Tag Archives: Ukraine

Mark Collins – The Russian Way of–Hybrid–Warfare

A very interesting analysis of how the Bear works–both at home and abroad–at War on the Rocks:

Russia’s Hybrid War as a Byproduct of a Hybrid State

Whether or not “hybrid war” is the right term — a battle probably lost for the moment —Russia is indeed waging an essentially political struggle against the West through political subversion, economic penetration, espionage, and disinformation. To a degree, this reflects the parsimonious opportunism of a weak but ruthless Russia trying to play a great power game without a great power’s resources. It also owes much to Moscow’s inheritance from Bolshevik and even tsarist practices. But a third key factor behind it is the very nature of the modern Russian state, as I discuss in my new report, Hybrid War or Gibridnaya Voina: Getting Russia’s Non-Linear Military Challenge Right.

One distinctive aspect of recent Russian campaigns, from political operations against the West to military operations in Ukraine, has been a blurring of the borders between state, paramilitary, mercenary, and dupe. The Putin regime evidently believes that it is at war with the West — a geopolitical, even civilizational struggle — and is thus mobilizing every weaponizable asset at its disposal. This extends to mining society as a whole for semi-autonomous assets, from eager internet trolls and “patriotic hackers” to transnational banks and businesses to Cossack volunteers and mercenary gangsters…

The “hybridity” of Russian operations…reflects a… hybridity of the Russian state. Through the 1990s and into Putinism, Russia either failed to institutionalize or actively deinstitutionalized — however you choose to define it.

Today, Russia is a patrimonial, hyper-presidential regime, one characterized by the permeability of boundaries between public and private, domestic and external. As oligarch-turned-dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky put it:

[W]hat distinguishes the current Russian government from the erstwhile Soviet leaders familiar to the West is its rejection of ideological constraints and the complete elimination of institutions.

Lacking meaningful rule of law or checks and balances, without drawing too heavy-handed a comparison with fascism, Putin’s Russia seems to embody, in its own chaotic and informal way, Mussolini’s dictum “tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato” — “everything inside the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”..

In Russia, state institutions are often regarded as personal fiefdoms and piggy banks, officials and even officers freely engage in commercial activity, and the Russian Orthodox Church is practically an arm of the Kremlin. Given all that, the infusion of non-military instruments into military affairs was almost inevitable. Beyond that, though, Putin’s Russia has been characterized — in the past, at least — by multiple, overlapping agencies, a “bureaucratic pluralism” intended as much to permit the Kremlin to divide and rule as for any practical advantages. This is clearly visible within the intelligence and security realm, from the intrusion of the Federal Security Service (FSB) — originally intended as a purely domestic agency — into foreign operations, as well as in the competition over responsibility for information operations…

Moscow must also be considered the master of “hybrid business,” of developing illegal and legal commercial enterprises that ideally make money, but at the same time can be used for the state’s purposes, whether technically private concerns or not. Russian commercial institutions not only provide covers for intelligence agents and spread disinformation, but acting notionally on their own initiative, they are also used to provide financial support to political and social movements Moscow deems convenient. For instance, Marine Le Pen’s anti-European Union Front Nationale in France received a €9 million loan from a bank run by a close Putin ally. Similarly, the election of the Czech Republic’s Russophile President Miloš Zeman was partially bankrolled by the local head of the Russian oil company Lukoil — allegedly as a personal donation…

So, it is not simply that Moscow chooses to ignore those boundaries we are used to in the West between state and private, military and civilian, legal and illegal. It is that those boundaries are much less meaningful in Russian terms, and they are additionally straddled by a range of duplicative and even competitive agencies…

Dr. Mark Galeotti is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of International Affairs Prague, and Principal Director of the consultancy Mayak Intelligence. He has been Professor of Global Affairs at New York University, a special advisor to the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office and head of History at Keele University in the United Kingdom, as well as a visiting professor at Rutgers—Newark, Charles University (Prague), and MGIMO (Moscow). Read his new report, Hybrid War or Gibridnaya Voina: getting Russia’s non-linear military challenge right.

