I’m today releasing a report of mine, Hybrid War or Gibridnaya Voina? Getting Russia’s non-linear military challenge right that, as the title suggests, explores the whole issue of Russia’s non-linear challenge to the West and make recommendations about possible responses. It is not the last word, of course, and is as much as anything else written to try and further the debate. A key point I do make is that I feel what we tend to call Russian ‘hybrid warfare’ (it’s not the best term, but we seem to be stuck with it at the moment) is not only that not special in Russian eyes, but in many ways ought perhaps to be considered as two similar but distinct ways of wielding similar instruments: as a preparatory stage before proper kinetic warfare operations (‘hybrid war’) and as a purely non-kinetic variety of aggravated and confrontational diplomacy (‘political war’). Ukraine faced the former, the West the latter. Either way, these are wars…
I reproduce the Executive Summary below, but the report is available in both PDF and hardcopy here.
The West is at war. It is not a war of the old sort, fought with the thunder of guns, but a new sort, fought with the rustle of money, the shrill mantras of propagandists, and the stealthy whispers of spies. (more…)
Posted by Mark Galeotti on November 28, 2016
Many people, especially in Russia, use Facebook as a professional tool, whereas I keep it primarily for personal friends. To bridge the gap between this blog and my twitter feed, though, I have now set up a separate, open FB page, Mark Galeotti on Russia which I will use for my thoughts, links and random postings specifically relating to Russia. Please feel free to go Like this page (so it will appear on your feed) and likewise direct anyone else you think might be interested in it to do the same!
Posted by Mark Galeotti on November 11, 2016
Just a quick note, that an article of mine has appeared in the latest issue of Small Wars & Insurgencies, vol. 27, no. 2, a special issue on ‘Proxy Actors, Militias and Irregular Forces: The New Frontier of War?’ pulled together by Alex Marshall of Glasgow University. It emerged from an excellent workshop that Alex convened last year on this important and under-researched topic and the issue includes, along with all sorts of first-rate material, the always-great Vanda Felbab-Brown on Afghan militias and an interesting conceptual piece by Robert and Pamela Ligouri Bunker. My contribution, Hybrid, ambiguous, and non-linear? How new is Russia’s ‘new way of war’?, places recent Russian practice very firmly within an historical tradition going back to pre-Soviet adventures. Here’s the abstract:
Russia’s recent operations in Ukraine, especially the integrated use of militias,
gangsters, information operations, intelligence, and special forces, have created
a concern in the West about a ‘new way of war’, sometimes described as ‘hybrid’.
However, not only are many of the tactics used familiar from Western operations,
they also have their roots in Soviet and pre-Soviet Russian practice. They are
distinctive in terms of the degree to which they are willing to give primacy to
‘non-kinetic’ means, the scale of integration of non-state actors, and tight linkage
between political and military command structures. However, this is all largely a
question of degree rather than true qualitative novelty. Instead, what is new is
the contemporary political, military, technological, and social context in which
new wars are being fought.
Posted by Mark Galeotti on March 22, 2016
As ever, a quick summary for those interested:
‘Ramzan Kadyrov: the Kremlin’s Public Frenemy Number One,’ ECFR commentary, 1 February 2016
‘Why the Litvinenko Enquiry Was Not a ‘Farce’‘, Russia!, 1 February 2016
‘What Putin’s Security Appointments Say About How Russia Works‘, War On The Rocks, 9 February 2016
‘Free Sergei Lavrov!‘, Foreign Policy, 17 February 2016
‘Welcome to the stagnation of Retro-Brezhnevism,’ Business New Europe, 17 February 2016
‘Imagining 2030: Taking the Trans-Siberian to Moscow,’ PS21, 21 February 2016
‘Don’t Buy the Hype: Russia’s military is a lot weaker than Putin wants us to think,’ Vox, 23 February 2016
‘No Easy Fix for Syria,’ Moscow Times, 25 February 2016
‘Shadowy Spec Ops,’ AK-47 and Soviet Weapons, 2016
Posted by Mark Galeotti on March 13, 2016
Johnny Shumate’s preliminary sketch for colour plate of a Spetsnaz sniper
I’m very happy to be able to note that my latest compact book from Osprey is out this week. Spetsnaz: Russia’s special forces is, in my admittedly hardly humble opinion the most comprehensive work on Russia’s special forces yet out in English, taking to task many of the myths both old and new about these guys (not least, the idea that they are all some kind of Slavic ninjas), exploring their role in operations ranging through Civil War pacifications, through Afghanistan and to the seizure of Crimea, and considering what they can and, just as importantly, cannot do. Orders of battle, anecdotes about some of their members and operations, and Johnny Shumate‘s amazing colour plates, what more could you want? Available in both paperback and ebook formats.
Here’s the official blurb:
When the shadowy, notorious Spetsnaz were first formed, they drew on a long Soviet tradition of elite, behind-the-lines commando forces from World War II and even earlier. Throughout the 1960s-70s they were instrumental both in projecting Soviet power in the Third World and in suppressing resistance within the Warsaw pact. As a powerful, but mysterious tool of a world superpower, the Spetsnaz have inevitably become the focus of many ‘tall tales’ in the West. In this book, a peerless authority on Russia’s military Special Forces debunks several of these myths, uncovering truths that are often even more remarkable. Now, since the chaotic dissolution of the USSR and the two Chechen Wars, Russian forces have seen increasing modernization, involving them ever more in power-projection, counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism and the Spetsnaz have been deployed as a spearhead in virtually all of these operations. This book offers a unique, absorbing guide to the secrets of the Spetsnaz, their most noteworthy missions and personalities, but is also packed with details such as orders-of-battle, equipment and operational doctrine.
- Introduction: overview; background in Russian history and culture
- The Spetsnaz Tradition: special units of the Bolshevik Red Guard, and behind-the-lines NKVD operations in World War II
- Cold Warriors: foundation by GRU, 1950. Operations 1960s-70s: Angola, Czechoslovakia, etc, and order-of-battle 1980
- Operations in Afghanistan, and order-of-battle
- Spetsnaz after the USSR: the turmoil of the 1990s. Tajikistan and Moldova, imitation units in post-Soviet states
- Operations in Chechnya, the Chechen Spetsnaz
- Modern Spetsnaz: increasing strength and importance
- Naval Spetsnaz, and order-of-battle 2013
- Special Weapons
Posted by Mark Galeotti on June 26, 2015