Small Wars Journal

Non-Linear Warfare in Ukraine: The Critical Role of Information Operations and Special Operations

Fri, 08/14/2015 - 3:11pm

Non-Linear Warfare in Ukraine: The Critical Role of Information Operations and Special Operations

Bret Perry

The overall purpose of this paper is to scrutinize the contemporary hybrid warfare employed by Russia in Ukraine and determine which elements have been most critical for Russia’s success.  After providing a brief overview of hybrid warfare, this paper asserts that information operations and special operations ultimately pave the way for success in hybrid warfare.  Since both of these components create a more favorable population, achieve the strategic initiative, and act as a force multiplier for insurgent elements, they result in early successes that provide the initiating actor escalation control.  For these two elements, this paper provides a brief background on their general concepts, an overview of how they are viewed among Russian military thinkers, a discussion of how they were employed during the Ukrainian crisis, and an analysis of their use.  After reaffirming its thesis, this paper concludes with a brief discussion of the consequences of hybrid warfare and how it enables propagators to hinder their adversaries’ decision-making process.


Each encounter in war will usually tend to grow increasingly disordered over time.  As the situation changes continuously, we are forced to improvise again and again until finally our actions have little, if any, resemblance to the original scheme.[1]

The aforementioned quotation, from United States (U.S.) Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1 Warfighting illustrates how actors—both state and non-state—change their military conduct in order to respond to the evolving environment.  The fundamental law driving military conflict, described by Carl Von Clausewitz as “War is the continuation of politics by other means,” remains the same.[2]  However, the gradual transition from a complicated environment to a complex environment is challenging military leaders in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and most recently, Eastern Europe.[3]  Since the end of the Cold War, a significant amount of military thought has been invested in understanding irregular warfare, an old phenomena with historical precedent.[4]  However, the complex nature of conflict today is represented by the convergence of these different types of war throughout various domains in an unclear environment and consequentially challenging policymakers and military strategists alike.

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine highlights the growing complexity defining war.  On February 27, 2014, unidentifiable well-armed trained gunmen stormed an airport and government building in Crimea—marking the beginning of a well-planned Russian military operation to seize Crimea.[5]  No shots were fired in anger and the surprise of the seizure provided Russia with the ability to outmaneuver the newly-installed Ukrainian government and international community.[6]  As the conflict continued to spread, destructive engagements between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces emerged in the eastern Donbas region and persists as of June 2015.[7],[8]  Furthermore, the Kremlin’s continuous simultaneous criticism of Kiev and denial of involvement has created an ambiguous strategic picture hampering the decision-making process for Western leaders.  Commonly referred to as ‘hybrid war,’ the employment of this type of conflict in Ukraine highlights new challenges for military leaders and policymakers.[9]

Using the Ukraine conflict as a case study, this paper argues that hybrid warfare (known as nelineinaia voina, or non-linear warfare in Russian) is the simultaneous combination and employment of multiple military and non-military state tools in conflict, but its successful use ultimately relies on an effective information operations campaign supplemented by coordinated special operations conducting unconventional warfare.  Non-linear warfare is comprised of various elements from conventional warfare, unconventional warfare, political, and even economic means but its success hinges on an initial information operations campaigned that is subsequently exploited by special operations forces (SOF) once it has reached a specific point.  First, this paper will provide a brief overview of hybrid warfare and discuss its general employment in Ukraine.  Then, this paper will proceed to explore information operations in Russian military thought, detail its use in Ukraine, and analyze its impact.  After discussing information operations, this paper will transition and focus on the role of SOF operations in unconventional warfare, explore the recent evolution of SOF in Russia, and analyze their actions in Ukraine.  Lastly, this paper will conclude with a discussion of the significance of non-linear warfare and its strategic incentives.

A Brief Overview of Hybrid Warfare

As a result of its relative recent emergence in literature, there are multiple definitions of hybrid warfare.  With many military thinkers using the 2006 Lebanon War featuring Israel and Hezbollah as a case study, a significant portion of literature views hybrid warfare as an approach used by non-state actors.[10]  As demonstrated by the Russian intervention in Ukraine, states can employ hybrid warfare as well.  Thus, instead of attempting to further define hybrid warfare, the author will use an original hybrid warfare definition from Frank Hoffman.  Hoffman says that hybrid warfare, which can be conducted by both state and non-state actors, is the following:

Hybrid wars incorporate a range of different modes of warfare, including conventional capabilities, irregular tactics and formations, terrorist acts including indiscriminate violence and coercion, and criminal disorder.[11]

He hones in on hybrid threats by describing them as the following:

Hybrid threats are any adversary that simultaneously employs a tailored mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, terrorism, and criminal behavior in the same time and battlespace to obtain their political objectives.[12]

The author embraces these definitions—especially the latter—as it offers the most utility not only because of its inclusion of both state and non-state actors, but also because it incorporates a defined battlespace and the actor’s ultimate political objectives.  For the most part, this definition sufficiently explains Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, but it does not incorporate “strategic coercion”—a characteristic unique to great powers such as Russia.  Lawrence Freedman defines strategic coercion as “the deliberate and purposive use of overt threats to influence another’s strategic choices.”[13]  In the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, this includes nuclear threats and large-scale ‘snap’ military exercises.  Due to the significance of strategic coercion in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, this paper will use the hybrid warfare framework defined by Phillip Karber.[14]

Graphic 1:  Karber Hybrid Warfare Framework[15]

As illustrated in Graphic 1, there are four components of hybrid warfare:  “Political Subversion,” “Proxy Sanctum,” “Intervention,” and “Coercive Deterrence.”  Political Subversion revolves around information operations and the encouragement of underground resistance.  For instance, components of Russia’s ‘humanitarian’ foreign policy in Ukraine are considered to be part of Political Subversion.  Proxy Sanctum is a step up in intensity as it calls for the employment of certain SOF units to conduct unconventional warfare; the mobilization of spetsnaz forces in Crimea illustrates this stage.[16]  Intervention is indicated by the usage of conventional military forces alongside an increase in intensity of information warfare and SOF operations.  The deployment of Russian Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) in Ukraine to conduct conventional operations against Ukrainian forces demonstrates this effort.[17]  Coercive Deterrence is essentially strategic coercion; Russia’s nuclear threats and large-scale regional military exercises exemplify this stage.[18]  Since information operations and SOF actions fall under Political Subversion and Proxy Sanctum respectively, this paper asserts that these elements pave the way for initial success and subsequent escalation dominance.

The term non-linear warfare is used most notably in Russian literature by Vladislav Surkov.  Surkov—who serves as a key political advisor to President Putin—published a science fiction short story on non-linear warfare under the penname Natan Dubovitsky.[19],[20]  Titled Without Sky, this short story discusses a futuristic war from the perspective of a child and was published shortly after the events in Crimea.  Beginning with hints of perpetual mobilization (a message projected internally by the Kremlin), Surkov introduces non-linear warfare.[21]  He says:

This was the first non-linear war.  In the primitive wars of the nineteenth, twentieth, and other middle centuries, the fight was usually between two sides:  two nations or two temporary alliances.  But now, four coalitions collided, and it wasn’t two against two, or three against one.  It was all against all

…The simple-hearted commanders of the past strove for victory.  Now they did not act so stupidly.  That is, some, of course, still clung to the old habits and tried to exhume from the archives old slogans of the type:  victory will be ours.  It worked in some places, but basically, war was now understood as a process, more exactly, part of a process, its acute phase, but maybe not the most important [emphasis added].[22],[23]

Despite its status as a short story, Surkov’s writings provide some insight.  As a key Kremlin strategic adviser (who was sanctioned by the U.S. government for his role in the seizure of Crimea), his voice is influential.[24]  In addition to directly referencing non-linear warfare in this story, he envisions a world where the involved parties are not clear.  Furthermore, Surkov views military operations as “not the most important” part of non-linear warfare.  Although brief, this short story provides a glimpse into Russian strategic thought on non-linear warfare.

In addition, the following two articles shed some light on hybrid warfare in Russian military thought.  Valery Gerasimov, the Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, authored what is the most cited Russian article on non-linear from February 2013.  Titled The Value of Science in Prediction, Gerasimov discusses the future of war and necessary measures in what is known informally as the ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’.[25],[26]  In a separate article coauthored by Col. S.G. Checkinov (Res.) and Lt. Gen. S.A. Bogdanov (Ret.) titled The Nature and Content of a New-Generation War, the authors assert that information warfare, along with SOF and a coordinated escalation, will play a key role in future conflict; this document has occasionally been referred to as a “how-to manual” for the Crimean seizure.[27],[28]  This paper will eventually explore these two writings in further detail, but it is important to recognize that few Russian publications on hybrid warfare currently exist.  However, much has been written on specific elements of hybrid warfare, and some of these will be examined.

The Role of Information Operations in Hybrid Warfare

Background on Information Operations

Before exploring information operations in Russian military thought and its employment in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, it is necessary to briefly understand the basics of information operations.  The U.S. Department of Defense defines information operations as the following:

The integrated deployment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with others lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.[29]

In addition, psychological operations (a subset of information operations abbreviated as PYSOPs) are also aimed towards “shaping adversary perceptions and behavior.”[30]   This is done through targeting key decision makers, vulnerable population groups, and external mass audiences—as illustrated by Graphic 2.  Ultimately, information operations are critical because they shape the targeted group’s opinions and impact the adversary’s decision making abilities.

Graphic 2:  Targeted Audiences in U.S. Department of Defense Information Operations[31]

The Role of Information Operations in Modern Russian Military Thought

Information operations, and the concept of psychological operations, is not a new concept in Russian military thought as it has roots in the Soviet Union.  However, as a result of the Persian Gulf War, the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, and the Arab Spring, Russian strategic thinkers greatly elaborate on the role of information operations in conflict.  Analysis of Russian military literature not only reveals the significant increasing emphasis on information operations, but also the sophistication of these operations as well, and their fusion into non-linear warfare.  In 1971, Pierre Nord, a specialist in PYSOPs wrote: 

Making ideology part of psychological warfare was a Soviet innovation, turning this into a massive and universal warfare.  Another innovation was the incessant use of psychological operations.  The point is that peacetime never exists for a government in Moscow [emphasis added].[32]

Russia’s information operations in Ukraine demonstrate that Nord’s comments remain true to this day.

In his article, Gerasimov begins with discussing the “Lessons of the Arab Spring.”  He asserts that “The role of nonmilitary means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness.”[33]  Information operations are just one of several nonmilitary means that he is referring to.  Gerasimov continues:

The information space opens wide asymmetrical possibilities for reducing the fighting potential of the enemy.  In North Africa, we witnessed the use of technologies for influencing state structures and the population with the help of information networks.  It is necessary to perfect activities in the information space, including the defense of our own objectives.[34]

Gerasimov’s assertions contain three important aspects.  First, with the reference to asymmetrical warfare, it is evident that he views information operations as a force multiplier.  Second, with the population as the targeted audience, he considers it as the center of gravity in turning the tide.  Third, the concluding defensive comment stems from the contemporary popular theory that the West has been continuously conducting information operations against Russia. 

Yet, the article by Checkinov and Bogdanov not only echoes Gerasimov’s thesis on the significance of nonmilitary weapons, but expands on the importance of information operations.  One of their fundamental arguments is the following:

A new-generation warfare will be dominated by information and psychological warfare that will seek to achieve superiority in troops and weapons control and depress the opponent’s armed forces personnel and population morally and psychologically.  In the ongoing revolution in information technologies, information and psychological warfare will largely lay the groundwork for victory [emphasis added].[35]

They point out that ultimately, “No goal will be achieved in future wars unless one belligerent gains information superiority over the other.”[36]  Essentially, the framework for hybrid warfare presented by Checkinov and Bogdanov relies on a successful information operations campaign at the inception of conflict in order to shape favorable operating conditions.

Igor Panarin also asserts that information operations are critical for strategic geopolitical campaigns.  A former Committee for State Security (KGB) officer who worked with the Federal Agency of Government Communications and Information (FAPSI), Panarin’s emphasis on information operations is based off of his perception that Russia is, and has been continually under attack in the information domain by the U.S. and the West.[37],[38]  Furthermore, Panarin believes that the fall of the USSR, the “velvet revolutions,” and perestroika were all results of an efficient information operation waged by the West.[39]  As a result of his perceived ideological clash, Panarin classifies the Crimea seizure as a “defensive” information operation.[40]  Due to the USSR’s historical information challenges and the current ‘conflict’ between Russia and the West, Panarin calls for the creation of an “information KGB” manned by “information spetsnazes.”[41]  Although not officially confirmed, it is believed that the Russian government worked with Panarin to set up an office managed by a presidential special adviser “to oversee an international network of NGOs, information agencies and training institutions” for coordinating Russia’s whole-of-government information operations.[42],[43]

Panarin lists eight different components of information operations.  The first two are “social control” and “social maneuvering” which revolve around “influencing society” to achieve “intentional control of the public aimed at gaining certain benefits.”[44]  “Disinformation,” “fabrication of information,” and “information manipulation” all relate to supporting information operations through leveraging incorrect information.[45]  The last three are “lobbying,” “blackmail,” and “extortion of desired information.”[46]  Ultimately, Panarin’s framework for conducting information operations and suggestions for the Russian government have made inroads among many Russian strategic thinkers since many agree with his perceived geopolitical ideological information clash.

Alexsandr Dugin supports Panarin’s ideological assessment and also presents a framework for conducting information operations.  Dugin, who is an academic, is the founder of the Eurasian Youth Union—providing him access to a social network to spread his ideas.[47]  He furthers Panarin’s ideological beliefs through discussing the significance of the “colour revolutions” in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan and how they are fueling “netwar” (It is critical to understand that some Russian information operations terms such as “netwar” and “netcode” have their own Russian definitions that are different from their meanings in English).[48]  For instance, Dugin believes that the “netwar” in the “colour revolutions” are “artificial processes plotted in the West aimed at destablising entire regions in post-Soviet area” leading to the “disassembly of Russian statehood.”[49]  Comprised of “netcode,” a student of Dugin says “Those who understand the netcode manage the processes, the motivation of ethnic groups and entire populations of countries, and foment conflict for their own purposes.”[50]  One member of Russia’s conservative Great Fatherland Party analyzed Russia’s “netcode” when he explained “Our Russian [net]code works perfectly owing to President Putin’s achievements which…have woken up people’s layers of the subconscious mind.”[51]  Like Panarin, Dugin advises for the Kremlin to create the “Eurasian network” in order to “reverse” Western information operations.[52]  Dugin’s works reinforce Panarin’s writings and details modern Russian views on information operations.

