Russiaworld — Between bluff and aggression

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Western leaders are focused on Russian military deployments, but the Kremlin’s hybrid war against Ukraine and the West will continue unabated.

Whatever happens next, whatever the Kremlin promises to withdraw troops, or a return to the negotiating table, or even something a priori unthinkable like an acceptance of the sovereignty of its neighbor, Vladimir Putin and his acolytes will not stop their campaign against Ukraine. They can not.

Putin’s Russia is under the spell of Ukraine. It is a nightmare for the Kremlin to even imagine that it could become an alternative center of influence in the region, and that its people could prosper and develop democracy unlike the regime in place.

Russia has failed both in negotiations with French President Emmanuel Macron and in discussions with the Normandy Four group to impose its version of the Minsk agreements on Ukraine. But because further direct aggression would bring harsher penalties, he also cannot easily expand his 2014 invasion.

So what happens next? Putin can simply order an invasion, and to hell with the consequences. But if he decides to drag things out to exploit his moment in the international spotlight, he has an arsenal of hybrid warfare techniques honed over the years against Ukraine and other enemies.

This makes it possible to predict an imminent Russian action in the short and medium term.

  1. Endless military blackmail: This means keeping large numbers of troops and their equipment close to Ukraine’s borders, while staging endless rounds of unannounced “military drills” near the border. It’s free: The West has made it clear that sanctions only come into effect once ‘the first Russian mouthpiece is crossed’, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Put the. The psychological effect on Ukrainian and Western leaders is obvious.
  1. Identify special operations: military and others destructive acts, including cyberattacks, blocking Ukrainian shipping in the waters of the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov, and disinformation about a conventional or imminent threat chemical “attack” by Ukraine. The persistent allegations of Putin and others (like from February 15) that Ukraine is committing “genocide” against Russian speakers.

Provocation in the Donbass. Continuation of the Russian narrative that Ukraine acts “behind the backs of women and children”, that all development is falsely attributed to Ukraine (the goal is not to grab more territory, the goal is to maintain the level of hatred towards Ukraine.)

Provocation of Belarus. Russia’s use of third parties in hybrid warfare was tested last year by dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s propaganda and the creation of an immigration crisis on Belarus’ borders, Eastern EU and NATO; then again by a recent cyberattack on Ukrainian government networks that Belarus is suspected of having carried out.

  1. Bet on discord within Ukraine. It is not so much about Russian attempts to bring its leader/party to power in Ukraine (it is impossible), but about an action aimed precisely at discrediting the Ukrainian authorities to develop the theme of “confrontation internal” in the hope of weakening democracy.
  1. Disinformation campaigns. Russian propaganda seeks to block rational thought and appeal to the emotional perception of events. This can best be achieved through the visualization of violence, as well as the use of language and rhetoric to incite. Propaganda initiators focus on personal stories/pseudo-stories of war casualties, Russia’s victimization and the West’s supposed Russophobia, rumors/gossip/provocations, depictions of cruelty and a clear lack of solid analysis. Propaganda cadres seek first to create a tolerance for hatred and aggression, and then a dependency on these emotions.

All the while, a full-scale military invasion remains possible should Putin decide it would work to his advantage. There is support for such a move within the Russian Federation: since Russia is seen as an aggressor by the civilized world, some wonder what the country has to lose; and if it is necessary to attack, it is better to do it with conviction than with half a heart.

Russia’s Hybrid War Russia versus Ukraine is an ongoing and drawn-out confrontation. And as the long litany of Russian attacks demonstrates – for example in Crimea, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the small Czech town of Vrbětice, Berlin, Salisbury, London and cyberattacks too numerous to mention — the question is only whether Ukraine and the West will understand and eliminate their vulnerabilities.

Any weakness is seen by Russia as a vulnerability, and any vulnerability as an opportunity to create more conflict.


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