave, April 30 – May 18, that attacks increased in intensity and sophistication. They led to a shutdown for a few hours on two occasions the E-banking services of two banks which controlled approximately 75% of the Estonian market, as well as to additional attacks.  The attacks reportedly involved a botnet of 85,000 computers, suggesting the resources of a state vice individual “patriotic” hackers.[10]

What did Moscow achieve from its involvement in the Bronze Night riots of 2007? Estonia refused to be intimidated in conducting its internal affairs, and the attacks increased public participation in territorial defense units. By interrupting rail service to Estonia, Russia was temporarily unable to sell and ship its own oil and coal products hurting itself financially as much as Estonia. Furthermore, the widespread use of cyber-attacks was counterproductive because it provided warning and impetus to other countries to develop cyber defenses. Estonia became a leader in cyber defense and now hosts the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, a multinational and interdisciplinary hub of expertise.[11]  Finally, NATO realized after this event that cyber-attacks could rise to the same threat level as a kinetic attack and therefore become an Article V threshold issue.

            In comparing the 1923 coup attempt in Estonia with the 2007 Bronze Night affair, we see in the former instance that Moscow had a clear strategic goal (make Estonia part of the USSR) and was proactive in employing covert statecraft.  In the latter instance, however, Moscow was without a discernible strategic goal other than to punish Estonia for actions that threatened no vital interest other than Russia’s self-image. In 2007, Moscow played catch-up to local events rather than attempting to drive them and in the case of economic sanctions, harmed itself as much as Estonia. While both attempts failed, in the latter case, it was a matter of ad-hoc tactics and no strategy. Did this pattern repeat itself seven years later in Ukraine?


While president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko began negotiations with the European Union for an Association Agreement. The Association Agreement would create an economic free zone for Ukraine and have other benefits, such as visa-free travel. Negotiations continued even after the more Russian-friendly Viktor Yanukovych became president in 2010. In 2013 a pact was ready to be signed at the EU summit in Vilnius.[12]  Yanukovych believed he could straddle the chasm between popular support for the EU agreement and Moscow’s desire for Ukraine to enter its own economic entity, the Eurasian Customs Union.  From Moscow’s perspective, the EU-Ukraine agreement was unacceptable as it could lead to Ukraine’s eventual integration into the European Union and by extension the Western liberal democratic community.  This was a contentious issue for the Kremlin and the effect of emotion on its decision-making process should not be underestimated. Putin had told President George W. Bush as early as 2007 that Ukraine was not a real country and the animus in many Russian circles against Ukrainian independence was strong and real.[13]

            To coerce or “guide” Yanukovych into the decision Russia wanted, Moscow imposed trade sanctions on imports of certain Ukrainian goods and threatened further sanctions if Ukraine signed the agreement in Vilnius. Russia also offered to buy $15bn in Ukrainian government bonds and cut the price of natural gas exports to Ukraine if refused to sign the accord. Using a Ukrainian agent-of-influence, Viktor Medvedchuk, Russia funded an anti-EU information campaign asserting the EU agreement would bring inflation and higher unemployment. Whether because of Moscow’s economic and propaganda pressure or other inducements, Yanukovych at the last minute refused to sign the EU agreement.  The Ukrainian public, expecting economic relief from it, was outraged. Protesters soon filled Kyiv’s Maidan Square to demonstrate against the decision.[14]

            Yanukovych fled Kyiv for Russia on February 21, 2014, and all government authority collapsed. On February 26, armed men in unmarked uniforms took control of the Crimean parliament and raised the Russian flag.[15]  They were clearly Russian Spetsnaz forces but resistance by Ukrainian military forces on the peninsula was desultory. By mid-March, a skewed and illegal “referendum” was held in Crimea with 97% of the participants allegedly voting to unify with Russia.

In April 2014, Russian paramilitary units appeared in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine and by May controlled most of the urban areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. However, this time Ukraine’s military mobilized and fighting raged in the area throughout the summer. Ukrainian forces steadily advanced, and reeling Russian paramilitary forces were saved in August only by the intervention of regular Russian troops with heavy amounts of artillery and armor.[16]

            For many observers, these events were the epitome of Russian hybrid warfare tactics. As Merle Maigre wrote in 2015, “The Russian military’s thinking of hybrid warfare has, in its entirety, been put into practice in Ukraine over the past year. A combination of regular and irregular forces, economic sanctions, energy blockades, political destabilization, information warfare, financial pressure, and cyber-attacks have all been employed in Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Exerting influence over local population groups or Russian speakers in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine has been used to undermine their support for the central government and to promote divisions within Ukraine.  Russia’s deployment all these elements in near perfect coordination has been impressive.”[17] 

Maigre’s description of Russia’s efforts is accurate but just how near perfect was this; for all its efforts, were the gains equal to the losses; and how likely is this to happen again?