One of Dugin’s “netcode” playing a significant role in Russian information operations is the concept of ‘reflexive control.’  Reflexive control is defined as:

a means of conveying to a partner or an opponent specially prepared information to incline him to voluntarily make the predetermined decision desired by the initiator of the action.[53]

Reflexive control is considered a key element of Maskirovka, a Russian term lacking an English translation but a practice of using “dummies and decoys, disinformation and even the execution of complex maneuvers.”[54]  Essentially, actors employ reflexive control in order to secretly hijack the adversary’s decision making cycle. 

Although originally conceived by V.A. Lefebrve in the 1960s, reflexive control has been continually refined throughout the 21st century.  For instance, in 2001, the Russian journal Reflexive Processes and Control was launched under the guidance of FAPSI, the deputy head of the Information Security Committee on the Russian Security Council, and others.  Major General N.I. Turko of the Russian Armed Forces assesses that reflexive control is “the most dangerous manifestation” and more influential than conventional military means.[55]  Reflexive control’s methods vary but include encouragement, blackmail by force, camouflage, and disinformation.[56]  The immediate impact of these tools confuses the subject and causes it to pursue a course of action unknowingly pre-planned by the actor.  In information operations, reflexive control not only targets state governments, but also key groups of the population.

The Role of Information Operations in the Ukrainian Crisis

Russia’s information operations in Ukraine were crucial to the successful seizure of Crimea and operational expansion into the Donbas region.  This effort can be broken down into the following three groups:  1) Russia’s preceding ‘humanitarian’ foreign policy, 2) pro-Russian media within Ukraine, and 3) global pro-Russian media aimed at the West.

Russia’s ‘Humanitarian’ Foreign Policy in Ukraine

Although not necessarily considered a direct subcomponent of information operations, elements of Russia’s ‘humanitarian’ foreign policy towards Ukraine enabled the success of Russian information operations.  These elements consisted of funding for schools teaching the Russian language, supporting pro-Russian cultural centers and compatriot non-government organizations (NGOs), and encouraging the attainment of Russian citizenship.  Ultimately, the goal of this ‘humanitarian’ foreign policy is rather simple:  to increase the number of Russian speakers in Ukraine and the number of Ukrainian citizens who identify with the Russian culture.  Individuals that consider themselves to be Russian speakers and Russian citizens are able to understand Russian propaganda, and subsequently enable Russian information operations.

The collapse of the U.S.S.R. marked a decline in the interest for Russian studies in Ukraine, but the promotion of the Russian language in Ukraine is still significant.   Within Ukraine, 2,100 schools teach both Ukrainian and Russian along with 1,340 schools that just teach Russian.[57]  Just under 1.3 million primary school students study Russian as a subject, and nearly 800,000 students conduct their studies exclusively in Russian.[58]  Furthermore, nearly 1.5 million Russian textbooks are printed and distributed to students at the expense of the Ukrainian government.[59]  Much of these efforts are the result of bilateral cultural promotion efforts between Kiev and Moscow.  However, closer inspection reveals that:

The comparison of Ukrainian policy on Russian minority and Russian policy on Ukrainian minority leads to the conclusion that the Russian Federation provides the policy of double standards when “defending the Russian language” in Ukraine.[60]

Essentially, the Russian government’s lobbying efforts have resulted in the promotion of the Russian language throughout Ukraine at the expense of the national government.

Complementing the promotion of the Russian language in the education system is the support of NGOs that focus on spreading Russian culture.  In 2009, there were 14 pro-Russian NGOs which were organized under the Coordinating Council of Russian Compatriots.[61]  A number of informal organizations also exist and communicate with the Coordinating Council but are not formally part of it in order to not discredit it (such as the Eurasian Youth League and Crimean Proryv which clash with police forces).[62]  Over 400 million rubles from the Russian national government’s budget are sent to compatriot organizations and 34 million rubles from the Moscow city budget were provided for Russian compatriots in Crimea.[63]  Rosstrudnichestvo, the Russian Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation, currently receives a $60 million budget that will rise to $300 million by 2020.[64]  These compatriot organizations conduct a variety of activities that include but are not limited to the organization of ‘Victory Day’ parades to celebrate Russia’s World War II victory, the financing of a Russian cultural center in Luhansk, and the destruction of Ukrainian state symbols on Hoverla Mountain.[65]  Many compatriot organizations maintain their own news websites and newspapers to propagate pro-Russian ideas.[66] Furthermore, Russian cultural centers have been established in Kiev, Simferopol, Lviv, and several other cities.[67]  These NGOs and compatriot organizations assist with the promotion of Russian language and culture throughout Ukraine.

Even though Ukrainian legislation prohibits dual citizenship, the Russian government has conducted several programs that provide Russian-inspired Ukrainian citizens Russian status.[68]  Russian officials deny allegations that they distribute passports at little or no cost to Ukrainians, but it is known that the Consulate General of Russia in Simferopol illegally hands out passports.[69]  Furthermore in 2008, the Russian State Duma announced a draft law titled “The Federal Law on the Russian Card for Compatriots Living Outside the Russian Federation.”  This law would allow for pro-Russian Ukrainian citizens to attain an identification card that would allow them to travel to Russia without a visa, work in Russia without a permit, receive an education in Russia, receive an energy allowance, and provide benefits to immediate family members.[70]  Ultimately, these efforts encourage the attainment of Russian citizenship.[71]

Pro-Russian Media Efforts Within Ukraine

Within Ukraine, Russia has effectively conducted information operations leveraging TV stations and newspapers to spread Russian propaganda.  Since Russia’s ‘humanitarian’ foreign policy efforts creates a Russian speaking population, its media efforts are able to fuel pro-Russian sentiment.

The proliferation of Russian newspapers in Ukraine is significant and contributes to the spread of pro-Russian ideas.  According to data from 2007, there were 3,966,113 newspapers in circulation in Ukraine.  Of these, 2,647,385 (66.7%) are in Russian while 1,141,877 (28.7%) are in Ukrainian.[72]  Although many Russian language newspapers do not necessarily contain a pro-Russian bias, many do propagate the Kremlin’s viewpoints (especially those owned by a political party).  Nevertheless, mass print is just one element of the information domain that Russia has focused on.

In addition to the newspapers, there are also a substantial amount Russian TV stations.  In July of 2008, there were 45 licensed foreign TV programs in Ukraine.  37 of these programs were Russian.[73]  Some of these programs only feature programming revolving around entertainment but those that focus on presenting news or discussions about current events often embody a pro-Russian bias.  For instance, the TV channel Peryvv Kanal Vsemirnaya hosted a discussion on the territorial status of Sevastapol.[74]  Many of these programs do not abide by Ukrainian government regulations governing broadcast stations.  In response, the Ukrainian government has tried to punish illegal stations, but has failed as a result of Russian government intervention.  For instance, in 2008, the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council of Ukraine cited four Russian TV channels (First Channel. Worldnet, RTR-Planet, Ren-TV, and TVCI) for violating the laws on Television and Broadcasting, On Public Morals, and On Advertising.  The Russian government immediately responded with Igor Schegolev (the Minister of Communications and Mass Media) demanding for Kiev to “stop the discrimination of Russian mass media in Ukraine.”[75]  As a result of these interventions by the Russian government, pro-Russian TV stations are rarely sanctioned for their violations.

Global Pro-Russian Media Efforts

Alongside its media efforts within Ukraine, Russia has also waged an effective information campaign against the international community leveraging a similar set of resources:  1) TV programs, and 2) a ‘swarm’ of pro-Russia internet commenters.  These efforts, which revolve around denial and deception, distract international actors—hindering their response to the Ukrainian crisis. 

Unlike its TV media efforts within Ukraine, Russia’s international TV programs are not in Russian, but instead English, Arabic, Spanish, French, German and other popular foreign languages.  The most notable program is RT (Russian Today).  With a budget of at least $300 million that is set to increase by 41%, RT is one of the largest TV networks as it reaches over 600 million people globally.[76]  Online, it is considered one of the most popular news channels as it was the first TV station to reach 1 billion views on YouTube.[77]  RT’s strategic importance is exemplified by the fact that Putin signed a presidential decree forbidding any cuts to the RT budget.[78]  Throughout the Crimea seizure and Ukrainian conflict, RT repeatedly propagated disinformation and false claims bolstering the pro-Russian view.  These ranged from asserting that Russians troops “are a stabilizing force” to an editorial monologue stating that Russia is “the only country in the world capable of turning the U.S.A. into radioactive dust.”[79],[80]  Lithuanian Minister for Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicus sums up RT’s effectiveness by saying “Russia Today’s propaganda machine is no less destructive than the military machine in Crimea.”[81]  RT is an example of how Russia attempts to confuse the West.

While RT promotes a deceptive narrative, Russia’s employment of informal news sites and commenters acts as an offensive ‘swarm’ geared towards suppressing the Western narrative.  Often referred to as trolls (internet users who purposely promote discord, anger, and confusion), these users attack social media posts and news pieces countering the pro-Russian narrative with a ‘swarm’ of disparaging and critical comments.[82]  Even though the comments are meaningless and often reflect poor logic, they distract and as one analyst explained, act as “suppressive fire” aiming to choke “users with a cloud of filth.”[83],[84]  Social network analysis displayed in Graphic 3 illustrates that many of 17,950 active pro-Russian accounts are related, indicating extensive coordination.

Graphic 3:  Social Network Analysis of 17,590 Pro-Russian Twitter Accounts[85]

Leaked documents show that the Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg, is behind many of these incidents.  With a budget of over $10 million (half of which is destined to be paid in cash) and just under 1,000 employees, there are reports that this organization “was directly orchestrated by the government.”[86]  Furthermore, another report asserts that “any Internet operation originating in Russia are almost certainly monitored and overseen by the Federal Security Service’s (FSB’s) Information Security Center.”[87]  Ultimately, Russia’s “army of trolls” hamper’s its adversary’s efforts to attain legitimacy in the information space.[88]

Analysis of Russia Information Operations During the Ukrainian Crisis

Russia’s information operations in Ukraine can be characterized by a high level of sophistication and their complicated nature.  Rather than adopting a singular, uniform information operations strategy, Russia deployed a well-planned information operations strategy within Ukraine while simultaneously employing a different information operations approach outside of Ukraine against Western media.  Graphic 4 below illustrates this process:

Graphic 4:  Pattern of Russian Information Operations in Ukraine

 Internally, Russia’s investment in spreading the Russian language and culture essentially expanded the audience they would be capable of reaching out to.  Russia subsequently targeted this section of the Ukrainian population with information operations in order to secure their ‘popular support’ for military actions in Ukraine.  Externally, the combination of disinformation and criticism disrupted the Western narrative.  As a result, Russia was able to create an information space supporting its military operations in Ukraine.

Russia’s information operations are consistent with modern Russian thought on the subject.  The role that information operations played is consistent with the comments on its importance by Gerasimov, Checkinov, and Bogdanov.  Furthermore, Panarin’s advice for conducting information operations through a coordinated effort between government agencies, NGOs, and journalists is exemplified by Russian’s employment.  Dugin’s emphasis on ‘netcode’ is demonstrated by the careful use of misinformation to trigger actions among individuals; counters to misinformation were suppressed with swarms of criticism.  The emphasis on disinformation creates an environment well-suited for carrying out reflexive control.  Ultimately, Russia’s effective employment of information operations created a favorable attitude among sects of the population that allowed the Kremlin to transition to the Proxy Sanctum stage of hybrid warfare and conduct effective SOF operations.

The Importance of SOF Operations in Hybrid Warfare

Brief Overview of SOF Operations

Before dissecting the employment of SOF in Russian military thought and in Ukraine, it is necessary to provide a brief overview SOF operations.  Typically, SOF operations are informally broken down into two categories:  complex kinetic direct action operations (such as F3EA operations) and operations supporting unconventional warfare.[89],[90],[91]  Unconventional warfare is defined as: 

Operations and activities that are 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 guerrilla force in a denied area.[92]  

Graphic 5 depicts unconventional warfare and its relationship with ‘Political Warfare’ (coined by George Kennan).[93]  Unconventional warfare does not revolve entirely around SOF operations, but they play a critical role.  Thus, this paper will mainly examine Russia’s employment of SOF in support of unconventional warfare.

Graphic 5:  Unconventional Warfare, Political Warfare, and Counter-Unconventional Warfare[94]

SOF Operations in Modern Russian Military Thought

The employment of SOF is not new in Russian thought.  In fact, unlike many states, Russia maintains an arsenal of SOF experience stemming from the U.S.S.R.  Known as spetsnaz units, these forces were conceived sometime during the second half of the 20th century in order to conduct “special reconnaissance” missions.  Special reconnaissance missions are defined in Soviet military publications as the following:

Reconnaissance carried out to subvert the political, economic, and military potential and morale of a probable or actual enemy.  The primary missions of special reconnaissance are acquiring intelligence on major economic and military installations and either destroying them or putting them out of action; carrying out punitive operations against rebels, conducting propaganda; forming and training insurgent detachments, etc.  Special reconnaissance…is conducted by the forces of covert intelligence and special purpose troops.[95]

Essentially, spetsnaz forces were originally intended covertly advance ahead of Soviet Deep Battle operations, develop their own agent networks, and conduct special reconnaissance missions.  This paper will not dive into the history of Soviet spetsnaz, but it is important to recognize how their background has shaped their current modus operandi.[96]  Although relatively little is publicly written about spetsnaz and SOF operations in Russian literature, Gerasimov, Checkinov, Bogdanov, and Col. General Anatoly Zaitsev have discussed SOF operations in their works.

