Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hybrid warfare tactics chip away just below the threshold of war, planting mistrust of the democratic West among dissident groups and spreading damagaing propoganda via social media conspiracy theories
Image: Mikhail Metzel/TASS)
Russian President Vladimir Putin presents a huge threat to Europe by employing what NATO commanders call hybrid warfare.
He builds up his military, extending overtly Russia’s might whilst employing other sneaky probing actions which fall beneath the threshold of warfare.
These are cyber attacks, spreading damaging propaganda such as manipulating through social media conspiracy theories related to Covid-19 and other issues.
Anything to spark civil unrest through the West undermines the democracies he despises.
His spies throughout Ukraine and the wider region have for years planted distrust of the West among dissident groups.
Moscow’s agents have played a brilliant role in quite wrongly feeding a pro-Russian mistrust of the Kiev government.
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We have come to know Ukraine as a fairly liberal democracy which is a friend of NATO.
So Moscow continues to chip away at the border, gradually using its military on the offensive and other methods inside the country just below the threshold of war.
In 2014 Russian troops flooded Crimea almost overnight in an almost bloodless coup, annexing the Ukrainian territory within a matter of days.
Russia’s muscle-flexing against Ukraine can only go so far without action and NATO is understandably nervous.
Previous false alarms have been taken seriously and then western commanders have been made to relax again when it has not happened.
This creates a nervy, edgy and constant state of alert which in turn makes the enemy feel over-exposed to the risk of war.
It could all be a very long game but Moscow could strike at any moment – when Putin thinks the time is right.
He knows only too well the approaching Winter might be a good time to do just this – when the ground is solid for tanks and the weather might least suit NATO troops.
But when America says it has viable intelligence and its precise details cannot be shared it may be time to take the threat seriously.