            In 2013, Russia used coercive statecraft proactively for a clear strategic goal:  to attract Ukraine into the Eurasian Customs Union and prevent it from signing the EU Association Agreement. However, economic pressure was counterproductive and turned average Ukrainians more towards Brussels than Moscow. Feeling deprived of their future, they revolted against a pro-Russian leader. Moscow seemed surprised at Yanukovych’s abrupt flight from office, and then his having to leave his home area of eastern Ukraine for Russia. Moscow’s next actions, although part of long-standing contingency plans, were also a reaction to events that had gotten out of control and certainly not part of any initial plan to draw Ukraine closer to Russia.

By taking Crimea and launching a war in the Donbas, Russian aggression has inexorably widened the consensus in Ukraine for shifting its orientation westward. Furthermore, while the illegal annexation of Crimea initially boosted Putin’s popularity to phenomenal heights, the resulting Western sanctions combined with lower world oil prices, reinforced economic stagnation, and may have diminished popular support in the long run for Putin’s rule.[18] 

While seizing Crimea was a Russian nationalist’s dream, the war in eastern Ukraine never gained comparable popularity in Russia. Some Russians view the war and military intervention in Syria as financially costly. This perception may have spurred widespread pension reform protests that were a shock to the Kremlin. It hoped an outpouring of national pride over these interventions would compensate for some of the popular disappointment over economic stagnation since the 2008-09 global financial crisis.  Instead, its statecraft added another frozen conflict to Russia’s borders and another broken economy to support. Certainly, this was not the intent of Moscow when it started its pressure campaign on Kyiv in 2013, but by using various coercive statecraft tactics, it is where it ended up.

In 2014, Moscow achieved a number of tactical successes against Kyiv using proxy paramilitary groups and other levers per Maigre, but the result was still a strategic failure to keep Ukraine from turning westward. Once hoped to be a bridge between East and West, Ukraine has become a bulwark against Moscow. As one example of the cost of aggression to Russia, the Kyiv-based Ukrainian Orthodox Church sought and won autocephaly. For the first time in 300 years, it is no longer subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate.

            To an extent, Ukraine’s loss of control over Crimea was a singular event based on its unique place in Soviet and Russian history, including the home of Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet, and the collapse in 2014 of Ukraine’s ruling structures.  Putin, like Lenin, found power lying in the street and took it. The “little green men” so often commented upon only fooled those who wished to be fooled. They gave an excuse of ambiguity to those who did not want to make a difficult decision about whether to get into a conventional war with a nuclear power over the territorial integrity of a state to which they had given security assurances in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, but which was not a NATO member.

            Hopefully, similar large-scale Russian aggression will not happen again, and it may be least likely against NATO states with Russian minority populations. In retrospect, March 2014 may have been like March 1939 when Hitler broke the Munich Pact, took Prague, and dismembered the rest of Czechoslovakia.  Britain and France, appeasers till then, finally recognized the danger and reacted by guaranteeing Poland’s territorial integrity. With this guarantee, Hitler could no longer use his earlier tactics of diplomatic and economic pressure and subversion via local German populations to achieve his political goals. Rather than stop, he chose conventional war as the means to continue those policies, which eventually led to his defeat.

One lesson from Russia’ aggression in Ukraine is that the success of coercive statecraft and subversion is not due to the tactics of the aggressor but in the lack of will and preparedness of the victim and its supporters. NATO post-2014 has had an epiphany to Russia’s coercive statecraft. It has responded by reinforcing its eastern flank, sharply increasing military aid to Ukraine, and imposing major sanctions, including constraints on access to Western financing on which Russia has long depended. For example, NATO has helped the Baltics strengthen their defenses conventionally and unconventionally. Today, if a Russian Spetsnaz soldier in an unmarked uniform enters a Baltic country, he will simply be shot.

Coercive Statecraft

This two-part article has hopefully informed the reader that modern Russian coercive statecraft tools of propaganda/disinformation, subversion via indigenous and imported paramilitary forces, economic sabotage, social unrest, etc., are not new but the continuation of methods long steeped in Russian and Soviet history from the early 20th century.