Gerasimov views SOF operations as a critical component of non-linear warfare due to their ability to operate as a force multiplayer relatively clandestinely.  He says:

Asymmetrical actions have come into widespread use, enabling the nullification of the enemy’s advantages in armed conflict.  Among such actions are the use of special-operations forces and internal opposition to create a permanently operating front through the entire territory of the enemy state, as well as informational actions, devices, and means that are constantly being perfected [emphasis added].[97]

Gerasimov also asserts:

All this is supplemented by military means of a concealed character, including carrying out actions of informational conflict and the actions of special-operations forces.  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 [emphasis added].[98]

Essentially, Gerasimov believes that SOF operations are the most effective military tool in non-linear warfare.  Unlike conventional forces, the clandestine nature and ‘small footprint’ of SOF provides them with greater operating flexibility; even when supported with effective information operations, conventional forces are still somewhat restrained in their employment.  Furthermore, his belief that they create a “permanently operating front” with “internal opposition” is similar to the role of SOF in unconventional warfare.  Although SOF operate on a smaller scale than conventional forces, their size allows them to continuously operate without abiding by any political constraints that conventional forces must recognize.

Checkinov and Bogdanov also call for the employment of SOF in two of eight phases in their interpretation of “new-generation war.”  After a lengthy series of information operations conducted throughout five phases, SOF represent the initial periods of military action.  They say:

The start of the military phase will be immediately preceded by large-scale reconnaissance and subversive missions conducted under the cover of the information operation. All types, forms, methods, and forces, including special operations forces, space, radio, radio engineering, electronic, diplomatic, and secret service intelligence, and industrial espionage will be used to detect and map the exact location of key government and military objectives vital to the country’s sustainability, designate targets for fire strikes, make digital topographic maps of enemy territory and load them remotely into onboard homing systems, and monitor the efficacy of fire strikes [emphasis added].[99]

Checkinov and Bogdanov’s interpretation of SOF operations is consistent with the Soviet concept of special reconnaissance.  Essentially, they view SOF operations as the immediate successor to information operations and responsible for applying precise military force against critical enemy systems in order to hamper their response.  In the final eight phase of “next-generation war,” SOF are employed to “roll over the remaining points of resistance” by leveraging fire support.[100]  Unlike Gerasimov, who views SOF primarily as a force meant to support unconventional warfare, Checkinov and Bogdanov focus on using SOF as shock infantry meant to outmaneuver the adversary.

In an article titled Partisan Warfare, Colonel-General (ret.) Anatoly Zaitsev argues that modern armies “must be able to fight without a front line” and that the effective employment of SOF in Crimea is a key lesson for the Russian military.[101]  Zaitsev, who has served in Abkhazia, praises SOF for their agility, small footprint, precise targeting, and asserts that “Offensive operations would begin only after the completion of operations by “the spetsnaz”.”[102],[103]  His analysis continues with the following key assessment:

Along that theme, some aspects of the use of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Crimea are instructive and can be utilized in the planning of future offensive operations.  The first relates to a method of sudden blocking of possible blocks of resistance by the potential enemy.  If the wider action of the blocking units is observed, the similarity of the tactics of diversionary [or “sabotage”] and reconnaissance groups of medium and small numbers (which we shall call “partisans”).  It is clear that their ultimate goal is to destroy the enemy’s critical facilities and disrupt or destroy his forces’ systems.  Carrying out diversionary [or “sabotage”] operations in partisan (in the sense listed above) activities will be one of the most important components of offensive operations in future wars of low and medium intensities [emphasis added].[104]

Zaitsev, who analyzes the potential operating speed of Ukrainian forces, believes that SOF operations are critical in non-linear warfare because of their ability to quickly maneuver and hamper the adversary’s ability to operate.  Essentially, Zaitsev views SOF operations as a mechanism in achieving “systems disruption,” which “leverages network structure and dynamics to turn small attacks into large events [emphasis added].”[105]  Ultimately, Zaitsev’s view of SOF is an extension of Gerasimov’s, Checkinov’s, and Bogdanov’s views at the operational level.

Before discussing the types of SOF operations employed in Ukraine, it is necessary to briefly discuss the recent history of SOF units in Russia.  After the Russian military’s disappointing performance in the 2008 Russo-Georgian War, the entire Russian defense establishment was scrutinized, including the GRU’s spetsnaz.  As a result, Anatoly Serdyukov (the Minister for Defense at the time) decided to abolish the GRU’s spetsnaz wing and transfer them to regional military commands.  This created controversy and the spetsnaz lost many personnel.  However, Sergei Shoigu (Serdyukov’s successor) and Geraismov disagreed with Serdyukov’s action, reversed his actions, and created the Komanda Spetsial’nikh Operatsiy (KSO).[106],[107]  With organic air assets and under the command of former FSB Alfa counterterrorism team member General Aleskandr Miroshnichenko, the approximate 500 operators from the 346th Independent Spetsnaz Brigade marked Russia’s first ‘tier-one’ force (the KSO is often compared to the U.S’ Special Operations Command—SOCOM.  This comparison is considered to be inaccurate as Russian SOF units are not all merged under a single Ministry of Defense command.  Instead, the KSO contains more similarities to Germany’s KSK or the FSB’s Alfa units).[108][109]  The creation of the KSO represents the continued interest in SOF operations among Russian military thinkers.

Russian SOF Operations During the Ukrainian Crisis

As mentioned, Russia has conducted SOF operations within Ukraine since the inception of the conflict.  However, since some of these Russian SOF operations are unique, this paper will first look at SOF operations conducted in Crimea, and then examine SOF operations conducted in the Donbas region.  Nevertheless, due to the clandestine (and covert) nature of SOF operations, it is necessary to recognize that this analysis is not complete; there are probably many unknown Russian SOF operations in Ukraine.

Russian SOF Operations in Crimea

On February 22, 2014, various elements of spetsnaz forces were put on alert and mobilized.  Within five days, spetsnaz operators from the newly-created KSO and the 45th opSpN (the spetsnaz detachment to the 45th VDV—Russia’s airborne troops) were transported via helicopter to the barracks of the 810th Independent Naval Infantry Brigade in Russia’s Black Sea naval base in Sevastapol.[110]  These operators struck the first blow by seizing the Crimean parliament building, the Simerfopol airport, and a couple of key Ukrainian military facilities.[111],[112],[113]  Following this first phase, they were supported by other infantry from the 810th, pro-Russian private security contractors, and elements of other spetsnaz units (often company size detachments) including but not limited to the 431st omrSpN (naval spetsnaz), the 10th Brigade, the 25th Brigade, the 3rd Brigade, the 16th Brigade, and the 25th Brigade.[114], [115]  Between March 1 and March 17th, these forces allegedly conducted 16 different seizure operations—9 of which were confirmed to be immediately successful.[116]  Targets ranged from airports, surface-to-air missile batteries, Ukrainian military bases, military hospitals, and fuel depots.[117]

The way these spetsnaz units operated led to their tactical success and played a significant role in the Kremlin’s strategic victory.  First, the spetsnaz units were visibly well-armed—providing them the capacity to engage Ukrainian military forces and deter opposition from intervening.[118]  Second, the spetsnaz were very mobile and leveraged Crimea’s line of communications in order to pursue a “systems disruption” approach.  For instance, agile wheeled vehicles were employed (such as the GAZ Tigr and BTR-80) and the BTR-80 was the heaviest vehicle used in the Crimea seizure.[119],[120]  Third, spetsnaz forces wore no unit or national insignia—providing the Kremlin ‘plausible deniability.’[121]  Fourth, the spetsnaz forces focused on engaging the population and winning over ‘hearts and minds.’  They were considered to be “polite” as they worked with the population, encouraged Ukrainian soldiers to defect, and only fired their weapons in the air to deter individuals from traveling along certain lines of communication.[122]  As Zaitsev pointed out, the spetsnaz were successful because of their speed and precision.

Russian SOF Operations in the Donbas

The employment of SOF in the Donbas region is different in the sense that it occurs on a much smaller scale resembling unconventional warfare more than the overt “systems disruption” approach witnessed in Crimea.  For the most part, Russian spetsnaz have focused on training and aiding pro-Russian separatist forces at the platoon level.  Although the Russian military has involved itself on a larger scale with the deployment of BTGs, there is no evidence suggesting that spetsnaz are driving or participating in these BTG operations.[123]  Furthermore, spetsnaz have been employed in the Donbas to enforce the chain of command among the separatists.

A report from IHS Jane’s assesses that squad—or at most platoon—sized elements of the KSO, the 2nd Brigade, the 10th Brigade, the 22nd Brigade, and the 24th Brigade have conducted SOF operations in Eastern Ukraine.[124]  In addition, elements of the 100th Brigade have possibly been deployed to provide security for Russian trainers educating separatists on technical weapon systems.[125]  Unlike the spetsnaz forces conducting seizures in Crimea, these units have primarily provided tactical training and strategic advice to pro-Russian separatists fighters (many of which are under the command of Colonel Igor Strelkov who is allegedly a member of the GRU).[126],[127]  Furthermore, a unit known as the ‘Vostok Battalion’ (an “ad-hoc Spetsnaz force” run by the GRU with a history in Russia’s Chechen conflicts) stormed the separatist headquarters in May in order to instill a stronger chain of command among pro-Russian fighters.[128]  Initially comprised of Russians, the Vostok Battalion was eventually transformed into a force of highly trained fighters from Ukraine, Chechnya, and other Eastern European areas and handed over to Aleksandr Khodakovsky—the former commander of Ukraine’s Alfa counterterrorism spetsnaz unit.[129],[130]  Additionally, some reports indicate that 300 members of the FSB’s Alfa and Vimpel have been deployed to strengthen the separatist’s chain of command.[131]

Although less complete information regarding Russia’s employment of SOF in Eastern Ukraine exists, it is clear that they are supporting separatist forces.  The small-scale deployment reflects Putin’s decision to have the separatists act as Russia’s primary force in the region.  GRU spetsnaz forces are conducting unconventional warfare by training and advising the separatists while FSB spetsnaz forces appear to be resolving any internal separatist disputes and handling any principal-agent problems.  Ultimately, these SOF operations act as a force multiplier for pro-Russian separatist forces.

Analysis of Russian SOF Operations in Ukraine

Russia’s SOF operations in Ukraine offers insight into non-linear warfare and will serve as a valuable case study for special operations as more information is discovered.  The employment of SOF in both Crimea and the Donbas is consistent with the Soviet interpretation of “special reconnaissance” and the views of Checkinov, Bogdanov, Zaitsev, and Gerasimov.  Nevertheless, Russian SOF were initially used in a “systems disruption” manner in Crimea but deployed different in the Donbas to conduct “partisan warfare.”

Checkinov, Bogdanov, and Zaitsev not only viewed SOF as the initial component of a military intervention, but also responsible for targeting “key government and military objectives.”[132]  In Crimea, this is precisely what spetsnaz forces did; they initially captured key government buildings and military airports in manner described by Zaitsev consistent with “systems disruption.”  Within two weeks, their capture of key facilities and blockades of key lines of communication paralyzed the Ukrainian military’s Crimean forces—preventing them from responding; this is a clear example of “systems disruption.”

The conduct of Zaitsev’s “partisan warfare” in the Donbas is consistent Gerasimov’s views of SOF.  As discussed, Gerasimov views SOF as a method for creating a permanent front for the enemy to deal with.  In Donbas, Russia employed spetsnaz differently by having them focus on assisting separatist “partisan” forces and defending the established chain of command.  These efforts led to the creation of a somewhat effective separatist force capable of countering Ukrainian military operations.  As a result, one year after the beginning of the crisis, Kiev is still struggling to break through and defeat a capable separatist front in the east. 


Using the Ukrainian crisis as a case study, this paper argues that Russia’s sophisticated information operations and effective employment of SOF were ultimately the most important factors in its non-linear warfare campaign.  Russia’s effective use Political Subversion and Proxy Sanctum elements provided escalation dominance—allowing the Kremlin to leverage conventional forces and strategic coercion in its non-linear warfare strategy.  Russia’s effective information operations not only disoriented and hampered the West’s response, but also helped create a substantial portion of the population with pro-Russian beliefs willing to support the Kremlin’s military operations; a significant portion of the remaining population in Dontesk (which is estimated to only contain 25% of its pre-war population) still support the Kremlin even after a year of war.[133]  With a population willing to defy Kiev, Russia’s SOF entered the region and conducted operations aimed at paralyzing Ukrainian opposition (Crimea) and empowering a pro-Russian insurgency (Donbas).  Although this conflict remains ongoing at the time of writing, the blend of military and non-military means provided the Kremlin with initial strategic successes.

A video posted on YouTube on November 28, 2014 contains a compilation of footage of combat between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russia separatist forces.  One particular scene allegedly filmed in Dontesk is recorded at night by an unknown number of men from an apartment building.  The camera is positioned near the window and overlooks a large field.  A continuous stream of gunfire with occasional words exchanged between the recorders fill the sound.  But outside, the viewer sees dozens of tracers from heavy weapons flying past each other in both directions.  Both sides are relentlessly engaging each other within view of an urban environment.[134]

This video amplifies the fact that ultimately, there is nothing “hybrid” about the conflict in Ukraine.[135]  Russia is employing a variety of military and nonmilitary tools in a somewhat unprecedented fashion that surprised the international community, but few—if any—of these tools are new.  States have used propaganda, SOF, economic warfare, and other elements of hybrid warfare for years; Russia is just one of the first actors to employ these elements in a simultaneous, coordinated manner against another state.  In the end, at the heart of hybrid conflict is war (over 6,000 people have died within a year of the conflict).[136]  Yet, the nature of hybrid warfare enables the propagator—in this case Russia—to essentially hijack the adversary’s decision-making cycle and solidify its sudden gains.[137],[138]  With Russia demonstrating how non-linear conflict effectively conceals the use of conventional forces, an increasing number of state and non-state actors will likely incorporate non-linear warfare into their military doctrine and operations.  Since few states possess the resources for a sustained military operation (especially against a worthy opponent), many will use hybrid warfare to achieve their strategic objectives within a quick timeframe before their opponents and the international community can efficiently react.  Therefore, it is critical for military thinkers, politicians, and strategists to not just further their understanding of hybrid warfare, but also develop and implement a practical response to hybrid warfare at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.

