Sounds like what happened in Crimea and what’s happening in Eastern Ukraine, right? Well, Dr. Stephen Blank, an expert on the Russian military at the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, told VICE News otherwise. Softening up the enemy with intelligence units before an active involvement of Special Forces had been “a part of Soviet doctrine, but this form of warfare is entirely new and not well understood.”
It seems that Russian military theorists have been keeping themselves busy since the fall of the Soviet Union by evolving their understanding of conflict. Blank said there hasn’t yet been much academic study of these new approaches to warfare, but there is ”Russia’s New Generation Warfare in Ukraine: Implications for Latvian Defense Policy,” a paper released earlier this month by the National Defense Academy of Latvia that tries to figure the Russians out.
The paper puts forward 10 elements that characterize Russia’s new model of warfare. Some elements — like a shift away from blowing things up and killing people, and launching attacks on the enemy’s will to fight — have immediate advantages. (Namely, less blowing up things and killing people.) But the shift to an approach largely dominated by psychological warfare and “a combination of political, economic, information, technological, and ecological campaigns” has some pretty dark implications.