These methods, separated by over a century, are also supporting very similar Kremlin foreign policy goals and self-perceptions of the political environment.  The political goals of today’s Russian national security elites are to be recognized as a great power, maintain control at home, and ensure the West cannot overthrow them via a Color Revolution. If one adds to this list “spread world Communism,” these are the same political goals of the Bolsheviks.  Like the Bolsheviks, today’s Kremlin, despite being a nuclear power and constantly predicting the decline of the West, sees itself in a weak position vis-à-vis the West, demographically, economically, and militarily. Therefore, like the Bolsheviks, Moscow uses similar tactics to compensate for this inferiority, and considers its statecraft as reactive and defensive.

Some instruments of coercive statecraft have brought mixed results. One example is the century-long use of extraterritorial assassinations. In Soviet times, they achieved successes against émigré groups, but these groups never really had the power to overthrow Bolshevik rule. Meanwhile, assassinations never stopped its citizens from leaving, as the long history of Soviet and Russian refugees and defectors shows.

Today, murder has stopped some investigations and certainly prevented some embarrassing revelations. However, in the case of Yushchenko, an assassination attempt did not prevent his election as President of Ukraine. In the case of Skripal, an assassination attempt using Novichok led to a worldwide campaign that expelled numerous Russian intelligence officers stationed overseas, a move that hindered intelligence production and recruitments. 

In the final analysis, this tactic has rarely been successful in advancing foreign policy goals and as a tool of statecraft is more about internal affairs than external.  Hélène Carrère d’Encausse in her book, The Russia Syndrome: One Thousand Years of Political Murder, observed that eleven centuries of a history notable for its murders have made Russia unlike any other country.[19]  Extraterritorial murders are an immutable part of Russian affairs, especially internal affairs, not a new feature in the 21st century. Over the past 100 years, the frequency of assassinations against expatriate enemies abroad has in rough measure mirrored the level of violence Moscow has used against its citizens at home.

            Has the technological revolution of cyber space added anything new? This article’s answer would be very little. Cyber-attacks against economic, infrastructure, and defense targets are merely the latest form of sabotage since people threw wooden shoes into gears to damage machinery. The use of cyberspace for information operations merely updates and adds a new dimension to the work of Willi Münzenberg and his front organizations and “Innocents’ Clubs.”

            The new aspects that cyber operations bring to statecraft are their ubiquity and ease. Via cyberspace an actor can spread a viewpoint or hopelessly confuse any objective determination of what is the “truth” with just strokes of a keyboard while the ability to use cyberspace to sabotage critical national infrastructures allows in peacetime what might only have been tried before in a declared war.  Cyber operations can be both a covert tool and an overt bullhorn depending on the mission and message. However, cyberspace mostly just provides a new medium for old tactics pursuing ageless Russian security goals.

A secondary purpose of this article has been to highlight that coercive statecraft tools are not “silver bullets.”  States using proper countermeasures such as public diplomacy and awareness, counterintelligence, and cybersecurity can defeat these tactics. Historically, Soviet and Russian coercive statecraft has often been counterproductive. It achieved many tactical successes with individual actions, but also incurred strategic defeats, ranging from China in the 1920s to Ukraine in the 2020s. In the Bolshevik era, Comintern efforts met failure throughout Europe. They destroyed local Communist parties, weakened the Soviet strategic position in the Far East, and often undermined diplomacy to obtain desperately needed economic assistance. 


Past seems to be prologue. From attempting to formulate a coup in Montenegro to spreading disinformation about a rape incident in Germany, Russian use of subversion and propaganda has harmed its international relations and created enemies more than it has provided for its own security both physical and economic.[20]  

Coercive statecraft, when done reactively and for matters of national pride, can be a two-edged sword. In the Bronze Night affair, Moscow acted not from some master plan but emotionally over the transfer of a simple statue without any thought to the long-term ramifications of its actions.  In other events over the past two decades, Russia has gained control of Tskhinvali, Sukhumi, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea. But in doing so, Russia gave new life to NATO, lost billions of dollars in Western investment and trade, and has left itself bereft of allies. It has turned the West, initially welcoming Russia back into the world community, again into a wary protagonist. NATO is refocused on the threat from Moscow, Georgia is permanently hostile, its closest ethnic and linguist neighbor, Ukraine, is now a stalwart opponent, the Balkans minus Serbia are wary of Russia, both U.S. political parties are united against Russia, and Russian society is under economic pressure from Crimean sanctions and other events and chafing at its loss of freedoms creating a vicious circle for the Color Revolution scenario the Kremlin hopes to avoid. 

