The Kremlin’s hybrid warfare in Georgia and Moldova

Written by: Andrey Grashkin, Boston University

It is not surprising that the military works of the ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, who famously wrote that “the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting,” have been divinely embraced by the Kremlin’s neo-imperialist ideologues centuries later. Since the ascendance of Putin, Moscow’s neo-Soviet system of governance has been exercising a form of “ambiguous warfare”, which uses both kinetic and non-kinetic tools to influence operations abroad. Kinetic operations involve the use of hard power strategy through armed and lethal force, whilst non-kinetic operations “seek to influence a target through electronic or print media, computer network operation, and electronic warfare.”[1]

In Georgia, Russia’s control over the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia allows the Kremlin to pursue a policy of “creeping occupation,” leveraging geopolitical realities on the ground whilst exerting diplomatic pressure over the local authorities.[2] Through utilizing subversive tactics, including co-optation and cyber-attacks, Moscow is able to unleash forms of psychological warfare against the Georgian populace, as well as Tbilisi’s political elites. A 2014 article by General Valery Gerasimov titled “The Value of Science is in the Foresight” generally outlined the role of a “permanently operating front throughout the entirety of the enemy state” that fosters internal opposition.[3] In line with Russia’s reflexive control theory, which involves indoctrinating an opponent with predetermined information to sway decision-making, the Kremlin has been able to weaken the credibility of the Georgian government and its anti-Russian political factions, impede Tbilisi’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic alliance, and destabilize Georgia’s democratic development.

Like Georgia, Moldova has also been a victim of Moscow’s revisionism and self-proclaimed exceptionalism. For over two decades, Chisinau has had to compete with a pro-Russian separatist regime in the eastern region of Transnistria that has continually destabilized the country’s internal affairs. While the Kremlin continues to financially sustain this break-away region, Russian-language media outlets and outlets re-broadcasting Russian news continue to outnumber and dominate local media sources.[4] In a similar fashion, Moscow has weaponized its energy holdings in Moldova, with the local authorities making little progress towards securing the country’s energy independence from the hands of the Russian gas giant Gazprom.

No one should doubt that the credibility of the Kremlin’s besieged fortress mentality has long but expired. The swaying forces of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaigns, militarism, and psychological warfare systematically and strategically impede Georgia’s and Moldova’s pathway to the empyrean realm of the Euro-Atlantic world. 


Bibliography

[1] Hansen, Flemming Splidsboel. Russian Hybrid Warfare: A Study of Disinformation. DIIS Report, June 2017, http://pure.diis.dk/ws/files/950041/DIIS_RP_2017_6_web.pdf

[2] Nilsson, Niklas. Russian Hybrid Tactics in Georgia. Central Asia- Caucasus Institute Silk Road Studies Program, Jan. 2018, https://silkroadstudies.org/resources/pdf/SilkRoadPapers/2018_01_Nilsson_Hybrid.pdf

[3] Larsen, Joseph. “Deterring Russia’s Borderization of Georgia.” GIP Commentary, Georgian Institute of Politics, Sept. 2017, pp. 3, gip.ge/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Commentary18.pdf.

[4] “Moldova Battles Hybrid Threat.” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, https://iwpr.net/global-voices/moldova-battles-hybrid-threat.

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