Staunton, November 4 – One of the most frequently invoked explanations for the inability of leaders to cope with a challenge is that it is something fundamentally new that they could not have been expected to recognize, understand, and know precisely how to respond. That has been the case in Ukraine and the West with what many now call “hybrid war.”
But despite the insistence of Moscow propagandists and the interpretations of many Western analysts and politicians, “hybrid war” not only is nothing new but the forms that Vladimir Putin has employed against Ukraine were invented not by him but by someone who in all too many ways is his role model: Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
That is what the archives show, according to Moscow commentator Vladimir Voronov in a 3600-word report posted on the Szona.org portal yesterday. And he cites chapter and verse not from now inaccessible archives but from published and readily available books about the Soviet system in the 1920s and 1930s (szona.org/gibridnaya-voina/).
“After the annexation of Crimea and the unleashing of war in the Donbas, a very large number of people have been speaking about the so-called ‘hybrid war’ of the Kremlin,” a term they use to embrace a strategy of using “ordinary” military operations in combination with information war and deniable subversion.
Those who have done so have insisted that this is “a super-new” kind of war, but there is nothing especially new in it, as anyone who has read the transcripts of Stalin’s interactions with his comrades in the Politburo and Soviet security services over events in Manchuria, Poland and elsewhere should know, Voronov says.
But what has led people into a misconception about the novelty of this type of war is that Stalin and his regime called this something else: “active reconnaissance” in which the predecessors of Putin’s “little green men” set the stage for military intervention in ways that typically allowed Moscow deniability.
According to Voronov – and he quotes extensive passages from Stalin’s correspondence with Molotov and the Soviet leader’s directives to Russian intelligence officers and military commanders – what Putin did in Crimea and is doing in the Donbas was a copy of what Stalin did with the Chinese Eastern Railway, Korean diversionists, and the Soviet military.
The details Voronov provides are fascinating and his article should be translated in full, but his main point is one that few currently seem willing to recognize: Putin is clever but he is not especially creative. What he is doing in Ukraine and elsewhere is very much by the book, Stalin’s book, and those who read that book will be able to counter him more effectively