This is not to trivialize the threat of these methods but to try and put it into perspective the threat and role of coercive and covert statecraft in Russia’s national security and foreign policy strategy. Particularly with the new threats of cyber aggression, coercive statecraft has become an even greater threat. At the same time, we should remember that Moscow has historically sought to achieve its most important or aggressive goals most directly not via any covert acts of statecraft but via overt military power using large conventional forces.

Whether deciding the Russian Civil War, seizing its share of the Molotov-Ribbentrop spoils, occupying and subjugating Eastern Europe from 1944-1945, forcing Georgia to join the Commonwealth of Independent States in 1993 by landing tanks in Poti, taking control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008, illegally annexing Crimea and commencing a war in  Donetsk and Luhansk, or helping to crush the revolt against Assad in Syria, it has been the might of Russia’s regular armed forces, not the success of subversion or propaganda, which have brought victory.  Coercive statecraft has helped ease the way, but it played an ancillary role in gaining victory. In these cases, the principal credit goes to a military force heavy in combined arms of armor, artillery, and infantry, with air and naval support.

Therefore, after reviewing Russia’s history of using subversive statecraft tools, why they are used, their historic record of effectiveness or ineffectiveness, and cognizant that conventional military might has been the key to Russian power, what should we do?

First, we should define our terms to clarify how to best use limited national security resources. This article believes that the use of the term “statecraft” instead of “hybrid warfare” provides a clearer perspective of Russian actions because it removes them from the realm of warfare and puts it into the realm of international relations between nations with conflicting world views and value systems – a small nuance but an important one.

The greatest risk in misunderstanding the current threat is to militarize the problem by calling it hybrid warfare and therefore making the response to countering political, economic, informational, subversive, and other threats a uniformed military responsibility. This consumes scarce defense resources better spent preparing for more directly relatable military threats. It also repeats a mistake of Cold War containment strategy by overly focusing on the military aspects of a conflict at the expense of political ones. While official statements and publications often cite the need for a “whole of government” or “whole of society” response to Russian actions, it becomes axiomatic that when something is called “war” it both consciously and unconsciously will be considered primarily a military problem that the rest of the national security system can delegate to secondary problem status.

By defining our terms and concentrating military attention on the most serious military challenge, we should then determine where we will counteract Russian conventional forces if they move again. Response to a move against a NATO ally is almost automatic. The main politico-military issues will be if or how we should respond to another invasion of Ukraine or Georgia, or another overseas adventure like Syria. We must determine in advance and not in a crisis action mode what we will do in such cases. Then we must budget and plan for the military response to carry out those decisions.  Therefore it is important to have a whole of government approach to Russia’s coercive and covert statecraft tools so that the Department of Defense is not pulled in a thousand directions and can concentrate on deterring armed aggression or overturning it if deterrence fails.  Russian coercive statecraft is dangerous to our interests and allies, but it can be countered across many departments and agencies. However only one, the Department of Defense, can counter Russia’s conventional military force, which is still its most dangerous statecraft tool.

Modern Russian statecraft is not some new form of warfare, but a continuation of Moscow’s struggle to divide and undermine the West for over a century. It has also often proven to be its own worst enemy. The propaganda/misinformation, subversive, and other coercive aspects of this statecraft aimed at liberal democratic societies can be and have been defeated by some of the strengths of those societies – social cohesion, rule of law, a free and inquisitive press, an educated public – and strong governmental institutions that pay attention to public diplomacy, counterintelligence, and building alliances. The conventional military threat can be deterred by having the right forces in place to prevent Russia from establishing escalation dominance in an area we determine vital for our security and the security of our allies and partners. This all must also be done as economically as possible, with as little duplication of effort as possible, because this nation faces other threats including an even more powerful rival in China and a continuing threat of violent Islamic extremism across several continents. It is therefore a heavy commitment, but not unlike others we have had before.



[1] For details on KGB assassinations in the Cold War era, the Stashinsky defection, and murder of Gahiz see John Barron, KGB:  The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents, Bantam Books, New York, 1974, pp. 413-447; for details on support to the Markov assassination and the Artamonov affair see Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB, Basic Books, New York, 1999, pp. 387-389; on the possibility of KGB involvement in the assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II see Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story of its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 1990, pp. 639-640.

