Managing Russia’s Political War

CHOREOGRAPHING-CHAOS---GRAPHICIn the year-and-a-bit that I was a visiting fellow for the European Council on Foreign Relations, I was working on a tetralogy of reports on different aspects of Russia’s “political war” (not a hybrid one, really) against the West: first looking at the intelligence services (‘Putin’s Hydra‘), next the use of the military with coercive intent (‘Heavy Metal Diplomacy‘), then Russian organised crime groups’ role in policy (‘Crimintern‘). For the final, capstone report, ‘Controlling Chaos: How Russia manages its political war in Europe,’ I have taken a look at how far the active measures campaign is truly coordinated (answer: sometimes, and often retrospectively), how unified the message (answer: there’s a core intent to divide and distract the West, but national goals, as in the figure below) and when it is, from where (answer: the Presidential Administration). I’m very pleased with this report, and the series as a whole (and grateful to the ECFR for the chance to focus on it), and I hope it is useful to scholars, policy makers, and everyone interesting in just what the blazes is going on!


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  1. Robert Eckart

     /  September 4, 2017

    Nicely written piece, Mark. “Crimintern” – what great humor ! The image that shows up on my Facebook feed, with Putin in the center, is good also. Although using terms like “Putin’s War on EU” and “Weaponising the Mob” are, certainly, a requirement of those who pay for your propaganda but this piece does nothing that helps alleviate conditions of the disease called “strategic tension” – to which you are a major contributor, or impolitely, a tool. Ninety nine percent of this tetrapak soda is opinion based on anecdotes which were related by “sources”. In any case, it IS a good diagram of how the Russian Government operates. Sorta like the Wizard of Oz in resemblance, too. Maybe VV will use it for better management ??

    All the best !


    PS, BTW, the mafias are really much less powerful since Yeltsin’s years.

    • Mark Galeotti

       /  September 4, 2017

      OK, but to be honest (a) off-the-record sources are often the only real way of getting such quotes, etc and (b) it’s based on long-term work looking at these issues. But here’s a question: rather than (again) simply pass judgement on my role as a paid propagandist, tell me how you KNOW I’m wrong, what open, objective sources you draw on? I trust it’s more than official Russian government sources, the same ones who claim there are no Russian soldiers on duty in the Donbas, that not a single civilian has been killed by Russian airstrikes in Syria, etc?

  2. Reblogged this on Andreas Umland.

  3. Mika Riikonen

     /  October 11, 2019

    Dear Mr Galeotti,

    You have mentioned that the land property acquisitions made by Russian individuals in Finland may have been done in order to facilitate attack on e.g. Åland.

    The purpose of these property acquisitions made by Russians in Finland has not been understood. Neither by Finns, nor by others.

    These acquisitions have been done without the slightest effort to conceal that the buyers are Russian. Therefore, both the authorities and locals know that they belong to Russian owners. Mostly, the lots are vacant. Hence, should there appear any sudden activity, both the security bodies as well as local people would notice it, giving a heads-up. That is why these acquisitions do not serve any direct military purpose in helping attacking Finland. On the contrary, mobilization in these properties would give an early warning to Finland that something is happening. Therefore, using these land properties for attack purposes would indeed be counterproductive, given their publicly known ownership.

    So why have these acquisitions been made? Why no decoys or middle men or any other means to conceal the actual owners have not been used? The answer is simple: When these acquisitions are public, they serve Russia’s purpose by creating a sense of threat. They send a message to both the Finnish politicians and common Finns: “We are here – within! Adjust your decisions accordingly.”

    Russia wants to keep Finland finlandized, and this is just one means to reach that target.

  1. Caschi Blu, Corea del Nord, Minniti tuttofare: le notizie della settimana

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