The author would like to acknowledge the assistance of Anton Smaliak with translations during research for this paper.

The opinions and views expressed in this paper are those of the author alone and are presented in his personal capacity.  They do not necessarily reflect those of any organization.

End Notes

[1] “Warfighting,” MCDP-1, (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Navy, United States Marine Corps, January    1997); <>             [accessed 20 April 2015].

[2] Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, edited by Michael Howard and Peter Paret, (Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press, 1989). pp. 87.

[3] General McChrystal, et al. provide an excellent comparison between complicated and complex from a strategic perspective.  “Things that are complicated may have many parts, but those parts are joined, one to the next, in relatively simple ways….complexity, on the other hand, occurs when the number of interactions between components increases dramatically…” From: 

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell, Team of Teams:  New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, (Portfolio, 2015). pp. 53-74.

[4] The U.S. Department of Defense defines Irregular Warfare (IW) “as a violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant populations.  IW favors indirect and asymmetric approaches, though it may employ a full range of military capabilities, in order to erode an adversary’s power, influence, and will.”  From:

“Irregular Warfare,” Joint Operating Concept, (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Defense, 11 September 2007); <> [accessed 20 April 2015].

[5] Tim Ripley, ““Operation Crimea ‘14”:  An Incomplete Victory?  Background to Military Deployments & Analysis,” (self-published by Tim Ripley online, 18 March 2014, <> [accessed 14 April 2015].

[6] David Ignatius, “Russia’s military delivers a striking lesson in Crimea,” The Washington Post, (18 March 2014), <> [accessed 3 March 2015).

[7] For an excellent backgrounder specifically on the conflict in the Donbas, see:

Hugo Spaulding, “Backgrounder:  Putin’s Next Objectives in the Ukraine Crisis,” (Washington, D.C.: The Institute for the Study of War, 3 February 2015).

[8] Hugo Spaulding, “Ukraine Crisis Update:  June 10, 2015,” (Washington, D.C.: The Institute for the Study of War, 10 June 2015).

[9] There is some debate on what hybrid warfare means and if it is the correct terminology for the Ukraine crisis.  The author feels that ‘non-linear warfare’ is the more appropriate term as it not only is referred as this in Russian literature, but better incorporates strategic coercion.  However, since much of the academic and military community uses hybrid warfare, the author will continue to use this term in order to accommodate a wider audience.  Yet, this paper contains both terms, and thus, the reader should view them as interchangeable within the confines of this paper.  Ultimately, the author does not intend to argue over specific definitions, but instead wants to incorporate the term ‘non-linear warfare’ because of its use in Russian while using hybrid warfare as well because of its prominence in military literature.

[10] Timothy McCulloh and Richard Jonhson, “Hybrid Warfare,” (MacDill Air Force Base, FL; Joint Special Operations University Press, 2013), pp. 7-17.

[11] Frank Hoffman, “Conflict in the 21st Century:  The Rise of Hybrid Wars,” (Arlington, VA: Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 2007).

[12] Frank Hoffman, “On Not-So-New Warfare:  Political Warfare vs Hybrid Threats,” War on the Rocks, (28 July 2014), <> [accessed 28 July 2014]. 

[13] Strategic Coercion:  Concepts and Cases, edited by Lawrence Freedman, (Oxford University Press, 1998).

[14] Phillip A. Karber, “The Russian Military Forum:  Russia’s Hybrid Warfare Campaign:  Implications for Ukraine and Beyond,” (remarks to Russia and Eurasia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) followed by panel with Paul N. Schwartz; Washington, D.C: CSIS, 10 March 2015).

[15] Phillip A. Karber, “Russian Style Hybrid Warfare,” (Report prepared for Multi-polarity & Stability Workshop #5; McLean, VA: The Potomac Foundation, January 2015).

[16] Ignatius, “Russia’s military delivers a striking lesson in Crimea,” op cit..

[17] “The War in Ukraine:  Reversal of Fortune,” The Economist Newspaper Limited, (6 September 2014), <> [accessed 3 March 2015].

[18] Pavel K. Baev, “Apocalypse a bit later:  The meaning of Putin’s nuclear threats,” The Brookings Institution, (1 April 2015), <> [accessed 7 April 2015].

[19] Anna Nemtsova and Eli Lake, “Is This the Mastermind Behind Russia’s Crimea Grab”, The Daily Beast Company LLC, (19 March 2014), <> [accessed 10 April 2015].

[20] Peter Pomerantsev, “How Putin is Reinventing Warfare,” Foreign Policy, (5 May 2014), <> [accessed 10 April 2015].

[21] Ibid.

[22] Натан Дубовицкий, “Без неба,”, Русский пионер, (12 March 2014), <> [accessed 10 April 2015].

[23] For this story, the following translation was used:                    

Natan Dubovitsky, “Without Sky,” Translated by Bill Bowler, Bewildering Stories, (28 July 2014), <> [accessed 10 April 2015].

[24] Nemtsova and Lake, “Is this the Mastermind Behind Russia’s Crimea Grab,” op cit..

[25] Mark Galeotti, “The ‘Gerasimov Doctrine’ and Russian Non-Linear War,” In Moscow’s Shadows, (6 July 2014), <> [accessed 1 March 2015; containing translations by Rob Coalson]. 

[26] General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of General Staff, Russian Federation, “The Value of Science in Foresight:  New Challenges Require Rethinking on the Forms and Methods of Warfare,” given as a lecture at a closed Voroshilov General Staff Academy conference, and reprinted in Military Industrial Kurier, (27 Feb. 2013), at < >.  The translation used throughout this paper is from:

Robert Coalson, “Top Russian General Lays Bare Putin’s Plan for Ukraine,” The Huffington Post, (2 September 2014), <> [accessed 1 March 2015].

[27] Col. S.G. Chekinov and Lt. Gen. S.A. Bogdanov, “The Nature and Content of a New-Generation War,” Voyenna mysl [Military Thought in English Translation], No.4, (October 2013) at <> [accessed 3 March 2015].

[28] Kristen Ven Bruusgaard, who categorizes the Checkinov and Bogdanov article as a “how-to manual,” provides an excellent analysis of the Russian perception of strategy during its actions in Crimea.  See:

Kristen Ven Bruusgaard, “Crimea and Russia’s Strategic Overhaul,” The US Army War College Quarterly Parameters:  Contemporary Strategy & Landpower, vol. 44, no. 3, (Autumn 2014): pp. 81-90. 

[29] “Information Operations,” Joint Publication 3-13, (updated edition incorporating Change 1; Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff, November 2014); <> [accessed 13 April 2015].

[30] “Doctrine for Joint Psychological Operations,” Joint Publication 3-53, (Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff, September 2003); <> [accessed 13 April 2015].

[31] “Information Operations,” Joint Publication 3-13, op cit..

[32] Pierre Nord, “L’Intoxication.” Quotation from Vladimir Volkoff, “La désinformation – arme de guerre,” (Paris, 1986) quoted in:

Jolanta Darczewska, “The Anatomy of Russian Information Warfare:  The Crimean Operation, A Case Study,” (Warsaw, Poland: Ośrodek Studiów Wschodnich im. Marka Karpia, Centre for Eastern Studies, May, 2014), pp. 20.

[33] Gerasimov, “The Value of Science in Prediction:  New Challenges Require Rethinking on the Forms and Methods of Warfare,” op cit..

[34] Ibid.

[35] Chekinov and Bogdanov, “The Nature and Content of a New-Generation War,” op cit..

[36] Ibid.

[37] Timothy L. Thomas, “Russia’s Asymmetrical Approach to Information Warfare,” in The Russian Military Into the 21st Century, edited by Stephen J. Cimbala, (New York, NY; Routledge, 2013), pp. 114.

[38] Jolanta Darczewska, “The Anatomy of Russian Information Warfare:  The Crimean Operation, A Case Study,” (Warsaw, Poland: Ośrodek Studiów Wschodnich im. Marka Karpia, Centre for Eastern Studies, May, 2014), pp. 14-17.

[39] Ibid., pp. 15.

[40] Ibid., pp. 24.

[41] Spetsnazes and spetsnaz are Russian terms for special forces, as to be further discussed later in this paper.  From Ibid., pp. 16.

[42] Ibid., pp. 16-17.

[43] Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss, “The Menace of Unreality:  How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, Culture and Money,” (New York, NY: The Institute of Modern Russia, Inc., 2014).

[44] Darczewska, “The Anatomy of Russian Information Warfare:  The Crimean Operation, A Case Study,” op cit., pp. 15.

[45] Ibid., pp. 15.

[46] Ibid., pp. 15.

[47] Ibid., pp. 14.

[48] Ibid., pp. 17.

[49] Ibid., pp. 17.

[50] Ibid., pp. 19-20.

[51] Ibid., pp. 20.

[52] Ibid., pp. 18.

[53] Timothy L. Thomas, “Russia’s Reflexive Control Theory and the Military,” Journal of Slavic Military Studies, vol. 17, (2004): pp.237-256.

[54] Steve Tatham, “U.S. Government Information Operations and Strategic Communications:  A Discredited Tool or User Failure?  Implications for Future Conflict,” (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute and U.S. Army War College Press, December 2013), pp. 51.

[55] Thomas, “Russia’s Reflexive Control Theory and the Military,” op cit., pp. 237-240.

[56] Ibid., pp. 242.

[57] Juhan Kivirähk, Nerijus Maliukevičius, Dmytro Kondratenko, Olexandr Yeremeev, Radu Vrabie, Nana Devdariani, Mariam Tsatsanashvili, Nato Bachiashvili, Tengiz Pkhaladze, Gatis Pelnēns, Andis Kudors, Mārtiņš Paparinskis, Ainārs Dimants, Ainārs Lerhis, The “Humanitarian Dimension” of Russian Foreign Policy Toward Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and the Baltic States, (Riga, Estonia: Centre for East European Policy Studies, International Centre for Defence Studies, Centre for Geopolitical Studies, School for Policy Analysis at the National university of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Foreign Policy Association of Moldova, International Centre for Geopolitical Studies, 2009), pp. 285-286.

[58] Ibid., pp. 288.

[59] Ibid., pp. 288.

[60] Ibid., pp. 287.

[61] Ibid., pp. 256.

[62] Ibid., pp. 257.

[63] Ibid., pp. 254.

[64] Nicole Gaouette, “Sanctions-Strapped Russia Outguns the U.S. in Information War,” Bloomberg L.P., (2 April 2015), <> [accessed 4 April 2015].

[65] Ibid., pp. 254-258.

[66] Ibid., pp. 261.

[67] Ibid., pp. 254-276.

[68] Ibid., pp. 265.

[69] Ibid., pp. 266.

[70] Ibid., pp. 270.

[71] This element is crucial as Russia’s revised military doctrine asserts that the Russian government has the right to the “lawful use of the armed forces…to ensure the protection of its citizens, outside the Russian Federation in accordance with generally recognized principles and norms of international law and international treaties of the Russian Federation.  For more, see:

Robert Beckhusen, “Putin’s Holiday Gift is a Paranoid Military Doctrine,” War is Boring, (28 December 2014), <> [accessed 4 March 2015].

[72] Ibid., pp. 295.

[73] Ibid., pp. 291.

[74] Ibid., pp. 292.

[75] Ibid., pp. 291-292.

[76] Pomerantsev and Weiss, “The Menace of Unreality:  How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, Culture and Money,” op cit., pp. 13-14.

[77] Benjamin Bidder, “Russia Today:  Putin’s Weapon in a War of Images,” Der Spiegel International, (13 August 2013), <> [accessed 7 April 2015].

[78] Ibid.

[79] Andrew Kaczynski and Katherine Miller, “14 Insane Moment’s From RT’s Coverage of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine,” Buzzfeed Inc., (3 March 2014), <> [accessed 7 April 2015].

[80] Robert Mackey, “Russia Could Still Turn U.S. ‘Into Radioactive Dust,’ News Anchor in Moscow Reminds Viewers,” The New York Times Company, (16 March 2014), <> [accessed 7 April 2015].

[81] Linas Linkevicius, Untitled Twitter Post, Twitter, (9 March 2014), <> [accessed 7 April 2015].

[82] Max Seddon, “Documents Show How Russia’s Troll Army Hit America,” Buzzfeed Inc., (2 June 2014), <> [accessed 7 April 2015].

[83] Pomerantsev and Weiss, “The Menace of Unreality:  How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, Culture and Money,” op cit., pp. 17.

[84] Adriam Chen, “The Agency,” The New York Times, (2 June 2015), < > [accessed 3 June 2015].

[85] Lawrence Alexander, “Social Network Analysis Reveals Full Scale of Kremlin’s Twitter Bot Campaign,” Global Voices, (2 April 2015), <> [accessed 27 April 2015].

[86] Seddon, “Documents Show How Russia’s Troll Army Hit America,” op cit..

[87] Taia Global Inc., “Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) Internet Operations Against Ukraine,” (Report published publicly online the website of Taia Global Inc.; McLean, VA: Taia Global Inc., April 2015), pp. 6.

[88] Pomerantsev and Weiss, “The Menace of Unreality:  How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, Culture and Money,” op cit., pp. 17.

[89] Whitney Grespin, “The Quiet Professionals:  The Future of U.S. Special Operations Forces,” Diplomatic Courier, (20 September 2013), <> [accessed 15 April 2015].

[90] Gen. Stanley McChrystal, My Share of the Task:  A Memoir, (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2013), pp. 153-155.

[91] “Special Operations,” Joint Publication 3-05, (Washington, D.C.: Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 2014); <> [accessed 15 April 2015].

[92] Ibid., pp. xi.

[93] Russia’s employment of hybrid warfare has triggered a conversation on the relationship between George Kennan’s “Political Warfare,” unconventional warfare, and hybrid conflict.  For more, see:

 Col. (ret.) David Maxwell, “Taking a Spoon to a Gunfight,” War on the Rocks, (2 April 2014), <> [accessed 26 March 2015]. 