[2] Russia Behind Chechen Murder, BBC News, June 30, 2004. Retrieved October 27, 2021; For the poisonings of Yushchenko, Litvinenko, Moskalenko, Perepilichnyy, and Skripal see A Brief History of Attempted Russian Assassinations by Poison, Foreign Policy, March 9, 2018. Retrieved October 27, 2021; Name Your Poison:  Exotic Toxins Fell Kremlin Foes, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, September 2, 2020; and Heidi Blake, From Russia with Blood:  The Kremlin’s Ruthless Assassination Program and Vladimir Putin’s Secret War on the West, Mulholland Books, New York, 2019, pp. 3-11 and 257-266.

[3] Have Russian Hitmen Been Killing with Impunity in Turkey, BBC News, December 13, 2016 and Bloody Trail?  Chechen Blogger is the Latest Kadyrov Critic to Die Abroad, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, February 28, 2020. Both retrieved October 27, 2021.

[4] David Gioe, Michael Goodman, and David Frey, Unforgiven: Russian Intelligence Vengeance as Political Theater and Strategic Messaging, Intelligence and National Security, 2019, Volume 34, Number 4, pp. 568-569

[5] Glastnost Defense Foundation, Retrieved October 28, 2021.

[6] Thomas Rid, Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, 2020, pp. 333-334; Monument of Contention:  How the Bronze Solider Was Removed, April 25, 2017. Retrieved October 29, 2021.

[7] Under Siege:  Events at the Estonian Embassy in Moscow, ERR News, April 25, 2017; Russia Rail Move to Hit Estonia, Financial Times, May 2, 2007. Tallinn:  A Year Without the Bronze Soldier, Kommersant, April 25, 2008. Retrieved October 29, 2021.

[8] Linda Robinson, Todd Helmus, Raphael Cohen, Alireza Nader, Andrew Radin, Madeline Magnuson, and Katya Migacheva, Modern Political Warfare: Current Practices and Possible Responses, RAND, Santa Monica, California, 2018. Page 94.

[9] Op. Cit. Page 95.

[10] Op. Cit. Pp 91-92.

[11] How a Cyber Attack Transformed Estonia, BBC News, April 27, 2017.

[12] Serhii Plokhy, The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine, Basic Books, New York, 2015, page 338.

[13] The New Yorker, Putin’s Pique by David Remnick, March 10, 2014.  Retrieved 29 October 2021. Plokhy, pp. 348-353.

[14] Steven Pifer, The Eagle, and the Trident: U.S.-Ukraine Relations in Turbulent Times, Brookings Institution Press, Washington D.C., 2017, pages 297-299.

[15] Gunmen Seize Government Buildings in Ukraine’s Crimea, Raise Russian Flag, CNN, February 27, 2014. Retrieved October 29, 2021.

[16] Plokhi, pages 342-344. For more detailed information on Russian conventional forces involvement, see Bellingcat Report – Origin of Artillery Attacks on Ukrainian Military Positions in Eastern Ukraine between 14 July 2014 and 8 August 2014, February 17, 2015; Bellingcat InvestigationsRussia’s Path(s) to War, September 21, 2015; The Avalanche that Went from Russia to Ukraine, May 31, 2015; and Russia’s 200th Motorized Infantry Brigade in the Donbas, July 4, 2016 to name a few.

[17] Merle Maigre, Nothing New in Hybrid Warfare:  Estonian Experience and Recommendations for NATO, February 2015, The German Marshall Fund of the United States Policy Brief, Page 3.

[18] Project Syndicate, Potemkin Putin, by Anders Aslund, March 3, 2021. Retrieved October 29, 2021.

[19] Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, The Russia Syndrome: One Thousand Years of Political Murder, translated by Caroline Higgit, Holmes and Meier, New York, 1992, page 393.

[20] Montenegrin Court Convicts All 14 Defendants of Plotting Pro-Russian Coup, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, May 9, 2019; Man Found Guilty of Abusing Russian-German Teenager Who Fabricated Rape Story, Deutsche Welle, June 20, 2017. Retrieved November 7, 2021.

About the Author(s)

Philip Wasielewski is a retired 31-year veteran paramilitary operations officer of the Central Intelligence Agency.



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