Working towards Bad Vlad? Related:

Julian Lindley-French – Closing NATO’s Deterrence Gaps

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Crimea: Russia Looking for Excuse to Really Go at Ukraine? Part 2

Further to this post (note at end Canadian Forces in western Ukraine), the latest at Foreign Policy–how far will Bad Vlad actually go?

SitRep: Russia Massing Forces Near Ukraine as Putin Lands in Crimea

Russian summer. Moscow is dispatching thousands of soldiers to its border with Ukraine, along with more armored vehicles, more aircraft, and more missile defense systems in moves that have Kiev on edge, and U.S. military officials watching closely. And Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Crimea Friday [Aug. 19] for meetings with security officials.

What does it all mean? Most U.S. officials are highly skeptical that Moscow is planning a move into Ukraine, saying that the maneuvers could be just another round of exercises and planned troop rotations, or an effort to stir up nationalistic passions before upcoming parliamentary elections next month. Still, tensions between Russia and Ukraine have flared in recent weeks after Russia accused Ukraine’s military of killing two Russian soldiers during alleged cross-border raids into Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Over the past two weeks, the Institute for the Study of War’s Kathleen Weinberger says, Russia has deployed new naval, ground, and air units, along with the S-400 air defense system on near Ukraine’s borders. “These new deployments constitute a significant expansion of Russia’s force projection capabilities and may signal preparations for a large-scale military conflict. Russia’s current force posture allows it to threaten or conduct military operations into Ukraine from multiple directions.” Speaking on Ukrainian television Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that “we don’t rule out full-scale Russian invasion.”

The Donbass. Things are heating up in eastern Ukraine as well, where government officials say they’ve been on the receiving end of the biggest artillery barrage in a year. August has been a typically violent month since the conflict broke out in 2014, with fighting peaking around the late summer. That pattern seems to be holding once again, with a Ukrainian military spokesman saying troops have seen 500 mortar and 300 artillery rounds fired at them, raising fears that an even more direct Russian intervention could be forthcoming…

Nervous-making times.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Crimea: Russia Looking for Excuse to Really Go at Ukraine?

This looks double plus not good–at MILNEWS.ca and keep following at twitter @milnews_ca:

Deep breaths all round, folks …

“FSB Russia prevented the commission of the Republic of Crimea terrorist attacks prepared by the Chief Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine” (news release, in Russian) – Google English translation here:

Federal Security Service prevented the commission of the Republic of Crimea terrorist attacks prepared by the General Directorate of the Ministry of Intelligence of Defense of Ukraine, the objects of which critical infrastructure and livelihood of the peninsula have been identified.

The purpose of sabotage and terrorist attacks – to destabilize the social and political situation in the region during the preparation and conduct of elections of the federal and regional authorities.

As a result of operational search activities on the night of the 6th of August 7th, 2016 in the region of the Armenian Republic of Crimea discovered a group of saboteurs. During the arrest the terrorists as a result of fire contact the Russian FSB officer died. At the site of clashes found 20 improvised explosive devices with a total capacity of more than 40 kilograms of TNT, ammunition and special means of initiation, regular and anti magnetic mines, as well as grenades and special weapons, consisting armed special units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

The measures taken on the peninsula of Crimea eliminated intelligence network Chief of the Defence Intelligence of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Detained persons from among the citizens of Ukraine and the Russian Federation shall be assisted in the preparation of terrorist acts, which give a confession. One of the organizers of the terrorist attacks is prevented Evgeny Panov, born in 1977, resident of Zaporozhye region, a member of the DIU who is also detained and giving a confession.

On the night of August 8, 2016 Ukrainian Defense Ministry special forces were made two more attempts to break the subversive and terrorist groups that prevented law enforcement units of the FSB of Russia and cooperating agencies. Attempts to break camouflage massive bombardment from the neighboring state and armored vehicles of the armed forces of Ukraine. During the fire contact serviceman killed Defense Ministry.