George Kennan’s original memo also provides valuable insight and can be found in:

“269. Policy Planning Staff Memorandum,” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 273, Records of the National Security Council, NSC 10/2. Top Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text. An earlier, similar version, April 30, is ibid., RG 59, Records of the Department of State, Policy Planning Staff Files 1944-47: Lot 64 D 563, Box 11. The Policy Planning Staff minutes for May 3 state: “There was a discussion of the Planning Staff Memorandum of April 30, 1948 on the inauguration of organized political warfare. This paper was generally approved and Mr. Kennan will present it tomorrow for discussion at a meeting of NSC consultants.” (Ibid., Box 32)), [formerly TOP SECRET].

[94] Colonel (ret.) David Maxwell, “Should America fight more like Iran? Pentagon official raises eyebrows,” Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners – News from the Associate Director, Security Studies Program, (10 April 2015), <> [accessed 11 April 2015].  For further detailed information on these concepts see:

United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC), “SOF Support to Political Warfare White Paper,” (a white paper available for unlimited public release; Washington, D.C.: USASOC, March 2015). 

[95] Quoted from The Soviet Military Encyclopedia in:

“Spetsnaz,” FMFRP 3-201, (Washington, D.C.: Department of the Navy, United States Marine Corps, January 1991); <> [accessed 10 March 2015].

[96] Even though the Cold War has ended, primary source information on the spetsnaz and their doctrine is rare.  However, an excellent source is Mark Galeotti, Spetsnaz:  Russia’s Special Forces, (Osprey Publishing, 2015).

[97] Gerasimov, “The Value of Science in Prediction:  New Challenges Require Rethinking on the Forms and Methods of Warfare,” op cit..

[98] Ibid.

[99] Chekinov and Bogdanov, “The Nature and Content of a New-Generation War,” op cit., pp. 20.

[100] Ibid., pp. 22.

[101] Colonel-General Anatoly Zaitsev, “Партизанскими методами:  Современная армия должна уметь воевать без линии фронта [Partisan Warfare:  The modern army should know how to fight without front lines in English Translation],” ВПК-Медиа [MIC Media in English Translation], (3 September 2014), <> [accessed 28 February 2015; translated by Anton Smaliak].

[102] Colonel-General Anatoly Zaitsev previously served in the Russian Army and then in the Abkhazian defense establishment as indicated in Zaal Anjaparidze, “Saber Rattling Grows Louder Around Abkhazia,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, vol. 2, issue 25, (2 May 2005).

[103] Zaitsev, “Partisan Warfare:  The modern army should know how to fight without front lines,” op cit..

[104] Ibid.

[105] John Robb, “Basic Systems Disruption,” Global Guerrillas:  Networked tribes, systems disruption and the emerging bazaar of violence. A blog about the future of conflict, (3 November 2009), <> [accessed 28 February 2015]. 

For more detailed information on the theory of systems disruption, the following book is very informative:  John Robb, Brave New War:  The Next Stage of Terrorism and the End of Globalization, (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007).

[106] John R. Schindler, “Russia gets its own SOCOM,” The XX Committee:  intelligence, strategy, and security in a dangerous world, (3 April 2013), <> [accessed 26 February 2015].

[107] Mark Galeotti, “The rising influence of Russian special forces,” (Jane’s Intelligence Review; Douglas County, Colorado: IHS Inc., 24 November 2014).

[108] Ibid.

[109] Alexey Nikolsky, “Little, Green, and Polite:  The Creation of Russian Special Operations Forces,” in Brothers Armed:  Military Aspects of the Crisis in Ukraine, edited by Colby Howard and Ruslan Pukhov, (Minneapolis, MN: East View Press, 2014, 1st ed.), pp. 124-131.

[110] Galeotti, “The rising influence of Russian special forces,” op cit..

[111] Ibid.

[112] Ripley, ““Operation Crimea ‘14”:  An Incomplete Victory?  Background to Military Deployments & Analysis,” op cit..

[113] In Brothers Armed:  Military Aspects of the Crisis in Ukraine, op cit., pp. 129-131., the following video is alleged to show spetsnaz operations in Crimea—including the KSO.  The original copy has been removed from YouTube but a mirror can be found here:  Additionally, CCTV footage of the Crimean parliament building seizure can be found here:

[114] Josh Rogin, “Exclusive:  Russian ‘Blackwater’ Takes Over Ukraine Airport,” The Daily Beast Company LLC, (28 February 2014), <> [accessed 26 March 2015].

[115] Galeotti, “The rising influence of Russian special forces,” op cit..

[116] Ripley, ““Operation Crimea ‘14”:  An Incomplete Victory?  Background to Military Deployments & Analysis,” op cit..

[117] Ibid.

[118] Editor [name unknown], “Ukraine Liveblog Day 12: Putin Prepares an Invasion,” The Interpreter, (1 March 2014), <> [accessed 23 March 2014].

[119] The GAZ Tigr is an all-terrain infantry all purpose vehicle and the BTR-80 is a wheeled armoured personnel carrier.  See: 

Ripley, ““Operation Crimea ‘14”:  An Incomplete Victory?  Background to Military Deployments & Analysis,” op cit..

[120] Jānis Bērziŋš, “Russia’s New Generation Warfare in Ukraine:  Implications for Latvian Defense Policy,” (Policy Paper no. 2, Riga, Latvia: Center for Security and Strategic Research, National Defence Academy of Latvia, April 2014).

[121] Ignatius, “Russia’s military delivers a striking lesson in Crimea,” op cit..

[122] Zaitsev, “Partisan Warfare:  The modern army should know how to fight without front lines,” op cit..

[123] Determining the order of battle for the various BTGs is difficult as they are comprised of random elements of various Russian Army units.  Spetsnaz forces may be involved but the author assesses that they are being employed in more specialized unconventional warfare tasks.

[124] Galeotti, “The rising influence of Russian special forces,” op cit..

[125] Ibid.

[126] Ibid.

[127] Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, “Is Separatist Colonel Strelkov the Kremlin’s ‘Wag the Dog’ Gone Out of Bonds?,” The Interpreter, (19 May 2014), <>, [accessed 30 March 2015].

[128] Galeotti, “The rising influence of Russian special forces,” op cit..

[129] Ibid.

[130] Catherine A. Fitzpatrick, “Colonel vs Major: Separatist Defense Minister and Vostok Commander Patch Over Differences,” The Interpreter, (15 July, 2014), <> [accessed 30 March 2015].

[131] The FSB’s Alfa and Vimpel spetsnaz groups are elite counterterrorism units.  See: 

Anna Arutunyan and Mark Galeotti, “Gathering Storm – Insurgency escalates in eastern Ukraine,” (Jane’s Intelligence Review; Douglas County, Colorado: IHS Inc., 11 July 2014).

[132] Chekinov and Bogdanov, “The Nature and Content of a New-Generation War,” op cit., pp. 20.

[133] Colonel-General (ret.) Volodymyr Zamana, Former Chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, “Remarks:  War and Philosophy Lecture,” (lecture; Washington, D.C.: 31 March 2015).

[134] “Ukraine War – Heavy Combat Action During Fighting Between Ukrainian Army and Novorossian Rebels,” YouTube, (28 November 2014), <> [accessed 10 March 2015].  The scene described by the author occurs from the 2:01 mark through the 3:00 mark.

[135] This frustration is echoed in:

Nadia Schadlow, “The Problem with Hybrid Warfare,” War on the Rocks, (2 April 2015), <> [accessed 3 April 2015]. 

[136] Ben Brumfield, “6,000 have died in eastern Ukraine in less than a year, UN says,” CNN, (2 March 2015), <> [accessed 2 May 2015].

[137] B.A. Friedman, “John Boyd’s Revenge:  How ISIS got inside our OODA Loop,” The Bridge, Medium, (1 June 2015), < > [accessed 4 June 2015].

[138] Paul J. Saunders, “Why America Can’t Stop Russia’s Hybrid Warfare,” The National Interest, (23 June 2015), < > [accessed 23 June 2015].


About the Author(s)

Bret Perry is a graduate of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University where he earned a major in International Politics with a focus on International Security and proficiency in Modern Standard Arabic. The opinions and views expressed in this paper are those of the author alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily reflect those of any organization.


Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 2:14pm

Russian non linear warfare moves onto Syria after failing basically in the Ukraine. What is interesting now is the intertwining of say the Russian non linear UW strategy with the Iranian non linear UW strategy in their direct challenge against their common enemy--the US.


09.05.151:27 PM ET

Exposing Russia’s Secret Army in Syria

Some wear uniforms, some don’t, but from highway checkpoints to jet fighters, Russians are being spotted all over the Assad dictatorship’s heartland.

Russian military officers are now in Damascus and meeting regularly with Iranian and Syrian counterparts, according to a source with close contacts in the Bashar al-Assad regime. “They’re out in restaurants and cafes with other high officials in the Syrian Army,” the source told The Daily Beast, “mainly concentrated in Yaafour and Sabboura, areas that are close to each other, and in west Mezze,” referring to a district in the capital where Assad’s praetorian Fourth Armored Division keeps an important airbase. “The Russians aren’t in uniform, but they’re constantly hanging out with officers from the Syrian Army’s central command.”

Other Syrians claim to have seen Russians in uniform.

One family recently traveled from Aleppo to Damascus by taxi before emigrating by plane to Turkey and says it saw a small contingent of Russian troops embedded with Syrians at a military checkpoint in the capital. “We were near the Shaghour district when we noticed two soldiers who were not Syrian,” a family representative said. “They were tall, blonde and blue-eyed and wore different fatigues from the Syrians and carried weapons. I’m telling you, they were Russian.”

The opposition-linked website All4Syria seems to corroborate such eyewitness accounts. Many residents of Damascus, it claimed, have “observed in the first three days of September a noticeable deployment of Iranian and Russian elements in the neighborhoods of Baramkeh, al-Bahsa, and Tanzim Kfarsouseh.” The Venezia Hotel in al-Bahsa “has been turned into a military barracks for the Iranians.”

Such news comes amid a flurry of reports that Russia has made plans for a direct military intervention in Syria’s four-year civil war and may actually have started one already. The New York Times reported Saturday that Russia has sent prefabricated housing units, capable of sheltering as many as 1,000 military personnel, and a portable air traffic control station to another Syrian airbase in Latakia. That coastal province, the Assad family’s ancestral home, has already seen Russian troops caught on video operating BTR-82 infantry fighting vehicles against anti-Assad rebels, atop rumors that Moscow may be deploying an “expeditionary force,” including Russian air pilots who would fly combat missions.

They may already be doing so. A social media account affiliated with the al-Qaeda franchise Jabhat al-Nusra posted images of what appeared to be Russian Air Force jets and drones flying in the skies of Syria’s northwest Idlib province. They were, specifically, the Mig-29 Fulcrum, the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker, the Su-34 Fullback and the Pchela-1T drone. These images were analyzed as credible by the specialist website The Aviationist, which also noted that “during the past days, has exposed several flights of a Russian Air Force… Il-76 airlifter (caught by means of its Mode-S transponder) flying to and from Damascus using radio call sign ‘Manny 6,’ most probably supporting the deployment of a Russian expeditionary force.”

“The Russians are clearly setting themselves on the ground in regime areas. … This, ironically, reinforces the Obama administration’s position.”

ISIS isn't in Idlib; the terror army that calls itself the Islamic State was driven out of the province completely. As one U.S. intelligence official put it to The Daily Beast, "The question is, what are Russia's underlying motivations? Are they really there to fight [ISIS], or just to prop up Assad?"

The concern is that Russia could use military strikes against ISIS as a kind of cover or feint for attacking rebel forces as well, including non-Islamist groups. The U.S. sees these forces as a potential bulwark against ISIS. But they also have as one of their primary goals overthrowing Assad—an effort that Washington has been unwilling to support.

The White House has fallen back on its customary posture of wait-and-see as proof mounts that the Russians are coming. Spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters this week: ”We are aware of reports that Russia may have deployed military personnel and aircraft to Syria, and we are monitoring those reports quite closely. Any military support to the Assad regime for any purpose, whether it's in the form of military personnel, aircraft supplies, weapons, or funding, is both destabilizing and counterproductive.” Another unnamed U.S. official told Britain’s Daily Telegraph, ”Russia has asked for clearances for military flights to Syria, [but] we don't know what their goals are.”

Actually, their goals aren't terribly hard to discern, nor do they necessarily contradict implicit White House policy, whatever Josh Earnest says.

Photographs circulated on social media showing what appeared to be Russian soldiers in Zabadani, a city 45 kilometers north of Damascus, which has changed hands several times during the civil war. For months rebels have been fending off a scorched-earth assault by the Syrian army, Hezbollah and Iranian forces, which the U.N. assesses to have led to “unprecedented levels of destruction.” So the injection of Russian legionnaires into a multinational cocktail of combatants duking it out in Zabadani would make perfect sense. The city is considered the sine qua non of Iran’s “strategic corridor” in Syria, which runs from the capital to Lebanon and up along the Mediterranean coastline. The formidable Islamist rebel brigade Ahrar al-Sham knows who’s in charge here—it has even negotiated an ultimately unsuccessful
ceasefire directly with the Islamic Republic rather than with Assad.

“The Russians are clearly setting themselves on the ground in regime areas, planting the flag in ‘Alawistan,’ as it were,” says Tony Badran, a Syria expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, referring to the Alawites, the schismatic Shia sect to which the Assad clan and the more powerful Syrian regime elites belong. “This, ironically, reinforces the Obama administration’s position, which has drawn a clear line around the regime enclave. The opposition is not to enter Damascus and the coastal cities. So the Russian deployment actually fits well with the administration’s approach.”

Right on cue, then, came Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement Friday that Syria would soon hold new parliamentary elections and inaugurate a power-sharing government with what he deemed a “healthy” opposition. He did not specify what he considered the diseased opposition, although this would almost certainly include Free Syrian Army fighters the CIA and Pentagon has been recruiting as U.S. proxies.

While Putin dismissed the existence of any Russian combat forces in Syria as “premature,” he did allow that he was “looking at various options” for militarily involving himself in the war. Coming from someone who only admits to Russian invasions after the fact, such a signposting of motive should not be ignored.

Moscow’s close coordination with Tehran, both in Damascus and internationally, is also no coincidence. Iran is now busy shopping a new international “peace plan” for Syria, one that goes beyond the parameters of the previously inked Geneva II protocol.

