Russian Hybrid Warfare (Part 2)
Written by Marren Haneberg
Russia is turning towards a hybrid warfare strategy, which is unconventional use of force (Van Puyvelde 2015). Using this strategy, Russia regularly interferes with other countries’ politics to achieve favorable political outcomes. On September 30, 2018, Macedonia (FYROM) will hold a referendum, which, if voters pass it, will bring the country a step closer to joining the European Union (EU). On September 17, 2018, US Defense Secretary James Mattis warned that Russia was funding referendum opposition groups (“Mattis Warns Against…” 2018). Further, Moscow’s ambassador to Skopje, Macedonia’s capital, threatened that Russia would make Macedonia a “legitimate target” if NATO and Russia came into conflict (“Shcherbak: In case…” 2018). This political interference is consistent with Russia’s past strategy of preventing countries from joining the EU, such as it did with the frozen South Ossetian conflict in Georgia (hyperlink yellow highlighted portion to: http://praemon.org/russian-hybrid-warfare/).
The 2004 Ukrainian presidential election shows Russia has experience interfering in foreign elections. In September 2004, two months before the election, Viktor Yushchenko, who was running against pro-Russia candidate Viktor Yanukovych, was poisoned by dioxin placed in his food. Dioxin is not commercially available and must be created in a lab. Yushchenko blamed pro-Russia government officials for his poisoning (Finn 2004). Two months later, in the November 2004 election, pro-Russia Yanukovych beat Yushchenko 40 percent to 39 percent. However, after credible reports of election fraud, Ukraine’s Supreme Parliament ordered a re-run election. Ukrainians voted in this internationally-monitored election in December 2004. This time, Yushchenko beat Yanukovych 52 percent to 44 percent (“2004 Presidential Election…” 2014).
Russia holds a strong influence over Czech President Miloš Zeman. Showing his pro-Russia stance, Zeman initially denied that Russian troops invaded Crimea in 2014 (Gniazdowski, Groszkowski, and Sadecki 2014). In support of Russian policies, Zeman regularly opposes the rest of the largely pro-EU and pro-NATO Czech government. In October 2016, Zeman’s closest aide, Martin Nejedlý, nearly lost his government position due to a 1 million euro debt; Russian oil company Lukoil paid his debt. Nejedlý regularly lobbies for Czech energy deals with Russia. If passed, these energy deals would put the Czech Republic under high Russian geopolitical control. Additionally, Nejedlý often accompanies Zeman to meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin (Janda 2018). In January 2018, pro-Russia Zeman was up for reelection. There was a sudden uptick in pro-Russia websites and advertisements slandering the pro-Europe opposition candidate, Jiri Drahos (Crosby 2018). Zeman came out victorious.
In April 2017, Montenegro’s high court charged two Russian operatives with organizing an assassination plot against Montenegro’s pro-NATO prime minister. The operatives planned to install a pro-Russia government (Brown 2017). In April 2017, after the Montenegrin Parliament approved NATO membership, the Russian Foreign Ministry contended that Montenegro had “ignored the voice of reason and conscience” in making the decision and that Russia had “the right to take steps aimed at defending [their] interests and national security” (Stacey 2018).
“2004 Presidential Election – Orange Revolution.” 2014. GlobalSecurity.org. January 30. https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/ukraine/election-2004.htm.
“Mattis Warns Against Russian ‘Influence Campaigns’ Ahead Of Macedonia Name Referendum.” 2018. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. September 17. https://www.rferl.org/a/mattis-warns-against-russian-influence-campaigns-ahead-of-macedonia-name-referendum/29493980.html.
“Shcherbak: In case of an eventual war between Russia and NATO, Macedonia will be a legitimate target.” 2018. Meta.mk. March 29. http://meta.mk/en/shcherbak-in-case-of-an-eventual-war-between-russia-and-nato-macedonia-will-be-a-legitimate-target/.
Brown, Daniel. 2017. “14 people, including 2 Russians, charged with attempted coup in Montenegro.” Business Insider. April 13. https://www.businessinsider.com/14-people-2-russians-charged-with-attempted-coup-in-montenegro-2017-4.Crosby, Alan. 2018. “Fake News Kicks Into High Gear In Czech Presidential Runoff.” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. January 21. https://www.rferl.org/a/fake-news-kicks-into-high-gear-czech-presidential-vote/28987922.html.
Finn, Peter. 2004. “Yushchenko Was Poisoned, Doctors Say.” Washington Post. December 12. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58049-2004Dec11.html.
Győri, Lóránt, Péter Krekó, Jakub Janda, and Bernhard Weidinger. 2017. “Does Russia interfere in Czech, Austrian and Hungarian elections?” Political Capital, European Values Think-tank in cooperation with DöW. December 10. http://www.politicalcapital.hu/pc-admin/source/documents/western_experiences_eastern_vulnerabilities_20171012.pdf.
Gniazdowski, Mateusz, Jakub Groszkowski, and Andrzej Sadecki. 2014. “A Visegrad cacophony over the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.” Ośrodek Studiów Wschodnich. September 10. https://www.osw.waw.pl/en/publikacje/analyses/2014-09-10/a-visegrad-cacophony-over-conflict-between-russia-and-ukraine.
Janda, Jakub. 2018. “How Czech President Miloš Zeman Became Putin’s Man.” Observor. January 26. https://observer.com/2018/01/how-czech-president-milos-zeman-became-vladimir-putins-man/.
Stacey, Jeffrey A. 2018. “A Russian Attack on Montenegro Could Mean the End of NATO.” Foreign Policy. July 27. https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/07/27/a-russian-attack-on-montenegro-could-mean-the-end-of-nato-putin-trump-helsinki/.
Van Puyvelde, Damien. 2015. “Hybrid war – does it even exist?” NATO Review Magazine. https://www.nato.int/docu/review/2015/also-in-2015/hybrid-modern-future-warfare-russia-ukraine/EN/index.htm.