Based on the results of investigative activities and combat the investigation department of FSB of Russia in the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol prosecuted. Conduct additional operational activities and investigations.

Adopted additional security measures in public places and the rest of people, as well as for the protection of critical infrastructure and livelihood. Strengthened border regime on the border with Ukraine.

This, meanwhile, from UKR Defence Intelligence (original in Ukrainian) …

“The grouping of Russian troops in the Crimean out the anti-terrorist measures threats … “We do not exclude provocations, which can be implemented on the territory of Russia occupied Crimea and other occupied territories of our country,” – said the representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine.”

… with this reminder from UKR DefInt (also in Ukrainian): “Russian forces in Crimea are able to use nuclear weapons”

Also, this, from the UKR MoD (in Ukrainian) … “Statements FSB untrue”
… as well as Ukraine’s Security Service: “SBU denies Russian security agency claims about Ukrainian diversionary group in Crimea”

Various media takes…

“Russia accuses Ukraine of armed Crimea incursion, says two killed” (Reuters, UK-based wire service)
“Russia accuses Ukraine of attempted Crimea ‘incursions’ “ (BBC)
“Russian FSB foils terrorist attacks plotted by Ukrainian intel agents in Crimea” (RT, RUS state TV)
“Russia allegedly arrests Ukraine Spec Ops who planned terrorist attacks in Crimea” (Ukraine Today)
“SBU: Ukraine does not try to regain Crimea by force” (112-international, UKR private media)
“Ukrainian General Staff Denies Kiev Involved in Plotting Attacks in Crimea” (RIA Novosti, RUS state media)
“Attempts to Destabilize Crimea Will Be Met With Tough Response” (RIA Novosti, RUS state media)

More from Google News here.
Let’s see how this shakes out, then…

Quite and with trepidation. Remember there are Canadian Forces as trainers in western Ukraine: Op UNIFIER.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – US Election Cyber Security Mess: Democrats, the Bear, the Donald, Whatever

Further to this May post,

“US intelligence: Foreign hackers spying on campaigns”

the bits are really hitting the fan–at Foreign Policy’s “Situation Report”:

Is Moscow Trying to Influence U.S. Election?

Moscow calling. Did Russian hackers, supported by the Kremlin, just force the resignation of a major American political figure? That’s what some analysts have come to believe in the wake of the leak of a huge trove of emails from the Democratic National Committee’s servers.

On Friday [July 22], the emails and internal documents spilled onto the internet courtesy of WikiLeaks, quickly claiming the scalp of DNC boss Debbie Wasserman Schultz and kicking off a scandal over how the party had worked with the campaign of Hillary Clinton to undermine the candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Larger implications. Last month, the DNC and security firm CrowdStrike  reported that hackers likely working on behalf of two Russian intelligence agencies had broken into DNC servers and made off with opposition research and email messages. After that report, a hacker calling himself Guccifer 2.0 stepped forward and took responsibility for the hack, saying he had nothing to do with Moscow’s intelligence services. But Guccifer is most likely a fiction created by the GRU, Russian military intelligence, and the FSB, the successor group to the KGB, to mask their role in the hack — and the subsequent attempt to influence the U.S. election.

The hackers. One group, FANCY BEAR or APT 28, obtained access in April [see 2) and 3) here: “Dragon and Bear Hack Attacks, Including White House“], while the other, COZY BEAR, or APT 29, first entered the network in the summer of 2015. A good place to start to get a handle on all this is the New York Times’ Adrian Chen’s June 2015 in-depth look at Russian troll and hacker factories.

Politics. The Clinton campaign has taken the opportunity to tie the Trump campaign as closely as possible to the Kremlin, with Clinton’s campaign chief, Robby Mook, telling ABC News Sunday that “it’s troubling that some experts are now telling us that this was done by the Russians for the purpose of helping Donald Trump.” The Trump campaign rejected such accusations.