Intriguingly, just weeks after Iran agreed to a deal to control its nuclear program in exchange for international sanctions relief, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of its own expeditionary force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force, flew to Moscow for talks with Russian officials, violating the international travel ban related to his terrorist activity. No doubt solidifying Russian backing for whatever he has planned for Syria was high up on Soleimani’s agenda.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time since the Syrian war broke out that there’s been chatter about Russian troops in Damascus.

In May 2013, sources close to the Kremlin suggested that Putin had dispatched the Zaslon special forces detachment to the Syrian capital. Formed in 1998, and conceived as a clandestine unit combining the purviews of America’s Delta Force and Secret Service, Zaslon consists of a mere 280 highly-trained operatives. It answers to Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, and is tasked with protecting high-value Russian officials in uncertain conditions and sometimes even conducting assassinations. It was rumored to have killed Iraqi insurgents in 2006 after the latter had captured and executed Russian diplomats.

As Mark Galeotti, a New York University-based specialist on Russia’s military and security forces, observed two years ago: “According to one Russian report, two Zaslon elements were also deployed to Baghdad in the dying days of the [Saddam] Hussein regime. Their mission was to seize or destroy documents which Moscow would have found embarrassing had they ended up in U.S. hands. Given the scale and depth of Russian support for Assad, it could similarly be that they are also in Syria to cover Moscow’s tracks or else ensure that sensitive military technology — including new surface-to-air systems — does not end up in foreign hands.”

Under the present circumstances, it is now likely that any Russian soldiers in Damascus are there to fortify and ring-fence another spent Baathist regime, if not to join in a war that is fought increasingly by “foreign hands.”

Outlaw 09

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 1:13pm

Hybrid war humour:
Russian soldier's mama: 'Son, you be careful in Donetsk'
Son: 'Don't worry, mama. I'm already in Damascus'

Outlaw 09

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 5:25am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Another critical area of the Russian informational warfare is it's direct focus and message targeting European and US neo Right/Nationalist groups that are developing a strong populist message--that is the core coming danger for the West and yet western leaders appear to be oblivious to that threat to their democracies.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 1:12pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Another perfect example of just how confused the Obama foreign policy is and that it does not fully understand the strategic use of UW to drive a foreign policy or in the case of the US to develop a counter UW strategy.

The WH reacted after social media indicated Russian boots on the ground in Syria with a banal statement "we are not aware of any Russian boots on the round in Syria"--I mean just how much does a phone call from the WH to the DNI cost these days??

Then increasing social media comments, THEN even the Syrian government jumps in and confirms Russian troops are fighting next to Syrian troops.

AND then this today from the Russian side again after social media pointed out the BRT-80 in Syria.

@mfa_russia admit the obvious (after Russian Army BTR-80A was spotted in Syria)

MOSCOW, September 3. /TASS/. Media reports about Russian military planes in Syria have already been disavowed by Russia’s Defense Ministry and presidential administration, Russian Foreign Ministry’s official spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

"I saw reports about Russian planes on the Syrian territory. I also saw comments on this matter by Russia’s Defense Ministry and presidential administration that disavowed this information. There is nothing to add here," Zakharova said.

"Sensational statements are often made about military-technical cooperation between Russia and Syria - that it grows or decreases," she said. "We see them in different parts of the world. And it is always made to sound sensational. We say that we never tried to make a secret out of this. This is our consistent position connected with assisting official Damascus in its fight against the terrorism threat," the diplomat stressed.

Zakharova also noted that Russia "regularly raises on platforms of international organizations" issues of protecting Christians in Syria. "This is one of the most important topics in the context of the Syrian settlement," she stressed.

Russia continues military-technical cooperation with Syria in the routine mode, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier on Thursday.

"Russia maintains [military-technical] cooperation with Syria and supports it. This is a consistent process," Peskov said answering a journalist’s question on whether the format of military-technical cooperation between the two countries has changed.

On Wednesday, Peskov refuted media reports about possible participation of Russian Armed Forces in airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization. "You should not believe these media reports," Peskov told journalists.

Several foreign media outlets reported earlier that Russian aviation may take part in carrying out airstrikes against IS positions in Syria. Reports said equipment has already been transferred to carry out the operation.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 5:27am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Here is a perfect example of just why we the US are losing badly against any form of informational warfare/cyber warfare.

Social media which has in fact turned into the stronger counterweight to info warfare first reported in the last five days from a number of their different sources that Russian troops are now fighting inside Syria--a further extension of their non linear warfare but on a global scale not just next door.

A new form--"globalization of non linear warfare" as an active element of one's foreign policy--and the US--we have absolutely no national level strategic UW strategy because this administration was far more interested in securing his own legacy than ensuring peace in areas where that right now is hard to achieve unless one is willing to use hard power.

US response yesterday was we have no evidence and do not believe the story is true.

BUT then this direct out of Syrian news media---notice--Russia has not denied this.

Russian troops 'fighting alongside Assad's army against Syrian rebels' - Telegraph…

So from an informational warfare point of view who does one actually belief any more your own government and or social media????

Especially after this comment.

When you see that dead toddler, remember: Obama's Chief of Staff told people a Syrian civil war was in our interest.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 3:27am

As someone who has been tracking the use of the Russian UW strategy non linear warfare in eastern Ukraine--I was among the first to point out early on that there was slowly appearing four single points of failure which now has expanded into six major single points of failure.

While the Russian General Staff has done a massive amount of doctrinal research prior to releasing their non linear doctrine these six points were never really considered.

What has crystalized in the last two months was the single point of failure-time. Time was never in the Russian military calculations.

Outside of the actual theory we now see two critical and key elements what are the inherent secret to the success or failure of non linear warfare--informational warfare coupled with parallel cyber warfare/cyber crime activities.

Will now go on record--one year after the actual Russian military invasion of eastern Ukraine--non linear warfare is formally dead in the water.

We still see the two key elements in daily play--informational warfare and cyber warfare/crime BUT the reality on the ground has now moved into a hard interstate conventional war.

There was here an article on the need to create a non linear warfare defense--that need is still there because if one defenes against in the initial stage or better yet prevents the causes of non linear warfare it never will be successful.

Non linear warfare as per Russian doctrine is dead.

BUT long live informational warfare and cyber warfare/crime--this is where the true fights will occur in the 21st century. If one really analyzes the Russian doctrine on their informational warfare one discovers that it is permanent and aims to not just change the views of one individual but an entire civil society.

Reinforce that with cyber warfare/crime and you have the true heart of non linear warfare--that is what is so new.

Right now most of the western countries including the US are failing badly in countering either one.


Sun, 08/23/2015 - 6:27pm

In reply to by Vicrasta


Author here. Thank you for the compliments.

You're right on regarding Unrestricted Warfare (I think it also aligns with components of China's "Three Warfares"). When I was outlining this paper, I wanted to include a section where I could compare and contrast Unrestricted Warfare with Non-Linear Warfare in Ukraine. Unfortunately, it would have been too much to include, and that comparison deserves its own paper (which I may work on and explore in the future).

I remember reading (or at least skimming) TC 7-100 closer to its release in 2010. However, if my memory serves me correctly, it seemed to emphasize on the non-state actor and Hezbollah flavor of hybrid war. Nevertheless, I'll go through it again with a closer eye.

Thanks for the link on 'Still Without Sky.' I was unaware of it but look forward to reading it.

You're also spot on regarding your Arab Spring comment. I think after the Russians observed it, they modified their IO capabilities to be able to dominate information in the cyber domain. They do not see it just as a domain for EW or hacking, but also for messaging.

I've heard the same regarding the tactical level BTGs. I'm hoping that someone with first and second hand knowledge is able to disclose more; scaling that concept down is an impressive feat.

Also, thank you for the link to the 'Non-Violent Defense' article. I look forward to reading it.

The Baltic governments (and some NATO members) are discussing hybrid warfare, and hybrid defense. However, I think we need to see more dialogue on the US side...specifically regarding hybrid defense. We have a much better universal grasp of the specifics occurring in Ukraine to back up the generalities that have been made, but I think we could do a better job with mapping out hybrid defense.

Best of luck in Lviv; I'm glad that my article contributed. Feel free to reach out if there's anything that I can do to help.




Fri, 08/21/2015 - 8:57am


This is a good piece for alot of reasons, one being the comprehensiveness of it. I'm going to print it, so that I can review the sections in more detail.

Below are a few discussion points:

1. "Each encounter in war will usually tend to grow increasingly disordered over time. As the situation changes continuously, we are forced to improvise again and again until finally our actions have little, if any, resemblance to the original scheme."

This reminded me of the book "Unrestricted Warfare" written by two Chinese Colonels and mixing various forms of war to get varying effects. There is an unpredictable aspect of this, with an overall predictable assessment involving instability. These forms of war can be employed at all levels through: supra-national, supra-domain, supra-means, and supra-tier means.
This has some parallels to Ukraine and Russian doctrine when reviewing the 13 forms of total war.

12. From a doctrinal and rotational training perspective TC 7-100 provides a doctrinal assessment of a "Hybrid Threat" (2010).

19-24. "Still Without Sky" does mention "non-linear war" once. It is a very interesting short story. "Still Without Sky" is a recent fictional adaptation to it through Medium on-line.

64: "These compatriot organizations conduct a variety of activities that include but are not limited to the organization of ‘Victory Day’ parades to celebrate Russia’s World War II victory, the financing of a Russian cultural center in Luhansk, and the destruction of Ukrainian state symbols on Hoverla Mountain.[65] Many compatriot organizations maintain their own news websites and newspapers to propagate pro-Russian ideas.[66] Furthermore, Russian cultural centers have been established in Kiev, Simferopol, Lviv, and several other cities.[67] These NGOs and compatriot organizations assist with the promotion of Russian language and culture throughout Ukraine."

Prime example of "cultural warfare' as a non-military instrument amplified by historical operational variables and sub-variables.

Global Pro-Russian Media Efforts:

"Alongside its media efforts within Ukraine, Russia has also waged an effective information campaign against the international community leveraging a similar set of resources: 1) TV programs, and 2) a ‘swarm’ of pro-Russia internet commenters. These efforts, which revolve around denial and deception, distract international actors—hindering their response to the Ukrainian crisis."

Complete domination of the information environment to include activities in cyberspace, which IMO advances this non-linear instrument to adapt to 21st century technology. Some of this assessment involves lessons learned from the "Arab Spring" involving social media organization and mobilization.

Russian SOF Operations in the Donbass

"For the most part, Russian spetsnaz have focused on training and aiding pro-Russian separatist forces at the platoon level. Although the Russian military has involved itself on a larger scale with the deployment of BTGs, there is no evidence suggesting that spetsnaz are driving or participating in these BTG operations.[123] Furthermore, spetsnaz have been employed in the Donbas to enforce the chain of command among the separatists."

I have had discussions with UKR Armed Forces in Lviv who have been in the ATO recently and the above point re-enforces the concept of "Company Tactical Structures". They operate along the same concept as BTGs, just at the tactical level.

"Therefore, it is critical for military thinkers, politicians, and strategists to not just further their understanding of hybrid warfare, but also develop and implement a practical response to hybrid warfare at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels."

Discussion by prominent figures and national governments involving "Hybrid Defense" strategies has occurred recently, which seems like a shift from previous "Counter IW, UW, Ambiguous War" concepts. Lithuania is a good example of a country with a whole of government national defense strategy which leverages non-military civil resistance as a key component of countering hybrid warfare.

"In January 2015, the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense published a manual for the Lithuanian people to use in case of a foreign invasion. It notes that “citizens can resist aggression against their country not only through armed [struggle]. Civilian-based defense or nonviolent civil resistance is another way for citizens’ resistance against aggression. This method is especially important for threats of hybrid war.”

The Lithuania manual statement captures the essence of this study: recognition of the threat to European countries of unconventional warfare launched by Russia, understanding of the limitations inherent in
armed response, and acknowledgement of the potential of nonviolent resistance in countering aggressive hybrid war."…

I'm going to see the guys again in Lviv, so can discuss some additional points from this article with them as part of our education and training courses.


Outlaw 09

Mon, 08/17/2015 - 1:37am

In reply to by huskerguy7

Husker--the attack both from shelling and Spetsnaz ground probe is extremely interesting as it came from a direction that was not being anticipated--meaning they now do not have to conduct a river crossing to attack the city--they will not attack the city as they would require house to house and they want the harbor--they will surround Mariupol and then move on towards Odessa the city they truly want as it would then definitively complete the flank protection that the Russian General Staff envisions for Fortress Crimea, controls then the entire coastline of the Ukraine and makes the Ukraine a land locked country and it ties into Transisteria and then prevents Moldavia from joining the EU and NATO.

In Transisteria sits the entire 14th Russian Army fully manned and supplied.

It is the easiest to implement and to hold--then they will expand the entire region of New Russia.

If anything this proves the unilateral appeasement moves made by Obama and his NSC around the strategic heights town next to Mariupol was a total failure as they did not realize that the DMZ froze the UAF and freed up mercenaries' to flank.

Munich 1938 all over again.

This administration fully underestimated--- or simply did not take the time to read them ---exactly what the eight phases of non linear warfare are.


Sun, 08/16/2015 - 7:51pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I'm following some of those same sources. I think you are right...this isn't a snap exercise or probe but instead an offensive.

As I said, it seems they are going to push through Mauripol and at least a few clicks past to secure the main highway intersection. Then, how much further, I don't know. But we will see more pressure at Donetesk as well, and even further north maybe, as the Russian's will put a lot of pressure throughout UAF lines but likely focus on the south. Then, once they break through the south, possibly a huge envelope to the north in order to secure Donetsk and collapse UAF linear? This is all just speculation though.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 4:50pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

"DNR" announced the end of truce ...

The Russian hybrid military offensive is now on----

Outlaw 09

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 4:27pm

There are eight phases in the Russian non linear warfare--right now in the Ukraine we see the Russian military in their eighth phase.......

Judging by the triangular military tactical marking on the T-72B destroyed Aug 13, it was from Russia's 18th OMSBr

Actual confirmation of Russian tank troops physically active in the now ongoing Russian offensive.

