A theoretical study of Russia’s use of “hybrid warfare”—nonmilitary measures that are not new but nonetheless lethal.
In his latest book on the “problems of strategy,” Freedman (Emeritus, War Studies/King’s Coll., London; The Future of War, 2017, etc.) examines Russia’s aims in provoking Ukraine and ultimately annexing Crimea—and how the objectives were ultimately unsuccessful. According to the author, the conflict has proven to be a good “test bed for modern warfare.” In 2013, under authoritarian Vladimir Putin, Russia used a combination of brute force and coercive power (e.g., economic blackmail) to compel Ukraine to move closer to Russia than to the European Union. As the prized former Soviet satellite threatened to move out of its orbit and closer to the West, Russia unleashed political, economic, and cyber chaos to cause the fragmentation of Ukraine so that Crimea and its eastern sections would clamor to break away. Explaining that Russia “acted out of a sense of threat” and banking on a referendum in Crimea that was supposed to show its overwhelming pro-Russia support, Putin annexed Crimea in March 2014. After a methodical dissection of strategic theory in the post–Cold War era, the author turns his attention to identifying and assessing the objectives of the Ukrainian conflict. While Freedman acknowledges that the conflict “represented a sharp geopolitical jolt, a reminder that hard power never quite goes away,” the Russian strategy was neither well thought out nor ultimately satisfying. The economic sanctions imposed by the U.N. and U.S. were initially deemed “mildly punitive,” but they are evidently beginning to show damaging effects. Moreover, Freedman notes that the war has “united Ukraine more than it drew it apart.” As for Russia, returning to its belligerent Soviet ways has only reinstilled wariness in its neighbors and dispelled in the West any good favor it had of becoming a modern, economically significant peer.
A dry, surgical investigation for experts and scholars.