Russian connections. Last week, FP’s Dan De Luce and Paul McLeary wrote that Trump has surrounded himself with advisors who have had direct business ties to Moscow, including campaign manager, Paul Manafort, a onetime consultant to the pro-Moscow former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. One of his military advisors, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, was invited to sit at Putin’s table at a December dinner in Moscow sponsored by RT, the government-funded news network, and Carter Page, a former consultant to Russia’s state-owned gas giant, Gazprom, has suggested Washington is to blame for raising tensions with Moscow over Ukraine. Trump’s surrogates also successfully watered down language in the GOP platform to remove calls for arming Ukraine’s forces against pro-Russian separatists…

The  tradecraft:

How Putin Weaponized Wikileaks to Influence the Election of an American President

And what about Ms Clinton’s private e-mail server (August 2015)?

China’s Vast Cyber-Reach in the US: Hillary Clinton? Or,

Where it will all end knows only the American voter. Reassuring?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – “Sowing the Wind: The First Soviet-German Military Pact and the Origins of World War II”

A piece at War on the Rocks reminds us of a little-remembered but important aspect of post-World War I history (with a recent twist at the end of the post):

….
While Soviet-German military cooperation between 1922 and 1933 is often forgotten, it had a decisive impact on the origins and outbreak of World War II. Germany rebuilt its shattered military at four secret bases hidden in Russia. In exchange, the Reichswehr sent men to teach and train the young Soviet officer corps. However, the most important aspect of Soviet-German cooperation was its technological component. Together, the two states built a network of laboratories, workshops, and testing grounds in which they developed what became the major weapons systems of World War II. Without the technical results of this cooperation, Hitler would have been unable to launch his wars of conquest.

After World War I, the victors dismantled the vaunted German army, reducing it to only 100,000 men. The Treaty of Versailles further forbade Germany from producing or purchasing aircraft, armored vehicles, and submarines. These provisions highlighted the Entente’s hope that removing German access to modern technologies of war would force Germany to abandon its militarist past. To the contrary, those particular provisions further convinced the remnants of the German High Command that technological rearmament was essential to restoring Germany’s position. Few works since the opening of the Russian Archives have explored the Soviet-German military pact in its totality. None have focused on its technological aspects. In this article, I offer new conclusions on the subject, drawing from archives in Russia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, and the United States. Of particular importance for this piece are the Russian State Military Archive (RGVA), the archives of the German corporations Krupp, M.A.N. and Daimler-Benz, the U.S. National Archive’s Collection of Foreign Records Seized, and Yale University’s Russian Archive Project.

General Hans von Seeckt, in command of the Reichswehr from 1920 to 1926, was eager to work with Soviet Russia, the only other European state equally hostile to the status quo…

Disguised-German-Pilots.png
German pilots disguised as tourists on their way to Lipetsk aerodrome (State Archive of Lipetsk Oblast [GALO], Fond 2176/Opis 1/Delo 1)

Read on. And look at this bit of a reprise before Russian invaded Crimea and Ukraine:

Germany Helped Prep Russia for War, U.S. Sources Say

Funny old world, was?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Canadian Foreign Policy: “The Liberals and their ‘magic’ morality”, Russia Section

Terry Glavin turns his sights on the new government’s approach to the Bear (amongst other things):


It was about Russia that [foreign minister Stephane] Dion went right off the rails: “Canada’s severing of ties with Russia had no positive consequences for anyone — not for Canadians, not for the Russian people, not for Ukraine and not for global security.” This is a powerfully unconvincing claim, and not just because Harper’s Ottawa did not sever ties with Moscow.

It’s one thing to ditch a previous government’s foreign-policy initiative by resort to an elaborate retroactive justification that you didn’t think to articulate at the time you were against it while in opposition…

It is another thing altogether to reconstruct the recent past of foreign policy in one’s own image and likeness. This is what Dion attempted in a lengthy digression on Canada’s economic and diplomatic responses to the Kremlin’s invasion-by-proxy of eastern Ukraine and its treaty-shredding annexation of Crimea in 2014. It was a rant.

