"Hybrid" Russian invasions

There has been much talk and many articles about "hybrid" approaches of Russia to warfare. Cyber, invading army in incomplete uniforms, attempts to manipulate right wingers with fake news, attempts to manipulate social media with fake comments and upvotes et cetera.

A very widespread conclusion from this is that if Russia made a move against NATO, it woudl do so with a hybrid approach that mattered - not just some 'Since 6 o'clock we're returning fire." false flag nonsense as the nazi stunt in '39 that would be relevant but for the most gullible part of the domestic audience.
As a consequence, questions are being asked such as what NATO would do if Russian army troops crossed the Estonian borders posing as Russians living in Estonia.

I have argued against this a couple times, but this time I'll argue against it more elaborately.

First, let's ward ourselves against falling for the nonsense that what the Russians did in the Ukraine was anything new, imaginative or unusual.

So it wasn't really new, imaginative or unusual.

It was a move designed to achive multiple things
- calm the more gullible part of the domestic audience
- give foreign sympathizers a way to not think or Russia as an aggressor first and foremost
- delay Western reactions TO A CRISIS IN A NON-ALLIED COUNTRY

There we have the key difference between such theatre in the Ukraine and in Estonia. The bar for Western military reactions was incredibly much higher in the case of the Ukraine. It's extremely dubious if any Western military would have been sent to assist the Ukraine even if Russia had formally declared war on the Ukraine with a stated war goal of 100% annexation.

A NATO member on the other hand is an altogether different thing. To neglect the duty to help an ally-by-treaty that's under attack would destroy the standing of any great power. It would even destroy the deterrence value of a nuclear arsenal. Most of Eastern Europe would likely surrender to Russia, seeking favourable terms if not an alliance in which servitude as allies is the payment for continued sovereignty.

There's no way NATO would not at the very least react with a non-violent counterconcentration of military power in Poland and Germany (likely Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Norway and Denmark as well) if Russian fake secessionists appeared in the Baltics.

Those who expect a similar playbook as in the Crimea and Donetzk basin are making the typical mistake of extrapolation. They neglect to think about the reasons for the observed behaviour, and whether such reasons would exist in a future scenario as well. The intelligence put into making such an extrapolation can be provided by the computer chip of a microwave oven.

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It's easily debatable whether the aimed escalations that I project in scenarios of Russian aggression would really be dared. Meanwhile, I also assume that certain escalations would be avoided (I think they would keep Belarus neutral in a Baltic conflict). Escalations are tricky and depend on judgment that cannot be predicted.

What can be predicted is that any fake secessionists as first stage of invasion would utterly fail to make any difference in favour of Russia. Fake secessionists might provide some propaganda value well before an invasion - but adding a fake secessionist uprising as a first stage only wastes the element of surprise and time. The Russian military is not entirely ignorant of Suvorov - a rapid coup de main for fait accompli is MUCH more plausible than them wasting days.




  1. Russians definitely have not any "universal blueprint" for invasions, their strategies are tailored for every nation. And experts in Baltics largely expect more conventional operation than in Ukraine, more in line with old plans for invasion of Finland, primarily by VDV. The same is true even concerning largely criticized RAND study. I am not sure, who is the target of this polemics. - The "nonlinear", i.e. intelligence and political war, however, is right here. - https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/30/world/europe/czech-republic-russia-milos-zeman.html

    1. It would be bad form to point fingers now.