In Mariupol. Ukrainian soldiers are gearing up, on alert. "We must be ready to fight" one said. … via @nolanwpeterson

This is being reported to night by a US reporter who has been with UAF front line units for awhile now.

The shelling attack near Mariupol was used as the cover for a Russian Spetsnaz attack which was beaten back.

Right now is difficult to find a place in the Ukrainian front without combat. Full offensive in the making


Mon, 08/17/2015 - 4:09am

In reply to by Outlaw 09


I too was wondering who the TOW teams were and from where the hardware came. After watching numerous videos a few weeks ago something struck me as familiar but I couldn't put my finger on it.

I watched a few more this morning and it came to me. The TOW teams are IDF trained.


Outlaw 09

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 10:00am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Since the Obama NSC appears to have no direct telephone link to the IC concerning events inside the Ukraine--thought social media could help them out in near real time and it is not classified.

Might help them to get a day to day feel for the Russian non linear warfare reality being practiced by a Russian hybrid army in eastern Ukraine.

Interactive map of Russia/proxy attacks. Reg updates.… …

Outlaw 09

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 9:51am

Another perfect example of just how lost this NSC and Obama are when it comes to non linear warfare.

The Ukraine is facing today 400 tanks ranging from T64s to now the T90A, 2000 APCs and 300MLRSs and SPGs and they will not deliver TOWs out of fear of Russian escalations.

BUT Russia has escalated in the last four weeks and is now today flooding troops and armor over the Ukrainian border with not a single TOW being sent--but hey no TOWs as we want no escalation and WE need Russian assistance in the Syria issue.

I have stated here often recently that Russia and Assad are losing now badly to the Islamists --the fighting there has taken a massive turn for the better with the deployment of the US made TOW missiles.

NOW who is training the TOW hunter killer teams has never been answered nor who is supplying them but the TOW has been the greatest difference in this long four year war.

BUT again where a country who is deep in a non linear war is facing over 2700 armored vehicles--sorry we cannot supply you out of fear.

So again just why do we need Russian assistance in Syria--a very valid question????

According to CNN; Syrian Minister of Information: "We're ready to negotiate with the "Moderate Armed Opposition" ".

But remember the Russian FM called the KSA FM a flaming idiot for stating Assad is the problem and must totally go in a public press conference.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 5:07pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Sartana, under Russian attack, just 15km from Mariupol. Req's no crossing of Kalmius river to Mariupol.

mariupol #ukraine … listen to the dogs, the bombardments and the silence in between as if they are afraid to speak

Outlaw 09

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 3:47pm

In reply to by huskerguy7

Tonight--Mariupol---this is the area that Putin demanded " a sign of good faith" and the Administration pressured the Ukraine to unilaterally pull out of a strategic location that protected a flank to Mariupol.

In effect the Obama via a Munich 38 move jeopardized Mariupol and now the shellings and ground attacks around it have started two days ago.

Mariupol 22:08
In the center windows shaking from the artillery sound and lights flashing (electricity problems).

Video claims to be filmed from #Mariupol tonight, heavy shelling can be heard and a lot's of flares (?) in the sky

Mariupol 22:17
"Rumble not only in the city center, and on the outskirts, but the whole city is shaking."

Ambulances in #Mariupol rushing through the city

Reports: Sartana military base near Mariupol hit by artillery fire, possible injures

Remember it was Obama that stated "we will judge Putin by his actions and not his words".

Yet nothing out of this Administration when "his actions" are speaking via heavy shellings.

THIS is what this Administration does not seem to want to fully understand on non linear warfare--there is an eighth phase and that is open war with a conventional aspect no one wants to talk about.

The Russian tank fleet in the area Donetsk ... Ukraine


Sun, 08/16/2015 - 1:49pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Agreed. For Russia, if such a larger operation is launched, it will be interesting to see if it is executed well. The armor offensive in Georgia was enough to do the trick but was poorly executed and triggered some of the defense reforms.

When I spoke with a former UAF SOF leader, he expressed his frustration with the term hybrid war because of how it downplays the armor element. He explained how Russian/separatist armor will charge aggressively and is unstoppable without the proper AT weapons. The scaled down (to the BN level) deep battle 'sister' that we are seeing in action is something for the UAF to worry about. They need ATGMs and long range coubterbattery systems. Without them, the looming larger offensive is going to be very difficult.

And if this larger offensive does happen, I would not be surprised, despite how embarrassing it is, if we see the U.S. Airborne training teams evacuated.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 1:14pm

In reply to by huskerguy7

huskerguy--there are three objectives if they make a go for it-

1. the first and you are right is Mariupol which gives them a city port and part of the land corridor to Odessa which they want as part of the land corridor to the Crimea and it deprives the Ukraine of any ports thus making them a land locked nation dependent on Russia

2. Donetsk--to push the UAF a distance away from their so called capitol

3. toss up for the third---either push to take all the formal borders of Donbas to make the eastern Ukraine a viable area or push for a single decisive battle to destroy the will of the UAF forcing the Ukraine into humiliation though the use of three distinct pockets that if one looks at the shelling they are trying to shape the battlefield on right now.

Russian shelling fire strikes doctrine is also a shaping doctrine which we tend to forget.

Everyone in DC argues Putin would not push an offensive out of the fear of the sanctions--they tend to forget that Putin does not care and has prepped the Russian civil society for an eventual war--his military is afraid of a fight with NATO but right now they just might assume NATO is at it's weakest point as it has ever been and if they must fight now is the optimum time to go.

400 tanks and hundreds of heavy mortars, artillery and MLRSs (300) and 2000 APCs is far far more than say the French, German, Dutch and Belgium armies all taken together.

Germany has right now only two tank brigades and two artillery BNs.

AND right now what do we have stationed in Europe--a bunch of logistics units and that is about it and most of the long hauler truck drivers are German.

Putin has never come off his three geo political goals----

1. discredit and damage NATO
2. discredit and damage the EU
3. disconnect the US totally from Europe

Outlaw 09

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 12:57pm

In reply to by huskerguy7

huskerguy--it is just not only the NSC it is the Army--below is a great attaboy exercise that DoD hypes as a demo towards Putin.

GlobalSOFFoundation @GlobalSOF
Dragon Spear puts units in joint forcible entry scenario agst separatists, conven forces & crim orgs: Sound familiar?

If one reads through the article it basically was never a replication and or close to the non linear war being fought in the Ukraine.

No current army unit including SF has had to fight in the last 30 years without radio commo under constant EW jamming and under constant UAV surveillance tied to artillery, mortars and MLRS that fire a mixture of cluster, themobaric and guided munitions at the rate of 150 tons per day.

Nor has any USAF pilot had in a A2C2 environment had to fly SEAD and potentially not survive as the enemy totally controls the air space for up to 600kms.

Nor have any armored units in the US Army faced a maneuver force of 400 tanks and 2000 APCs being fully supported by heavy artillery on the move facing ATMs equal to US ATMs.

Not sure if they were trying to impress the current Russian military but IMHO they missed what non linear warfare with a hybrid army looks like.


Sun, 08/16/2015 - 10:53am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw--good info. It appears that the volume is turning up again, just as it happened a year ago. The question is where the Russian's will focus their breakthrough. Donetsk? Or (and what I think) Mauriopol? What do you think? Supporting the info that you put in, Phil Karber (who was referenced in the article) assesses that the EW and other infrastructure being put in place suggests a near-term offensive:…

I share your frustration regarding the Administration. Our lackluster response (Germany and the Netherlands are just as guilty but we should be willing to lead) illustrates how Russia's non-linear warfare is impacting our decision making cycle. If you talk to the NSC, it seems that their narrative is framed around 'We don't want to escalate the situation anymore and destabilize the ceasefire.' This incorrectly puts the lid on the universal calls for ATGMs (which, when you talk to the Ukrainians, are what they want most. The media portrayal of the fighting is a 'tank-less' low-intensity conflict is not the most accurate). But this logic is wrong--how can you enforce a ceasefire when one party is not incentivized to do so. We need to send the Ukrainians lethal aid so that it is clear that continued Russian involvement will likely translate into more Russian casualties. Back in 2014, Admiral Kabanenko returned to Ukraine after a visit to the U.S. lobbying for lethal aid. In the press conference, he said that the U.S. was considering sending some of their longer range counter battery radar. Within 12 hours, it was reported that Russian guns pulled back out of range, due to this concern.

More people are pointing towards the current U.S. training mission, which has received positive press this week. But, I think we can do better...the mission didn't look so impressive (and more like a PR show) several weeks ago when VICE visited.

The lethal aid and training solutions are relatively easy to figure out and execute. The harder part is the information domain, as that can't be changed overnight.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 9:29am

This is why I truly believe that this Administration is absolutely lost when it comes to Russian non linear warfare being carried out by a Russian hybrid military.

So lost that there is not a coherent foreign policy to be seen anywhere when dealing with Putin.

Right now Russian forces have fired an average of 150 to 200 tons of munitions at Ukrainian positions daily 24 X 7 for over four weeks now and have conducted numerous large and small ground attacks.

The following Ukrainian towns and villages have been either fired on and or ground attacked just in the last 24 hours.

Ukraine: Battles in/close to loc's last 24 hrs:



Surely missed some loc's but this gives the picture.

Ukrainian intelligence is now reporting today the following;
9K Russian troops are massed inside the Ukraine
33.4K Russian mercenaries led by 2K Russian officers
400 tanks
2000 APCs
300 MLRSs
and hundreds of artillery various calibers with the 203mm Pion being fired last night

ALL of the above is being now reported at "full combat readiness--ready for attack".

AND then this dropped in on top of all of the above--Russian troops and heavy weapons ie tanks are now crossing into the Ukraine from a major Russian railhead--ie straight from railhead to the front.

Russia sends in more troops via occupied Uspenka & continue shelling Ukraine positions 24/7; its warlords threaten to start "full-scale war"

Russian fighters moving through CP "Uspenka" btwn Rostov & Horlivka Google translation (ENG)… …

Admission by Russian fighters crossing in/out Ukraine via CP Uspenka btwn Horlivka & Matveev Kurgan/Rostov 14/15 Aug

More info: A #Russia|n tank column entered #Ukraine via Uspenka border crossing point

Friend was going through Uspenka, drove car on side of road, there was a ruscist tank column"

Russian army control over logistics-supply route Matveev Kurgan (Rostov reg, RU) to Kuteinykov (Donetsk reg, UA) is a real problem.

AND what is the response to all of this by this Administration and the 700 person strong NSC after repeated warnings that Russia is the existential threat of the US by the former JCoS and ACoS AND the current SACEUR?

One telephone call, golfing and vacationing--AND that is a "foreign policy" towards a non linear war that is now going into a full offense??

Even the Germans finally woke up out of their sleep walking and stated today--"the situation is explosive".

NOT even a warning press conference or a really serious statement expressing something other than "troubled".

With this Administration---Russian non linear warfare as being practiced in the Ukraine is home free and clear.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 7:27am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Below is a great article carried by a normally not so Syrian focused German newspaper which reflects the utter failure after four years by Obama and his entire 700 person NSC.

He had four years to do something, anything in Syria and even issued red lines that he himself failed to hold to and YET now he assumes he needs Putin's help in achieving his "legacy"--that is just how far this Administration has sunken to in what it calls a "foreign policy".

Remember it was Putin blocking just about any UNSC decision on Syria to include humanitarian aid and it was his own FM who cursed the KSA FM at their recent press conference as a fxxxxg moron.

Chemical weapons,torture,mass killings
The truth about Assad's war on Syria… …

In some aspects the feet dragging by this Administration has caused far more suffering in Syria than having at least done something anything is always better than nothing--very similar to the same type of actions in the Ukraine.

And remember Assad has been following the Iranian version of non linear warfare as they and the Russians have been advising Assad.

Outlaw 09

Sun, 08/16/2015 - 7:11am

To fully understand Russian non linear warfare in general and especially the Russian hybrid military practicing that currently in eastern Ukraine one must thoroughly understand the nature of the beast that commands that non linear warfare.

Right now this Administration has come to the conclusion that they need the "beasts support" to help resolve other global issues ie Syria and IS which is interesting as the IS problem is our own making as well as Assad's tactical use of the IS and Russian support for Assad has never wavered--ie they need the naval port and the money and oil coming in from their massive weapons sales to Assad AND now that Assad is being beaten by Islamists using unlimited US TOWs on the battlefield suddenly Russian needs US help not vice versa.

This Administration in their drive to establish a favorable legacy have elected with their NSC to follow a path of Munich 1938 and demand from the Ukrainian government a number of unilateral appeasement moves designed to help "save"Putin's face.

Those unilateral appeasement moves have all but led to this latest round of heavy fighting as Putin sees via this US caving the chance to further escalate against the UAF with little to no resistance from Western leaders.

One must honestly ask who the genius was that came up with the idea of unilateral appeasement as a foreign policy against out right aggression????

This article virtually destroys that thinking and indicates the serious lack of thought power being provided by the Obama NSC.…

Putin Isn’t Afraid of Problems He Faces -- and West Should Be Worried about That, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 16 – Those who think Vladimir Putin is afraid because of the problems he now faces are profoundly mistaken because regimes of his kind, which “act as the administration of occupied territories,” need not fear the kind of challenges other forms of government do, according to Irina Pavlova.

And that reality is something Putin’s opponents in the West need to understand because otherwise they are likely to equate his survival in the face of difficulties as a measure of his legitimacy rather than seeing his longevity as an indication of why he and the regime he has created must be replaced (

Unfortunately, those who want to view Putin as a ruler like any other fail to understand this; and their lack of comprehension, the US-based Russian analyst says, is fed by the drumbeat of commentaries by Russian writers that Putin’s government is in trouble because of its failed policy in Ukraine or Western sanctions.

“It is time to recognize,” she continues, “that to a regime of this type, which acts like the administration on an occupied territory, disorders, thefts and corruption are not frightening. They of course can interfere with its operation, but they represent for it an incomparable lesser evil than organized resistance.”

As long as these various adverse phenomena are kept within “definite limits,” they do not represent a challenge. And the Putin regime has done everything it can so that there will not be any “organized resistance to it” inside the country by means of its “mastery of political manipulations, propaganda and populist measures” and its strengthening of law enforcement.