Back then, the opposition Liberals were every bit as militant on the subject as the ministers and MPs on the government benches. The top-drawer neophyte Toronto Liberal Chrystia Freeland, now minister for international trade, insisted on a multi-partisan “united front” to defend Ukraine, and she got it. When Freeland was one of 13 Canadian lawmakers from all parties, government officials and others placed on a Kremlin banned list, she was proud of it. When the Conservatives presented a motion to condemn Putin’s military adventurism and temporarily recall Canada’s ambassador to Moscow, the Liberals unanimously endorsed it

At least the Liberals are ditching the “honest broker” cliche that has long been the party’s ideal for Canada’s role in the world. The bad news: they’re trading it in for “fair-minded and determined peace builder.”

I can see a smile curling on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s face already.

So can I. Mr Glavin also has fun eviscerating erstwhile polisci prof. Dion’s tortured efforts at committing political philosophy.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Death of a Military Spook Chief…and US/Russia Relations

Given there is no fundamental ideological divide between the two countries–unlike during the Cold War (though both the Americans and Russians still have messianic traits)–there remains a serious need to do practical business as befits two competing major powers with seriously divergent interests as they see them:

Death of the GRU Commander
An American general remembers Russia’s complex military intelligence chief, who shaped the Ukraine incursion — and worked hard to bridge the East-West gap


In February 2014, contact ceased between U.S. and Russian military intelligence as part of an overall shutdown of defense relations in the wake of Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. It was the right policy move at the time, but it’s time to get U.S. and Russian military leaders, including intelligence officials, talking to each other again.

One unlikely and subtle advocate of the value of personal communications was the chief of Russian military intelligence, Igor Sergun, who died suddenly on Jan. 3 of a probable heart attack. Recently promoted to Colonel General, Sergun was only 58 years old, young even for an overworked, highly stressed Russian male. An experienced special operations veteran who made his name in the restive Northern Caucasus, Sergun became GRU chief in 2011, later becoming one of the troublingly imaginative architects of Russia’s hybrid, proxy aggression in Ukraine [more on the GRU here and here, latter link quite interesting].

I’m frankly unsure how to feel about his death. As a career U.S. Army military intelligence officer, and our senior military attaché to Russia from 2012 to 2014, I met with General Sergun and his staff several times for extended periods. I found him soft-spoken, unassuming, complex, erudite and nuanced. And I learned that even as Sergun relentlessly directed global intelligence operations against our interests, he — paradoxically — also viewed constant confrontation with the U.S. and West as not in Russia’s best long-term interest.

Before U.S.–Russia relations collapsed, Sergun facilitated increased contact between our countries’ military intelligence leaders. During 2012-13, I watched as U.S. and Russian intelligence chiefs from strategic regional and global commands discreetly met in cities across Russia: Khabarovsk in the east, Rostov in the south, and also Sochi, just before the 2014 Winter Olympics. These meetings — which were often the first face-to-face interactions between these senior U.S. and Russian MI officers — always entailed straightforward, cordially hardnosed discussions that intelligence officers understood from a world of black and gray, and rarely white, as traditional adversaries, often foes. Clearly, both sides entered cautiously, but increasingly saw substantive talks emerge on carefully cleared topics.

Never lost or conceded was our unwavering support for our allies, and partners such as Ukraine, who ideally should want us to engage with Russia. But such meetings were invaluable opportunities for both sides to explain why they disagreed on issues such as Syria, the Arab Spring, missile defense and Ukraine…

We must find meaningful ways to talk and work with Russian military counterparts on geo-strategic concerns of mutual interest, of which there are plenty. Despite disagreements and frustrating disinformation, we must persist in this. Nations, especially ones that are traditional confrontational competitors that can existentially threaten each other, must constantly and intensively communicate via different channels and echelons, including sensitive military and intelligence conduits. This is hardly weakness or supplication; rather it displays strength, confidence and prudence, and it shows we are comfortable in our own skin…

The full piece has much more interesting detail.  Military intelligence a contradiction in terms?  Intelligent and purposeful engagement is the idea, not the sort of self-justificatory generalized folderol so many Canadians advocate.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds