Russia's tactics against West to evolve - expert

12:30, 17 October 2017
564 0

The West’s reaction to the menace from Russia is belated, partial and out of date, Edward Lucas argues in his op-ed published on the Center for European Policy Analysis website.

REUTERS

People now fussing about Kremlin interference in last year’s U.S. presidential election seem to think this was the first instance of Russian political warfare while, in fact, it was just the latest and most conspicuous, the author wrote for CEPA Stratcom Program.

Hardened participants in the struggle for freedom and democracy in and around Russia should remind their U.S. allies that plenty of other countries have been attacked over the past 25 years, the op-ed reads.

It is also worth pointing out that the information warfare tactics being used in America are just one part of the Kremlin arsenal. Russia has long used a whole range of other tactics against its adversaries—ranging from military intimidation to economic pressure—via abuse of the legal system, cyber-attacks and subversion.

Read alsoEx Russian "troll" speaks out on U.S. elex meddlingThe big worry, though, is that the West’s reaction, though commendable, is out of date, the author argues. NATO, for example, has woken up to its problem in the Baltic states and Poland. It has drawn up contingency plans, positioned trip-wire forces there, and holds regular exercises. That has diminished the danger of a successful, surprise Russian attack. It has also dispelled the idea that the eastern allies are “NATO-lite” countries the alliance has no real intention or capability of defending.

Similarly, the EU now takes energy security seriously. Ten years ago, it was just beginning to realize the danger of Russia’s monopolistic and corrupt gas-export business. Now there is a north-south gas grid, blunting the effect of the old east-west pipelines. Thanks to the Third Energy Package, Russia’s vertically integrated model has been unbundled. And the efforts of the Competition Directorate have forced Russia to abandon its politically loaded use of country-by-country pricing.

Read alsoEx-NATO chief urges allies to boost help for Ukraine – mediaTrue, a lot more needs to be done. NATO has not yet sorted out air defense in the Baltic region. Integration with Sweden and Finland could be better. Ukraine needs more military assistance. For its part, the EU has failed to block the NordStream 2 gas pipeline. It is shamefully unwilling to fund its counter-disinformation effort properly.

However, the author says he is more worried by the unthinking assumption that the Kremlin will play only the cards that it has used before, and will do so in a convenient and predictable manner. Disruptive “DDoS” cyber-attacks worked against Estonia in 2007 and Georgia in 2008. Since then, Russia has adopted much more sophisticated forms of cyber attack, such as those on the Ukrainian power grid in 2015 and 2016.

Russia has also moved away from the crude hacking-and-leaking attacks that worked so well in the United States last year. They failed in the French presidential election, and were not even tried in Germany last month. Similarly, it is still possible that that the Kremlin will stoke and exploit an insurrection in some ethnically Russian part of Estonia or Latvia. But I think that is highly unlikely. I also think Russia is increasingly unlikely to ever launch a military offensive of the kind it rehearsed during this year’s Zapad exercise.

Read alsoUkrainian observers on Zapad-2017 drills: Russian troops practiced offensive“We should continue to try to reduce still further the risks of such attacks. But much greater attention should go into identifying and countering the next generation of Russian tactics. The West’s record here is poor: we missed Russia’s use of cyber, energy, military and propaganda attacks,” the author says.

“We should be humble about assuming we will spot the next threat before it hits us. My recommendation is to take advice from the frontline states. Whatever Russia tries will probably be visible there first,” Edward Lucas concludes.

If you see a spelling error on our site, select it and press Ctrl+Enter