On the 23rd of November 2017 another great “Professors in the Pub” event took place! The topic of the evening was Hybrid Warfare and Russian tactics. This time the lead professor was Mark Galeotti a Senior Researcher at the Institute of International Relations Prague, but also an experienced scholar on Russian foreign policy, military tactics and hybrid warfare.
Mark firstly explained how problematic the term ‘hybrid warfare’ actually is. He stressed that it shouldn’t be used as it implies that there is something detrimentally new about it, although propaganda, espionage and other non-military tools have been used for a long time. The innovative element is not the tactic, but the realm- as now the Internet allows for no mediation (whereas previously the gatekeepers were the owners of TV and radio stations or newspaper editors). Basically conventional tools for undermining the other side are now being used in a different area.
The speaker then mentioned that Russians themselves have troubles understanding the concept and don’t have a specific term for it besides a direct translation from English. West believes that Russia is waging cyber war and on the other hand Russians believe that it’s all pioneered by West. They see all revolutions- such as Arab Spring, Maidan, or Syrian civil war as a CIA plot to mobilize all forces to destabilize Russia. On the other hand, ordinary Russians are facing a civilization struggle and they are torn between the propaganda by president Putin, and their believes in the European values which they also wish to have. President Putin still believes that Russia should be a great power that will not take orders from anyone and doesn’t want sovereignty infringed. The EU cannot accept Russian terms, as it would be against their own foundations.
The speaker then commented on the fact that Russia isn’t as militarily strong as it presents itself, moreover, they have no soft power and positive influence. Therefore, the best tactic Putin has embraced is to exploit the differences between democracies, to distract them and divide them and make them neutralized. The biggest problem seems to be that Russia can’t get over the fact that they lost the status of a super power. Russia uses hybrid warfare as a tool of political war that shouldn’t be understood as a preparation for ‘real’ war, but a rather an alternative for it. The response to it should also be different- the West should not spend so much on actual military, but rather on means that can counter these cyber tactics such as counter intelligence etc.
During the discussion, many interesting points were raised. Participants were interested whether this means that Russia is adapting faster to the modern techniques and the West is still stuck on old warfare. The main speaker responded by saying that it’s rather the fact that Russia lost Cold War and was forced to look for alternatives to retain their traditional status (not because they are progressive). Another interesting discussion took place addressing the fact that Russian people think similarly to the Europeans. Putin seems to suppress their Western tendencies through blaming the West for wars, violence, abuse of morals etc. and basically through saying that even though the Russian regime is strict, the Western regime is even worse. The Russian president pretends that his regime protects the population from the West that constantly abandons the poor civilians. They try to build up on peoples’ sorrows and existing opinions and build up on feelings of hurt. It is still negative power, but it has the strength to undermine Western soft power. Last, but not least the speaker mentioned that Russian regime is not sustainable, as Russia isn’t isolated as North Korea, and that it is eventually probably going to lead to another kleptocracy regime and return of elites.
Former and current students, as well as professors from different departments, joined the Professors in Pub discussion despite the busy time of end of the semester. You still have another chance in December to join the next event, so make sure to mark down the date to chat with your professors about important topics in a less formal setting!
Publication date: January 22, 2018