Make no mistake, Snipers can turn the tide of a battle and demoralize the enemy with FEAR.
Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous!
In both Crimea and the subsequent fighting in the Donbas region of Ukraine, Russia’s signature tactic has been the use of so-called “Green Men,” soldiers without identifying insignia whose identity as Russian soldiers the Kremlin denied. Ukraine, Georgia, and even NATO members like Estonia now fear that they could be the next target for Russia’s Green Men. NATO, alarmed by the need to prepare for this unexpected tactic, has committed to develop new countermeasures to defend against this threat. Green Men, or deniable forces, are a central part of what has come to be called “hybrid warfare” in the “gray zone” between war and peace. All of this seems to be a new and innovative departure from traditional tactics, perhaps even a new model for conflict in the 21st century.
However, deniable forces are nothing new. Nor, in fact, is the specific phenomenon of using them to seize a piece of territory, as Russia did in Crimea. There is a long history of hybrid warfare in general and of intervening with deniable forces in particular. This history points not just to the enduring nature of the threat, but also to the contours of a “counter-hybrid” strategy to defeat it.
In the course of a broader research project for which I compiled data on every land grab since 1918, 105 land grabs in total, I found three instances before Crimea of deniable forces seizing territory. In 1999, Pakistani forces crossed the Line of Control in the Kargil region of Kashmir, occupying positions overlooking strategically important roads in Indian territory. Like the Russians, Pakistan used deniable forces that they described as Kashmiri insurgents. Unlike the Ukrainians, the Indians counterattacked, absorbing heavy casualties to expel the Pakistanis.
In an article I wrote on FO about Russia’s EW Capabilities, I showed how NATO commanders were concerned about how far ahead Russia was in this department. That concern has not diminished, and for good reason as the article below shows. -SF
Much has been written about the weakness of the Russian military. Commentators describe it as a“paper tiger” that would not be effective against the more advanced weaponry of NATO. Even Pres. Barack Obama boasts that the American military is superior to Russia’s.
When it comes to traditional conventional weapons there is much truth to these assertions. However, these claims of Washington’s military superiority overlook a key fact. In the event of a war, Moscow possesses some critical asymmetrical advantages vis-à-vis the United States that the Kremlin would surely seek to exploit.
Russia’s electronic warfare strategy in Ukraine is one example of this. According to a recent articlein Foreign Policy, after Russian electronic warfare equipment began arriving in Ukraine, Ukrainian troops noticed a problem — their phones and radios were unusable for hours at a time, essentially cutting off units’ ability to communicate with each other.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also felt the effect of Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities. On at least three separate occasions the OSCE reported its monitoring drones were subjected to military-grade electronic warfare while flying over territory controlled by the Russian-supported separatists. In each case, they were rendered blind and forced to end their missions.
Russia’s use of electronic warfare in Ukraine represents just the tip of the iceberg.
Russia’s advanced electronic warfare capabilities elucidates a broader point. The U.S. military’s superiority depends on advanced communications and electronics, yet these expensive advanced systems are highly susceptible to Russia’s advanced jamming abilities.
Read the Remainder at War is Boring
After nearly fifteen years of counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, American advocates of heavy armored forces interpreted Ukrainian forces’ defeat at the battle of Debaltseve as an indication that “tanks still matter.” But the key lesson of the Debaltseve fight is a broader one: Combat vehicles of whatever kind must provide the mobility, protection, and lethality that commanders require in order to best integrate armor, infantry, and artillery in a combined arms fight.
On February 18, 2015, after several weeks of heavy fighting in and around Debaltseve, pro-Russian forces surrounded the city. Cut off from friendly forces, government troops withdrew from the city in a manner which the Guardian called “anything but orderly.” In the aftermath of the battle, many reports highlighted one particular aspect of the fighting: The separatists’ use of Russian-supplied armored vehicles to drive home their attack.
In a sense, the separatists’ use of armor to achieve battlefield success could be interpreted as a vindication of the continued need for “heavy” forces in contemporary warfare. Several accounts reported the presence of T-72s and T-80s in eastern Ukraine. In late January, pro-Russian armored columns fought entrenched Ukrainian forces outside Debaltseve. Although the Ukrainians reportedly achieved some successes, separatist forces used their tanks’ mobility and firepower to break the Ukrainian defenses and force government troops to withdraw. But focusing on the use of tanks misses the greater significance of the fighting.
Although armored vehicles played an important role in the fighting, the separatists’ success actually was achieved through the effective use of combined arms operations — that is, the coordinated employment of tanks, infantry, artillery, and other battlefield assets to achieve military objectives. Rebel artillery disrupted Ukrainian vehicle columns withdrawing from the city, forcing many soldiers to leave their vehicles behind and evacuate on foot. The Guardian quoted one Ukrainian soldier: “Guys are running out on foot through the fields because [rebels] are shelling vehicles.” The ability to exercise effective command and control by communicating orders and coordinating actions — an essential element in combined arms operations — also proved vital to the separatists’ success. The separatists coordinated their actions better than Ukrainian forces. As Ukrainian commander Semyon Semyonchenko said: “What hindered us in Debaltseve? We had enough men and material… the problem was with the leadership and coordination of actions.” According to Semyonchenko, the Ukrainian defeat was “the result of incompetent management of our troops.”
Read the Remainder at Foreign Policy
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom is a poignant documentary covering the unrest in Ukraine for 93 days in 2013 and 2014. The documentary is a timeline of sorts of how the unrest in Ukraine unfolded. It gives you a “boots on the ground” viewpoint from the perspective of the activist and demonstrators. I think most people will come away from this film more informed as to the “why” there so much discord and unrest among the people of Ukraine..and why they took to the streets with such passion and vigor.
With Russia flexing it’s muscles in Syria now, and with all of Europe walking on eggshells waiting to see what they do next, learning about what happened and IS happening in Ukraine is paramount in understanding Russia’s devious (and criminal) behavior and how their use of political and hybrid warfare makes them a formidable enemy for the future.
While watching it, ask yourself: How far is the U.S. away from something like this? From a Government enacting a set of tyrannical laws virtually overnight and then reigning down terror on it’s own people for wanting simple freedoms. We are not far away from it folks.
Watch this, it is Definitely worth an hour and a half of your time.