In the last seven years, Russia has reasserted itself as a military force in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. With the 2008 military incursion into Georgia and the 2014 seizure of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, Russia has assumed a more aggressive, interventionist stance in Europe. In the effort to influence events in Ukraine, the Russians have used what the US Army defines as “Hybrid Warfare” to infiltrate, isolate, and dominate eastern Ukraine and Crimea. This is all a part of the strategy of what can be called “Indirect Action”—the belief by the Russians that they reserve the right to protect ethnic Russians and interests in their former states from domination by Western powers and NATO.
As the American Army fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, it became the best tactical level counter insurgency force of the modern era. America’s enemies, however, did not rest. Russia observed the transformation of the American Army and began a transformation of their own. This new military barely resembles its former Soviet self. Wielding a sophisticated blend of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), electronic warfare (EW) jamming equipment, and long range rocket artillery, it took the Soviet model out of the 1980s and into the 21st Century.
U.S. competitors pursuing meaningful revision or rejection of the current U.S.-led status quo are employing a host of hybrid methods to advance and secure interests that are in many cases contrary to those of the United States. These challengers employ unique combinations of influence, intimidation, coercion, and aggression to incrementally crowd out effective resistance, establish local or regional advantages, and manipulate risk perceptions in their favor. So far, the United States has not come up with a coherent countervailing approach. It is in this “gray zone”—the awkward and uncomfortable space between traditional conceptions of war and peace—where the United States and its defense enterprise face systemic challenges to U.S. position and authority. As a result, gray zone competition and conflict should be pacers for defense strategy.
U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office: Russia’s Military Strategy Impacting 21st Century Reform and Geopolitics
Today’s military innovators are the modern-day scientists and engineers who assist in the creation of contemporary and new concept weaponry; and the military theorists who study changes in the character of war. Digital specialists understand how to develop and employ the capabilities of electronic warfare equipment, satellite technology, and fiber optic cables. While Kalashnikov’s fame is imbedded in Russia’s culture, it may be harder to find a current digital entrepreneur whose legacy will endure as long as his: there are simply too many of them, and their time in the spotlight appears to be quite short, since even now we are about to pass from the age of cyber to that of quantum. It is difficult to predict whose discoveries will be the most coveted by tomorrow’s military-industrial complex, not to mention the decision-making apparatus of the Kremlin and General Staff. Military theorists are playing an important role as well. They are studying how new weaponry has changed the correlation of forces in the world, the nature of war, and the impact of weaponry on both forecasting and the initial period of war.
The study addresses the challenges facing the United States from the increasing use by rivals and adversaries – state and non-state alike – of what have come to be called “Gray Zone” techniques. The term Gray Zone (“GZ”) denotes the use of techniques to achieve a nation’s goals and frustrate those of its rivals by employing instruments of power – often asymmetric and ambiguous in character – that are not direct use of acknowledged regular military forces.
Russia’s strategic objectives in the Baltic region do not focus on the Baltic States as final targets, but on using the Batlic States to discredit and dismantle the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and undermining the European Union (EU) by using the Baltic States. Experts in Russia and European security from the United States and the Baltic region agree that Russia could use the Baltic States toward this end by employing any one of a spectrum of actions, to include direct invasion with conventional forces, an incursion and occupation using irregular forces like the one witnessed in Crimea in 2014, or longterm fostering of social, political, and economic instability. Disagreement existed among experts as to which approach was more likely.