“More than that,” Pavlova continues, the Putin regime “has learned to use the dissatisfaction of society in its own favor by more sophisticated measures than were done under Stalin, when it was necessary to ‘raise the anger of the masses’” in order to generate support for the repressive regime.

“Today,” she argues, “progressive society in many cases does not even recognize that it is playing into the hands of the authorities and by its rules” and strengthening the authorities by its actions rather than weakening them as it imagines. A clear example of that, Pavlova suggests, is Aleksey Navalny and his struggle with corruption.

The reason is this: the Putin regime is happy to have the population focus on other issues rather than on itself because that gives the Kremlin time “not only to successfully solve its own tasks but also to position the country under its control in the world arena guided by the traditional ideas of the pursuit of great power status.”

Such a power, Putin and his entourage are convinced, is one that “no one yet can oppose not in the country or in the world,” Pavlova says. “Moreover, one can see with a naked eye how the leaders of Western countries step by step make concessions not recognizing to what such a policy may lead.”

Pavlova’s brief comment calls attention to something few people want to acknowledge: the West has pursued a policy designed to restrain Putin that is based on the assumption that he is animated by a concern for his own people and thus will change course if he sees that they are suffering because of what he is doing.

That assumption is wrong: Putin doesn’t care about the Russian people. He cares only about his own power. And consequently, until Western actions strike at the basis of that power – the elites around him with their wealth and children in the West – the Kremlin leader will not only remain in power but will not change his course.

In the years preceding World War II, the British elites experienced exactly the same problem in analyzing Hitler. Many around Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain believed that Hitler and other dictators were despite everything like themselves, leaders who wanted to do in Chamberlain’s words “the best for their peoples.”

Winston Churchill and those around him recognized that Hitler did not care about the Germans but only about his own power and that as a result, the only effective way to oppose him was by building up sufficient force not only to counter his actions but ultimately to defeat and remove him.

There have been some hopeful signs in recent months that in the wake of the Anschluss of Crimea, the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner, and the continuing Russian aggression in the Donbas that many in the West are coming to recognize that Putin is not a leader just like their own but something far worse and that what would dissuade their leaders won’t work with him.

But at the same time, many in the West appear trapped not only by the inertia of continuing to do what they have been doing lest they have to take more dramatic and expensive steps but also by the desire to use their personal diplomatic skills to reach a settlement that will solve the problems they see.

That strategy didn’t work in Munich; it won’t work at Minsk either.

NOTICE the last sentence---seems after four solid weeks of Russian shellings and grounds attack Obama and his entire NSC might have come to the same conclusion and since it appears they have not US foreign policy is headed towards a Pearl Harbor.

There was historically a period in US foreign policy following WW1 in the 20s when the US pulled out of the role of international security manager and then discovered that the costs of reengaging were far higher than if we had stayed in the game---this Administration is now at that same point historically speaking.

Again to fully understand non linear warfare one must inherently understand the beast that commands it even if it is Russia, China, IS or Iran.

As long has that is not fully understood there will never be a coherent national level strategic strategy against non linear warfare regardless of who practices it.

We can thank this current Administration for that.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 08/15/2015 - 4:44pm

This is what happens when a President together with his NSC makes unilateral appeasement moves in order to enhance his legacy---and caves to the demands of Putin.

Poroshenko, constrained by the West, believes Ukraine's only option is to passively defend against Russia, many cmdrs in the field disagree.

Passively defending will cost the UAF greatly.

This President and the entire 700 person NSC have totally failed to understand non linear warfare as the existential threat both the outgoing JCoS and ACoS stated.

A year into the Russian non linear war being currently conducted is far more than enough time to have formulated a national strategic strategy--BUT absolutely nothing has come from Obama and his NSC.

NOW he is facing probably the most serious challenge to US foreign policy any President has faced in the last 50 years and he has nothing except his legacy he is concerned about.

Russia now checking Ukrainian (and West) response to current provocations, if no serious consequences for RF forces and Kremlin - escalation

BREAKING: #DPR officially announces the return of heavy weapons to the front line of #Donetsk -

Donetsk, Starobesheve, Bezimenne, Komsomolske, Horlivka, Tel'manovo, Staroihnativka, Avdiivka, Makiivka, Yakovlivka - attacks everywhere

Minsk 2 is formally now totally dead.

Remember what this President stated in 2014--"we will judge Putin by his actions not his words".

Well we have his actions tonight in the Ukraine that some are calling pure hell and the Russians are even using their 203mm Pions just one level under firing their SS21s.

Example of the Obama and his NSC unilateral appeasement forced on the Ukrainians--Putin in his last Normandy Four meeting before these attacks virtually demanded that the Ukrainians "give a sign of good faith" and pull both their heavy weapons out of the area and withdraw their troops.

The UAF was extremely reluctant after eight months of heavy fighting to pull back BUT Obama pressured the Ukraine to concede and they pulled back 15kms --the Russian pulled back 1.4kms.

AND Putin demanded further that the UAF create a 30km DMZ which would have run through the middle of Mariupol.

NOW for the last three days there has been fighting and shellings in this so called DMZ initiated by Russian troops.

Eastern Ukraine: Shyrokyne (n. Mariupol) shelled
Heavy artillery used

Russian terrorists attempt to occupy Shyrokyne

So Obama and his NSC truly believed Putin??--they should know that historically the West tried unilateral appeasement in Munich 1938 and it did not end well for all of Europe.

So as long as there is no national strategic UW strategy there will be no US response to non linear warfare from Russia, China, IS and Iran.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 08/15/2015 - 1:41pm

husky--agree that Putin is trying massively to wear down the Ukrainian economy which was struggling long before the Russian invasion of August 2014 but and there is a large but--if the current government together with IMF and Soros can get the debt holders to take a hair cut ----remember a large number of those bond purchases went as corruption into the pockets of those that have fled the Ukraine and their previous President--literally half of the last Russian 3B USD bond purchase went into the pockets of the last President and his family for staying with Putin as an example of the massive systemic corruption.

The current debt holders are trying to sidestep it but in the end they will fold--if the debt reduction comes online coupled with the rebuilding of the agricultural sector and the opening into the EU free trade zone in the next three years--even the IMF sees positive development of the Ukraine vs the somewhat chaotic collapse of the Russian economy that is literally hanging by a thread and cannot take much more in the way of outside pressures regardless of what Putin thinks.

Putin is now lashing out in multiple directions as is shown by the bulldozing of three frozen illegally imported geese.

It will boil down to the battlefield in the end and I am assuming that instead of Ukraine being frozen it is Russia that has been frozen and that is causing the massive uncertainty in Putin's inner circle.

I posted a rather long study on just how dependent Russia is on the Ukraine both from raw resources and military defense products in the now closed first thread and after a lot of blustering by Putin and his inner circle they meekly admitted several weeks ago they cannot possibly replace the Ukraine until roughly 2020 if at all.

So in some aspects are we truly seeing the first "globalization war" being fought over raw resources and the division of labor in this 21st century just hidden in a non linear warfare strategy??

Putin has always hidden that agenda in his statements starting as early as 2008 concerning the building of an economic and political zone from Portugal to the Russian Far East under naturally control of Russia and naturally excluding the US.

Picture depicts the current battlefield environment for the UAF to navigate through.


Sat, 08/15/2015 - 10:49am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw--solid points across the board as always.

The UAF's effort is truly stunning. I have not had the chance to tour the front lines personally, but I have spoken to several who have. They described the civil-society wide approach that you pointed out driven by an unstoppable patriotism. Older veterans from the Cold War recruit and mentor, people work to provide supplies, and back in Spring 2014 when body armor supplies were extremely low, men gave them to women volunteers. In short, the Ukrainians won't give up...and they are adapting. On the other side, separatist proxies display an impressive amount of ethusiasim, but they are really relying on Russian support. Plus, a Ukrainian officer pointed out that by now, due to the dangerous conditions, much of the population in the urban centers caught up in the fighting have fled west or east. The separatists need a 'population' that they can rely on for support and legitimacy.

Post Crimea, what the UAF has done is impressive. In the book "Brothers in Arms", the last essay discussss what needs to be done to improve the UAF. Unsurprisingly, it contained the "Use Western armies as a model and go from there" narrative. As we have learned these past 15+ years, that narrative isn't always right, it's one thing to break away from the habits of the Warsaw Pact force it once embodied, but it's another to try to mimic a Western military when you lack the budget and equipment.

Russia is definitely paying a price as you mentioned, but we cannot boil this down to casualties on both sides. In my opinion, Putin has shifted from looking for an immediate breakthrough to wearing down Kiev, the Ukrainian society, and destroying the Kiev economy. Both countries have had their economies battered, but Kiev cannot survive as long. Once society cracks, I bet we will see Russia move in again. But, I may be wrong here.

The social media open source analysis is no doubt interesting. In the info war domain, it reveals a lot. On the ground, as you have mentioned, it has been surprisingly effective. I think the challenge is harnessing it in a practical, timely, and reliable manner. In <2 years, we will likely begin seeing actors practicing better operational security and disseminating more disinformation to cloud the source.

I actually think that, especially after this conflict, we are developing a better understanding of non-linear warfare than before. The million dollar question, which I am worried about (and how COL Maxwell has written about) is 1) what needs to be done to counter this, and 2) how do we equip our forces with the appropriate training. Understanding is just part of the journey, and we have a lot more work to do.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 08/15/2015 - 7:53am

In reply to by huskerguy7

husker--there is something that is ongoing inside the fighting that is both interesting and actually amazing...

If we look at the UAF from August 2014 which was a rag tag 6K man force counting all the extra volunteer BNs which lost badly when they were surrounded in August 2014 by overwhelming Russian forces to the UAF of today August 2015 at 64K--they are not the same army. I have never seen any army historically rebuild itself and fight at the same time --some have attempted it but always lose in the end.

It has been a total civil society approach to war which has gotten them this far --ie to the point of sustaining 175 massive shellings and ground attacks estimated at over 200 tons being thrown at them yesterday with only 2 WIA. Either they are getting far better at understanding how to withstand shellings or the Russian accuracy is getting worse.

In one year the entire civil society coupled with volunteer workers in the various UAF defense plants have rehabbed and sent to the front over 12K armored vehicles, trucks, artillery and tanks--at no cost to the government--granted less quality than the newest equipment we are seeing in the Russian military inside the Ukraine--but they kill and wound just as effectively in the right hands.

I posted a month or so ago from a Russian military analyst who sits in Finland a long article on his take of the Russian hybrid army in the Ukraine and he gave them one year to either succeed and or fail.

He stated after really analyzing their non linear warfare strategy they had only the capacity to hang on for a year in order to succeed--the UAF is following that advice and have effectively been blocking at every twist and turn both the Spetsnaz and mercenary ground attacks and only occasionally return heavy arty fire but at specific targets which they do in fact destroy as a warning to the Russians.

If in fact the OSCE recent report is accurate from last week they observed 21 semi trailer trucks carrying +200 ie dead Russians back to Rostov.

If one takes the average of 50 body bags per tuck that is easily 1000 KIAs --significantly higher than the West has estimated before.

After tracking this war here at SWJ on the Ukrainian military thread for now over a year--and as someone who came out of SF and the Humint side I have been amazed at the quality of the social media open source analysis which has been faster and more accurate than most products I saw in Iraq at the height of the fighting there.

We are simply not prepared to trust it because we claim to need it to be verified/confirmed but they actually have themselves instituted their own QA and are quick about it and if they cannot analyze it then they open it to crowd sourcing for even quicker results. They have optimized the art of geo tagging photos, videos, satellite imagery in a way we could not in Iraq and it is all open.

IMHO if one takes the constant stream of social media coming out of the Ukraine and matches it to your theoretical analyzed approach then we would have a far far deeper understanding of Russian no linear warfare thus the UW strategies of say Iran, IS and China as well.

One could write right now a complete doctorial thesis on just how the UAF has boxed in a far superior military force forcing Putin basically into the following choice either go full out offensively and risk everything and or risk losing his "face" in a perceived defeat.

Not an envious position for him.


Fri, 08/14/2015 - 9:56pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Author here--thank you for the feedback, and making it through the piece as it is longer than I originally intended.

The open source social media analysis has definitely been impressive. VICE has run several documentaries leveraging it and the Atlantic Council published a report on order of battle that was informative. However, it can be challenging to purely rely on it, especially with the mixture of volunteer and non-volunteer units. As far as Spetsnaz guys, your take on their MO is probably spot on, but it is to pin the Spetsnaz OB down. Spetsnaz is such a floated term (a good piece in Moscow Defense on the dozens of different units that claim the name...even if they're security guards) that it's hard to pin the OB down. As this paper was written earlier this year, the OB today has possibly changed since Spring 2015.

The UAF are getting better against the Spetsnaz, but I think that they're ultimately probing. As an excellent ISW analyst has pointed out, the Russian's and their proxies have taken the classic deep battle concept and scaled it down significantly to the battalion level with battalion tactical groups.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 08/14/2015 - 5:41pm

While the article is long it is interesting for number of reasons I will go into later.

Would suggest those that mention Spetsnaz and their involvement in the eastern Ukraine quote social media open source analysis as they are running definitely ahead of even Jane's right now which surprises me actually.

Right now there are three and a possible fourth Spetsnaz Bde in the Ukraine --each deploying a BN and are being used to search out weak points inside the Ukrainian defensive lines. Spetsnaz teams are running in the 12-14 man size units thus they can deploy up to 6-10 teams per BN --info was provided by the interviews of the two recently captured Spetsnaz.

They work in three max four month rotations and then swap out as Russia is trying to keep their loses per individual unit low.

What has been a surprise is the number of times they have been detected and beaten back on their recon missions--while they do sabotage it is more along the lines of bobby traps and mines.

They once were able to penetrate up to six miles behind UAF lines but were detected and eliminated.

After the Russian government effectively abandoned the two Spetsnaz POWs--one has IMHO seen a drop off in motivation which might explain they lack of successes in their attacks.

Otherwise actually a good article if somewhat long and heavy on quoted links.

Right now they are acting more like a US Ranger unit and not what a SF would be doing if in the same position Spetsnaz is.